Monday, December 17, 2012

December 15, 1862

December 15, 1862: Burnside begins to draw up his IX Corps for his suicide attack, but is dissuaded at the last by his generals.  He finally withdraws his troops from the south bank of the Rappahannock River to safety at Falmouth.

—Judith White McGuire records in her journal of the trainloads of wounded passing in the night:

15th.—An exciting day. Trains have been constantly passing with the wounded for the Richmond hospitals. Every lady, every child, every servant in the village, has been engaged preparing and carrying food to the wounded as the cars stopped at the depot—coffee, tea, soup, milk, and every thing we could obtain. With eager eyes and beating hearts we watched for those most dear to us. Sometimes they were so slightly injured as to sit at the windows and answer our questions, which they were eager to do. They exult in the victory. I saw several poor fellows shot through the mouth—they only wanted milk; it was soothing and cooling to their lacerated flesh. One, whom I did not see, had both eyes shot out. But I cannot write of the horrors of this day. Nothing but an undying effort to administer to their comfort could have kept us up. . . . The gratitude of those who were able to express it was so touching! They said that the ladies were at every depot with refreshments. As the cars would move off; those who were able would shout their blessings on the ladies of Virginia: "We will fight, we will protect the ladies of Virginia." Ah, poor fellows, what can the ladies of Virginia ever do to compensate them for all they have done and suffered for us? As a train approached late this evening, we saw comparatively very few sitting up. It was immediately surmised that it contained the desperately wounded—perhaps many of the dead. With eager eyes we watched, and before it stopped I saw Surgeon J. P. Smith (my connection) spring from the platform, and come towards me; my heart stood still. "What is it, Doctor? Tell me at once." "Your nephews, Major B. and Captain C, are both on the train, dangerously wounded." "Mortally?" "We hope not. You will not be allowed to enter the car; come to Richmond to-morrow morning; B. will be there for you to nurse. I shall carry W. C. on the morning cars to his mother at the University. We will do our best for both." In a moment he was gone. . . .

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