19th.—At daylight this morning I was called up by an orderly with an order to repair to the battle-field at once and organize another hospital, and with the intelligence that during the night the enemy had been permitted to escape across the river, and had left some three hundred of our wounded, who had fallen into their hands, on the field. At the moment of my entering the building intended for the hospital, letters dated 6th, 7th and 9th inst., from wife and children, were put into my hands, but though I had so seldom heard from the loved ones at home, the scenes of suffering about me forbade the indulgence of a selfish inclination to read the highly prized missives, and I put them aside till the business of the day was over. * * * Oh the demoralization of an army. But I will not write a description of what I have witnessed of this, as I hope to forget this trait in human nature, as developed by this war.
Our army have given chase to the enemy, and the organization of my hospital being completed, I left it in other hands, and have followed on and overtaken our corps on the Potomac river, about two miles above Sharpsburg. The feeling against Gen. McClellan to-day is no longer expressed in muttered disaffection, but in loud and angry execration. The soldiers cannot be reconciled to their disappointment, and to our having permitted Gen. Lee to escape with his army. My own hopes that he would retrieve his lost character are all gone. I have lost all confidence in him. He can be nothing short of an imbecile, a coward, or a traitor.
The battle field this morning presented scenes, which, though horrible, were of deep interest to the physiologist. On a part of the field the dead had lain for forty-eight hours, the Northern and the Southern soldier side by side. Whilst the body of the Southern soldier was black and putrid, wholly decomposed, in the Northern decomposition had scarcely commenced. Why this difference?
A fight at Shepardstown took place this afternoon. The enemy were posted on the mountain, on the opposite side of the river. A division (Butterfield’s, I think,) was sent over to reconnoitre. They encountered a murderous fire, and enough got back to tell the tale. Yet, we get despatches telling us of our victory there, and of the large amount of transportation we have captured. The old story over again.
I omitted to say in the proper place, that the report of the surrender of General Reno’s command, last week, was a canard. I regret that of his death was too true.