Kate Cumming: A Journal of Hospital Life in the Confederate Army of Tennessee.

Sunday, September 28. [Chattanooga] —Have been very busy all the week, too much so to write in my journal. Three men died in the course of the week. On the 26th, John Wilkinson, a member of the Fifth Mississippi Regiment, from Neshobo County, Miss.; on the 27th, D. W. Jarvis, from Coffeeville, Alabama, a member of the Thirty-second Alabama Regiment; same date, John Cotton, member of Sixteenth Louisiana Regiment, of Rappee Parish, La. These men were in a very low state when first brought in from the camps.

Diarrhea is the prevailing disease among the patients. I have been so busy that I have not taken time to visit Mrs. M.’s ward. She has many sick men, as has also Mrs. W. They both have a great deal of trouble. The stove smokes as badly as ever. I have the use of one that belongs to the surgeons. (They all mess together; their kitchen and dining-room are near my ward.) It answers for what little I have to cook—beef-tea, toast, sago, and arrow-root. I have a nice little distributing room in the ward, which the head nurse, George Bean, has fixed up very neatly.

The great cry of our sick is for milk. We could buy plenty, but have no money. We get a little every day for the worst cases, at our own expense. I intend letting the folks at home know how many are suffering for want of nourishment, for I feel confident that if they knew of it they would send us means.

Last week, in despair, I went to Dr. Young, the medical purveyor, and begged him to give me some wine; in fact, any little thing, I told him, would be acceptable. I did not come away empty-handed. He gave me arrow-root, sago, wine, and several kinds of spices, and many things in the way of clothing.

In every hospital there is invariably a fund; there is none at present in this. The reason, we have been told, is because the hospitals at this post are in debt to the government, by drawing more money from it than their due, and until it is paid we will get no more. The fund consists of money drawn instead of the soldiers rations, as the sick men are unable to eat the rations.

Mrs. W. and myself went to the Episcopal Church this morning. There were very few present, and those were mostly soldiers. The pastor’s, Rev. Mr. Denniston, sermon was a political one.

I went to give my sick men their dinners, and found that the food I had cooked for them was spoiled. I asked Huldah, the negro woman who cooks for the surgeons, who had ruined every thing. She told me the steward’s wife had been over there and put handfuls of salt into the beef-tea and other things. She had done the same before, but I did not know who did it. My poor men had to go that day dinnerless. I do not know when I have felt so badly about any thing. I am afraid the next thing she does will be to attempt my life. We had made up our minds, if Dr. Hunter did not put an end to these persecutions, it would be impossible for us to remain here. One of the assistant surgeons came to me, and told me that if Dr. Hunter did not put a stop to them, he and the other assistant surgeons would do so. But I have been informed that Dr. H. has told the steward, that if his wife comes over to this side of the hospital he will turn her out altogether. It seems we will never get rid of troubles of this sort.

When we first came here Dr. H. told us there was another lady coming to assist us; we found out who she was, and concluded if she came we would not remain. We told Dr. H. what we know of her, and he said that was strange, as she had certificates from our first surgeons. I told him there were some of them whose certificates I did not value as much as the paper they were written on. He said on no account would he have her come.

Had a visit a few days ago from Dr. Flewellen; he congratulated us on our admission to the hospitals. He is one of the surgeons who approves of ladies being in hospitals. We went to see him when visiting this place, and he told us the ladies did good in many ways; the principle good was, that where they were the surgeons and nurses were more apt to attend to the patients than they would otherwise be.

We have a good deal of trouble about servants; the soldiers do the cooking, and in fact all the domestic work. We have a few free negroes, and they give no little trouble. For this reason the slaves here are not near so respectful as they are with us; although they seem to have great contempt for the free negroes. The other day I heard the doctor’s servant indignantly say that some one had spoken to her as if she was free, and had no master to care for her.

There are quite a number of soldiers in the place who can not get on to their commands, as the country is filled with bushwhackers, and it is dangerous for them to go through it unless in very large bodies.

I am a good deal worried about my brother, as I have not heard from him since the army went into Kentucky.


Kate Cumming: A Journal of Hospital Life in the Confederate Army of Tennessee.

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