The Story of Aunt Becky's Army-Life

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The Story of Aunt Becky's Army-Life (1867)
by Sarah A. Palmer
2306132The Story of Aunt Becky's Army-Life1867Sarah A. Palmer









Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1867, by


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern
District of New York.



Why this Story was written.—"It is no Place for Women."—Fulfilling the Promise.—Braving Popular Opinion.—How more brave ones might have been saved.—A Memory in every Household. — In the next Conflict.—Leaving Home.—Home-sick Fancies.—Journeying to Baltimore.—The bare Shelf and the hungry Mouths.—Welcome from the Boys.—The Box from home
My Work found,—Our Hospital Building.—Dreaming by the

Hearth-stone.—"She will soon play out."—Finding temporary Board and Lodging.—Making a new Friend.—First Experience in a Southern Boarding-house.—Washing "Pet's" Face.—The Midnight Howl.—Taking new Quarters.—Kindness of the Men.—Signs of Autumn.—Our Surgeons. — A slight Attack.—Hospital Fare. — Demise of the brindle Pup.— Good Gifts.—The

fatal Box
Proposals for Thanksgiving Dinner.—For the entire Hospital.—Requisitions for the Feast.—A doubtful Survey—The Larder replenished.—Making Goodies.—Thanksgiving.—Table-cloths and Napkins.—Absence of Mind.—Work for my Hands.—With weak Lungs.—The Cure.—Moving the Hospital.—A Companion once more.—The new Hospital.—Catching the Pigs.—Departure of Dr. Hunt.—Dr. Churchill takes his Place.—Departure of Dr. French.—Kindness of Miss Deborah Lee.—The Spring- time.—Her renovating Spirit
Our faithful Nurses.— The Nurse's Wife.— Visit to the Soldier Son. — What the Rebellion taught. — Going to Washington. — The Glory of the Capitol. — The silken Fringe. — The cunning Hand. — Does Gold gild Life and Thought. — Fair Faces and jewelled Hands. — Sunny April. — Dying, dying. — Delirious. — "We will be so happy when the War is over." — Taking Home the Dead.

— Our noble Commanders. — Visiting Camp. —May Blossoms. —

Picking Geese. — The defeated Search
Anxious Thoughts.—Chancellorville.—Northern Invasion. — Excitement in Hospital.—Questionable Loyalty.—Preparing for the Prison Pen.—The Sweep of the Whirlwind.—Army of the Potomac.—Extempore soldiering.—Dying a thousand Deaths.—At last the Earthquake.—Gettysburg.—Searching for Relics.—Burying a Horse.—Visiting the Wounded.—No sudden Shock.
Beautiful Summer.—The Roast.—"Hide the Pig." —Partaking stolen Sweets.—Death of Private A. M. West.—The desolate Wife.—September Haze.—Longing for Home.—The flying Visit.—Moving to Virginia.—Absorbing Nature of the Work. Waning Autumn.—The Winter Campaign.—Chilly Rains.—Breaking Camp.—"Cheeking" it through.—The puzzled Conductor.—Mason's Island—A November Ride.—The Skeleton Church.—Light Duty
A broken Regiment.—The Long Roll.—The surprised Enemy.—Ghostly.—A pleasant Joke.—Going out to Tea.—The Soldier's Home.— Afternoon out.—"The Molasses lick."—Going Home without tasting the Sweets.—The Christmas Turkey.—The lonely Watch.—Fear of Death.—Brighter Skies and budding Hopes.—A new Pield.—Death of a Nurse.—The loathsome Pest.—The House of Cloth.—The priceless Stove.—The dying Boy.—The House of Death.—The Doctor deceived.—New Barracks.—White Dishes.—Visit from Miss D.—"To the Front."—Heart-sickness.—A Soldier's Life.—Joining Burnside.—"Good-bye, forever."—Remonitions of Death.—The living Hope.—Heroes all.—A deserted Hospital.—A good Cry.—The silent Breakfast
Nearer the Regiment.—Visit to Mrs. Youngs.—Dreams of the Night.—Heard from.—The Wilderness.—The Tragedy of Death.—Burning alive.—Dreadful Apprehensions.—Ordered to Fredericksburg.—The independent Nurse.—That horrible Bonnet.—Denouncing high Officials.—The first Horrors of Battle.—The hill-side Tent.—Dripping wet.—Dressing Wounds.—Journey to Fredericksburg.—The dreadful Road.—Rain and Mud.—Reporting for Duty.—Assigned to the Fifth Corps.—Washington's Home.—"I cut it with my little Hatchet."—Hard Tack and Coffee.—The Night in a Dish-closet.—Refreshing Sleep
Haunted Nights.—Ghastly Wounds.—The bloody Trains.—Heroic Sufferers.—The young Brave.—"Going to sleep."—Waking in Heaven.—"Died after the Battle was over."—Searching for our Boys.—Badly cut up.—Fred Bills.—The last Promise.—The narrow Bed-room.—"Buried in a Box."—The fortunate Dollar.—Outrage on the Dead.—The final Shrouding.—The Search continued.—A faint Heart.—Lying low.—The Pillow of Stones.—Raising the Dead.—"Plagues of the Hospital"
Finding new Quarters.—Our faithful Nurse.—Twelve Dollars a Month.—Only a cheering "Word.—Life going out.—Another Promise.—Content.—Unbreathed Words.—The rude Coffin.—Laid in the Grave.—The Resurrection.—Final Burial.—Bitter Thoughts.—Sergeant Starkey.—The bloody Pillow.—Getting the Luxuries.—Slow Movements.—Heavy Work.—Looking Thanks.—Died of his Wounds.—No Change of Clothing.—Willie Lewis.—My brave dead Boy.—All alone.—Humble Heroes.—The Sanitary Commission.—Horrors of Fredericksburg.—Bloody Feet.—Yalley-Forge.—Heart-rending Cries.—Agonized Surgeons.—The scarred City.—Night Wind and Rain.—Spirit Music.—Home—Wife—Children.—Dirges.—The silent Boatman.—But little Sunshine.—More Wounded.—Depths of Despair.—"Charlie."—No more Love-letters.—"I think I am dying."—The crawling Worms.—The Provost Marshal.—Leaving in haste.—Guarding Rebel Property.—The old German.—Feeding with a Tea-spoon.—Almost let forth
The long three Weeks ended.—Evacuation of the City.—Loading the Transports.—The dreary Night.—Agony endured.—No Help-not if they die.— The noble Three Hundred.—Leaving Fredericksburg.—The Trip to Washington.—Visiting the Hospital.—Finding dying Men.—Duty done.—In the Dead-house.—My Rebel Friend.—The human Heart.—Avoiding Conflict.—Reporting again for Duty.—The Lizzie Baker.—No more "Calico."—Getting the Start.—"There they come now."—A stormy Sea.—Impatient Steeds.—Hunger's Claims.—Trusting for Food.—White House Landing.—Desolate—desolate.—Last Year's Cornfield.—The curved Back.—Heavy Dews.—Drenched Clothing.—Sanitary at Work.—Those little Streams.—The broad Bosom of the Sea.—Again, Drop by Drop.—The old Wife.—Knitting the Socks.—The coarse Hospital Shirt.—Tiny Pillows.—Sad as a Funeral.—"Blessings on you."—Only a Blanket between.—Crumbs from the Table.—Our primitive Fire.—Sanitary's Store.—Burnt Toast.—Worn out.—"Will I—can I ever get well."—Not sorry.—"She will remember."—The peaceful Death.—Novel Hammocks.—Getting desperate.—Mush and Milk.—The colored Tent.—The Boy Hero.—Sorrowing for Mother
So much to do.—The strong Will.—Dead.—Gathering the Harvest.—Shadow of Death.—Coward Fear.—Prisoners and starving.—The lost Colors.—The captured Color-bearer.—Only One returned.—The Wreck of Manhood.—Rebel Sufferers.—The better Part.—Another Brave.—Orders to move.—Making ready.—The trampled Cornfield.—Looking out for Rations.—The boiled Ham.—Not enough.—So many Mouths.—Another Ham.—Some one had blundered.—Army wooing.—Looking out for the Boys.—Complaints.—Nothing to eat.—The Storm.—"A Man overboard."—No Help.—Sea-sick.—Ten cents a Pint.—Braving the Cooks.—The extinguished Fire.—The angry Mate.—Aunt Becky's Protest.—The Victory.—The providential Supply.—Opening the Boxes.—Questionable Authority.—A graceful Assent.—Fortress Monroe.—Fight of the Iron Clads.—The silent Dread.—Full Rations.—Pickled Cabbage.—Old Friends.—Cannonading
City Point.—A good Dinner.—The long mile.—A Motley Procession.—The Disappointment.—Return.—Weary—weary.—A picture for an Artist.—Sleep—blessed Sleep.—Viewing the Situation.—A bountiful Meal.—Our Work preparing.—Putting up the Tents.—Five hundred strong.—Near Death.—Unrecognized.—Hungry as Wolves.—Washing Faces.—Low Spirits.—Died at last.—Dr. Wheeler in Charge.—Good Fare.—No Tongue can tell.—Masked.—No light Work.—"Are you Aunt Becky."—Blind forever.—Noble old Massachusetts.—Her dying Heroes.—War's ruthless Hand.—Plenty of Beds.—The Battle's Harvest.—The growing Corn.—General Burnside.—Two Thousand.—Dr. Johnson.—Our Cooks.—The lessons of Home.—Boy Soldiers.—Under the Knife.—A useless Rag.—My Fortress.—No Wish to leave.—Fortunate beyond Measure.—Reposing on Laurels
Recurring Death-beds.—Bitter Sorrow.—Booming Cannon.—A Visit to the Front.—The War Horse.—Falling off.—Graves of the Dead.—Deserted Homes.—My Riding-habit.—The wounded Man.—A horrible Fissure.—The kindly suggestion.—The old Battle-field.—The Captain's Grave.—Greetings.—Poetry at the Front.—"Missus, you'd better git out dar."—Deadly Missiles.—Hard Tack and Bacon grease. — The Sail on the River.—Guerrillas.—Death of Mr. Wilson.—A Testimonial.—Division of the Hospital.—Diminishing Stores.—A Printing Press.—Red Tape.—Our Laundry.—At the River Side.—The mysterious Coil.—The sable Dead.—Distributing her Effects.—A doleful Spirit.—Dancing and Prayer.—Wooing and Wedding.—An exasperated lover.—The sudden Retreat
July Sunshine.—The bloody Thirtieth.—Making Room.—The burnt Dress.—The welcome Weed.—Sending off.—A Soldier's Money.—The Rebuff.—The persistent Nurse.—Victory final.—An angry Surgeon.—Waiting for the Work.—Making Chicken Broth.—A Sun-stroke.—Every Place full.—The improvised Shelter.—The wounded Rebels.—Such piteous Moans.—The little Drummer Boy.—"Mother will be alone now."—The noble Dead.—In the better Land.—Still they come.—The unrecognized Soldier.—Looking for the Wounded.—Broken Speech.—A new Hospital.—No Sweets of Friendship
A Rumor of Change.—Bearing in Silence.—Our Mess-room.—Faulty Arithmetic.—The indignant Nurse.—Odd Bits.—Unsatisfied.—Chief Cook.—Bottle-washer.—A servicable Cloak.—Kicking a Convalescent.—Anger and Bitterness.—Lifted up.—No Thanks to him.—Sanitary Agents.—The Christian Commission.—The Flask of Brandy.—The dying Patient.—Poor Excuses.—Commissary Whiskey.—Dispensing Stores.—Testing canned Fruit.—Man's Selfishness.—A rude Church.—The Dream of Childhood.—A Reading-room.—Easy Toilet.—"Saratogas."—Heart Entanglements.—"Now I have got you."—The faithful Husband
Full of Sighs.—Youthful Heroes.—The last Game.—Death of Captain Lee.—The lonely Sister.—Taking Home the Beloved.—Lieut. Dupree.—Staying the Soul.—The Death-bed of Agony.—Through the brain.—Somebody's Pride.—The little Babe.—The dead Father.—Blue Eyes and golden Hair.—The last Token.—A crowded Tent.—The Chaplain's Visit.—Fatal Gangrene.—Dropping away.—The Captain's Loss.—Sergeant Woodbury.—The Prediction of Death.—A nameless Grave.—The lovely Summer
Playing false.—The crazy Soldier.—The rheumatic Patient.—My wasted Sympathies.—Cured.—Unacquainted.—The old Soldier.—Thoughts of Home.—The kind Neighbor.—Going back.—Seven little Boys.—Darling Children.—Homesick Hearts.—Baby Jumpers.—Brother Jonathan.—Sent off.—The angry Doctor.—A dishonest Nurse.—Fife and Drum.—A dear Custard.—Degrading Manhood.—The lost Letter.—The confused Doctor.—The Guard-house.—Liberation.—Trying the Soul.—Tied up by the Thumbs.—Executions.—Obdurate Conscience
Change in Hospital Affairs.—Architectural Beauty.—Ceaseless Work.—Size of a Louse.—Long Endurance.—Desperate Forays.—Defeat—Defeat.—Convalescents' Recreation.—Legion.—Sullen Despair.—Up to the Front.—The stylish Turnout.—Washing Day.—Reaching Camp.—Loud Demonstrations.—The Memory of Oats.—Autumn Winds.—A sweeping Discharge.—Alone of my Sex.—November Ram.—No Birds to leave us.—Nature's free Gifts.—Naked Trees.—Active Operations.—Another Winter South.—Rebellion still rampant.—Snow-flakes.—Recruiting.—Ornaments.—The precious Chain.—Confiscated.—Passing the Days
Diary.—Longing for Home.—Only a little good.—Thoughts of my Children.—Oh! for the Wings of a Bird.—Weakness of Women. Entanglements of Habit.—Nature's Mistake.—Oh! for Strength.—Bearing in Patience.—Wild, windy Weather.—Died this morning.—The Contrast.—Like a Leaf from the Tree.—Blessed Healing.—Life's tempting Cup.—The Question of Peace.—Desolate Homes.—Tempered Joy.—Pig's Feet for Dinner.—The Anniversary.—Fifteen Years ago.—Now.—Life's brief Dream.—Those nibbling Mice.—Murder.—Johnny-cake and Onions.—Another "Victory."—An Invocation
Diary continued.—The Relay of Wounded.—Heroes all.—Distorted Limbs.—Old faces.—An exceeding Reward.—A Mother's Children.—Common Soldiers.—Only a Ripple.—A hard Campaign.—Something wrong.—A Season of Rest.—Waiting for Work.—Oh! what Work.—A strange Life.—Raging Winds.—Sad at Heart.—Who will remember?
Diary continued.—Bright Weather.—A Bride.—Alas! for the Tenderness of the Lover.—Looking afar off.—Yearning for a Sister.—Heavy cannonading.—Somebody's Dying.—Sick of soldiering.—Floating Rumors.—Hope springs exultant.—Singing Birds.—Covetous.—Salt Messes.—Lords of Creation.—Small Practice.—Nearer Home.—Dreaming of Comforts.—Mrs. Grundy as Hostess.—Virtuous Indignation.—My Brother going Home.—A May Morning.—A Chat.—Farewell to Winter.—Welcome Spring.—Rain—Rain—Rain.—Welcome green Paper.—Furloughed.—The "Bull Pen."—Dander to Somebody
Diary continued,—Losing my Nose.—Building Air Castles.—Cheap Material.—Something substantial.—Driven out.—Waiting for the Letter.—Other Eyes shall read it.—With bloody Intent.—Tired—tired.—New Work for Rest.—Old Friends again.—Summery Days.—"All quiet at the Front."—Rainy Days.—A disturbed Night.—Invaders.—Still raining.—Monotony.—Deserter shot.—Visit from Miss Blackman.—An unsolved Problem
Diary continued.—Washing Day.—Another Death.—Oh! for the quiet Burial.—Weary Thought.—Nearer the End.—No Hearts to feel.—Bringing in from the Division Hospital.—Packing up for a Move at the Front.—Heart-throbs.—Old Longings.—Sometime.—Wringing wet.—The wet Graves.—Rocked like a Shell.—The Bugle call.—Clearing away.—Flight of Time.—Childhood's Years.—Died for his Country.—The renovating Sun.—A gossipy Time.—Men Gossips
Diary continued.—Homesick—Melting Sounds.—The old Home.—General Sheridan at the White House.—A Letter.—Another Battle.—Surprised.—Rebel Soldiers.—A selfish Heart.—All powerless now.—The suffering Lieutenant.—Tired and hungry.—The Gun-boats near.—My Cross.—The raging Battle.—The cheering Columns.—The wild Charge.—Visions of Horror.—A useful Present.—Trying to sleep.—Sick myself.—A cowardly Wretch.—Roused from their Lair.—Out of Man's Sight.—April Skies.—A full Bed.—The Clangor of Arras.—The Wounded brought in.—The Fighting continues.—Dreadful Suffering.—A hundred wounded Rebels.—Both Legs shot away.—Richmond is ours.—Fourteen hundred Wounded.—The hushed Air.—More Deaths.—Pouring in.—Twenty-five hundred wounded Men.—Dying, Oh! how fast.—Worn out.—The President.—"There should be a Greenhouse yonder."—Sick of Folly.—Particular Officers.—Flower Beds.—Lee has surrendered.—Our Chief lies low.—Sad and in Tears.—Death of Private Carson.—Sending our Effects to Washington
Thinking of Separation.—Going up with the Wounded.—A comfortable Sofa.—The obliging Captain.—Riding on the Oat-bags. The wondering Major.—Only Aunt Becky.—Death of Charlie Morgan.—Bare Nerves.—Anxious women.—Jubilant.—Returning on the Engine.—Our little Cut Throat.—The skilful Surgeon.—No more Battles.—The Promise of Summer.—A little Gift.—Drawing nigh.—Sad to part.—The Hospital Graveyard.—"Unknown."—Let them sleep where they died.—The Embalmer's Tent.—Three Months of Delay.—Deodorizing.—Unscrupulous Fraud.—"Take me Home after I die."—The neglected Request
Were we glad?—Contradictory Souls.—The brooding Tent.—Leaving City Point.—The Delay.—Still at the Work.-The unfortunate Fall.—The Captain's Mother.—Wistful Eyes.—My Pay.—Unwilling.—Visit to Mrs. Youngs.—The gentlemanly Paymaster.—A Morning Call.—Paid.—Losing good Jobs.—Lately grown Plumage.—Division of our Corps.—At Tenlytown.—Half sick.—Waiting for the Tents.—Good Fare.—A noble Woman.—Every States Man.—A miserable Spirit.—"Have you any New York State Men under your Care?"—Dampened.—Blessings on its human Heart.—Meeting old Friends.—A beautiful Lamp.—The false Watch. — Milkmg the Cows.—The Great Review.—Some sad Hearts
In daily Expectation.—Sanitary Distributions.—Our Share.—Not Stealing certainly.—The Farewell.—Going to Washington.—No backward Look.—Bound for Home.—Thoughts of the Dead.—Not one thousand strong.—Only a little handful now.—Two left.—"Adieu."—The genuine good Heart.—Piling in the Stones.—Cheers for some.—The remembered Insult.—No Rations.—Loaves of Bread.—Dancing for Joy.—Tearful Eyes.—Youth and Beauty.—The Empire State at last.—Leaving the Regiment.—HOME.—A Question answered.—The Token of Regard.—A sacred Memory forever

This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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