Kate Cumming Nurses The Wounded After Chickamauga 

     Kate Cumming was born in Scotland but came to Alabama as a girl, and was passionately devoted to the South; when Virginia seceded, she records,she was "delirious with joy." At the outbreak of the war she offered her services as a nurse, and nursed faithfully from Cornith to the end. Her journal tells us how much nursing was a social affair rather than a medical, how much it depended on the help and generosity of the women of the South.

        September 27 [1863 ].-A Methodist minister, Dr. Heustis, made a speech at the depot calling upon the people to send up food and nurses to Chickamauga, as General Bragg has gone after the enemy, and expects to recapture Chattanooga. All who could, went immediately to work to cook food to send off.
        September 28.-This morning a meeting was held on the same subject, and Mrs. Johnston and I attended. Dr. Heustis' description of the sufferings of the men would have touched the heart of the most hardened. He said he could only tell us about our own men, and if they were suffering so much, we could guess what the prisoners were enduring. He said the principal thing needed was something to eat, and that if a basketful of biscuit were to be placed in one place where he saw some wounded men, that they would send up a shout of joy that would rend the air. He urged all who could possibly go with supplies, to do so immediately, but said there was no place there for ladies. The enemy had destroyed part of the railroad, and the wounded were taken to a place called the "Burnt Shed," some twenty miles from the battlefield, there to await transportation on the cars. Money was collected on the spot, and many promised provisions.
        I made up my mind to go, though many begged me not to do so. Having friends in Ringgold, I knew I could not be very bad off; so collecting all the provisions and old linen I could, I started that afternoon....
        The torn-up track to Ringgold had been relaid, so we went on to that place and arrived about dark. I found what had been the Bragg hospital filled with wounded men awaiting transportation. Oh, how sad and dreary all appeared! There was not a single light in the whole building, except that which came from a fire outside, around which stood several slightly wounded soldiers shivering from cold. The balconies were filled with wounded men, wrapped in their blankets, lying on the floors. I found one room full, where all were suffering for want of water. These men were waiting to be transported to the cars....
        Early the next morning I hurried back to the hospital, where I was kept busy nearly all day rolling bandages. I was assisted by a young man, Mr. Dearing, from Kentucky, who was disabled by a wound in the arm. It was as much as we could do to supply the demands of the doctors. Rev. Mr. Green and my Negro servant were kept busy dressing wounds. We were seated on an upper gallery, where we could see the ambulances come in from the battlefield with their precious burdens. I saw as many as fifty come in at one time, and a dismal sight they presented. There had been no rain for some time, and the dust was so fearful that when the men were taken out of the wagons you could scarcely tell what color they were. Rolling bandages was a necessity, but it was a great trial for us, for we would so much rather have been waiting upon the wounded. At last we were told we had rolled enough for that day, and we gladly went down stairs to see what we could do.
        Dr. Devine had wine and other delicacies sent to him for the soldiers from Mississippi, and he gave me an ample supply as I was leaving Newnan. I got a bucket, and nearly filling it with the wine, put in water and sugar, making a delicious drink. This, with eatables in a basket, Mr. Dearing. and I carried around, and it was highly appreciated by the men. The Mississippians were more than pleased on telling them where the wine came from. By this time the soldiers had been supplied with plenty of food, so were not suffering from hunger. We also visited the cars, which were standing on the tracks filled with wounded....
        The next morning, the 30th, I arose bright and early, and hurriedly partaking of my breakfast, went to the hospital.... I had always wished to go on a battlefield-not from any idle curiosity, but from a desire to know the worst, and see if I could be of any use. While thinking over the matter, I met a Mrs. Weir, of Griffin, Ga., whose son had lost a leg in the battle, and was in a private house near the battlefield. She had come to nurse him, and said she would go with me to the battlefield if I would go out with her to see her son. Hundreds of wagons were coming in, but none returning that day. After awhile, a nice looking, covered private wagon came along, and after depositing its load of humanity, Mr. Dearing asked the owner to take us, but this, he stoutly refused to do, saying his horses were completely worn out. Mr. D. then said that one of the ladies had nursed, at least, one thousand Confederates. On hearing this, he immediately drew up and invited us all in....
        We traveled over the roughest roads imaginable, and the thought occurred to me that if the wounded were brought this way they must indeed suffer. The surmise proved to be correct, for we met hundreds of wagons loaded with sufferers wending their way to Ringgold. We also saw many slightly wounded on foot going the same direction.
        We left Mrs. Weir at Mr. Strickland's, where her son was, and Mr. Tedford begged me to go on further, to Mr. Hunt's, where were the wounded of Hindman's division. He informed me that an excellent young lady, Mr. Hunt's daughter, was doing much for the wounded, and would be glad of my assistance. The temptation was a great one, as I had never seen a field hospital; neither had I heard anything certain about my brother, and as he was in the same brigade, I felt assured I would hear something of him. On our way I met Dr. Ray going to see a brother, whom he had just heard was badly wounded. He and several other surgeons had been wandering about for two days looking for the hospitals. They had had nothing to cat except a pig, which they had "pressed." I think he said they had been at General Cleburn's division hospital, and the first day they were there they dressed the wounds of twelve hundred men. This seems almost incredible, but we have had many more wounded than killed, and all of the wounded of the enemy were left in our hands. He also informed me that at first they had no food for the men nor rags with which to dress their wounds. I promised to send them some rags and also to visit the hospital.
        I found Mr. Hunt's home a very pretty cottage in the midst of a garden, which before the battle had been filled with fine shrubbery and flowers, but was now covered with tents, flies and sheds filled with wounded.... Every corner of the house was filled with wounded, many of them lying upon bunks made out of the branches of trees, a hard bed at any time, but much more so for these poor wounded veterans....
        As we rode out of the yard, I tried to look neither to the right nor the left, for I knew that many eyes were sadly gazing at us from their comfortless sheds and tents. I could do nothing for the poor fellows, and when that is the case, I try to steel my heart against their sorrows. We could see the men cooking out in the pouring rain; a perfect war between the two elements, fire and water. All had a most cheerless aspect. As we rode on the tents of the various field hospitals came in view, and the thoughts of the inmates and their sufferings added to the gloom. I gazed in the direction of the battlefield and thought of the nameless dead who were there. A nation weeps for them; and on that day nature, like Rachel, was shedding tears for her children because they were not. The awful conflict which had so recently raged between brother and brother was vividly pictured to my mind. Oh! what a field of fratricide was there. It wrings from one the cry of the brave Falkland of old: "Peace! peace! when will it come?"

CUMMING, "Gleanings from Southland"

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