Upon going to the hospital I went immediately to the ward to which I was assigned, and, although I am not an over-sensitive man, I must confess I was rather shocked at the appearance of things. The men were lying partially nude and dying, and lousy, a portion of them in the sand and others upon boards which had been stuck up on little props, pretty well crowded together, a majority of them in small tents that were not very serviceable at best. I went around and examined all that were placed in my charge. That was the condition of the men. By and by, as I became familiarized with the condition of affairs, the impressions which were at first produced upon me wore off, more or less. I became familiar with scenes of misery and they did not affect me so much. I inquired into the rations of the men; I felt disposed to do my duty; and after the men found out that I was inclined to aid them so far as I could in my sphere of action, the frequently asked me for a teaspoonful of salt, or an order for a little siftings that came out of the meal, I would ask them what they wanted the siftings for; some of them wished them to make some bread. I would inquire into the state of their disease, and if what they asked for would injure them, I would not allow them to have it. I would give them an order for sifted meal where I found that the condition of the patient required something better than siftings. They would come at times in considerable numbers to get these little orders for an extra ration, or if not a ration, whatever portion they could get.
The meat ration was cooked at a different part of the hospital; and when I would go up there, especially when I was a medical officer of the day, the men would gather around me and ask me for a bone. I would grant their requests so far as I saw bones. I would give them whatever I could find at my disposition without robbing others. I well knew that an appropriation of one ration took it from the general issue; that when I appropriated an extra ration to one man, some one else would fall minus upon that ration. I then fell back upon the distribution of bones. They did not presume to ask me for meat at all. So far as rations are concerned, that is about the way matters went along for some time after I went there.
Clothing we had none; they could not be furnished with any clothing, except that the clothing of the dead was generally appropriated to the living. We thus helped the living as well as we could. Of vermin or lice there was a very prolific crop there. I got to understand practically the meaning of the term "lousy"; I would generally find some upon myself upon returning to my quarters; they were so that it was impossible for a surgeon to enter the hospital without having some upon him when he came out, if he touched anybody or anything save the ground, and very often if he merely stood still any considerable length of time he would get them upon him.
When I went to the hospital I found the men destitute of clothing and bedding; there was a partial supply of fuel, but not sufficient to keep the men warm and prolong their existence. Shortly after I arrived there I was appointed office of the day. I learned that the officer of the day was in supreme command of all pertaining to the hospital, and that it was my duty as such to go into the various wards and divisions of the hospital and rectify anything that needed to be cared for. In visiting the hospital I made a pretty thorough examination. As a general thing, the patients were destitute; they were filthy and partly naked. There seemed to be a disposition only to get something to eat. The clamor all the while was for something to eat. They asked me for orders for this that and the other - peas or rice, or salt, or beef tea, or a potato, or a biscuit, or a piece of corn bread, or siftings, or meal.
Medicines were scarce ; we could not get what we wished. We drew upon the indigenous remedies; they did not seem to answer. We gathered up large quantities of them, but very few served for medicines as we wished. We wanted the best powerful anti-scorbutics, as well as something that was soothing and healing, especially to the lining membrane of the alimentary canal, and such things as were calculated to counteract a dropsical disposition and a gangrenous infection. Those were prominent things in the hospital. We had not at all times the proper remedies to administer, and the indigenous remedies did not serve us, and could not serve us in those complaints. We were obliged to do the best we could.
There was in my ward a boy of fifteen or sixteen years, in whom I felt a particular interest. My attention was more immediately called to him from his youth, and he appealed to me in such a way that I could not well avoid heeding him. He would often ask me to bring him a potato, a piece of bread, a biscuit, or something of that kind, which I did; I would put them in my pocket and give them to him. I would sometimes give him a raw potato, and as he had the scurvy, and also gangrene, I would advise him not to cook the potato at all, but to eat it raw, as an anti-scorbutic. I supplied him in that way for some time, but I could not give him a sufficiency. He became bed-ridden upon the hips and back, lying upon the ground; we afterwards got him some straw. Those bed-ridden sores had become gangrenous. He became more and more emaciated, until he died. The lice, the want of bed and bedding, of fuel and food, were the cause of his death.
We had cases of chilblains or frost-bitten feet. Most generally, in addition to what was said to be frost-bite, there was gangrene. I did not see the sores I the original chilblains. I do not think I can say if there were any amputations or any deaths resulting from suffering of that character, not having charged my mind as to whether the amputations were in consequence of chilblains, or because, from accidental abrading of the surface, gangrene set in. But for a while amputations were practiced in the hospital almost daily, arising from a gangrenous and scorbutic condition, which, in many cases, threatened the saturation of the whole system with gangrenous or offensive matter, unless the limb was amputated. In cases of amputation of that sort, it would sometimes became necessary to reamputate, from gangrene taking hold of the stump again. Some few successful amputations were made. I recollect two or three which were successful. I kept no statistics; those were kept by the prescription clerks and forwarded to headquarters. I did not think at the time that the surgeon-in-chief did all in his power to relieve the condition of those men, and I made my report accordingly.
In visiting the wards in the morning I would find persons lying dead; sometimes I would find them lying among the living. I recollect on one occasion telling my steward to go and wake up a certain one, and when I went myself to wake him up he was taking his everlasting sleep. That occurred in another man's ward, when I was officer of the day. Upon several occasions, on going into my own wards, I found men whom we did not expect to die, dead from the sensation of chilblains produced during the night. This was in the hospital. I was not so well acquainted with how it was in the stockade. I judge, though, from what I saw, that numbers suffered in the same way there.
The effect of scurvy upon the systems of the men as it developed itself there was the next thing to rottenness. Their limbs would become drawn up. It would manifest itself constitutionally. It would draw them up. They would go on crutches sideways, or crawl upon their hands and knees or on their haunches and feet as well as they could. Some could not eat unless it was something that needed no mastication. Sometimes they would be furnished beef tea or boiled rice, or such things as that would be given them, but not to the extent which I would like to see. In some cases they could not eat corn bread; their teeth would be loose and their gums all bleeding. I have known cases of that kind. I do not speak of it as a general thing. They would ask me to interest myself and get them something which they could swallow without subjecting them to so much pain in mastication. It seemed to me I did express my professional opinion that men died because they could not eat the rations they got.
I cannot state what proportion of the men in whose cases it became necessary to amputate from gangrenous wounds, and also to reamputate from the same cause, recovered. Never having charged my mind on the subject, and not expecting to be called upon in such a capacity, I cannot give an approximate opinion which I would deem reliable. In 1864, amputations from that cause occurred very frequently indeed; during the short time in 1865 that I was there, amputations were not frequent.
The prisoners in the stockade and the hospital were not very well protected from the rain; only by their own meager means, their blankets, holes in the earth, and such things. In the spring of 1865, when I was in the stockade, I saw a shed thirty feet wide and sixty feet long--the sick principally were in that. They were in about the same condition as those in the hospital. As to the prisoners generally, their only means of shelter from the sun and rain were their blankets, if they carried any along with them. I regarded that lack of shelter as a source of disease.
Rice, peas, and potatoes were the common issue from the Confederate government; but as to turnips, carrots, tomatoes, and cabbage, of that class of vegetables, I never saw any. There was no green corn issued. Western Georgia is generally considered a pretty good corn-growing country. Green corn could have been used as an anti-scorbutic and as and antidote. A vegetable diet, so far as it contains any alterative or medical qualities, serves as an anti-scorbutic.
The ration issued to the patients in the hospital was corn meal, beef, bacon - pork occasionally but not much of it; at times, green corn, peas, rice, salt, sugar, and potatoes. I enumerate those as the varieties served out. Potatoes were not a constant ration; at times they were sent in, perhaps a week or two weeks at a time, and then they would drop off. The daily rations was less from the time I went there in September, through October, November, and December, than it was from January till March 26th, the time I left. I never made a calculation as to the number of rations intended for each man; I was never called to do that. So far as I saw, I believe I would feel safe in saying that, while there might have been less, the amount was not over twenty ounces for twenty-four hours.