Sunday, January 10, 2010

Army Correspondence

STEAMER JOHN J. ROE, Tennessee River, on the way to Evansville, thence to St. Louis,
April 13, 1862.

FRIEND SANDERS: The terrible work of transporting the wounded form Pittsburg Landing to the hospitals is going on. Several large steamers before this have gone down the river, and on this we have 520, taking as yet only those severely wounded. At least one more load as large as this is still behind. And then a large multitude of those slightly wounded are with their respective regiments, or on the boats at the landing. No adequate provision was made for such great numbers of wounded men, there being at the time of the battle only two boats at the Landing, besides commissary and quartermaster boats; and one of those two was Gen. Grant’s headquarters, while the other was kept in reserve for the conveyance of troops. Upon the commissary boats – loaded down, cabins and all, with boxes, barrels, &c. – the wounded were placed in every conceivable corner, and when these failed tents were raised, awnings stretched upon poles, and every effort made to provide shelter. But, after all was done, hundreds lay out in the rain Sabbath night, and many even all the next day and through another dismal, rainy night. Some lay in the mud, with not even a blanket under or over them. Large numbers were brought in on Tuesday, who were wounded on the Sabbath; and on Wednesday, and even Thursday, men were still found alive but helpless on the battle field. This want of preparation for the wounded is evidence that no such battle was expected at the Landing. The broken condition of the country, and the dense timber and brush over nearly the whole of the great battlefield, not only rendered the onset of the rebels more effective and terrific, but also cause great suffering and loss of life among those who were wounded and could not be found. So great a battle in the woods was perhaps never fought before. In many instances the enemy planted their batteries within forty rods of our lines without being discovered until they opened fire. The fierceness of the onset was, perhaps, scarcely ever equaled. The 15th Ohio battery lost 56 horses out of 117, almost at the first fire; and in other cases the loss of men was almost as great.

You may be assured that no statements in the papers concerning the losses on both sides will exceed, perhaps none will reach, the truth. The brigade of which the 11th Iowa was a part had 91 killed and 565 wounded – 656 in all. The same proportion in the 52 brigades would five [sic] 34, 112 on one side! Many are slightly wounded, and will soon recover, but it is safe to say that 10,000 of our men are either killed or permanently disabled. It is believed that the enemy’s loss in killed and severely wounded is much greater than ours. They fired low and wounded large numbers of our men in the legs. In this they excelled, disabling large numbers in such manner as to require help to leave the field, whereas our men aimed to kill. How many were killed by our fire we do not know, but rebels who assisted in burying their dead and afterwards fell into our hands, say that we killed two to their one. Union men living in the neighborhood, who rode over the ground immediately after the battle corroborate this statement. It is also stated that our men have buried over 4,000 rebels since the battle.

The heart sickens at the remembrance of the horrible scenes of Sabbath and Monday, and on the boats since. Although we are comparatively comfortable on this large boat, still there is a vast amount of suffering. Six have died since leaving the landing, and many more will die soon. We have not half help enough either as surgeons or nurses, and very few comforts or hospital stores. If it had not been for the presence of an agent of the Sanitary commission from Chicago, with such thing as were at hand, we should have been destitute of some articles absolutely necessary.

April 14th – PADUCAH TO EVANSVILLE. – Additional supplies of some articles were procured at Paducah, but of 29 volunteer surgeons and multitudes of nurses found there, only one of each could be induced to come on board. All were bent on going to Pittsburg Landing, and this after they were assured by the surgeon in charge that no wounded would be found there on their arrival. Possible curiosity influenced them more than humanity.

I have not time to write more, as I must do what I can in dressing wounds. I have written mostly in the night, being frequently interrupted by calls for help from men of my own and other regiments.


CHAPLAIN, 11th Iowa.

– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Monday Morning, April 21, 1862, p. 2

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