Monday, July 31, 2017

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Lemuel A. Abbott: Monday, November 28, 1864

Well, this has been an interesting day, a great surprise; have been treated with great consideration — like a prince — by the board, and I never saw one of them before, nor had they ever heard of me that I know of. They made my mouth wound of so much interest it embarrassed me; I felt as though I was being lionized. The board is composed of a General and several other elderly medical officers of rank and age, and they have the consideration and tact — unlike Dr. Thayer — to treat any wounded officer and especially one who fought with Sheridan at Winchester, with distinguished respect. The first one who looked at my wound expressed great surprise at my “unusually interesting mouth wound,” as he termed it, and called for the doctors in the adjoining rooms to come and see one of the most interesting of the many wounds that had come before the board.* They all came, each in turn examining it, expressing great wonder, and asked many questions, indignantly inquiring why the Vermont doctors had sent me back to the front with jaws in a condition such as to render it impossible for me to chew solid food when it was known that hard bread and meats were the principal articles of food for troops in the field and with the stitches still in my lip and it not solidly healed. In reply I gave them my experience with Dr. Thayer of Burlington, Vt., and said I had not gone to the hospital several times during the war because of my pride and fear of inconsiderate treatment, although I had ought to have gone twice before when wounded, but feared I might be criticised if I did. They continued to examine the wound for some time expressing astonishment that it should have healed as much as it had so soon and would leave so little trace or scar externally in the end as it would, and highly complimented Dr. Rutherford who attended me. They finally drew aside for consultation, and when the examiner who had charge of the case returned and said that I could have my choice, take my discharge or return to the front, I was delighted, and chose the latter. He seemed surprised, and after hesitating a little looking steadily at me, said I had better consider the matter well; but I told him I had, that I could soak my hard bread in water, fry it with salt pork which would make it both soft and nutritious, and that I could get along. Seeing that I really wanted to return, he let me go. I received my discharge from the hospital this afternoon, have got my transportation, and shall leave to-morrow at 2 o'clock p. m. Captain Mattison, a fine little fellow, left this afternoon. We are all in good spirits to-night. But the Annapolis board of surgeons were clever gentlemen. Their sympathy and consideration was unusual.

* This wound has since cost me several hundred dollars for skilled medical treatment, and will probably never cease to trouble me. It was one cause of my retirement from active service in the regular army. Two or three expert doctors have written it up for medical journals, and one, Dr. Anderson of Washington, D. C, only recently for a New York medical journal.

SOURCE: Lemuel Abijah Abbott, Personal Recollections and Civil War Diary, 1864, p. 233-5

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