War of the Rebellion: Serial 119 Page 0475 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. -UNION AND CONFEDERATE.

Search Civil War Official Records

[Inclosure.]

U. S. GENERAL HOSPITAL, DIVISION Numbers 1,

Annapolis, Md., November 2, 1863.

Surg. B. A. VANDERKIEFT, U. S. Army, In Charge:

SIR: I have the honor to make the following general report of the condition of patients (sick and wounded) who arrived at and were admitted to this hospital from Belle Island, Va., per flag-of-truce steamer New York, via City Point, Va., the 29th ultimo. The New York left City Point with 189 sick and wounded. Before she arrived at Fortress Monroe four died. On the trip from Fortress Monroe to this place four more died, leaving 181 to be admitted. To express fully the condition of this number language is almost inadequate, and none but those who saw them can have any appreciable idea of their condition. I do not pretend to particularize, for every case presented evidences of ill-treatment. Every case wore upon it the visage of hunger, the expression of despair, and exhibited the ravages of some preying disease within, or the wreck of a once athletic frame. I only generalize them when I say their external appearance was wretched in the extreme. Many had no hats or shoes, but few had a whole garment, many were clothed merely with a tattered blouse or the remnant of a coat and a poor apology for a shirt. Some had no underclothing, and I believe none had a blanket. Their hair was disheveled, their beards long and matted with dirt, their skin blackened and caked with the most loathsome filth, and their bodies and clothing covered with vermin. Their frames were in the most cases all that was left of them. A majority had scarcely vitality sufficient to enable them to stand. Their dangling, long, attenuated arms and legs, sharp, pinched features, ghastly cadaveric countenances, deep sepulchral eyes and vices that could hardly be distinguished (some could not articulate) presented a picture which could not be looked upon without is drawing out the strongest emotion of pity. Upon those who had no wounds, as well as on the wounded, were large foul ulcers and sores, principally on their shoulders and hips, produced by lying on the hard ground, and those that were wounded had received no attention, their wounds being in a filthy, offensive condition, with dirty rags, such as they could procure, intrusted hard to them. One man who died on the trip from Fortress Monroe told the surgeon previous to death his wounds had not been dressed since the battle of Gettysburg, Pa., where he was wounded in the head and both tables of the posterior part of the skull fractured. A majority of the cases were suffering with diarrhea, some of them with involuntary evacuations, their clothes being the only receptacle for them, and they too weak to remedy the difficulty. This being the case, you can of course imagine the stench emitted from them. Many had pneumonia in some form or stage; some were in the gasping their last breath. Delirious with fever, many knew not their destination or were not conscious of their arrival nearer home; or, racked with pain, many cared not whither they went or considered whether life was dear or not. In some, life was slowly ebbing from mere exhaustion and the gradual wasting of the sense. How great must be the mortality, then, of these men, and how dreadful among those still suffering the pains of imprisonment. Every man who could rejoiced over his escape, deplored the scenes through which he had passed, and mourned the lot of those he left behind. Weak and