Richmond Whig, 5/26/1864

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From the Richmond Whig, 5/26/1864, p. 2, c. 1

The Wounded.

According to official estimates, the number of wounded in this city is between six and seven thousand. - Daily accessions are made, and when the next great battle between Lee and Grant occurs, the number will be doubled. In the vast wards of Chimborazo, Winder, Jackson and Howard’s Grove, we have ample space for all the present and prospective wounded. We have reason to believe that the organization of these great hospitals is as nearly perfect as the straitened condition of the Confederacy will permit. Very painful reports about the criminal negligence and positive inhumanity of certain hospitals reach us, but we are disinclined to believe them. For example, we hear of a gallant young soldier, a resident of this city, who was shot through the lungs, and lay in that condition for two days at ____ ____ [omitted in original. Ed.], without having his wound dressed or seeing a white face. Once a day, a negro brought him a bit of fat middling and a dozen (counted) black-eye peas. The poor fellow was not even permitted to stop the ambulance on its way to the hospital to notify his relatives of his arrival, nor would the hospital authorities oblige him so far as to allow a servant to carry a note to his brother. His only mode of communication was through the post office.

We are loth to believe this statement, although it seems well authenticated; still less are we disposed to join others in charging this and other instances of cruel neglect to the callousness and conceit of a distinguished official. But, in the very nature of things, there must be more or less inattention. A badly wounded man requires the constant presence and unceasing attention of more than one person. A physician, a nurse and a servant, all three, often find their energies taxed by the needs of a patient suffering from extensive suppuration. How impossible, then, to attend properly to six, eight or ten thousand wounded.

Under recent enactments of Congress, the number of hospital attendants has been reduced to the lowest possible point. Overworked, made peevish by loss of sleep, and naturally indifferent to the sufferings of people in whom he feels no interest, the hired hospital attendant cannot be relied on. The Chief Surgeon, Surgeons and Assistant Surgeons themselves, worn down by excessive labor, are apt to grow callous. The Inspector of Hospitals, sympathising with his friends and not unmindful of the infirmity of human nature, is prone to relax his vigilance at the very time it is most needed.

Proper food is as important to the wounded as proper attention; but, unfortunately, proper food is not to be had by purchase. The Government is lavish with its money for the support of hospitals, but all the money in the world will not buy when the markets are empty and closed. Fresh, tender meat is very scarce, and becoming scarcer every day. Butter, eggs and milk; wines, brandies and cordials, are to be obtained only in small quantities. Fortunately, there is plenty of ice. Bacon and common whisky are also abundant; but the juicy and nutritious meats, and the delicate stimulants, are almost wholly wanting.

Our readers, especially those who live in the country, will perceive the imperative importance of contributing, to the full extent of their ability. Milk, butter, eggs, the early fruits and vegetables, lamb and veal, chickens, the contents of the wine closet and the preserve pantry - all these will be most acceptable to the wounded and the convalescent. The duty of towns-people is equally clear: To thin out the wards as much as possible, by taking wounded men to their houses; to give freely of their private stores; to prepare delicate dishes; and to lend a helping hand wherever and whenever they can. Think how much the suffering soldiers have done for us; remember how impossible it is for the hospital people to give them all the attention they need; and act accordingly.

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