There is glory for the brave
Who lead, and nobly save
Charlotte could take refuge in her bed. She wanted to do just that—the bottle of laudanum on her dresser could ease the way. Friends did not expect to see her. The pastor of her church had offered prayers, which faded the moment he finished. The view from her bedroom window confirmed it. Charlotte had no reason to venture out and every reason to withdraw. Ice crystals had formed on the windowpanes overnight and now, mid-morning, freezing drizzle made walking treacherous. People scurried along, battered by a growing storm.
The paper boy on the corner screamed to make himself heard. "Criminal Neglect of the Wounded! Get your paper here!"
The few people out rushed toward their destinations without stopping. The boy had no winter coat to shield him from the weather, just a tattered jacket that stopped at his waist, too small for his growing frame, too lightweight to keep him warm.
Charlotte slipped down the stairs and wrapped up in a cape.
"Casualties much larger that first reported!" The boy stomped his feet to keep them warm.
"I'll take a paper." Charlotte handed him a dollar.
"Lady, it's only three cents. You got no coins?"
"Keep it," she said, "and go down the block to warm up in church."
He didn't need to be told twice. The boy stowed the newspapers under his arm and headed for St. John's.
Charlotte stoked the fire in the hearth and skimmed the news until she found the war news.
Large numbers of the wounded arrive here every day from Fort Donelson and are distributed to various points. The whole number that reached Mound City up to last night was about four hundred and sixty. The entire loss in killed is much larger than was at first supposed, being, as near as can be ascertained, not less than four hundred and fifteen. The wounded will reach a figure not greatly different from eight hundred. This is a costly sacrifice upon the altar of our country, but it will do more than any which has yet been offered toward putting to flight the devils of treason and rebellion.
Our men, by superior gallantry and discipline, and inspired by patriotism, were able to overcome all the odds of position and knowledge of the ground possessed by the enemy. Yesterday the "Fanny Bullett" arrived here from Fort Donelson. On board were many wounded men in a most shocking condition. The boat was ordered to Cincinnati, but for some reason came by way of Cairo. There was no surgeon aboard, and an insufficient number of nurses. None of the wounds had been dressed in three days; all the men were weak, filthy, and suffering beyond description. When the boat reached Mound City two men had died, and a third was in a condition that would have resulted in death in a very short time had not some benevolent gentlemen, who had gone aboard, furnished assistance.
These facts are shocking and call for the severest reprehension upon the heads of those who have allowed such things to occur. It is bad enough to be treated like a dog while a private soldier in good health; it is still worse to have that treatment continued when one is wounded and helpless. Yesterday Surgeon WHITE, formerly of the First Iowa, and now acting as volunteer surgeon, went on board the "Hazel Dell" to afford some assistance to the wounded. He found a man whose arm had lately been amputated, and which needed dressing, but no bandages could be found. The boat was hunted over not a thing could be raked up that would have bound up the leg of a wren. The matter was about to be given up in despair when feminine ingenuity came to the aid of the poor soldier. Stepping modestly in a stateroom, an elderly, benevolent-looking lady emerged moments later with her ample form reduced, bearing in her hand a petticoat, which she presented to the Doctor. In a few minutes the opportune gift was torn into long bandages and twined about the limbs of wounded Nationals. The lady's name, bless her patriotic soul, is Mrs. LYDIA HOLMES, of Golconda, Illinois. It would be doing her, the public and posterity injustice, not to mention her name in connection with her offering.
Charlotte wondered where Mound City and Golconda, Illinois were. She knew about Cairo from Dickens' descriptions in Martin Chuzzlewit. Dickens depicted Cairo as a forlorn place at the junction of the two rivers, low, and marshy, a breeding-place of fever and ague. Certainly Mound City could not be far away. Her late husband had a map of the United States, but Charlotte doubted that it showed details of southern Illinois. The location was less important than the people caught up in the events. By giving up her petticoat, Mrs. Holmes aided a suffering solider. The very least he deserved was a clean bandage. Was Mrs. Holmes a widow? The reporter described her as elderly. And benevolent. He left out all other details about the lady. Was she like others who found themselves in the theater of war? Did she just show up without status or authority? Understandable that a lady could not stand by and see boys suffer.
The casualties at Fort Donelson had shocked the nation. Its capture had been a major victory for General Grant and a catastrophe for the South. Controlling the fort gave the Union a way to advance along the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. Grant received a promotion to major general for his victory. But the number of casualties staggered imagination. Other sources indicated that more than 2,000 Union soldiers had been killed or wounded, and over 1,400 Confederates stricken. Was Mrs. Holmes among the mourners?
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