Leaving Sick Confederate Soldiers Behind In Retreat

NDR5thNY

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Nov 17, 2019
Location
Lumberton, NC
I really can’t imagine the sheer grit of these people. If he didn’t need to walk like that and exhaust his body’s resources , he might not have died.
I can’t recall the source. The wounded soldiers were begging to be let out of the wagons. The intense pain from the jarring of the wagons most have been unbearable. We rode in a wagon simulating the Oregon trial in a museum in Southeastern Idaho several years ago. It was a very harsh ride. I can understand the soldiers requesting to be let out of wagon.
 

OldmanReb

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Location
Van Buren, Arkansas
View attachment 391411

Does anyone know if there was a specific policy or rule as to how sick and/or injured soldiers were treated by the CSA when retreating? Were they left behind or taken along? The specific instance I'm thinking of had to do with soldiers left behind when CSA troops pulled back into Vicksburg, but I don't know if leaving them was standard policy or due to the circumstances at Vicksburg.
This sort of sounds like the Paiute Natives who would leave behind wounded if they weren’t of high responsibility/importance. It left a trail of dead/wounded Paiutes and it is what gave them notorious headlines during the Pyramid Lake War of 1860. I do not know if this has to do with the Confederates, but I do not think a policy was kept on the subject.
 

TerryB

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Dec 7, 2008
Location
Nashville TN
Policy is too strong a word, sick & wounded men were regularly abandoned by the Army of Tennessee. The army that looses a battle & retreats only has so many wagons for transporting wounded men. At Stones River, the hospital at the large Baptist College building was filled with wounded & sick men of both sides. Dr. Eames, who took command of the hospital, stated that the sufferers were lying in straw on wooden bunks & covered in their own filth. He paid self-liberated slaves to clean both the building & the patients.

In 1860, the six square blocks of Murfreesboro had a population of 2,000 half & half free & slave. The 24,000 casualties of the Battle of Stones River completely overwhelmed the available buildings. Churches & businesses on the square were emptied of furniture & fixtures. Every available square foot of floor space was filled with wounded & diseased men of both sides. Wounded men were assigned to local families, who were paid to care for them. Needless to say, the wounded experienced kindness, indifference & outright abandonment. One soldier who had been left on the field for days was assigned to a family who locked him in a pig shed & fled southward with the cash. He somehow lingered there for an extended period of time before being rescued. He must have been one tough customer.

I have done an impression of Dr. A.N. Reed of the Unites States Sanitary Commission during living history programs at Stones River N.B. There were "almost 20" hospitals in Murfreesboro. He inspected them in 1863 & found them well run. The Sanitary Commission's credo was to treat anyone who came under their care, no matter what state or side they came from, the same. It was the precursor of the Red Cross. The role of the USSC in succoring the men of both sides cannot be exaggerated.

Without a doubt, the most moving collection of letters that I have involve a 40 something man from Strawberry Plaines in East Tennessee who had been drafted into CSA service. His unit was sent to Vicksburg, where he became ill. He was scheduled to be evacuated when Grant's movements cut the RR. By the time of the surrender, he was in a pitiful state. Union doctors arranged for him to be cared for by a very compassionate couple who owned a farm nearby. His letters home written on the back of wallpaper are filled with musings about how his bee hives were faring. He arrived at the home where he was nursed flthy & reeking. The kind letters written by the couple as his condition continued to deteriorate are deeply sad. They buried him in their family cemetery & expressed his few possessions home.

Weeks after the Battle of Gettysburg a couple of hundred Army of Northern Virginia wounded were discovered in a stand of timber where they had been abandoned by Lee's retreat. Local farm families rallied to the aid of the surviving sufferers, many of whom were all but naked.

I don't know of a definitive figure for the number of CSA sick & wounded were cared for by Union hospitals. One of my CSA ancestors had his life saved by a Union surgeon. It was the end of the medical dark ages. Any small child knows more about sepsis than any doctor in the world at that time. As any medical professional will tell you, keeping a patient clean, comfortable & fed will go a very long way toward allowing the body to heal itself. That was something that CW era medical practitioners understood very well. A soldier who entered the U.S. hospital system had a 90% chance of survival no matter which side they came from.
Very well stated. I just recently rewatched "Mercy Street." They seemed to lose a lot of patients from both sides, but that's how it is in soap operas.
 

johan_steele

Regimental Armorer
Retired Moderator
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Feb 20, 2005
Location
South of the North 40
As military organizations went both sides were rather amatuerish in their treatment of the wounded. When Bragg withdrew from Shiloh he ordered the wounded to be left and Rifle Muskets gleaned from the field to be placed in the ambulances. When he withdrew from Kentucky he ordered wells to be spoiled by placing the dead in them... there were accusations that not all of the men were dead when they were placed in wells. At Gettysburg Day 1 a US hospital was overrun and US troops were forcibly moved aside to make way for CS wounded to be treated.

This kind of thing was not uncommon to both sides, at Champions Hills a US sureon was noted taking care of CS wounded before US wounded and it was made clear to him that if US troops died due to neglect there would be room in the burial trench for him.

With all the evil , brutality and outright ugliness that went on with both sides there were also moments of compassion. When one CS surgeon was asked why he was even bothering to treat US wounded he replied they all bleed red and all get judged by God the same. In one engagement a US drummer boy was seen to have been wounded and fell behind during a retreat. A corporal volunteered to go back and get him. He discovered him laying mortally wounded propped up against a log. The drummer boy insisted the corporal thank the angel for him. On the other side of the log lay a dead Confederate who had given the boy his canteen just prior to death. Whne CS Cav caught up to the corporal he was digging a single common grave and had marked it on a board "Drummer Boy and his Angel." The Reb Cav went and got shovels and helped the corporal finish the grave. They then returned the corporal to the US lines.

A word on the reality of hospital wagons and ambulances... has been noted it was a brutally rough ride. Some might question just what that means. After my car accident I endured a about 2 hour ride in an ambulance and I can tell you I felt every bump in the road. The harder more jarring bumps made me see white and sometimes pass out from the pain. That was in a modern ambulance with good shocks. I cannot imagine the agony of being in a wagon with no real suspension.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
The Army of Tennessee was only left in command of the field of battle at Chickamauga. Every other battle from Fort Donelson to Nashville, the victorious Union force was left with the task of burying the dead & dealing with the wounded. When the Army of Tennessee fled from Chattanooga, the advancing Union troops were shocked to find the remains of their dead lying where they had fallen. Hogs & wild animals had feasted on the remains. This was considered a major violation of the laws of war.

Starting with hospitals in Chattanooga, both Union & CSA casualties were evacuated northward. Purpose built ambulance trains were used to transport on the N&CRR fortunate individuals to hospitals in Murfreesboro & Nashville. Needless to say, not all accommodations were equipped with beds suspended with rubber shock bands. The headstones of soldiers from New York, Iowa & other states that never had any troops stationed in Middle Tennessee at Stones River National Cemetery are testimony to the large number of soldiers evacuated to Murfreesboro from Atlanta & all points in between during 1863-65.

However rude the ride might have been, the "almost 20 hospitals" in Murfreesboro & the large medical facilities in Nashville were clean, well run & had a 90% survival rate. No distinction was made between Union & CSA casualties. Dr. A. N.Reed's inspection report to the Sanitary Commission is the source for that assertion.

Once in Nashville, during high water, casualties were sent down river to the Ohio & Mississippi Rivers back to their home states. CSA prisoners were eventually transferred to POW camps. A man who "swallowed the dog" could receive a pass to go home & not be molested by Union forces. This policy was one of Lincoln's most ingenious & humane policies.

The descriptions of the state of the CSA hospitals such as the one at the Baptist Union College building when Rosecrans' men entered Murfreesboro TN in Jan 1863 were nothing short of disgusting. Men lay in straw surrounded by their own filth. Self-liberating people were immediately hired to clean up & nurse the sufferers. Many of them went on to work in hospitals through out the war. One of the self-liberated women became a nurse on the U.S. Hospital Ship Red Rover. She was one of the first women to be officially enlisted in the U.S. military. She was given a pension appropriate to her official rank, 3rd Class Boy.

The U.S. Sanitary Commission, the precursor to the Red Cross, was a civilian group chartered by the U.S. Government. The Sanitarians treated every man who came under its care regardless of which army he belonged to.

My g-g-reat uncle who is member of the Immortal 600 was saved by Union surgeons at least twice. He was wounded nine times & captured three times, so he is the poster child for how good & bad the system could be.

When large numbers of CSA wounded were left by a retreating or surrendered army, local families were paid by the Union army to nurse them. Needless to say, the care ran from taking the money & leaving the wounded to fend for themselves in a pig stye to the most selfless compassionate care imaginable. Severely wounded men could be paroled to go home & recover. If they swallowed the dog, they could stay there unmolested. A personal friend's CSA ancestor was a captured doctor who received a parole to visit the wounded in the countryside. He was given a convalescing Union cavalryman as an escort. She descends from the marriage of their children.
 
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Rhea Cole

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Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
This sounds like the plot of a novel!
It really does when you hear the rest of the story. Her name is Shirley Jones, a local amateur historian who lives here in Murfreesboro TN. As long as I had known her, she had been a died in the wool Southerner. Her g-g--great was captured at Fort Donelson. He left a great paper trail. Very early on he became disillusioned with a war to guarantee the right of one person to hold another human being as property. He swallowed the dog & did good work as country physician. Fair enough, ¿no?

Much to my surprise, Shirley emailed me to ask about the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry. I knew the general story of the 3rd's service in Middle Tennessee, but nothing specific. However, such a low ordinal indicated an early entry into the war & should have a big paper trail. Shirley made contact with excellent folks in PA who responded to her inquiries with a great joy. It led to her making contact with her PA relations, to everyone’s great surprise.

Her deep dive into the new family connections revealed a whole wing of her TN family that had not had contact since the schism over secession. Her folks are from the Highland Plateau between Nashville & the Smoky Mountains & subsequent generations lived close by w/o knowing they were related. She made contact with them & was treated like home folks. She wasn't through yet.

A mutual friend was Dr. George Smith, a Murfreesboro GP who was black. He was one of the founders of our Civil War Roundtable. He was a terrific human being. When Shirley presented a program about her epiphany as a bifurcated descendant of Civil War veterans, it rang a bell with George. He was a descendant of slaves owned by Shirley's family. With modern gene tracing, there was no doubt that many of them were blood relations of Shirley's. George’s family had a long history of annual gatherings at the home church near where Shirley had grown up.

A grand family reunion of all the various far flung wings of Shirley's family held a dinner on the grounds to celebrate their restoration. Now, that really is a movie plot too good to be true. Shirley gives a dramatic & highly entertaining talk about her amazing experience.

Shirley has made a deep study of John Hunt Morgan, his wife Matty Ready & her family.
 
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lupaglupa

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Apr 18, 2019
Location
Upstate New York
It really does when you hear the rest of the story. Her name is Shirley Jones, a local amateur historian who lives here in Murfreesboro TN. As long as I had known her, she had been a died in the wool Southerner. Her g-g--great was captured at Fort Donelson. He left a great paper trail. Very early on he became disillusioned with a war to guarantee the right of one person to hold another human being as property. He swallowed the dog & did good work as country physician. Fair enough, ¿no?

Much to my surprise, Shirley emailed me to ask about the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry. I knew the general story of the 3rd's service in Middle Tennessee, but nothing specific. However, such a low ordinal indicated an early entry into the war & should have a big paper trail. Shirley made contact with excellent folks in PA who responded to her inquiries with a great joy.

Her deep dive into the new family connections revealed a whole wing of her family that had not had contact since the schism over secession. Her folks are from the Highland Plateau between Nashville & the Smoky Mountains. She made contact with them & was treated like home folks. She wasn't through yet.

A mutual friend was Dr. George Smith, a Murfreesboro GP who was black. He was one of the founders of our Civil War Roundtable. He was a terrific human being. When Shirley presented a program about her epiphany as a bifurcated descendant of Civil War veterans, it rang a bell with George. He was a descendant of slaves owned by Shirley's family. With modern gene tracing, there was no doubt that many of them were blood relations of Shirley's. They had a long history of annual gatherings at the home church near where Shirley had grown up.

A grand family reunion of all the various far flung wings of Shirley's family held a dinner on the grounds to celebrate their reservation. Now, that really is a movie plot too good to be true. Shirley gives a dramatic & highly entertaining talk about her amazing experience.

Shirley has made a deep study of John Hunt Morgan, his wife Matty Ready & her family.
I love this! My family was on both sides and I would love to have a modern day reconciliation
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
I love this! My family was on both sides and I would love to have a modern day reconciliation
Be careful what you wish for. A good friend of mine grew up near Dover TN. His Civil War ancestor was a riverboat man who was a Sargent in the Union army. His widow drew a pension. His sister paid for a professional genealogical search. Their family is Cherokee, which was confirmed.

To the mutual fury of great aunts upriver & down, he also found a family in Memphis who descended from a woman who drew his Confederate pension. Apparently, he led two very different lives on either end of his steamboat line.

The younger members of both clans met & established a relationship.
 
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Joined
Aug 23, 2021
Just catching up with this thread. At Gettysburg it is clear from these surgeons' accounts that they were tasked with deciding which of their wounded could be taken on retreat and which were to be left behind.

Thomas Fanning Wood, CSA Assistant Surgeon, 3rd​ North Carolina, described how, on returning to Johnson’s Division field hospital on July 3d, he was assigned to report on the number of wounded and indicate those who could walk or be transported. “The men were not slow to find out that we were preparing to fall back and leave them as prisoners.”

Wood, Thomas Fanning, Doctor to the Front: Recollections of Confederate Surgeon Thomas Fanning Wood, Donald B. Koonce, editor, University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville,, 2000. p. 108.

Isaac Scott Tanner, CSA Surgeon 21st​ North Carolina, Hoke’s Brigade Surgeon in Early’s Division, recorded casualties of the dead and wounded of his regiment and noted the names of wounded “left in hospital near Gettysburg.”

Isaac Tanner Ledgers, Virginia Historical Society Collection

John Walker Powell, CSA Medical Director of Hill’s Third Corps, kept a small notebook, titled C.S.A. Hosp. Dept. Surgical Notes, in which he listed a number of cases from the 14th​ South Carolina, assessed their condition, and reported whether they were to be removed or remain. Two patients listed in “dangerous” condition died on the 3rd​ and 4th​. Other wounds were described as “serious,” or “slight.” For example, Private John H. Cheatham, whose foot wound was described as “serious,” was sent off by wagon and was later listed as a patient at Howard’s Grove Hospital in Richmond on July 17. Edward M. Dinkins’s thigh wound was described as “slight,” but he was left at Gettysburg, transferred to the Chester Pennsylvania hospital, and paroled August 12, 1863. Two patients, who underwent amputations on July 2nd​ were both left at Gettysburg. James M. Youngblood’s wounded wrist was amputated below the elbow; he was paroled at David’s Island, New York Harbor, in November 1863. C.L. Durisoe had his leg amputated for a knee injury, was transferred to David’s Island July 19th​, and died there July 23rd​. Amputees were typically left behind because of the danger of secondary hemorrhages or infections during transit.

Powell, John Walker, C.S.A. Hosp. Dept. Surgical Notes, Virginia Historical Society.







 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Just catching up with this thread. At Gettysburg it is clear from these surgeons' accounts that they were tasked with deciding which of their wounded could be taken on retreat and which were to be left behind.

Thomas Fanning Wood, CSA Assistant Surgeon, 3rd​ North Carolina, described how, on returning to Johnson’s Division field hospital on July 3d, he was assigned to report on the number of wounded and indicate those who could walk or be transported. “The men were not slow to find out that we were preparing to fall back and leave them as prisoners.”

Wood, Thomas Fanning, Doctor to the Front: Recollections of Confederate Surgeon Thomas Fanning Wood, Donald B. Koonce, editor, University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville,, 2000. p. 108.

Isaac Scott Tanner, CSA Surgeon 21st​ North Carolina, Hoke’s Brigade Surgeon in Early’s Division, recorded casualties of the dead and wounded of his regiment and noted the names of wounded “left in hospital near Gettysburg.”

Isaac Tanner Ledgers, Virginia Historical Society Collection

John Walker Powell, CSA Medical Director of Hill’s Third Corps, kept a small notebook, titled C.S.A. Hosp. Dept. Surgical Notes, in which he listed a number of cases from the 14th​ South Carolina, assessed their condition, and reported whether they were to be removed or remain. Two patients listed in “dangerous” condition died on the 3rd​ and 4th​. Other wounds were described as “serious,” or “slight.” For example, Private John H. Cheatham, whose foot wound was described as “serious,” was sent off by wagon and was later listed as a patient at Howard’s Grove Hospital in Richmond on July 17. Edward M. Dinkins’s thigh wound was described as “slight,” but he was left at Gettysburg, transferred to the Chester Pennsylvania hospital, and paroled August 12, 1863. Two patients, who underwent amputations on July 2nd​ were both left at Gettysburg. James M. Youngblood’s wounded wrist was amputated below the elbow; he was paroled at David’s Island, New York Harbor, in November 1863. C.L. Durisoe had his leg amputated for a knee injury, was transferred to David’s Island July 19th​, and died there July 23rd​. Amputees were typically left behind because of the danger of secondary hemorrhages or infections during transit.

Powell, John Walker, C.S.A. Hosp. Dept. Surgical Notes, Virginia Historical Society.







In his report of the 30 miles of wagons filled with wounded, Gen. Imboden stated that at every halt men begged to be left st the side of the road. The excruciating pain at every jolt & bump of the wagon was unendurable. Wagons broke down, got lost & were attacked by axe wielding civilians. How many wounded men were left behind from the wagons is unknowable, I would think.
 
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nc native

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 30, 2011
Location
NC Piedmont
This is an interesting topic to me because one of my direct ancestors was sick and apparently left behind during the retreat from Maryland after the battle of Antietam. He was left in Lovettsville, Virginia which is not far from the Potomac River. In early October
he was captured by Union forces and died a few days later on October 15, 1862. His name was Martin R. Thorne and he was a member of the 2nd North Carolina Infantry which endured some hard fighting in the Bloody Lane at Antietam. The really sad thing about this was that he left behind several orphan children because the two women that he had married had died in childbirth before the Civil War.
 

John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
Dr Calvin Cutter, surgeon-in-chief of the 9th Corps stayed with the wounded when they were left behind after 2nd Manassas. He was captured with them. Because he worked as tirelessly treating the Confederate wounded as he did the Federals, he would be released without imprisonment or exchange.

Cutter, btw, was a radical Abolitionist, who had led a contingent of volunteers to Kansas in '56, to fight alongside John Brown, and served as lieutenant to Jim Lane.
 
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