Letter From A Delegate To The U.S. Christian Commission 29 April 1865


Sergeant Major
Apr 1, 2016
Atlanta, Georgia
From the Perrysburg Journal, Perrysburg, Ohio
United States Christian Commission
Dalton, Georgia 11 April 1865
To Journal,
In accordance to your request I send a few items for publication in your paper. I
find myself here in Dixie far from home and surrounded by all the paraphernalia
of war. I lasted through my trip southward merely touching at Cincinnati and
Louisville – spent the Sabbath and a few days at Nashville performing the duties of
a Delegate of the U.S. Christian Commission. The Commission is doing a great
work for the soldiers.
At Nashville the Commission occupies a large three story brick building which
belonged to a rebel banker who fled leaving some of his fine furniture in the
house. They have the best hospitals and accommodations for the sick of any place
I have yet seen. Those who have sons, brothers, husbands or fathers sick in any
General Hospital need suffer no anxiety about them for everything is done for
them that is possible to do and all that could be done at home, save the presence
and love of the dear ones there. The Surgeons and nurses generally treat the sick
with the kindness and tenderness of a brother. I am constantly surprised of the
attachment of soldiers to each other and their care for each other’s welfare, yet
no more at this than the cheerful and uncomplaining manner in which the sick
and wounded suffer. It is not necessary to go to the battlefields to find Heroes,
they may be seen in any hospital. I saw one man who seemed to be suffering a
good deal and asked him how he felt. He answered, “Very poorly.” He was low
spirited with a long face. I inquired, “What is the matter with you?” He replied, “I
came here with the fever, then caught the measles and afterwards the mumps
besides. I have rheumatism and “, I here interrupted him by playfully saying, “and
not very well yourself.” He burst into a hearty laugh and was very cheerful while I
stayed. In Hospital No. 12 at Nashville there were some mischievous
convalescents and some nurses played an “April Fool” on them by serving out to
them a genuine sawdust pie. The joke did them more good than medicine.
While at Nashville, I preached in the camp of the 182nd O.V.I. It is a fine regiment,
they have a beautiful location and are doing fatigue duty building a fort. I was
pleased with the welcome I received from the officers and men, and much so with
the acquaintance of Captain Noble, Company C of Bowling Green. It is very
probable the regiment will remain there during their term of service and the boys
have made their camp look beautiful and home like. Companies D, E, and G are at
Johnsonville, Tenn. All the delegates of the U.S.C.C. love to preach to the 182nd
On the 21st instant I went to Chattanooga. This is a strong military post, with
almost 17,000 troops. The largest part of the town has been built since our forces
took possession of the place. I was forcibly struck with the contras in traveling
south of the Ohio River. From Perrysburg to Cincinnati I had a No.1 sleeping car.
From there to Louisville a fine steamer, the Nicholas Longworth, which however
charged me full fare – the only ride that cost me anything since I left home. From
Louisville to Nashville we had to ride in a 3rd class car crowded to the utmost
capacity. From Nashville to Chattanooga I succeeded in getting into an officers car
which would be 2nd class in Ohio. I remained three days in Chattanooga and then
came here (Dalton).
I am the only Delegate at this place. There are about 400 troops here with
several hundred sick. I have opened a “base of supplies” in the Provost Marshalls
Office. The hospitals are quite needy and I am most heartily welcomed, because
of what I have to bestow. I sometimes go out to a regiment with three or four
hundred papers and a supply of stationary. The boys would come running from all
parts of the camp and perhaps fifty hands would be grabbing at once for a share.
It reminded me of what I have been told of our starving soldiers in rebel prisons
crowding for their rations. I never before I came here, realized how much more
blessed it is to give than to receive. There seem to be nothing bestowed upon
these men in vain. They are so patient, so grateful, it is the greatest pleasure to
administer to their wants. Often when I enter a Ward they will in one voice say,
“Here comes the Chaplain, glad to see you.” When I enquire, “How are you today
boys?”, the almost universal answer with a smile is, “O, I am getting along first
rate.” Then I begin to give each a paper, book, testament, or a comfort bag as they
may need. I talk, laugh, read, sing, pray, preach, give the cooks some kind of
delicacies to tempt the appetites and nourish the weak and the leave them with
every eye in the Ward upon me, some saying, “Come again soon.” “God Bless
You.” or “Bully for the Chaplain.” If the people of the North could but see how
much good a little dried or canned fruit, a mere wine or cordials or any such thing
can do here, they would soon supply every need of the U.S. Christian Commission.
There is great need of comfort bags – a little bag with a draw string, filled with
coarse needles and strong thread, some buttons, pins, a darning needles and
some yarn, a pencil and pens and always a letter to the soldier who may get it,
with a sheet of paper in an envelope already stamped, and a request for the
soldier to answer it. It is interesting see how the boys are delighted with these
little letters. I hope our little Sabbath School girls will go to work in this business.
Dalton is a village thirty miles from Chattanooga. It has been nearly ruined by
the war. It is the extreme “Front”, it being the further most point south that our
Army occupies in Georgia since General Sherman left Atlanta. We are frequently
harassed by guerilla parties. While coming here we came very near being gobbled
by them. They had torn out a rail and as soon as we stopped a party of thirty of
Gatewood’s men came dashing down on us. Our guard fired on them which
turned them and we beat a hasty retreat to Tunnel Hill where we got a guard and
a force to repair the track and got through safely. It was my first taste of war and I
have no desire to have it repeated.
The whole country is ruined for years to come. For scores of miles one cannot
see a fence nor anything growing to eat. Hundreds of tons of railroad iron, bent
and twisted, lay along the track. In this place all the churches and nearly every
house are occupied for military purposes.
The people that are left here are surprisingly ignorant and poor. I had an
opportunity to see a specimen of Georgia belles. There was an oyster supper at
my boarding place. It was attended by the commanding General of this place, Brig.
Gen. Judah and Staff. There is little danger of our northern boys becoming
enamored of such southern belles.
Having been across Kentucky and Tennessee, through parts of Alabama and
Georgia, I can truly say I would not give Ohio for the whole Southern Confederacy.
The cannon and soldiers voices are ringing out tones of rejoicing over the promise
of a speedy overthrow.
Yours truly,
T. N. Barkdull