J. E. Mills Transcript
Surgeon General’s Office
Washington City, D.C.
October 29th 1862
I have to acknowledge the receipt (thro’ Mr. Blaine) of a letter, addressed, to you, by J. E. Mills, on the 18th instant, in reference, to the conditions of patients, at the Point Lookout Hospital, and furlough, for A. W. Mills.
In reply, to the state Statements, contained in that letter, I have the honor, to inform you, that I know, from personal observation, that the patients, at the Point Lookout Hospital, are well cared for, and the Sanitary Commission reports, to the same effect.
Relative to a furlough, for Mr. Mills’ son, I have to say that all the furloughs are prohibited, by the War Department, General Banks has authorized them for sick in Washington.
I am Sir,
Your obt Servant
Surgeon General U. S. A.
February 24, 1863
I was afforded a momentary interview with you of which I availed myself to speak of my son, now sick at Beaufort, N.C. being connected with the 11th Me. Regt. now stationed at that place. The time was so limited from the press of business that demanded your attention that I did not feel at liberty to say what I would have been glad to under other circumstances. Allow me to refer to the subject once more and in a manner that you may think to bestow a moments attention to it when more at leisure, if such a time can be found amidst your pressing duties.
I stated to you that I had recently visited Yorktown, Va and Pt. Lookout Hospitals in Md. The object of the visit was to see my two sons the one in the 11th then at Y. (now at Beaufort NC) and the other at Ft. L both of whom had been sick with Chronic Diarrhea and entirely disabled from service for nearly six months. The one at Point L. I found very low and feeble. (He belonged to the 3rd Me.) But after infinite delays and vexations I succeeded in procuring his discharge and left for home which I reach’d with my sick son the 25th of Dec. He surviv’d just 2 weeks and dropped into the grave. Could he have enjoyed the comforts of home and the care of friends a few weeks earlier, he might have lived. But it was too late! My other son now at Beaufort is in the same condition. Was attacked with disease at the same time after or during the severe fighting before Richmond, or just before- (for the one deceased rose from a sick bed to participate in the battle of Fair Oaks) and has never seen a well day since. While remaining quiet he improves and seems to gain upon the disease. But the least fatigue occasions a relapse that entirely prostrates him. He had been much better after I left them in Dec. But when his regt left for the South the fatigue the excitement of the voyage prostrated him. His fate is inevitably seal’d unless he can be allowed to come home. Whether you can exert any influence to procure for him a discharge or a few weeks respite from service to afford him some chance to live- or otherwise, I am quite sure of one thing that is your sympathies will be awakened in behalf of a faithful and brave though sick and uncomplaining soldier. But I hope some means will be devised to enable him to come home a while before it is too late.
I beg your Ex. to allow me to refer to the condition of our 11th Me. The whole no. of rank and file (including recruits) composing it since its organization is I believe 1250 men. When I was at Yorktown, 500 were in hospital. 500 more had died or been discharged from inability. The whole no. that could shoulder a rifle and appear on dress parade was about 150. (about 50 being detached on special duty) Nearly one half of that no. as the Q.M. of the Regt assured me could not have endured a march of 10 miles. I have since heard that several convalescents have returned and that the health of the Regt has improved. But multitudes of the unfortunate 11th I saw confined in that Golgatha, called a Hospital at Y. who if they could be sent home might survive, but who were retained there with no prospect of their ever being of any service to the country and who were being borne to the grave the rate of three every day while I was there. Often more. Cannot something be done to procure the release of our poor suffering soldiers in the hospitals who can be of no further service in the field? I beg leave to say that the moral effect of the suffering of this class of soldiers is the most disastrous and disheartening to the to the army of anything that came under my observation during my visit within its lines. Nor is it less disastrous in occasioning the public despondency and gloom, which are so unfavorable to the enlistment of new recruits as the exigences of the service may require.
Certain it is that the soldiers regarded the hospital at Y. as only another name for the sepulcher, having infinitely greater terror for that than the battlefield. Almost every tent in their encampment contained more or less sick who arose from a couch of pain to go on duty rather than be sent to the hospital. The conviction in every mind seemed fixed, that if they went to the hospital, there was no return, no discharge, but by death! And that their fate was sealed. Cannot the Legislature do something to ameliorate the sufferings of our disabled soldiers? I saw many also at Pt Lookout not less than 1000 men from this and other states, that the physicians in charge told me ought to be sent home at once yet they are still lingering and suffering in both places without any prospect of alleviation till death.
But I forbear begging your Exy’s pardon for the length of this, which a regard for the sacred cause, as well as the case of my own poor boy has prompted__
I subscribe myself
Your Most Obt and Humble Servt.