Christopher C. Hayes
July 8, 1863
Christopher Hayes (or C. C. Hayes as he always signed himself) served as an agent of the Maine Soldiers’ Relief Agency in Washington, D.C., along with fellow Mainers Leonard Watson, Sarah Sampson, Harriet Eaton, and others. Not trained physicians or nurses, Hayes and the others would visit hospitals to find Maine soldiers, write letters for the invalids, collect fresh fruit and other non-medical but badly needed supplies, assist recovering men to obtain furloughs, and arrange for their transport home.
Their efforts were appreciated by the men they aided, and after two or three years of experience, they also had become quite skilled at tending wounded men.
Hayes was the first Maine agent to arrive at Gettysburg after the battle. Sampson and Eaton followed shortly thereafter.
He was assigned to the 3rd Corps Hospital, a privately owned farmhouse and outbuildings located about four miles south of the town. Though unable to get much accurate or up-to-date news about Maine units in the battle, Hayes informs Governor Abner Coburn of the 16th Regiment’s fate: "The 16th Regiment suffered very much, reducing the regiment to the numbers of a company. A great many men were taken prisoner."
Five days after the battle, Hayes is still only able to supply the Governor with vague and inaccurate casualty figures from the 4th, 17th, 19th and 20th Regiments – only four of the 15 Maine units that fought at Gettysburg.
He discovers that some men who were slightly wounded had already left on foot for Westminster, Maryland, where they "took the cars for Baltimore."
"Others," he adds, "are continually being moved – upwards of 150 are being sent off every day."
Hayes learns that the Army of the Potomac has moved on to Virginia in anticipation of an imminent new battle, and that their regular surgeons have gone with them.
"None but convalescents were permitted to remain as attendants and not half enough of them," he writes, adding "I have this day dressed nearly a hundred wounds; all Maine men, some who have not had their bandages changed since they were first added some 4 or 5 days since. I have been very much engaged laboring from early morn until late at night."
He imparts one piece of hopeful news: *"I learn that it is not the design to keep these hospitals as Corps hospitals, but a general hospital will be established near the city.”
An 80 acre, tented hospital, called Camp Letterman, opened on July 22, about three miles east of Gettysburg. About 4,000 badly wounded soldiers of both armies were treated there until the facility closed in November, 1863.
Meanwhile, Hayes continues to help those who, he says, suffer "with heroic fortitude."
- When did the next major battle after Gettysburg actually take place?
- There were no automobiles in the 1860s; what did Hayes mean when he said that wounded men "took the cars for Baltimore"?