Friday, August 26, 2011

Cavendish Semiquincentennial: Civil War Letters/Play

The play Cavendish Chronicles II: The Early Years will take place on Saturday and Sunday at 7pm at the Cavendish Town Elementary School in Proctorsville. This is a free play.

The journals and diaries of the Civil War era were often filled with short sentences about daily life. “Hot today. Moving out tomorrow.” It was in the letters that a great deal can be learned about how the soldiers lived and how their families coped with the war. One such example was written to Laura Blood Atherton of Cavendish, by her cousin Marcia Ann (Blood) Marsh of Ware dated March 6, 1863. Marsh writes to Atherton about her brother Henry Sumner Blood who was an assistant surgeon with the 57th Illinois Infantry Regiment.

“You wished to know the particulars. He enlisted into the service in Chicago, Illinois, 57th Regiment, in October. Soon after he was quite sick with a fever. I don’t think he had entirely recovered when he sailed for the field of battle, then living as they did on the boat, and the privations, camping out on the shore, want of suitable food, brought on the dysentery and quick consumption. He wrote to Charles the 24th of February after the battle at Fort Donelson, Tennessee. His Regiment was not in the warmest part of the engagement. He wrote the next day after the battle. He went out on the field and such as sight as met his eyes he never should forget. He could not describe it, he would tell us when he came home, which he thought would be in July, and the war would be over. The poor boy, how little he could see of the future. He said he was scarcely able then to hold up his head, but should keep round as long as he could, then he should go to the hospital and his rank would insure him good treatment. But he added: “Lord have mercy on the poor private-if you are out of the army, keep out. I never what hardships were before, but think I do now.” He went as assistant surgeon. This was the 24th of February and he died the 4th of March. He died at Fort Henry, near Fort Donelson. The young man that had the care of him after he took to his bed said he kept up good courage and was cheerful until the day before he died. He made no complaint. Called for nothing, and apparently suffered buy little. When he was first taken he told the Colonel if anything happened, he wanted his body sent to Ware. That was all he ever said about dying. He wrote that he and others were up with him all night trying to make him comfortable. He was wandering most of the time in the morning he asked to be raised up. He raised home on his arm, that most the last, he died without a struggle. The funeral was the 19th of March. He looked very natural, but very poor. That was a trying time. I thought how would Mother have survived it if her life had been spared, but I felt she was taken from the evil to come. Two weeks ago two young men were brought home. One was shot through the head at Newburn, the same month Henry died. The other died in the hospital last June. They were not seen, so it is all around me. Oh when will this war cease?” “Families of Cavendish” Vol 4 by Linda Welch page 57.

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