Sunday, May 4, 2008

Dr. Hunter McGuire's Account of Jackson's Wounding- Part Two

At this time the battle was raging fearfully, and the sound of the cannon and musketry could be distinctly heard at the hospital. The General’s attention was attracted to it from the first and when the noise was at its height, and indicated how fiercely the conflict was being carried on, he directed all his attendants, except Captain Smith, to return to the battlefield and attend to their different duties. By 8 o’clock Sunday night the pain in his side had disappeared, and in all respects he seemed to be doing well. He inquired minutely about the battle and the different troops engaged, and his face would light up with enthusiasm and interest when told how this brigade acted, or that officer displayed conspicuous courage, and his head gave the peculiar shake from side to side, and he uttered his usual, “Good, good,” with unwonted energy when the gallant behavior of the “Stonewall brigade” was alluded to. He said, “the men of the brigade will be someday proud to say to their children, I was one of the ‘Stonewall brigade.’” He disclaimed any right of his own to the name Stonewall. “It belongs to the brigade and not to me.” This night he slept well, and was free from pain.

A message was received from General Lee the next morning directing me to remove the General to Guinea’s station as soon as his condition would justify it, as there was some danger of capture by the Federals, who were threatening to cross at Ely’s Ford. In the meantime to protect the hospital, some troops were sent to this point. The General objected to being moved, if, in my opinion, it would do him any injury. He said he had no objection to staying in a tent, and would prefer it if his wife, when she came, could find lodging in a neighboring house, “and if the enemy does come,” he added, “I am not afraid of them; I have always been kind to their wounded, and I am sure they will be kind to me.” General Lee sent word again late that evening that he must be moved if possible, and preparations were made to leave the next morning. I was directed to accompany him and remain with him, and my duties with the corps as medical direction were turned over to the surgeon next in rank. General Jackson had previously declined to permit me to go with him to Guinea’s, because complaints had been so frequently made of general officers, when wounded, carrying off with them the surgeons belonging to their command. When informed of this order of the commanding general, he said, “General Lee has always been very kind to me, and I thank him.” Very early Tuesday morning he was placed in an ambulance and started for Guinea’s station, and at 8 o’clock that evening he arrived at the Chandler house, where he remained until he died. Captain Hotchkiss, with a party of engineers, was sent in front to clear the road of wood, stone, etc., and to order the wagons out of the track to let the ambulance pass.

The rough teamsters sometimes refused to move their loaded wagons out of the way for an ambulance until told that it was Jackson, and then, with all possible speed, they gave the way and stood with hats off and sweeping as he went by. At Spotsylvania Court House and along the whole route men and women rushed to the ambulance, bringing all the poor delicacies they had and with tearful eyes the blessed him and prayed for his recovery. He bore the journey well, and was cheerful throughout the day. He talked freely about the late battle, and among other things said that he had intended to endeavor to cut the Federals off from the United States ford, and taking a position between them and the river, oblige them to attack him, and he added, with a smile, “My men sometimes fail to drive the enemy from a position, but they always fail to drive us away.” He spoke of Rodes, and alluded in high terms to his magnificent behavior on the field Saturday evening. He hoped he would be promoted. He thought promotion for gallantry should be made at one, upon the field and not delayed. Made very early, or upon the field, they would be the greatest incentives to gallantry in others. He spoke of Colonel Willis (subsequently killed in battle),who commanded the skirmishers of Rodes’s division, and praised him very highly, and referred to the deaths of Paxton and Boswell very feelingly. He alluded to them as officers of great merit and promise. The day was quite warm, and at one time he suffered from slight nausea. At his suggestion, I placed over his stomach a wet towel; and he expressed great relief from it. After he arrived at Chandler’s house he ate some bread and tea with evident relish, and slept well throughout the entire night. Wednesday he thought to be doing remarkably well. He ate heartily for one in his condition, and was uniformly cheerful.

I found his wounds to be very well to-day. Union by the first intention had taken place to some extent in the stump, and the rest of the surface of the wound exposed was covered with healthy granulations. The wound in his hand gave him little pain, and the discharge was healthy. Simple line and water dressings were used, both for the stump and hand, and upon the palm of the latter a light, short splint was applied to assist in keeping at rest the fragments of the second and third metacarpal bones. He expressed great satisfaction when told that his wounds were healing and asked if I could tell from their appearance how long he would probably be kept from the field. Conversing with Captain Smith a few moments afterwards, he alluded to his injuries and said, “Many would regard them as a great misfortune. I regard them as one of the blessings of my life.” Captain Smith replied: “All things work together for good to those that love God.” “Yes,” he answered, “that’s it, that’s it.”

At my request Dr. Morrison came to-day and remained with him. About 1 o’clock Thursday morning, while I was asleep upon a lounge in his room, he directed his servant (Jim) to apply a wet towel to his stomach to relieve an attack of nausea, with which he was again troubled. The servant asked permission to first consult me, but the General knowing that I had slept none for nearly three nights, refused to allow the servant to disturb me, and demanded the towel. About daylight I was aroused, and found him suffering great pain. An examination disclosed pleuro-pneumonia of the right side. I believed, and the consulting physicians concurred in their opinion, that it was attributable to the fall from the litter the night he was wounded. The General himself referred to this accident. I think the disease came on too soon after the application of the wet cloths to admit the supposition, once believed, that it was induced by them. The nausea, for which the cloths were applied that night, may have been a result of inflammation already begun. Contusion of the lung, with extravasation of blood prevented any ill effects until reaction had been well established, and then inflammation ensured. Cups were applied and mercury, with antimony and opium administered.

Towards the evening he became better, and hopes were again entertained of his recovery. Mrs Jackson arrived to-day and nursed him faithfully to the end. She was a devoted wife and earnest Christian, and endeared us all by her great kindness and gentleness. The General’s joy at the presence of his wife and child was very great; and for him unusually demonstrative. Noting the sadness of his wife, he said to her tenderly: “I know you would gladly give your life for me, but I am perfectly resigned. Do not be sad. I hope I may recover. Pray for me, but always remember in your prayers to use the petition, ‘Thy will be done.’”

Friday his wounds were again dressed and although the quantity of discharge from them had diminished, the process of healing was still going on. The pain in his side had disappeared, but he breath with difficulty, and complained of a feeling of great exhaustion. When Dr. Breckenridge (who, with Dr. Smith, had been sent for in consultation) said he hoped that the blister which had been applied would afford him great relief, he expressed his own confidence in it, and in his final recovery.

Dr. Tucker, from Richmond, arrived on Saturday, and all that human skill could devise was done to stay the hand of death. He suffered n pain today, and his breathing was less difficult, but he was evidently hourly growing weaker.

When his child was brought to him to-day he played with her for sometime, frequently caressing her and calling her his “little comforter.” At one time he raised his wounded hand above his head and closing his eye, was for some moments silently engaged in prayer. He said to me, “I see from the number of physicians that you think my condition dangerous, but I think God, if it is His will, than I am ready to go.”

About daylight on Sunday morning Mrs. Jackson informed him that his recovered way very doubtful, and that it was better that he should be prepared for the worse. He was silent for a moment and then said: “It will be infinite gain to be translated to Heaven.” He advised his wife, in the event of his death, to return to her father’s house, and added: “You have a good and kind father, but there is no one so kind and good as your Heavenly Father.” He still expressed a hope of his recovery, but requested her, if he should die, to have him buried in Lexington, in the Valley of Virginia. His exhaustion increased so rapidly that at 11 o’clock Mrs. Jackson knelt by his bed and told him before the sun went down he would be with his Savior. He replied: “Oh, no, you are frightened, my child, death is not so near; I may yet get well.” She fell upon the bed weeping bitterly and told him again that the physicians said there was no hope. After a moment’s pause he asked her to call me. “Doctor, Anna informs me that you have told her that I am to die to-day, is it so?” When he was answered, he turned his eyes toward the ceiling and gazed for a moment or two as if in intense thought, he replied, “Very good, very good, it is all right.” He then tried to comfort his almost broken-hearted wife, and told her that he had a great deal to say to her, but he was too weak.

Colonel Pendleton came into the room about 1 o’clock, and he asked him, “Who was preaching at headquarters today?” When told that the whole army was praying for him, he replied, “Thank God, they are very kind.” He said: “It is the Lord’s Day, my wish is fulfilled. I have always desired to die on Sunday.”

His mind now began to fail and wander, and he frequently talked as if in command upon the field, giving orders in his own way; then the scene shifted and he was at the mess-table, in conversation with members of his staff; now with his wife and child; now at prayers with his military family. Occasional intervals of return of his mind would appear, and during one of them I offered him some brandy and water, but he declined it, saying, “It will only delay my departure, and do no good; I want to preserve my mind if possible, to the last.” About half-past one he was told that he had but two hours to live, and he answered again, feebly, but firmly, “Very good, it is alright.”

A few moments before he died he cried out in his delirium, “Order A.P. Hill to prepare for action!” Pass the infantry to the front rapidly. Tell Major Hawkes,” then he stopped leaving the sentence unfinished. Presently a smile of ineffable sweetness spread itself over his pale face, and he cried quietly and with an expression of relief. “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shades of the tree.” And without pain or the least struggle, his spirit passed from earth to the God who gave it.