Page images

procure the much needed supplies from the Michigan Soldiers' Relief Association, but was unsuccessful in getting enough to be of any essential service, as the requirements of the sick and wounded in that city absorbed about all of the supplies received there for our Michigan soldiers. I therefore purchased in Bal. timore, at the expense of the State, a few hundred dollars' worth ($285 38,) of such supplies as had been recommended by our surgeons, and took them direct to our regimental hospitals, and placed them in the surgeons' charge, government having furnished free transportation for myself and the supplies I have since been informed by a number of surgeons of those regiments, that by a timely arrival of these supplies the health of our soldiers immediately improved, and that while the soldiers of other States encamped by the side of ours were suffering terribly from the sickness incident to camp life, ours soon became comparatively healthy, and the lives of some of them were undoubtedly saved, and the sufferings of many alleviated by means of this small expenditure by the State; since that time I have forwarded a large amount of supplies contributed by the citizens of Michigan, to the army of the Potomac, by your direction, at the public expense; but as you have not coinsidered the law as fully authorizing the payment of transpor, tation of such supplies, I have declined to receive them for some time past, and have recommended the delivery of them to the Soldiers' Aid Society, of Detroit, which has generously forwarded them to our needy soldiers, where, in their judgment, they have been most required. I have recently received nu. merous letters and applications from all parts of the State, asking care and transportation of supplies to our sick and disa. bled soldiers, both east and west; could our citizens be assured that the State would pay the transportation, and see that the supplies would be faithfully distributed to our soldiers, none of them would be allowed to suffer for want in this respect; they are willing and anxious to provide for the comfort of the absent ones.

From reports from our armies in the southwest, also, there is

every reason to believe that their wants are not properly attended to. Very much is being done through the Soldier's Aid Society, of Detroit, to ameliorate their condition, yet it is nevertheless true that an alarming amount of suffering is endured by our own soldiers, that could be prevented by a small outlay of means and proper attention by authorized agents from our State.

I have also visited many of the military hospitals in New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Fortress Monroe, a part of them in company with Dr. A. B. Palmer, Professor in the University of Michigan, and late Surgeon of our Second Regiment. His experience in the field has eminently qualified him for this duty, and many worthy invalid soldiers are indebted to him for their discharges, when all hope of release, except by death, had been given up. The instructions to the surgeons in our military hospitals are exceedingly strict, and are of such a Dature that it is almost impossible for a sick or disabled soldier to get a discharge or a furlough. Their orders are not to grant furloughs or discharges, unless the surgeon in charge certifies " that it is for the purpose of saving life or preventing permanent disability.” This oppressive order was considered necessary, as quite a per centage of the army has been absent on furloughs at times when greatly needed in the field,

Could our worthy sick and disabled soldiers be granted furloughs when really needed, to be nursed and cared for by their friends and families at home, much suffering wonld be relieved, and many, very many,“ lives saved, and many useful soldiers, that now linger and die in the hospitals, would be restored to the army, and finally to their friends and homes.

In the hospitals of our large cities, our soldiers are, as a general thing, well cared for. Yet there are some cases of neglect in almost every hospital, that should be searched out and corrected, by some authorized agent of the State; but they are all better provided with comforts than those in the field, and in the small towns where they are left in the enemy's country. Very many of our sick and wounded soldiers are often left for a long time destitute of clothing, often having it torn from them in battle, or destroyed by having it saturated with the blood from their wounds, that frequently remain undressed for days, till it becomes necessary to throw it aside. They are often hurried from the field of battle without their proper papers and without money. In one of the hospitals near New York, I am informed that the invalid soldiers have been obliged to wear the clothing cast off by convicts.

Our officers are too careless of the wants of the men under their commands, and are very apt to neglect to keep then furnished with proper descriptive papers, as without these papers they are unable to draw clothing or pay, as they can some. times do with proper papers.

It appears tbat no provision is made by our laws to supply these deficiencies; but it is to be hoped that some plan may be devised by which our worthy, patriotic soldiers, who risk their lives in battle, may be better cared for in future. More soldiers are lost by death from disease occasioned by exposure, and from the want of proper care and protection, than by death and wounds on the field of battle. Rigid economy should be practiced in every department connected with this war; yet, where economy is practiced at the sacrifice of the health, of the decent regard to the comfort and of the lives of that noble class of patriots that have so ably sustained the honor and the reputation of the Peninsular State, economy descends to meanness and cruelty, and will be so construed by every good citizen of the State. Everything and anything that can be done for the benefit of the soldier, to make him comfortable on the march, in the camp, or in the hospital, are of the highest importance, and should be promptly attended to by our legislators, and they will not be excused by their constituents if they longer neglect it.

Quite a large amount (about $5,000) has been paid by this department for transportation of our sick and wounded soldiers from various hospitals to their homes, where they were without means to procure it themselves, and where the United States Quartermasters could not furnish it for them. This humane policy was adopted by your Excellency immediately after the battle of Shiloh, and continued by this department as long as this urgent necessity seemed to exist. Government has almost entirely discontinued the practice of granting furloughs to this worthy class of soldiers, although officers in good health are to be found in almost every community, and they are numerous enough in this State to make a respectable sized army. To a discharged soldier, government now usually furnishes transportation to the State in which he enlisted. Although the practice of furnishing transportation to our sick and disabled soldiers has almost entirely ceased in this department, the necessity of renewing it, in some degree, seems important, as our soldiers, disabled and diseased, and without money, are still to be found along the various lines of railroad, dependent on charity, or the kindness of conductors and others, for assistance towards their homes and friends. The Cleveland and Detroit line of steamers have very generously cared for these unfortunates, bringing them across the lake, providing them with beds, and frequently with good suppers, without charge, giving them kind words at parting long to be remembered by many thankful soldiers; and they make it a rule to deny none of this class a passage on their boats. Much of the same kindness is also shown them on the railroads. Claims on most of these soldiers, for this transportation furnished by the State, are yet in my hands; but I am disposed to await legislative action before presenting them to the paymasters for the various regiments, to be deducted from the pay of those that have been disabled in the service, and to have it in this manner refunded to the State.

While it is well known that our soldiers have not been paid for the past six or eight months, it is not a matter of surprise that complaints reach us from our armies, or that many of the families of our soldiers, depending on their pay for their support, have been left to the charities of their neighbors, or to the mercy of some penurious supervisors, who think their reputation depends on the small amount of expense they have authorized for their townships, vainly considering this economy. Many families consider it too much like asking alms to call on the supervisor for the pittance often allowed, and prefer to suffer in silence rather than ask it. It would seem more like a matter of justice to allow a certain amount each month to the family of each soldier enlisted, according to the number of children in such family; and let it be fixed as a portion of his pay, coming from the county in which he resided, (provided they continue to reside in the same county,) so that they can demand it as a right, and not as a charity. When a soldier dies in the service of his country, let his family still be entitled to this same pay for a reasonable length of time for them to procure back pay and bounty or pension, where they are entitled to it, instead of immediately casting them off as being no longer entitled to our regard, as our law now obliges them to do.

When our unfortunate soldiers that have become sick or disabled in the service are better cared for, we may expect to find men more ready to enlist; but under the present arrangement, when a sick or disabled soldier returns to his home and tells of the privations endured by him or some of his comrades, recruiting ceases in his neighborhood, and a draft is submitted to, rather than expose themselves to a similar fate. When our nation neglects to provide properly, our State should extend her fostering care over her own sick and disabled soldiers, and it is to be boped that proper agents will be authorized to visit and follow up our armies, clothed with full authority to make this class of our soldiers, at least, comfortable as far as possi. ble, at any reasonable expense. Our soldiers have proved themselves worthy of our regard; let us convince them that our State is worthy of such soldiers.

But one agency has yet been been established authorized to incur any expense for the sick and disabled or destitute soldiers from this State. This one is in the city of New York, of which Col. Darius Clark is the agent, and he is so limited in his expenditures as to cripple his usefulness in a serious degree. His



« PreviousContinue »