This document for personal use only!
Posted February 17, 1997 by Steven L. Driskell.

8. Hospital Experience by Captain Wilson P. Howell

As before stated in this narrative, I was severely wounded in our last battle at Bentonville, N.C. on 19th March 1865.  A few days after the battle, I was sent to Smithfield Station, 15 miles away and with a lot of other wounded soldiers sent in boxcars to the hospital at Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Confederate government had built a general hospital there, by building ten large wards 100 by 30 feet.  When our lot of sick and wounded got there, the wards were about filled up.  Dr. Mayo of Virginia, was the army surgeon in charge.  This was 4 or 5 days after the battle and my broken leg had become very sore and painful.  I had hoped from the start, that I would soon be able to go home on wounded furlough.  But after getting to the hospital, my leg began to get worse and worse, and soon took gangrene or blood poison in my wound.  And under orders there, I was put in the Gangrene Ward.  This malady being contagious, malignant cases of gangrene were kept in a certain ward.

Dr. Mayo expressed his regrets for my having to go there, but said he would give me the best place in the ward.  So I was placed in that ward which was almost a Death House.  Quite a number of bad cases were there.  The doctor applied all the known remedies to arrest the malady, but seemingly to no avail.  And it was not long till the doctor thought that amputation was the only thing that would save my life.  And in a few days, Dr. Mayo and some other doctors met to do that work.  And for some reason they postponed it till the next day and examined my leg.  They saw signs of improvement and abandoned the amputation and my leg was saved.

The patients in the hospital were fed on coarse army rations and cooked by army cooks.  And soon after entering the hospital, I was in condition that I could not eat the army rations.  Dr. Mayo lived with his family on the hospital grounds and his good wife for two months sent my meals from her table three times a day with such delicacies as was suitable for a sick man.  And but for the thoughtfulness of this good woman, I have allways believed I would have died.

I remember just before the surrender, the city was threatened with a Yankee raid and orders came to send every soldier away from the hospital who was able to go (there were a number there convalescent).  My brother was among the convalescent and while he and I were both very anxious for him to remain, he had to go, but the Yankee raid never came.  And finally one day, news came that Johnston had surrendered and the next day the news was confirmed.  And in a few days, two men of my company who had been paroled and on their way home called at the hospital to see me and carried the news to my family that I was left in the hospital in North Carolina to die.  As they claimed, the doctor told them at the hospital that I would not get well.

It was not long after this when all the nurses in the hospital left and went home.  The hospital nurses were soldiers detailed from the ranks of the army and while the fighting was going on they were very faithful and attentive, lest they should loose their bombproof place, but when there were no bullets to face, they all went home.

And there we were, a number of us not able to give each other a drink of water.  We were several days in this condition, when a regiment or two of Yankees came there to garrison the city.  And they soon found out our condition at the hospital and were kind enough to furnish nurses, doctors and medicine.  And until I was able to be sent off, I had a Yankee nurse who was very kind and helpful.  So much so that just before I left the hospital, he asked me one day if I would give him my sword.  And he had been so very kind to me, I gave it to him. The Yankee doctor was also very kind and helpful to us all.

There was one man whose visits and kindness to me during my confinement in that hospital, I shall never forget.  He was a Methodist preacher by the name of Butt, who during my greatest illness, visited me everyday and would often kneel down by my bunk and pray for me.  And before I left the hospital, presented me with an elegant pair of crutches, which I used for nearly a year after I got home.  Dr. Mayo, I think left us about the time the Yankees came there.

Before I left the hospital, someone sent me my parole.  A true copy of which is as follows:

Copy of Military Parole No. 105
Greensboro, North Carolina
May 8th 1865

In accordance with the terms of the Military Convention entered into on the Twenty-sixth day of April 1865, between General Joseph E. Johnston, Commanding the Confederate Army and Major General W. T. Sherman, Commanding the United States Army in North Carolina.

Captain W. P. Howell, Company I, 25th Alabama has given his solemn obligation not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until properly released from this obligation and is permitted to return to his home.  Not to be disturbed by the United States authorities, so long as he observes this obligation and obey the laws in force where he may reside.

Elis Walcott
Major J.A. U.S.A.
Special Commission

Robt Gibbon
Major C.S.A.
Commanding

I give below a copy of another old army paper which is as follows:

"Extract"

Headquarters, Army of Tennessee
Dalton, Georgia
January 17th 1864

Special Orders No. 17

II. Under General Orders No. 227.  Leave of absence is granted to the following officers for the period set opposite their respective names:

Captain W. P. Howell, 25th Alabama Regiment 20 days

By Command of General Johnston
Kinloch Falconer
A.A.G.

Captain W. P. Howell
25th Alabama Regiment

Major General Hindman
Commanding Corps

About the first of June, I could go about some on my crutches and was put on the train one morning at Charlotte, North Carolina with several soldiers and sent down to Chester, South Carolina (the railroad having been torn up toward Columbia and Augusta).  I remained at Chester two weeks and finally got co---- once across the country 40 miles to Newberry, South Carolina, thence by rail to Abbeville, South Carolina, thence through the country 40 miles to Washington, Georgia, thence by rail to Atlanta and Newman, Georgia, the nearest railroad point home 60 miles to Oak Level, Alabama.  I was about a week traveling that 60 miles.

Not being able to walk except on crutches and of course had no money, had to beg my way, some on horseback and then on wagon.  But finally I ascended the last hill that overlooked my humble home and while I found but little there but my good and loyal wife and four little children, and I was on my crutches and not able to earn them a living and not a cent to our name.

The day I set my foot on the door step frame, was the happiest day I ever saw.