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
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
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.