The Yankee Wounded 

By B. Estvan (1863)

            I took a great interest in the fate of the poor wounded prisoners in the hospitals at Richmond, firstly, because, owing to the animosity which prevailed against the Yankees, I fancied they would not be much cared for; and, secondly, because I was aware, that, even with the best intentions, the Government could not do much for so many as thirty thousand wounded men. Richmond, at that time, had the appearance of a great hospital. Every public building was filled with the sick and wounded. Many of the patients had never been in action. Bad food, insufficient clothing, and want of proper attention had brought them into a state of disease. Two surgeons to attend upon six hundred patients were all I found in one hospital; happily, among the prisoners there were a few medical men, who did what they could to alleviate the suffering of their comrades. I shuddered at the spectacle I had to witness; the wounds of many had not been attended to, and their clothing was stiff from clotted blood. I did what I could to improve their condition, I went from bed to bed, promising to exert all my influence in their favor, and many a poor fellow looked me his silent thanks. 

            I called upon General Winder to represent the case of these unfortunate men. Whilst every attention was paid to our own wounded and sick by the inhabitants, the unfortunate prisoners were allowed to rot and die. General Winder could not withstand my appeal, and promised me his assistance. I then appealed to the German and Irish  population to come forward and do something for the poor prisoners, and in a few hours that appeal was responded to. I myself sent everything I could spare from my wardrobe. Many a bottle of wine and parcel of lint, prepared by German ladies, now found their way to the hospitals, and the Irish population, with their natural good nature, brought all the linen they could spare to the surgeons of the prisoners. When it is considered that the persons who did this ran the risk of being arrested by the secret police, the very smallest gifts rank as great sacrifices, for even a glance of pity at a poor sick enemy would have brought them under the suspicion of being traitors to their country. In a few days some sort of system was introduced into the prisoners' hospital. The sick were attended to and waited upon, received changes of linen, and were cheered with the hope of recovery. Many a tear rolled down their pale checks, and many a blessing was bestowed on me on the day when I took leave of them, and I left with the conviction that I had preserved the life of many a brave fellow.

A Union Private

              After the seven days' fight before Richmond, hundreds of wounded, friend and foe, were brought into Richmond, where for a long time they were left exposed to a broiling sun upon the platform of the railway station. I went with a friend of mine, Captain Travers, son of an admiral in the Confederate fleet, to the station, to render help. Owing to the destruction of the Merrimac, Captain Travers was out of employment, and was in plain clothes. Captain Travers was a fine-looking man, had travelled far, and was a perfect gentleman. When we reached the station, the greatest confusion prevailed; groups of wounded lay in all directions, a number of benevolent ladies, with their black servants, were distributing tea, coffee, chocolate, and broth, to the wounded.

            However, I soon observed that they took no notice of many of the sufferers. Some one touched my spur, and on looking down, I beheld one of those ghastly faces which can never be forgotten. It was that of a stately-looking soldier of the enemy, in full uniform.

            “You are a German officer,” he said. “Yes, comrade,” I replied; and his eye brightened. “Then I beg of you, most earnestly,” he said, “to get me a cup of coffee.” Both Travers and myself immediately went up to a lady who belongs to one of the best families of the South, and who had just passed the poor fellow by, without taking any notice of  him. “Madam St. Clair,” I said, “will you give me a cup of coffee for a wounded man?” “Oh, certainly,” she said, and her servant handed me a cup. I hastened back, but whilst I was stooping down to give it to the wounded man, some one pulled me by the sleeve, and to my astonishment, it was Mrs. St. Clair, who, in a harsh voice, asked me if I was aware I was helping a miserable Yankee. “No, madam,” I replied, “I do not know that, but I know that he is a brave soldier, as is proved by his wounds.” At the same time I gave this prejudiced woman a look of scorn, which made her beat a hasty retreat, and I then gave the coffee to the wounded man. Tears ran down his furrowed, sunburnt cheeks, and having somewhat recovered himself, he whispered to me, “I am a Swiss; I served for ten years in the Kabermatter regiment at Naples, but never thought I should die in such a hole as this.” I endeavored to console him as best I could.

            Captain Travers now arrived with a basket of strawberries, and pressing some between his fingers, put them into the poor fellow's mouth. Whilst thus occupied, a man seized him by the arm, and said, “I arrest you.” It was one of the police agents. Captain Travers drew himself up to his full height, “On what ground?” he said. “Because you are helping the enemy,” he replied, “and all the ladies here are talking about it.” “If it is your intention to arrest me, you can do your vile work at the American Hotel, where I am staying. My name is Captain Travers.” As if he had been bitten by a snake, the miserable wretch started back, pleaded duty and the instigation of the ladies as his excuse, and went away.


Estvan, B, “The Yankee Wounded,” The Romance of the Civil War, New York: The McMillan Company, 1903

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