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Little Doctor on the Black Horse
With the Army of the Cumberland – Part II
“In the mountains 9 miles from Lafayette, Georgia, 9/13/63
My Dear Hattie: We encamped 2 P.M. in a fine meadow near a nice stream at the foot of a mountain, having marched 13 miles this day. I took the privilege of a fine wash. We were just nicely fixed for the night, when the bugle sounded ‘fall in’. We were loaded up and off in less than ½ hour.
It was very dark and the roads blocked with teams. We left our ambulance and wagon and rode on ahead. Went up a very bad hill where one of our caissons had gone over a bank and hung up on a tree. After three miles, about 10 o’clock, we came to a cleared field full of troops, and halted for the night. I slept very well on my poncheau and a little shawl, with my oilcloth over me, first having built a rail pen to keep folk and horses from running over me. Woke about three quite chilly, so I set my pen afire and went back to sleep.”
9/14/63 – “We started up the hill about 7 A.M. and an awful hill it was. Near the top was a log cabin and in it a woman and four children in a starving condition. Her husband had been dead 2 years. It is said she prayed God she might never see the Yankees, but it would have done your heart good to see the dirty and rough, but noble hearted soldiers empty their haversacks of coffee, sugar, crackers; and she got about $40 in money. I think God answered her prayers by saving her life. I should like to know how she prays now. When we reached the top of the mountain, it was reported that a boy from our regiment took some of the crackers from that poor woman, and it raised a regular breeze. He was brought before the colonel, who said if he could prove it on him, he would hang him from the nearest tree. But the boy claims he took out 8 crackers, gave her some sugar and coffee and 5 of the crackers, and was putting the others back in his pocket, which they thought he had taken from her. He is still under arrest, but no one can be found who saw him take them.”
McLamours Cove, Ga., 9/16/63 – “About noon we halted near a house. I went to it and found 4 women and 6 children. Three of the women were married, and one was young and good looking. I played with the 2 babies and got a bowl of milk. Two of the women had a babe at the breast. Both their husbands are in the Rebel army. I pity one as she is very poor. Last Friday, when there was fighting, she left her house and came to this neighbor’s. About 4 P.M., I went back about ½ mile form camp to where our hospitals are established. It was near where this poor woman’s house is; she had just returned. The soldiers had broken it open and destroyed what little she had. It was hard to hear the little children cry. The oldest was about as old as our Mamie [6 years]. I looked about amongst the hospitals and found some of her things which I immediately returned. We consoled her with all that we could . . . Fixed up our quarters; use a sort of tent, just a tarpaulin hung over a line or pole and pegged down on the sides and made a good bed by putting down some fence rails and piling on what Fowler (the other assistant surgeon) called a straw stack, the finest bed I’ve had.” [In more permanent camps they had real tents and cots. The officers and doctors had to furnish their own food, cooked by their orderly, who, at times was a local Negro they hired]. “Today I passed a house where a very pretty girl was singing “The Union Forever.” Her father is in jail in Lafayette for being a Union man. I touched my ragged hat in respect and admiration. It has been a brave thing to be a Union man or woman in this neighborhood.”
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About the Author: Harriott Benedict Wickham Barton (1890-1981) was born in Norwalk, Ohio to Frank and Agnes Wickham. Her father was the youngest of twelve children of Frederick and Lucy Wickham, early settlers of the Firelands, and her mother was the great-great granddaughter of Platt and Sarah Benedict, who founded the city of Norwalk. Educated at Norwalk High School and Wooster College, she became a teacher. She marched as a suffragette and worked for the Labor Department during World War I. After the war, she went west to teach school, and became one of the last homesteaders, proving up a property near Wheatland, Wyoming. She married Angus Barton in 1924 and they raised four children on the homestead through the Dust Bowl and World War II. In the late 1940s, she and her Angus moved to Ohio, where they spent the rest of their lives. During the 1950s and ‘60s, she wrote “Little Doctor on the Black Horse,” poetry, and short stories, some which were published in various journals and magazines.
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© 1961 by Harriott Benedict Wickham Barton. All rights reserved.