January 15

It is by far the finest day we have had this year, but very muddy. A part of the regiment has gone on picket to remain three days. It is reported in camp that one entire regiment of "Johnnies" came over from Cedar Mountain this morning and gave itself up. They were miserably clad, a large majority having no shoes at all; they started for Washington this evening. It's a beautiful moonlight night.

Friday, January 15th.—We got to Bailleul too late last night for loading, and went thankfully to bed instead. Now, 3.30 p.m., nearly back at B., but expect to be sent on to Rouen: most sick this time, and bad feet, not exactly frost-bite, but swollen and discoloured from the wet. One of my enterics is a Field Ambulance boy, with a temp. of 105, and he only "went sick" yesterday. How awful he must have felt on duty. He says his body feels "four sizes too big for him."

It is a mild day, sunny in parts, and not wet.

January 15, 1864

Friday. On board the steamer Creole, at South West Pass. Have taken on a pilot and will soon be across the bar and into the Gulf. We left at foot of Toulouse street at half past eight this morning. Gorton had managed to get in, in time to swing his hat as we started down the river.

Whether he had something of importance to say I don't know, for he was too late for anything but the farewell swing of his broad-brimmed hat. The boat is so nice I don't feel a bit at home. The table and staterooms are likewise. However I shall try and endure it. The most of the passengers are army men with a sprinkling of men and women, some of the latter being Sisters of Mercy. No place would look right without them, for they seem to be everywhere. We are in the Gulf now, and the pilot has just left us. The sea is getting rougher every minute and my dinner and supper seem to be quarreling about something. I did not expect to be seasick, but the symptoms are all here and I think I will go below.

January Fifteenth

A Northerner, who had purchased an estate in Virginia, noticed that smoke always emanated from the chimney of a cabin near his woods where an old negro lived. One day, on meeting the old colored man, he asked: “Where do you get your wood, Uncle?”

The latter eyed him with an expression of great reproach and replied: “My pa was coachman at the Gret House, and he pa, and he pa; ‘whar I git my wood?' That ain't no question for one gen'l'man to ax an'er!”


Fort Fisher, North Carolina, captured, 1865



Still Friday, January 15th.—We unloaded at 6 p.m. at B., and are to start off again at 4.15 a.m.; business is brisk just now; this last lot only had mostly minor ailments, besides the enterics and the woundeds.

The French Major has had a letter from his wife at last, they are with the Germans, but quite well. We drank their health to-night in special port and champagne! and had Christmas pudding with sauce d'Enfer, as the lighted brandy was called! But we are all going to bed, not ivrés  I'm glad to tell you. This going up by night and down by day is much the least tiring way, as we can undress and have a real night in bed.

Later.—Hazebrouck. We have been out, but couldn't get as far as No.— Cl. H. (where I find T. is), as the R.T.O. said we might be going on at 11.30.

We came across an anti-aircraft gun pointing to the sky, on a little hill. The gunner officer in charge of it seemed very pleased to see us, as he is alone all day. (He walks up and down the road a certain distance, dropping stones out of his pocket at each turning, and clears out the surrounding drain-pipes to drain his bit of swamp, as his amusements.)

He showed us his two kinds of 12 lb. shells, high explosives and shrapnel. The high explosive frightens the enemy aeroplane away by its terrific bang, he says: our own airmen say they don't mind the shrapnel. He says you can't distinguish between one kind of French aeroplane and the Germans until they are close enough over you to see the colours underneath, and then it may be too late to fire. "I'm terrified of bringing down a French aeroplane," he said. He was a most cheerful, ruddy, fit-looking boy.

9 p.m.—Another train full, and nearing Boulogne; a supply train full of minor cases came down just before us from the same place, where we've been three days running. The two Clearing Hospitals up there are working at awful high pressure—filling in from Field Ambulances, and emptying into the trains. All cases now have to go through the Clearing Hospitals for classification and diagnosis and dressings, but it is of a sketchy character, as you may imagine. They are all swarming with J.J.'s, even the officers. One of the officers is wounded in the head, shoulder, stomach, both arms, and both feet. A boy in my wards, with a baby face, showed me a beautiful silver, enamelled and engraved watch he got off a "Yewlan"; he was treasuring it in his belt "to take home to Mother." I asked him if the Yewlan was dead. "Oh yes," he said, his face lighting up with glee; "we shot him. He was like a pepper-pot when we got to him." Isn't it horrible? And like the boy in 'Punch,' he'd never killed anybody before he went to France. I wonder what "Mother" will say to his cheerful little story.

I have been busy bursting a bad quinsy with inhalers and fomentations. After a few hours he could sing Tipperary and drink a bottle of stout!

There are two Volunteer shop-boys from a London Territorial Regiment, who call me "Madam" from force of habit.