Saturday, May 21, 2011

Kneeling In Blood: Who Is Kate Cumming? Part 11

This series on Kate Cumming is dedicated to all those nurses who give of themselves to heal others. Your kindness, your touch, your wisdom and your unselfish dedication can never be appreciated enough.

To all my sister and brother nurses,
Thank You.

 Excerpts from Kate's journal:

Atlanta, Georgia
September 28th:  Last evening, Rev. Dr. Husten made a speech at the depot, calling on the people to send up provisions and nurses to Chickamauga, for the purpose of feeding and nursing the wounded, as General Bragg has gone with his whole army to take Chattanooga, and requires the services of every man who is able to travel, and there are not enough left to take care of the sufferers.

The enemy has destroyed a portion of the railroad, and the wounded had to be taken to a place called the "Burnt Shed", some twenty miles distant from the battle-field, there to await transportation on the cars.

I intend leaving this afternoon, and am busy collecting what I can to take with me.

October 6th: Left her on the 28th about 3 o'clock a.m.  The cars were densely crowded with soldiers returning to their commands.  When we arrived at the Burnt Shed, found that the rail track had been finished to Ringgold; so we passed on to that place.  As I was familiar with it, I went to the nearest building, which had been the Bragg Hospital.

Wounded men, wrapped in their blankets, were lying on the balcony.  I went into a room which was filled with others in the same state; some of whom were suffering for want of water.

I remained there until after breakfast; then I went down to the main hospital, where I was introduced to the surgeon in charge, Dr. Ussery.  He gave me bandages to roll.  Mr. Deering and myself sat on the up-stairs gallery, where we could see the wagon trains come in with their precious burdens.  As many as fifty came in at one time.  We rolled bandages until the afternoon, and could scarcely supply the demand.  This work had been quite  trial for me, as I had been compelled to see our poor fellows brought in as they were taken from the field hospital, and I had no chance of doing any thing for them.

Next morning, I arose early.  On reaching the hospital,to my joy and surprise, I found that Dr. Stout had arrived early in the morning, and with him a hospital corps of surgeons and nurses.  I knew that now the wounded would be well cared for.

I had made up my mind, on seeing so many there to take care of the wounded, that I would go right back to Newman, as I had left Mrs. Williamson quiet sick and much work to do.

I have always had a great desire to go on a battle-field.  I can not call it idle curiosity; but a wish to see and know the  most of everything, so that I might judge for myself, and know how I may be of service.

There was a Mrs. Weir, from Griffin, Georgia, who had come to nurse her son.  He had lost a leg, and was at a private house near the battle-field.  This lady told me she had a young friend, whose corpse she had heard was still on the battle-field unburied.   She kindly asked me to go with her.

The field was some fifteen miles distant; so we had to watch our chances of getting a conveyance.  There were wagons coming in all the time with the wounded, but none going back that day; so an opportunity for getting out seemed slender.  Mr. Deering was on the watch for us.  A very nice-looking covered private wagon came, and after depositing its load, Dr. Deering requested the owner to take us; but he stoutly refused, saying his horses were completely worn out.  Mr. Deering then told him that there was one of the ladies who had nursed at least one thousand Confederates, and was very anxious to go out to the field.  He immediately drew up and invited us all in, Mr. Deering going with us.

We traveled over the roughest roads I ever was on.  I thought, if this was the road our wounded had to come, they must indeed suffer; and, sure enough, we met what seemed to me hundreds of wagons, with their loads, going to Ringgold.

As we rode out the tents of the different field hospitals came in view; when we thought of the inmates and their sufferins, it only served to add to the gloom.  I tried to look neither to the riht or lieft, for I knew there were many pairs of eyes looking sadly at us from the sheds and tents.  I could do nothing for them, and when that is the case, I try to steel my heart against their sorrows.

I looked in the direction of the battle-field, and though of the nameless dead who were there.  I though of the awful conflict which had so recently raged between brother and brother.

We were near that fatal stream --the Chickamauga --the "River of Death!"  How prophetic its name!  I could think of nothing but that terrible strife, and our gallant patriots that fell there. . .

We went to another place, where we were told the worst wounded were. Dr. Rice introduced us to one of his surgeons, who took us into a "fly" about one hundred feet long, and every man in it had a limb amputated.  It was a sad sight, and I could scarcely refrain from tears.

I concluded not to visit the battle-field, as much time had elapsed since the battle.  I am told that the effluvia arising from the carnage makes it almost impossible to go within a mile of it.

I cannot begin to imagine what Kate went through as a nurse.  All of us as nurses witness suffering, many of us witness death.  We all see sorrow in caring for our patients and their families.  But Kate saw horrible mutilation, suffering and death every day.  She saw the ravages of war not only on bodies but on a beloved countryside as well.  I cannot think what pain she must have felt and the prayers she must have lifted up to her Lord to enable her to continue on.  And Kate didn't just continue on, she pressed forward, as her desire to go to the battle-field and the field hospital shows.

There are so many nurses today who press forward.  Nurses who may be experiencing their own personal pain, their own suffering and yet they bury it so that their patients never see it.  They carry on, they smile -- even when they feel like crying -- so they can treat, they can help and they can heal.

To all my brother and sister nurses who have hidden a wound --physical or emotional -- so that you can heal the wounds of others, 
I thank you.  
You are the very heart of nursing.

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