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Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood
Undated
November 1861


Richmond Daily Dispatch
November 26, 1861

From the White Sulphur Springs.

The Effect of the War upon the Springs--the tender care of woman Efficient officers cold weather divine service a funeral death of Mrs. Holt

[Correspondence of the Richmond Dispatch.]

white Sulphur Springs, Nov. 17, 1861.

in my humble efforts in aiding and abetting "Southern treason," I have been detained for a day or so in the vicinity of this place, and for want of other employment this evening, have concluded to give you a hasty sketch of matters and things here. the blighting effects of War are scarcely anywhere in the Confederacy more plainly marked than in this lovely valley amidst the mountains, once consecrated to the votaries of fashion. The noble palaces and beautiful cottages, when in days gone by, none but gay ladies and purse-proud fords dared to enter, are now one vast hospital. The first glance satisfies you of the mighty change. Here and there, scattered about, are tents, wagons, ambulances, &c., together with all the other heterogeneous mass of camp equipage Walking to and fro, are soldiers in all stages of convalescence, basking in the sunlight and enjoying the morning breeze, while the lawns and promenades give evidence of the foot-prints of the [ sacreligious ] cavalry and the deep cuts of the heavy road wagons.

the several cottages have been laid off into wards, under the superintendence of generally kind and competent men. The principal hospital is in that magnificent building, the "Hotel." all of the second floor, comprising the ball-room, parlor and dining room, where recently costly tapestry were hung, have been converted into great bed-rooms, where several hundred of our patriotic and brave soldiers find comfortable quarters. It is, indeed, a melancholy sight to see, as far nearly as the eye can reach, the stretched-out forms of those poor men, suffering with disease. Here, it is the low wheezing of the asthmatic patient; there, the hectic cough of the consumptive, the plaintive meanings of the feverish; and yonder, the raving cries of the delirious; while the pale and emaciated forms, the deep and stifled breathing of others, warn you that death is night unto some. Ah, death! thou art terrible at all times; but in such a place, far from native home no wife, or mother, or sister near to clothe sorrow or receive the last farewell thy horrors are increased a thousand fold. Everything has been done here that circumstances will admit of to assuage the suffering and supply, as far as possible, the absence of home and kindred. Kind ladies noble hearted Christian ladies are here to soothe the faint heart, hold the aching head, and, with their angelic smiles, to cheer the hour of pain.

the influence of the ladies here is seen and felt by all. Until they came if I am correctly informed the hospital more resembled a vast charnel house than the home of the sick. But woman came, and soon all was changed. The wards were cleaned, the rooms ventilated, and the sick provided with suitable nourishment, those little delicacies such only as they can prepare. My admiration for the sex could be but increased as I saw their fair forms flitting through the balls now standing by the bedside of one, all silent now laying her white hands on the brow of another. Here a kind and there a tender look. A light finger softly presses the arm the hot, blood stained dressing is soon replaced by a better the sick man gives a gentle thanks, turns upon his side, and sinks into a quiet rest. Day by day, night by night unremitting in care, unwearied in watching so cheerful in main and gentle of hand, these ladies perform their angelic duties. Well hath the poet truly said:

"The mission of woman on earth! to give birth
To the mercy of Heaven descending on earth.
The mission of woman permitted to bruise
The head of the serpent, and sweatily infuse
Through the sorrow and sin of earth's registered curse,
The blessing which mitigates all; born to nurse,
And to south, and to solace, to help and to heal,
The sick world that leans on her."

There are only about fifteen ladies here. I think that there ought to be four times as many, and that those that are here will be soon worked down, and be compelled to leave unless they get more assistance. Much credit is due to the Rev Thomas Smith, the Chaplain, for his exertions in securing the services of these devoted ladies. The sick seem to be doing very well. The cool, bracing atmosphere has an invigorating effect that is profitable everywhere.

From the hospital proper I descended to the basement. Here in the "reception room" I found the headquarters of Col. Reynolds, the commander of the station. He is a gallant officer and a generous-hearted man. In the "stage, office" my old friend Dr. Wm. H. Cushman was holding forth as chief steward, and all speak favorably of his untiring labors in behalf of the sick. In the "bar-room" I found a well ordered apothecary shop, (I wish that every establishment of the kind in the land was alike metamorphosed,) with friend Goldwell dosing out drugs as busily as upon the banks of his own native Kanawha.--Among the many refugees I met here engaged in the noble cause of attending the sick, are Dr. Austin, of Jackson county, and Mr. Quarrier, of Kanawha. Dr. O. A. Crenshaw, the medical director, is well known in your city as a gentleman and an able physician.

Last night it was quite cold and the white frost glistened in the bright rays of this morning's Sabbath sun, as they streamed through the branches of the leafless trees, shading such a pensive quiet over the face of Nature, that to me there was something holy in the solemn repose. In fact, it was a--

"Sweet day, to pure, so calm, so bright,
The bridal of the earth and sky."

At 11 o'clock, the Chaplain preached in the Chapel; for a while it appeared as if the congregation was to consist entirely of men, and, when the ladies at last began to drop in one by one, it was pleasant to witness the cheerful smiles which seemed to lighten up the countenances of all. At 3 o'clock, services were held in the main hall of the hospital. It was to me a most imposing spectacle to witness that large assembly of men in all stages of sickness some sitting upon their beds, while others were lying down, listening to the word of God--many of them probably for the last time. The subject of the sermon was the "Peace of Christ," and a most timely and instructive discourse it was. I do not think that I ever saw a more attentive audience. They seemed to drink in the Word of Life at every breath. I learned that much good had been done by preaching in the hospital that many a distressed soul had found peace. The field of labor opened here for the accomplishment of good is beyond measure; an Angel might covet it, and nobly is the worthy Chaplain devoting himself to his labor of love. Long may he be spared to reap the blessings of a well spent life.

Upon leaving the Hall, I noticed a hearse and its solemn followers just starting for the graveyard, and I joined in the procession. The burying-ground is about a quarter of a mile from the Springs, on a gentle slope of a hill-side. The freshly-made graves (about a hundred) all plainly told that it was exclusively the soldier's last resting place. Every attention is paid to the remains of those who die here. They are put in neatly-blackened coffins, the graves properly dug in regular order, with head and foot pieces placed to each, with the name, company, regiment, and date of death inscribed upon them. I have stood by the grave of many a one consigned to their last home in the city cemetery, with all the rich paraphernalia of a fashionable funeral in the humble country church-yard; but never have I been so deeply impressed with the solemnity of the occasion, and the frailty of man, as at the burial of this poor soldier.

The last rays of the Sabbath evening's sun seemed to be just lingering upon the brow of the Western mountains an azure softness mingled with the sky and a twilight gloom pervaded the distant forest; and as the body was being lowered into the tomb, the few care-worn comrades gathered around, with their arms in hand, and when the minister slowly and feelingly commenced to read that solemn and touching burial service of the Church of England, every head was uncovered, and when he repeated "earth to earth, and dust to dust," and the harsh sound of the rattling earth upon the coffin below grated upon the ear, almost every eye was filled with tears. As the last words of the benediction fell from the lips of the minister, three volleys of musketry poured forth their mournful requiem over the grave of the dead. In casting a farewell glance over the long rows of reddish clay, I could but exclaim to myself, "O. unhappy men! and must you thus be swept into the grave, far from home, with no kindred tear shed for your sufferings, or mingled with your dust."

Upon reaching the Springs I learned that Mrs. Holt, wife of Major Holt, of Mobile, and daughter of Col. Reynolds, had just died. It is a most sad and sudden bereavement so young, so fair, with such flattering prospects for future happiness, cut short after seven months of married life. Death is indeed no respecter of persons the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the high and the low, all ultimately suffer at his hands.

"O God of the Dying! whilst yet 'mid the dead
And the dying we stand here alive and thy days
Returning admit space for prayer and for praise,
In both those confirm us!"

Traveler.


Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: Undated: November 1861

West Virginia Archives and History