Asst. Surg. Thomas Alexander Means, 11th Georgia Infantry, After the Battle (1)

2 02 2022

Letter from Dr. Thomas A. Means to his Father.

———-

The Wounded – Medical Department Poorly supplied – Doctors and nurses wanted – An ungainly Michigan woman – Federal Doctors with lugubrious countenances – Artillery and munitions captured – Those handcuffs – A letter written by an enemy – The Zouaves a set of bloodthirsty thieves and brutes – Robbing houses and insulting the inmates – Mr. Hills and Mr. Yarborough – Col. Anderson – His Regiment and Col. Gartell’s advance towards Alexandria.

Manassas Junction, Jul 23, 1861.

Dear Father: The pressure of active professional duties, since my arrival here on the day of battle, (21st instant,) has prevented me from giving earlier attention to you claims, and even now while I write, my services are demanded.

The great victory of Sunday last, cost us many lives, while thousands of the conquered foe yet lie wounded, dying, or dead, and uncared for, upon the battle-field and the surrounding grounds, about three and a half miles distant from this place.

One hundred and ninety victims of the fight are under our charge, 123 of whom are Federalists, hailing mostly from Manie, Wisconsin, and New York.

I have faithfully devoted myself night and day to their relief and comfort, with unremitting toil, while my couch is any spot, however inconvenient, which I may for a time incidentally secure.

I regret exceedingly, to find the medical department so poorly supplied with fixtures, blankets, water, wine, brandy, &c. Indeed it may be said to be almost entirely destitute of these neccessary appliances. I have been constrained, therefore, to tax my ingenuity in overcoming many obstacles which would otherwise have greatly embarrassed successful treatment. Physicians are still needed, notwithstanding that many have offered their services; while of nurses there are none, save one ungainly woman from Michigan, whose homely features and broad dialect, sometimes provoke a smile. She is busy, however, in the culinary department. Even her own people seem to claim but little of her sympathies or attention, as she considers them to have acted foolishly, and to have been greatly deceived. Four Federal physicians are in camp, serving their men; but exhibit much “don’t-carishness” upon their lugubrious countenances, as to render them anything but agreeable. All of us, with one heart and one accord, pay their wounded, as much attention as our own, for suffering knows no distinction of caste, kindred or condition; and christian charity, under which circumstances, should make none.

A gentleman, at my side, just from the field, says that the famous Billy Wilson’s Aid and two privates, have been taken prisoner. They were found after the battle, wounded and unable to make their way to camp, having been probably left by their panic stricken friends to meet their fate, while they were effecting their “brilliant retreat.”

The wild waste and general scattering of munitions of war, baggage wagons, ambulances, cannon, &c., were almost without a parallel in the history of warfare. I counted, and have, therefore seen with my own eyes, 98 pieces of artillery. In addition to these, we have taken guns, knapsacks, cartridges, balls, &c., to out fit an army twice as large as our own.

One of the most interesting articles of the capture, was the load of hand cuffs (several thousand, it is said,) which the thoughtful and benevolent invaders brought with them, perhaps (?) for the purpose of making the attachment of the Southern “rebels” to the Union stronger than their own Punic faithlessness have ever been able to effect. Might not a few of these specimens of Northern artisanship, sent o every town and village in the South, produce striking results upon the minds of our people?

I have just read an interesting letter found upon the field, written in pencil, over the signature of J. H. H., and addressed to his sister in Milwaukee, Wis., a brief extract from which I give you. He says “When they” (the “Grand Army”) “reached Centreville, on Saturday night, (20th,) they numbered 50,000 men, whilst a reinforcement of 40,000 came in from Alexandria and other places.” He further says, it is “an easy matter to conquer the South; but I suspect the rebels will make a stand, as their forces are numerous, and exceedingly well armed and equipped. Three days rations were put in our haversacks, with the understanding that the fourth day should be spent in Richmond.”

He gave some interesting accounts of the New York Zouaves, whom he denounces, in his own language as a “set of blood-thirsty thieves, having less sympathy than brutes.” They entered an old Virginia mansion on this side of Alexandria – the inoffensive inmates of which were about seating themselves to dine – took possession of the table, devoured the outspread meal, and then bade them “good day,” some of them placing their thumbs contemptuously upon the tip of their noses and scornfully twitching their little fingers as they passed off. * * * * * *

I supposed that here and at Bull’s Run, not less than 15,000 were killed and missing of the enemy, while our loss, so far as known, may amount to 2,500.

I have two you men from Georgia, now by my side, belonging to the 8th Georgia Regiment, Co. Bartow – who were badly wounded. Mr. T. J. Hills, of Rome, Ga., and Mr. Yarborough, of Floyd county, cousin to Rev. John Yarborough, our excellent minister. The latter died, in great pain, last night, but was resigned to his fate, and sent many words of consolation, by members of his company, to his friends and relations. Young Hills, notwithstanding my constant attention, is, I regret to say, at this date, still in a dangerous condition. His wounds were inflicted by two Minnie balls, which struck him on the left side below the fifth rib, penetrating his body. I have his effects, and will promptly turn them over to any authorized friend, should he not recover.

I have just this moment, for the first time, since my arrival, seen Col. Anderson. He is well, and hearty; but chafing over his disappointment in not having shared in the fight – arriving, as he did, three days after the battle. The Regiment (10th**) is encamped six miles North-East of this place, ”en route” for Alexandria. Col. Gartrell’s Regiment, it is said, leaves this afternoon for the same place.

THOS. A. MEANS,
Assistant Surgeon 10th** Regiment
Georgia Volunteers

(Atlanta, GA) Southern Confederacy, 8/6/1861

Clipping Image

* Thomas J. Means and Lewis G. Yarborough, both of Co. E, 8th GA Infantry.

** Early on there was some confusion, even among members of the units, regarding the numbering of the Georgia regiments.

Thomas Alexander Means at Ancestry

Thomas Alexander Means at Fold3

Thomas Alexander Means at FindAGrave


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