Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Rocking Chair

This entry is from Letters from a Surgeon of the Civil War compiled by Martha Derby Perry.  They are letters of John G. Perry, surgeon with the 20th Massachusetts

May 5th, 1863, Falmouth, VA.  Perry was in Fredericksburg at the time of this incident.
I had to run the gauntlet many times, and on one of my expeditions heard a woman's piercing screams from a house by the way. I rushed in, and found an elderly woman of immense size in a violent fit of hysterics. She was seated in a rocking-chair, swaying back and forth, evidently beside herself with terror, screaming, moaning, and crying.
While I did what I could in the hurry of the moment to reassure the poor thing, a shell came whizzing through the air above, exploding as it fell into the square in front of us. Over went the old woman backwards, turning a complete somersault, chair and all.

For a moment there was a convulsion of arms and legs, and then such shrieks that it seemed to me the din outside was nothing to that within. I gathered her together as quickly as I could, — it was difficult to find any particular part to hold on to, — and when she had wit and breath enough to answer, asked for the other inmates of the house; vague and muffled sounds told me they were near, and when she pointed with her finger downwards, sure enough, I found them in the cellar huddled together, both whites and negroes.

It seemed that the old woman was too large to manage the cellar stairs, and they, supposing from all the uproar that she was killed, were every moment expecting a like fate for themselves. However, they soon ventured up, and I hurried back to my hospital.

John C Perry, from Frontispiece of the book

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