During the spring of 1862, Union armies attempted to converge on the Confederate capital in Richmond, Virginia, from both the north and south. To draw Union troops away, the Confederates countered by threatening Union positions in the Shenandoah Valley. The two sides clashed at the First Battle of Kernstown, Virginia, on March 23, 1862. The Union army drove the Confederates from the field. The Adjutant of Wisconsin's 3rd Infantry, Edwin E. Bryant of Monroe, writes home describing what he witnessed as he stayed up all night treating the casualties.
All night long the cavalry were bringing in the wounded. The churches, the Seminary, the Court House, the vacant stores were taken for hospitals, and the wounded of both armies were brought in by hundreds. Everywhere it was gore, pale brows, mangled forms and groans that awakened the heart, and the piteous wail "water, water, Oh some water!" Go where you would, and here lay one whose face was shapeless, torn past recognition by the fragments of shell; there panting in his last agonies one whose head was torn open, his brains and his hair clotted upon his blankets; another with his jaw shot away and his mouth a shapeless mass of hanging teeth, and splinters, and flesh. There a little fellow with his shoulder shot away, bearing his agony with a fortitude that brought tears to my eyes.
In one placed lay a rebel captain shot across the face tearing out both eyes. Shattered arms — bullet riddled limbs — bodies impaled — thighs mangled with shell. Ah, come and see; ye who exult over the victory, come and behold the price, and with your sympathies almost stagnated by the pressure of misery around you; let no vulgar cheer celebrate the achievement bought with so much agony and blood.
Source: E.B. Quiner Scrapbooks: "Correspondence of the Wisconsin Volunteers, 1861-1865," Volume 3, page 14.
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