THE EVENING OF THE SECOND DAY of battle and the hospital, one of ten the two armies had by then set up, was inundated with broken men. Founded in an aged Lutheran church, it was a two story structure with a vestry above and a nave of pews below. This place was two miles distant from the good ground where good men were falling like so many cattle to the slaughter.
In the chancel, beneath large, now empty windows that funneled the light needed for surgery, the church’s large wooden front doors had been laid over sawhorses. So it was that when Dr. Boyd passed from the nave to the vestibule he looked out into the somber light of dusk without obstruction. A three foot high stone wall enclosed an area of perhaps a thousand feet square. A thin, smoky veil had drifted across from the distant battlefield and hung everywhere over the churchyard. It seemed to cast a pall of immeasurable suffering over the place. Boyd supposed hundreds of men crowded the yard, though by his reckoning not a one among them was whole. They covered the ground thick as maggots on a three day-old corpse in July so that the dirt itself was hardly anywhere visible. One could not move but that all felt it and thus rose together in a hellish contortion of pain and agony. Everywhere men moaned, shouting for water or delivering prayers to a God that had already forsaken them. They screamed and shouted and groaned in an unending litany of torment, calling for mothers and wives and fathers and sisters that were not present. The predominant color was blue, though nauseations of red intruded big and little throughout. Men lay half naked, piled atop one another in pitiful scenes of support. Bloodied heads rested on shoulders and laps, broken feet upon arms, torn guts held in by tired hands. One boy’s head was wrapped in a dirty undershirt, another in the rag of a woman’s yellow dress. A boy clad in confederate gray, the only rebel among them as far as Boyd could tell, lay quietly in one corner, his arm rigid before him with a finger extended to the heavens. His face was a singular portrait of contentment among the misery. The white of two or three score of broken bones, dirtied with the passing of hours since injury, jutted through ripped skin. Limbs were splinted with all manner of devices: muskets, tree branches, bayonets, lengths of wood or iron taken from barns and carts. One individual had bone splinted with bone: someone had lashed the dried femur of a horse or some other long dead animal to his busted shin. Arms and legs, swollen and blue, dotted the landscape with men seemingly attached only as an afterthought. Boyd looked with astonishment at the writhings of a man’s gut, thought it worm-like in its workings, understood it to be a fatal wound. Another man lay blind to all of this, his eyes ghoulishly subtracted by a minie ball that had enfiladed him, passing from one side of his face through to the other. Over and over the man moaned “I’m kilt, I’m kilt! Oh Gawd, I’m kilt!” in a tired, pitiful voice that Boyd had heard all afternoon from within the depths of the church turned hospital. Others lay about in shock. These last were mostly quiet, their color unnaturally pale. It was agonizingly humid in the still air of the yard and the stink of blood mixed with human waste produced a potent and offensive odor not unlike that of a hog farm in the high heat of a South Carolina summer. Swarms of fat, green blowflies everywhere harassed the soldiers to the point of insanity. The steady buzz of these flies was a noise straight out of hell itself, a distress to the ears.
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