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More incidences from life in camp during the American Civil War as recounted by Dr. Burt Wilder, who is AMAZING. My admiration for him only grows as I continue to read through his diary entries. 

Monday, [March] 14th, 8:00 P.M.
An uninjured black snake, 4 feet long, was brought to me today, and to the mingled admiration and horror of the beholders, in order to show that it is comparatively harmless, I seized it by the neck and allowed it to coil about my arm and then my neck. (121)

((BADASS. Straight up.))

Monday, [March] 21st, 8:00 P.M.
Billy arrived on a steamer today; he was as unconcerned as possible, munching from a bundle of hay. [….] by means of them and two gang planks of the steamer was made a rather narrow path over which Billy walked as steadily as if it had been three yards wide instead of three feet. I regret to say that he accepted me and Miff [Wilder’s adopted stray dog] as matters of course and seemed more interested in the frog grass. (122)

((Billy! So loyal! ;_; ))

Tuesday, [April] 5th, 8:15 P.M.
Billy is developing great powers as a jumper; when we return from the outposts we have to cross a considerable space where the trees have been felled and lie so as to be quite high; he takes them on the run, one after the other or even two or three at once; tonight he jumped a brook five feet wide. (129)

Thursday, [April] 7th, 8:00 P.M.
I am trying to imitate the Indians and cowboys in stooping from my horse and picking up a hat or stick; so far the horse must be walking and I doubt if I will ever learn to do it at full speed. (129)

Monday, [May] 9th, 5:00 P.M.
Yesterday morning Capt. Crane and I were at Fort Green when, in response to some shots from Secessionville, on James Island, permission was obtained to fire the 30 pound Parrott gun in the fort. The men have been learning to use it and were delighted at the opportunity to fire it in earnest. The loading was a solemn function and when one rammed in the charge so vigorously that his hat fell off not a smile was seen. The gun had to be elevated 22 degrees in order to cover the 5 3½ miles to Secessionville; we have learned since that the shellw as seen from Long Island to fall plump into the rebel works there. On Billy I was within 20 feet of the gun and he seemed little disturbed by it. (139)

Tuesday [May] 24th, 9:00 P.M.
… One of the sergeants has brought me a skate’s egg containing a partly developed young as may be seen when it is held up to the light. He was so desirous to have it that he paid the man who found it $1.00, and I have given him $2.00; I am keeping it in sea water and hope it may live.(144)

Friday, [June] 3rd, 7:30 P.M.
…Today I secured a great prize. After inspection Fox said the Post Commissary had a big turtle. I found it in the Commissary tent, building, hung up by the legs and his head touching the floor; they said it weighs 280 pounds. Several men, Germans and negroes, were trying to cut it up, having orders to remove the flesh and keep the shell for the Commissary Capt. Leitz. For a time I looked on, but after the lower shell was off a mistake as to the gall-bladder which I corrected led them to resign the knife; so I took off my jacket, rolled up my sleeves, and went at it as of old in Boylston Hall [his university]. After getting off most of the flesh, I found Capt. Leitz and offered to purchase the shell; he had intended to send it to Ohio, but finding that I had been a pupil of Wyman and Agassiz he gave me the whole skeleton. I got some men and had it taken to my tent. The flesh is said to be excellent, and Leitz sent some to the commanders of the neighboring regiments. It was a female that had come ashore to lay her eggs; a pailful were taken from her and they are said to be fine eating. (147)

Monday, [June] 6th, 7:30 P.M.
…Last night I dreamt that I sawed off both my own legs. (148)

Tuesday, [June] 21st, 5:15 P.M.
Some of Col. Heine’s men got another big turtle, said to be larger than the others; I went up to see it and finding the bungling removal of the limbs I took up the knife and did it quickly; they thanked me heartily and said I must have cut off lots of men’s legs. Some of the bones were lost from the second turtle, and Col. Heine will let me have this in place of it, since he wants it only for curiosity. (153)

((Oh man, that joke! In actuality, judging from what he writes in this journal, Dr. Wilder isn’t really a practicing surgeon, per se, but mostly a physician… though he does perform minor surgeries on occasion. I think he’s only performed a handful of amputations at this point. Anyway, I laughed at this nearly 150 year old joke. ))

Friday, [June] 24th, 4:45 P.M.
[He has gone with a colonel to inspect a fort]
Col. H. was not very well and we were offered the use of some quadrupeds called horses by courtesy on which to ride back to the stockade. On one, a tall gaunt gray, was a dilapidated saddle. The other was smaller and bore not even a blanket, and the rein reached only to its shoulders. The colonel insisted on our drawing lots for the saddled beast, and very properly it went to him. Upon the other I climbed by the aid of Lt. Woodward’s hand under my foot, there being nothing to grasp or step from; his spine was like the edge of a board and to avoid bisection I sat far back on his hips. [. . . ] To save myself from his sharp spine I partly supported myself by placing one hand in front and the other behind. But occasionally my spurs would accidentally strike him and then he would break into the most horrible trot. When half way the colonel proposed to exchange, but I replied that it was bad enough for me but would be worse for him. Naturally eh reached the stockade first and watched my approach, as did the soldiers. While approaching I ceased to steady myself with my hands and sat as erect and dignified as I could. But disaster awaited me. From the pier the road continued directly to the stockade, raised nearly a foot above the general level and thus higher than the path I was on. On reaching it I prepared to dismount and had my mind on the pier at the right; but the horse saw the gate open and made a sudden bolt to the left for the stockade leaving me in the air to fall half sitting to the earth; adding injury to insult he kicked my foot as he left me. Fortunately the blow was light and did no permanent damage though I still feel the effects. On regaining Folly Island I mounted Billy with delight and we had a fine ride back to camp. On the way the colonel’s hat fell off and I rode back and picked it from the ground without dismounting; [. . .] these feats and the ride consoled me for my downfall. (154-5)

Friday, [June] 24th, (cont’d)
Miff was abducted by one of our soldiers and nearly taken to the next regiment in response, he claimed to a [notice] reward offered for a dog with a white tail. The very tip of her tail is white, but no more and I supposed every member of the regiment was acquainted with her as my dog. The officer of the day took that view and sent the man to the guard house; I went there and talked with him and was sufficiently convinced of his ignorance to secure his release, but the other officers do not share my charitable view. I must get a collar for the little beast. (155)

((Don’t mess with Wilder’s animals, guys! Later on there is a note from Wilder in 1910 that states that he sent her North with Frank because he didn’t want her injured. “She was adopted by Miss Nichols and Dr. N. became much attached to her; she had various adventures and a litter of puppies, and was stolen in Washington where Dr. N. the younger had taken her. There is an excellent photograph. One of our officers said she was part spaniel and part setter.”(170) How delightful! There is a photograph in the book, but I can’t get a good copy of it for you guys.))

Tuesday, [July] 26th, 7:30 P.M.
After supper I loaned Billy to Capt. Gordon and rode Dr. Turner’s horse, and Col. Fox joined us; on the beach we were joined by Major Wales, Adjutant McKay, Captain Quentin and Walton and a lieutenant; eight abreast we presented quite an imposing cavalcade on the beach. (172)

Friday, [July] 29th
… This morning after bathing and dressing at the beach and half way to my tent I heard cries for help; turning I saw some way out the head of a man apparently struggling; some others nearer the water had already had already gone to his aid and were likewise shouting for help. I[t] occurred to me that a shark might be the case so I caught up a branch with which to engage his teeth and went into the water upt o my waist; but Col. Kozlay of the 54th N.Y., who was already in the water was nearer him and had reached him; so I cast away my stick and helped bring him out. It seems that a captain who could not swim went out too far; the waves were quite high, and upset Col. Fox this morning; two or three in succession overcame the captain and but for Col. Kozlay’s assistance he might have been drowned. During the forenoon I met Col. K at the tent of his surgeon, Dr. Hagen, and was astonished to be thanked for my assistance, which was really only secondary to his. This evening, at our own regiment, the story was that a drowning man was saved by me, but I promptly disclaimed anything more than good intentions. (172-3)

((Guys… he grabbed a stick, intending to use it to FIGHT OFF A SHARK. How badass is that? The editor leaves a footnote in this entry stating that there actually had been shark attacks in the area, Folly Island. So this wasn’t an idle whimsy. He was fully intending on taking on a SHARK.))

Monday, [August] 1st, 7:30 P.M.
Col. Fox says there are a number of white hairs among my black ones; I suppose they are where they do not show in the glass for I did not know it; never mind, I was never better in my life, and feel younger each day; the chaplain asked my age and was told to guess; he said 25. (174)

Friday, [August] 7th, 11:15 A.M.
The sutler outdid himself for our dinner today; here is the menu: Boiled Ham, Roast Beef, Chicken pie, corn, mashed potatoes and tomatoes, both fresh and canned; for desert bread pudding, mince pie, cake and ice cream; the last had a slightly salty flavor but was not bad and highly appreciated. This unwonted luxury contrasts strongly with most of the past and probably with most of the future. (175)

Wednesday, [August] 10th, 2:30 P.M.
After I had retired last night Q.M. Mowry brought me a shovel-nosed shark, three feet long that had been taken in a net; I removed the brain in the presence of several officers; it is an interesting form; unfortunately I have never been able to study the brains of sharks. (176)

((There’s this one random note after this next entry from Wilder in 1910: “No mention of it being my birthday.” Aww…))

Sunday, [August] 14th, 3:30 P.M.
…An officer loaned me “Aurora Leigh” [a romance novel?] and I tried to read it in the spare hour before dinner but failed to find it interesting or instructive; I fear I must be very defective.
Yesterday, my aversion to whiskey got me into discredit comparable with that in Washington where it was proposed to expel me from the Natural History Society for a like reason. While we waited [for] a boat to take us to the Monitor the captain of the steamer, “Golder Cate,” then at the pier, invited us to look at his boat; took us to his cabin and hospitably asked what each would drink. Major Wales took whiskey, Col. Fox ale, and I water (fortunately it was iced). The captain was greatly astonished and said that [it] was not a liquid in which I could drink to their healths, but they all would drink to mine.” (177)

((Note: in naval tradition, if you toast someone with water, you’re wishing them death by drowning. There’s also another note from Wilder in 1910: “He [the captain] was older than any of us, but Fox and Wales are or were about my age and are both dead whereas I propose to last at least another ten years.” And he did! There’s also a footnote from the editor that says: “Wilder believed, and would later write, that without the abuse of alcohol in the army, the war would have ended a year earlier.”))

Sunday, Sept. 4th, 8:00 P.M.
I had a rather funny time this afternoon working over a man’s lower tooth. It was decayed yet so firmly fixed that it broke off well near the tips of the roots, and perhaps will not trouble him. The steward was holding the man’s head and the instrument slipped and struck him on the nose; the next time they slipped and hit me on the nose; the patient was in pain already and for a few moments we all sympathized heartily. (180)

Tuesday, [September] 20th, 7.30 P.M.
…The Long Island woods about with large spiders like the one from which I wound the silk last summer; they occupy large webs between the trees and in one of them my straw hat was caught and held.(183)

Wednesday, [September] 28th, 8:15 P.M.
About 2 last night I awoke hearing the most dreadful screams and howls; I jumped out of bed, got into my greatcoat and ran out; the sound led me to my own hospital and there, just outside the door, my nurse was struggling with a burly civilian who had entered the hospital about a week ago, apparently sick, and soon dangerously so, very weak, hiccupping and vomiting blood, and with a yellow tinge suggesting yellow fever. About this time however, I began to be suspicious of him and he, perceiving it, pretended last night to be crazy; got out of the tent, yelled that a man was going to kill him. I spoke very sternly to him and soon he ceased to yell; we got him in bed and then my suspicions were confirmed by his saying that he was crazy and wanted to go home. A really crazy man might say that he wanted to go home but they usually think all other folks are insane. I then ascertained that he had been for eight years a soldier in the regular army; then I ordered him to keep quiet or suffer the penalty of disobedience. He admitted that the blood that he pretended to vomit came from biting his cheeks. Such a man knows too many tricks, and I wish I could get rid of him. An army doctor should have a lawyer at his elbow. (183-4)

((Actual yellow fever is completely terrifying, by the way: black, bloody vomit. ))

Thursday, [September] 29th, 8:00 P.M.
Major Wales has been collecting butterflies for me and has sent a box containing about 20 finely mounted and handsome specimens; I imagine that not every entomologist has majors and brigadiers to collect for him; probably the poor insects themselves care not a pin who impales them. (184)

Wednesday, [October] 5th, 7:30 P.M.
…Today I pulled a monstrous black tooth. The patient said a doctor in Annapolis tried to pull it and failed and he paid him $5.00 to cease his efforts. It took all my strength as well as skill; fortunately t he man’s jaw was stout and his head firmly attached to his shoulders.(185)

Date: 2011-03-15 02:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm definitely interested in reading it! :D I'm also looking forward to those photographs. :)

I've been getting lots of passive-aggressive reviews (and some aggressive ones) about the fact that I haven't updated either of my two big popular fics in like three years. I feel inordinately guilty about that, and I really SHOULD write more, but... I have no inspiration for them. The moment has passed.

Date: 2011-03-15 09:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I know the feeling about unfinished fics. People didn't want me to take them down, but both fics have "Unfinished, not going to be finished" (in essence) AS the summary. No more information. I still get whiny/angry/occasionally threat-filled e-mails about finishing the things. With most stories, I've been able to push an ending onto it even if it didn't fit exactly like I'd planned, but two are just personal. My cousin died while I was plotting out the many ways that the story could go, and I just couldn't ever go back to it. (He was twenty-two and fell down nine stairs. He was ridiculously fit, I'd just seen him a month before and he was hurling his nine-year-old nephew through the pool.) The other story was written entirely on my grandma's couch while I was talking to her about writing, and when she died, the story just wasn't what I wanted anymore.

I've ignored all the nasty reviews so far, but it's really getting on my nerves. I've managed to go back and finish up the rest, even when I wasn't at all happy with the endings, but seriously. I said they're not going to be finished and don't know what else they want.

Date: 2011-03-16 12:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh man, I can definitely understand losing motivation/inspiration in those cases. I also understand if reviewers really love your story, and saying so and being sadface in a review is totally acceptable, but capslocks and demands make me even LESS likely to want to do what YOU want. :P


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