Saturday, October 22, 2011

Letter from Dr. R. R. McMeens to the Ladies’ Soldiers’ Aid Society

Written on October 22, 1861, a letter from Dr. R. R. McMeens to Mrs. A.H. Moss, President of the Ladies’ Soldiers’ Aid Society of Grace Church, was published in the November 2, 1861 issue of the Sandusky Register.

Dr. McMeens was the Surgeon of the Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. He wrote the letter from Camp Elkwater, West Virginia.

The letter begins,
“My Dear Madam: Allow me the pleasure of acknowledging the very generous and acceptable donation to the sick and suffering soldiers under my care, and to express to you, and through you to the ladies of the Soldiers’ Aid Society, the profound and grateful thanks of the sick and wounded of our Regiment now in Hospital…No balm of Gilead nor dew of Hermon could have blest or brought more comfort. You can have no adequate conception of the hardships, privations or discomforts we have endured in these inhospitable and desolate mountains, and therefore cannot comprehend the full extent of the inestimable boon you have conferred, with a personal realization of our condition.”

Dr. McMeens went on to describe the conditions he and the soldiers of the Third Ohio experienced. They spent the greater part of their time directly in the face of the enemy, often in drenching rain. The thickets and brambles they encountered destroyed the fibers of the soldiers’ clothing. The hospital was a tent in an open field, upon the damp, bare earth, with an insufficient supply of straw and blankets. One man lay unconscious for two weeks, suffering from typhoid fever, and his makeshift bed was often infested with snakes. Food was in extreme shortage as well. Food sent from the Ladies’ Soldiers’ Aid Society of Grace Church was appropriated between sick patients and in the hospital. He told of the contrast between the soldiers’ former home life and their current difficult situation. “Many of our sick are young men, who have enjoyed all the comforts of life and been blessed with good homes, and could command them now, if means of transportation were possible; and more grateful recipients, and more manifestations of joy, and expressions of thanks, I have never witnessed before. I wish you all could have been present, as you would have felt repaid for your labor and devotion to the sick, but honest-hearted soldiers.” Dr. McMeens considered the generosity of the Ladies’ Soldiers’ Aid Society to have been a work of love and high-born patriotism. He signed the letter, “Your humble servant, R. R. McMeens, Surgeon 3d Ohio Regiment.” In a postscript to his letter, Dr. McMeens explained that the generous food and supplies sent from the Sandusky ladies almost never made it to Camp Elkwater. Government Agents stated that they could transport nothing but official Government supplies, but Dr. Seys, “with great difficulty, and by cunning device,” secured an ambulance, and brought the supplies to Camp Elkwater.

Dr. Robert R. McMeens worked tirelessly as a Surgeon during the Civil War. He died while serving at the Battle of Perryville in Kentucky on October 30, 1862. Dr. McMeens was buried at Oakland Cemetery.

No comments: