No official accounts from “Stonewall” and his glorious army, but private accounts are most cheering. In the mean time, the hospitals in and around Richmond are being cleaned, aired, etc., preparatory to the anticipated battles. Oh, it is sickening to know that these preparations are necessary! Every man who is able has gone to his regiment…
It is said that General Johnston, by an admirable series of maneuvers, is managing to retreat from Williamsburg, all the time concealing the comparative weakness of his troops, and is retarding the advance of the enemy, until troops from other points can be concentrated here.
The booming of cannon, at no very distant point, thrills us with apprehension. We know that a battle is going on. God help us! Now let every heart be raised to the God of battles.
General Johnston brought in wounded, not mortally, but painfully, in the shoulder. Other wounded are being brought in. The fight progressing; but we are driving them.
Judith McGuire, Diary Excerpts, May 29 & 31, 1862
General Johnston Wounded
General Joseph E. Johnston (not to be confused with Albert S. Johnston – another Confederate general) commanded the Army of Northern Virginia which was called the Confederate Army of the Potomac at this point in 1862. (Did I just make everything confusing?) Let’s try again. General Joseph E. Johnston commanded the Confederate army defending Richmond in 1862. (Better?)
Okay, so Johnston and his thin gray line were all that was between Union general George McClellan and the Confederate capital. The Southerners had gradual retreated until they couldn’t retreat much farther without walking into Richmond with the Northerners on their heels.
On May 31-June 1, 1862, Johnston decided to attack the Union army. The Battle of Seven Pines ensued, and during the course of the fighting, Johnston was severely wounded by an exploding artillery shell.. He left the battlefield for treatment and recovery, no longer able to command the army. (He would survive the wound and lead other Confederate armies later in the war.)
However, his wounding created a problem. A battle was going on. McClellan was literally nearing the outskirts of Richmond. And the Confederate defenders had just lost their commander. What would they do? Who would be the next commander? (Hint: Read next week’s blog post!)
Hospitals In Richmond
Judith McGuire mentions that the medical facilities in the capital city had been prepared. From the earliest days of the war, Richmond had prepared hospital facilities, but as the conflict went on, better equipped buildings were built or converted for medical use. During 1862, Chimborazo Hospital (which would become the largest hospital in the Confederacy and admit over 76,000 soldiers) was built.
It’s interesting to note the mention of “airing” the buildings. This had a two-fold reason in the 1860’s. First, if you air out a building, it will smell a little better; hospitals could be really stinky. Second, the folks still believed that bad air caused sickness, not understanding about germs; so airing out the hospital also meant cleaning up the place so the soldiers wouldn’t get sick. (Never mind the lack of antibacterial soap – just open the window?)
Judith McGuire was a refugee in 1862, but she wasn’t refugeeing from Richmond like some of the individuals we talked about earlier. In fact, she had refugeed to Richmond. Mrs. McGuire moved from Alexandria, Virginia, to various locations in the state as the war progressed and she was in Richmond as McClellan approached the city. She kept a detailed journal of her travels and experiences. If you’re interested, her journal is titled: “Diary of a Southern Refugee During the War” by A Lady of Virginia (aka Judith P. McGuire).
Her accounts during the Peninsula Campaign and fighting around Richmond provide insight into the feelings of civilians and their observations as the Confederate command changed, McClellan waited, and more Southern reinforcements arrived.
P.S. Want to know where Johnston was on the battlefield when he was wounded? Check out this article from Emerging Civil War.