In a previous post, we heard David Auld, drummer boy for the 43rd Ohio volunteers, discuss the horrors of battle and the role the drummer boys played in caring for the wounded, dead, and dying. Here, Charles William Bardeen, drummer boy for the 1st Massachusetts Volunteers, company D, discusses his experiences during the Battle of Fredericksburg.
When I closed my last it was Sunday Morning. I will relate what has passed since then. I believe I mentioned that there were several wounded Rebels brought in. As they were suffering badly, I made a Coffee pot full of coffee, giving it to all of them who wished. Most of them were in Georgia Regts, particularly the 61st & 62d & 60th One was the Adjutant Gen’l of Erwin’s Brigade, under Jackson, and in the absence of Erwin he led the Brigade in a charge upon one of our batteries. Our infantry in front united to give the batteries a chance to open with cannister, which, as soon as the enemy were near enough, they did, with terrible effect. Our infantry then advanced and took many prisoners. This Adj-Gen’l was wounded in the Groin and was in great pain. In company with all of them, he expressed great surprise at the kind treatment he received at our hands. He said he was treated as well as our own boys. All day I staid there, doing all I could for all of them. At night we went out a little way from the Hospital to sleep. I saw many legs & arms taken off, and the sight was awful. The men say that it is not battle but butchery, as the rebels are well protected by breastworks. Monday morning we were ordered back across the river, as the Div. Hospital had been established there. So the drummers were put in reliefs of six hours each to attend to the wounded. My relief is on at dark. The following were the instructions given to me by the Nurse, in the tent assigned to me. “The men on the left side will not require much attention. That man in the corner is wounded through the temple and is insane. You will have to hold him down if he attempts to get up, and you must keep close to him and keep him covered. The one next to him is crazy also. Every time he wakes up you must give him some water & look out that he does not get up. The one in this corner has got the Dysentery and will require the Bedpan often—You must pay strict attention to them all, and not let the crazy men get the upper hands of you.” So off he went and left me alone with two crazy men and 6 or eight wounded ones to attend to. It was a hard place, but I did my duty as well as I was able ’till my six hours were up. I never want to go into a Hospital again.