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In Their Own Words

October 12, 1864

Soldier Wrote of Losing Leg

During the Civil War, the state of medicine was primitive by today’s standards, and doctors frequently treated arm or leg wounds with amputation. Such was the case with James Daniel, who wrote his wife from a Richmond, Va. hospital:

“I write you a few lines the first opportunity to ease your fears in regard to me. It is true I have happened [in] to a bad spot, but it might have been worse. For it was the hottest place I was ever in. I was first shot between the right knee and angle, nearly breaking the leg. I was hardly down when I was again short in the right knee, shattering it all to pieces in a second. I was shot in the left knee slightly. I concluded if I did not get away from that spot I was bound [to die], so I threw off one fine Yankee blanket, two tent flies and one India rubber and dragged myself about twenty yards to behind a stump, where I remained about two hours, exposed to a heavy cross-fire, but I was not hit any more. I was then totted off by Frank Oliver and Zeph Peck on a stretcher, suffering dearly. I continued to suffer, until I arrived here, from moving. The doctor, after counsel, amputated my right leg just above the knee. I hope you will not take it too hard. If I live, I can make a living shoe-making. I am considered to be doing well by the doctor and everybody else. You know I am one that never says die while I can move a little.

“… I was wounded in trying to take the second works, where they had made a desperate stand. I passed through all the first safe and was in hopes I would have my usual luck. I have never spared myself in going into a fight, as I determined long ago to get out of this war if I had to be killed out… .”

Source: Mills Lane (ed.), “Dear Mother: Don’t grieve about me. If I get killed, I’ll only be dead.”: Letters from Georgia Soldiers in the Civil War (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1990), p. 332.