Bullets, bayonets and cannon shells weren’t the only things that felled combatants during the U.S. Civil War. Illness also laid thousands of soldiers low — including my great, great grandfather Union Army Pvt. Arthur Bull who “gave out” on the march to Cold Harbor, Va. in the spring of 1864.
Over the course of the war, his 6th NY Heavy Artillery unit lost 278 enlisted men due to disease or other causes — more than double the 130 enlisted men from his unit who were killed in action (62) or died from their wounds (68).
Arthur suffered from disease of the heart and lungs and chronic rheumatism, according to his pension and military medical records, and was transported away from the Virginia battlefields to Washington, D.C.
There he was admitted on 4 June 1864 to Mt. Pleasant General Hospital – one of several facilities newly-created by the U.S. Sanitary Commission to tend to the huge influx of war-related Union casualties.
So it was not an injury in some heroic firefight that took my ancestor out of action. But I am still proud of Arthur for soldiering on with his last ounce of strength in a Union military offensive that helped turn the tide against slavery.
After being admitted to hospital, my ancestor began a wartime journey of a different sort – one that came as a surprise to me when I uncovered the details that had been carefully tucked away in his Civil War file 150 years ago.
© 2014 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.