"We Calculate There are 14,000 Wounded in the Town"

Sketch of an eagle spreading its wings with a banner in its mouth

Cornelia Hancock—a young Quaker woman—volunteered as a nurse with the Union's Second Corps from 1863 to 1865. In this letter, she describes the field hospitals and condition of the wounded in the town of Fredericksburg, Virginia, during May 1864 as the Battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House were being fought. 


Fredericksburg, Va.

My Dear Mother

I was the first and only Union woman in the city. I believe today there were some of Miss Dix's nurses came thru. I have good quarters. We calculate there are 14,000 wounded in the town; the Secesh help none, so you may known there is suffering equal to any thing anyone ever saw, almost as bad as Gettysburg, only we have houses and churches for the men. I am well, have worked harder than I ever did in my life; there was no food but hard tack to give the men so I turned in and dressed their wounds. It was all that could be done. I hear from my friends at the front one by one. Almost every one I knew was shot except the Doctor. Some of them are taken prisoners; Dr. Aiken for one; Dr. Dudley was safe last night. Lieut. Fogg was shot dead, so was Capt. Madison—this battle is still raging. I am glad I am here but I really thought my heart would break as one after another they told me was dead. If they only accomplish getting to Richmond. If not, it is a dear battle. There is very heavy firing today. I hope Dr. Dudley will get thru safe. He sent a Doctor to see me, told him he knew I would get thru. He is out on the front with his Regt. Oh, how awful, it seems as if the great judgment day was upon us now; the Secesh are still in town but we take possession of all churches and houses we want. I am well. Write to me in care of Dr. Davis, 1st Div. 2nd Corps hospit., Fred'ksburg, Va.

I ought not to be writing here now, but Guerrillas were very thick the first night the trains were captured and we could not get up to Fredksburg, but the next morning went thru with a cavalry escort. The news is very rejoicing this morning but we never believe any thing here. Suffering, suffering, but the men are in good spirits as we appear to be gaining. I chartered a new hospital today. The Surg. Gen. of N. York has charge of it and it is now in shape. The other hospt. in town are shocking in filth and neglect. Ours is the best. I wish all in Fredericksburg and beyond were as comfortable as ours are. Tonight the news that reaches us is good and the men even when badly wounded shout and cheer. I am going out to the front to our new div. hospital in a few days but you need not be concerned. If we are victorious I shall be all right. Any way I shall be all right. Our hospt. here will be all right in a few days and we can do more good on the battlefield. I am permanently calculated for getting along under very trying circumstances. The firing has been most terrific today. The loss in officers is very great. Gen. Welt was brought in today. The first night I got here I slept in Gen. Hay's ambulance, the one that brought his body to Aquia Creek. Mrs. Lee is sick I believe. I believe she would rise from a sick bed and come down if she knew what a condition their hospt. was in. You must write. I am very well and all right. I have never seen Dr. since he landed at Aquia Creek.

Thine in haste

Cornelia Hancock



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