Cole Adams, had an impeccable Revolutionary lineage, and was a surgeon in the 54th Massachusetts. He had not been in his home state since Fort Sumpter, and right now he saw no possibility of him seeing his home in the foreseeable future either.
“These damn seceshers don’t know when they are licked” he would say to himself when alone in his tent. “If they admitted that, we would all be home in a month. But Oh No! That yellow-belly politician Jeff Davis has got them all riled up and they won’t ever quit now, not while they have bullets to shoot with, and cotton to sell to buy the bullets.”
Adams hated the war. Hated it with an intensity that only a surgeon could muster. He saw, day in day out, the devastation a minnie ball could do to a man. A large hole in the front of a calf could lead to a hole the size of a man’s head at the back. If Cole never saw another amputated limb, he would be a happy man.
He was not destined to be a happy man.
Little Mac had the biggest Army the World had ever seen, and he was happy to have it close to hand in case the Rebs were stupid enough to try to take Washington DC. As if ? They were as likely to open up a new front on the moon.
So here he was, in New Orleans, as part of General Butler’s Department of the Gulf, attempting to take the Lower Mississippi and Texas. So far, in a purely non-scientific estimation, he would have to say that for all the rag tag nature of the Rebs, they sure fought well. Too well. They could take losses that the Union forces would never sustain. And when they did surrender, it was because they had no food, no ammo, or no shoes, not because they were beat. Damn!
Cole was the Officer Commanding the hospital in the city. He may have hated the war, but he loved the Union, and so if someone was stupid enough to threaten that Union, then Cole was going to fight them. With sword and gun if necessary, with scalpel and saw if asked. Right now, Butler had asked, and so here he was watching another rag tag lot of captured Rebs be transferred from wherever the action was to one of the prison hulks on the river. His Christian duty was to pull off any damn Reb who was too wounded to survive in a hulk. Today, he had found none, and was heading back to the hospital when he’d broken up a fight between two New Yorker’s and a local lad. A Southerner for sure, probably a Reb, but you could never tell with civilians.
“What’ll ya have me be doing’ Yankee?” said the lad, after saying the moment before that he wouldn’t work for a Yankee.
“Well, don’t work for a Yankee then. Work for some Rebs. Wounded Rebs.” said Cole to elicit a gratifyingly confused look from the lad.
“I’m a surgeon in the Hospital.” he said, no need to explain that he commanded the place. “We take wounded from both sides. Blue, or Gray, they both bleed red. We treat wounded as wounded. I don’t care who they are. If they arrive alive, they leave alive. That’s my goal.” And he mostly met that goal. 85% of those arriving alive, left that way. Whether to go back to the fight, to go back to their homes, or go out to the hulks. It was the only thing that kept Cole sane.
“We need porters, nurses aides… Hell, we need people who will just listen to a guy as he screams his head off for a lost limb or because his momma ain’t here with him.” he looked down at the lad. “If you can do that, and for Blue or Gray so long as they is wounded, report to the Commander of the hospital. I’m sure he’ll find you something worthwhile to do until you are old enough to enter the damn hospital on the back of a bullock cart with your Rebel blood soaking into the track. If that’s really what you want out of life…”
The boy still looked a bit confused at him. Maybe it was the accent. “Hospital. Job. Report to Commander.” he told the boy.
Just then he saw Captain Braithwaite exiting a dockside House of Ill Repute. He needed to speak to the man, and if he’d just had his way with a doxie, now might be the best time to talk to him. “Braithwaite, Braithwaite there! Hold sir, I need to speak with you.” with that, he was off. Thoughts of the lad gone entirely from his mind.