Southport visitor, Thursday Feb 11th, 1858
A SURGEONS EXPERIENCE AT CAWNPORE
An extract of a letter from an Assistant Surgeon in the Company’s service, now on duty at Cawnpore. The letter is written to his wife :-
Cawnpore, December 14th, 1857,
During the six days we were in the entrenchment, I had tremendous work, all the wounded in the two previous battles were brought in. The first day I amputated eight limbs, dressed more than eighty wounds, and soon every day, eating biscuit with beef, and drinking tea or water when the opportunity offered. Three round shot passed through my hospital roof, bringing down plenty of tiles and dirt but injuring no one. The bullocks and camels suffered most, several being killed. Plenty of bullets passed pattered against the walls, but were too high for mischief, because the earthworks protected the lower part.
The hospital has again been removed to what was the lower barracks, nearer the entrenchment’s than the place I told you last. We have now 800 sick and wounded, with one surgeon [Dr DIAPER] and eight assistant surgeons.
The work I have done lately no one would credit; during the time we were in the fort, six days were but as one of incessant toil. The hard work had one beneficial effect on me, that I felt almost indifferent as to the proceedings of the enemy, though towards the end I was almost done up.
JEFFER’S [Indian servant man] expression was, “Sir the work has dried you up, If mem sahib [the Mistress] could see you now she would indeed cry”.
However, thank God, I am right again.
All my clothes were spoiled with blood. I went about in my shirt sleeves and bareheaded, my hair was matted with blood; my hands and arms covered with blood; blood spirted from arteries into my mouth and eyes; indeed, I was covered with blood. How many bullets I extracted – how many wounds I probed, and staunched and dressed – how many operations I performed and assisted at – I cannot say; but, certainly, I saw in one week more surgery that most surgeons must witness in a lifetime; and I trust I am proportionally improved in my experience. I cannot spare one thought as to the future as regards my own prospects.
It has pleased God to separate me from those who are near and dear to me, but of one thing I am sure – I am only doing my duty; here is my place amongst those who fight, and bleed, and die, they are noble fellows, and why I have strength, I will work for them my whole might.
Ay these Countrymen of ours are, indeed noble, noble fellows, trust me in this, I have cause to know the truth of what I say, I am with them in their pain, and misery, and death, and am always impressed with their noble courage and patient endurance.
At present my horizon is not bright; danger encompasses us on every side, the enemy are all around, intent on killing, and death walks hourly by my side; so I must be prepared lest my time should come; and should it please God to so cause it, my greatest comfort in that sad hour will be that you and my precious children are safe in happy Old England, and my brave little son must be taught that his Father’s last wish was that he devote his whole life to love and protect his Mother.
Copyright 2002 / To date