Clara Barton Museum

The following is a transcription of this letter.

December 8th, 1865

Dear friends

A letter of Dec 4 asking information of your “Son,” D.H. Windham, last heard of at Fort Wagner is before me. Ordinarily I should reply to your inquiry by saying that I would place the name upon my rolls of Missing Men, and search as best I could. I will do so – But your letter draws upon my recollections for a few words more. Not that I remember your son, I wish I did, but I remember the charge on Wagner that terrible night of the 18th of July 1863—Only those whose eyes took in that scene will ever realize it. – During four long hours preceding that charge, I watched those doomed men marching and countermarching, or fixed in solid phalanx waiting that charge of death. Then four other hours of carnage such as God grant you may never realize, where the rolling volleys of destruction alone lit up the misty blackness of the night, then they bore the wounded back along the wave washed beach, and the surging ocean sang its solemn requiem for the dead.

They lay by hundreds, wounded and bleeding, in the wet salt sands about my little tent, and God in his goodness gave speed to my feet and strength to my arms through the hours of that fearful night that I might nourish the fainting, slake the thirst of the dying, and strive to staunch the life stream as it ebbed away. It seemed as if daylight would never come, but when at length its welcome beams broke over us, we were no longer swept by shot, but the field of palid [sic] upturned faces and eyes forever still, showed only too plainly how broad a wing the Death Angel had flapped above us, and they told us of a six hundred that lay dead in the Fort, whereon no comrade ere might look, whereof no mother know.

I will not ask your pardon my dear friends for having recalled these events to you — they will neither oppress nor distress you, your son was a soldier, his regiment well known to me and you who have suffered so much will be still strong enough to listen while I who stood among, and saw, and knew them all, relate the scenes which to him I fear were the last of earth – true he may have been captured and a prisoner after this               this I will endeavor by all means in my power to ascertain for you. And I will write to his surgeon, who is my friend, and one of the noblest men in the world, for any clue which he may give me, and if I can get a trace however small, I will send it at once to you. . .

Pardon my long letter, & believe me

Truly your friend,

Clara Barton

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