04 July 2013

Suffering


“Tell my wife I do not fear to die,” the twenty-nine year-old North Carolinian (Major General, CSA, William Dorsey) Pender said, in the course of his suffering, which was intense. “I can confidently resign my soul to God, trusting in the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ. My only regret is to leave her and our children.” If this had the tone of Stonewall Jackson, under whom Pender had developed into one of the best of all Lee’s generals despite his youth, his last words sounded even more like his dead chief: “I have always tried to do my duty in every sphere of life in which Providence has placed me.”[1]
Pender had been unhorsed by a casual fragment of shell fired from Cemetery Ridge during the Battle of Gettysburg on July 2, 1863 wounded in the thigh. It wasn't thought serious. He was carried from the field and transported by hospital wagon to Staunton, VA.  
(Brigadier General John B.) Imboden had made good speed with his 17 mile long column, though at the cost of much suffering by the wounded, whose piteous cries to be left by the road to die were ignored by the drivers in obedience to orders that there were to be no halts for any reason whatever, by day or night. Many of the men had been without food for thirty-six hours, he later wrote, and 'their torn and bloody clothing, matted and hardened, was rasping the tender, inflamed, and still oozing wounds. Very few of the wagons had even a layer of straw in them, and all were without springs. . . . From nearly every wagon as the teams trotted on, urged by whip and shout, came such cries and shrieks as these: 'Oh God! Why can't I die?' 'My God, will no one have mercy and kill me?" "Stop! Oh, for God's sake, stop just for one minute; take me out and let me die on the roadside!' 'I'm dying, I am dying!' . . . "'Duing the one night," the calvaryman added, "I realized more of the horrors of war than I had in all the two preceding years." [2]
In this horrific transport infection set in and on July 18 an artery in Pender's leg ruptured. Surgeons amputated the leg to try to save him but he died some hours after.
Would that I feel the assurance and the resignation and the confidence and the faith found in Pender’s words in the course of suffering. That I might so proclaim, Lord hear my prayer.


[1] Shelby Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative, (New York, Random House, 1963) II, pg. 513.
[2] Ibid, pg. 584

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