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  • Writer's pictureKirk Jenkins

Captain Halpin's Letter to the Enquirer (Part 3 of 3)

From the Cincinnati Enquirer, April 3, 1862

. . . Our old friend, Dr. Muscroft, whom I have seen a few days ago, looks the picture of good health, and is very popular with the boys of the Tenth, as is his assistant, Dr. Rice. Both stand very high in their profession, and from their unremitting care of the men, very seldom have any in the hospital. The fewer men in hospital, the more care is bestowed on the troops by the officers, and more accomplished is said to be the physician in charge.

A sad accident occurred the day we entered Murfreesboro. While the teams were halted to allow the troops to pass, a man named Sweeny, belonging to the Tenth, was fooling with a revolver, when it was accidentally discharged, the ball entering the groin of Martin Meehan, a member of Company C, Captain Hudson, of the same regiment. Poor Meehan lived for several hours, and died during the night in hospital. His remains were conveyed to camp to-day and interred close by.

There is one subject that should occupy the attention of the War Department as soon as possible. I mean the abolition of the office of Chaplain in the Army. Much gas has been exploded in Congress, and ink uselessly wasted by editors on sutlers, who are absolutely necessary, while chaplains have been permitted to draw large pay without rendering the slightest equivalent.

The only exception that I know of is that of Father O’Higgins, Chaplain of the Tenth Ohio. He is the only Chaplain of my acquaintance who earns his pay, and pays unremitting attention to the regiment. He has daily service in camp, contributes materially to the moral standing of the regiment and, unlike others, never abandons his post. In consequence, he is so popular that if the office were abolished the men who pay his present salary rather than lose his services. He is a gentleman in the true acceptation of the word, whose heart is every sympathizing with the soldiers, and his hand ever open to the needy. He loves the Tenth with a father’s affection, and in return, the boys venerate him as a parent whose eye is every open to their care, and whose every act is done for their benefit. Through frost and snow and mud, in sunshine and in storm, he shares the fate of his flock, and like the Good Shepherd in the Gospel, watches the wolf and warns his followers of the approaching danger, while other Chaplains fain sickness and rush in hot haste to the arms of their wives, to be nursed for months without seeing their regiments, although they generally find the Paymaster to draw their pay. I know one while choker personally, a very clever gentleman, who never said more than three prayers in his life in the regiment, and even those, against the wishes of the men. Half the time he is home with his wife, and when in camp he amuses himself hunting with his dog and gun. To this the soldiers have no objection, believing with his Reverence, that a plump partridge has more saving grace than his eloquent prayers, and that the theology of the rifle is more potent than that of the Synod.

On the march from Green River to Bowling Green, while resting for the night at Bell’s Tavern, we were overtaken by a very severe snow-storm, which soon resulted in covering tent and field with a coat of white. The frost added its fury to the snow, making it very severe on the troops after a hard day’s march. The Generals and preachers quartered at the tavern, and, as usual, fared well. After supper, a gentleman met Dr. ______ leaving the tavern, wrapped up in a warm coat, having just the nasal organ visible. “Hello, Doctor,” exclaimed the gentleman, “are you going to visit your regiment, and administer salvation to your boys? “No,” replied the Doctor, “they can take care of themselves; I want to see to the comforts of my dog.” Such are the chaplains who are drawing pay out of the public treasury, and prefer to mind their dogs to attending to their business. But the fact is they are a useless appendage to the army, and ought to be abolished at once.

I was just informed that General Dumont has been promoted to the command of a division, and that Colonel Pope, of the Fifteenth Kentucky, is likely to take his place. This is not just to Colonel Lytle, who has certainly done more service than Colonel Pope, and is more suited to command a brigade. But it is said there is favor in hell, and why not in Washington? Democrats have no right to expect any, as they have furnished no men for the army and have done no fighting. Any thing a Democrat will get must be in the circuitous way – something in the shape of several divergencies we had to make on our late march to avoid ponds that covered the road, which were aptly described by Corporal Ward, “d—d round corners.”

The enemy is said to be concentrating at Huntsville, Alabama, where, I presume, our next march will be to.

I may say in conclusion that the friends of the soldiers in this division from Cincinnati need be under no apprehension for their safety; they are all well, and expect to return safe to their old homes when the national flag shall wave undisputed over the States now in revolt, and the Union shall once more be cemented.


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