The Home Front: 1861 to 1865

Southern Diarists

This must have happened dozens, perhaps hundreds, of times in the war. Why do we pay such attention to this one vignette?

Because it is seldom that we encounter this kind of story, especially when written by a person who was not concerned with the outcome. But Phoebe Yates Pember believed in ministering to the dying, regardless of what was involved. Making inquiries, she found that Perry was the dying soldier’s best friend, his fellow soldier with whom he had spent most of the past year. They marched together and slept by each other’s side. Before long, Mrs. Pember located Perry at another hospital—Camp Jackson—put him in her ambulance, and brought him to Chimborazo. Her own patient had, meanwhile, fallen asleep:

A bed was brought, and placed at his side, and Perry, only slightly wounded, laid upon it. Just then the sick boy awoke wearily, turned over, and the half-unconscious eye fixed itself. He must have been dreaming of the meeting, for he still distrusted the reality. Illness had spiritualized the youthful face; the transparent forehead, the delicate brow so clearly defined, belonged more to heaven than earth. As he recognized his comrade the wan and expressionless lips curved into the happiest smile—the angel of death had brought the light of summer skies to that pale face. “Perry,” he cried, “Perry,” and not another word, but with one last effort he threw himself into his friend’s arms, the radiant eyes closed, but the smile still remained—he was dead.


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