Laura Madeline Wiseman – Poetry

ONSET
        December 1862 – January 1863

Mrs. Matilda Fletcher
Felts Farm, Durand Illinois

My dear sister Matilda,

I ask again, as you bid me, for some news
of your husband, Mr. Fletcher. One told me
he’s been captured with his brother, Fisher.
Another said, Dead. A third said, Tuberculosis.
No one seems to know for sure.

                                                As for me,
we march through mud, six inches deep.
The Commander orders us into town
after dark to find open houses to sleep in.
Our cousin, Amos Felts and I, sleep together.

We roll blankets around us on the floor.
John Campbell came in without a blanket
to sleep with us. In the morning we wake
to find John Campbell taken with measles.
Night and day, I am on guard. In fear

I take Amos to the hospital for measles.
As I step up to bid our cousin goodbye,
the doctor looks at me and says, Wait.
In the morning, I, too, have measles.
I stay by Amos for a week. He won’t

let anybody but me do anything for him.
I am taken to my bunk as soon as he dies.
Days pass. When I come to myself
I cannot hear what anyone says,
one of my ears, deaf by shell or cannon,

my other ear, deaf by the measles.
With malignant pain in my feet and legs
the Sisters of Charity believe I, too, am to die,
but I won’t. I’ll return with words
on our brothers, your husband, who fight.

        Your brother,
        Geo. W. Felts
        Company H, 74th Regiment of the Illinois Infantry

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