Jayne papers  1864
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Jayne papers consist of 17 letters from Samuel Ferguson Jayne, during his service as a relief agent with the U.S. Sanitary Commission, to his fiancée Charlotte Elizabeth Jayne in the summer of 1864. The letters, dated May 22-August 19, 1864, track his travels on the Mary Rapley steamboat and document his efforts at the U.S. Colored Hospital at City Point, Virginia. They discuss the numerous wounded soldiers coming from battles at Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and the Battle of the Crater (Petersburg), and include vivid details on the treatment of the men and the facilities of the hospitals. Jayne often notes the difficulties of getting the Union doctors to treat black troops. He wrote, "We have had to almost fight the doctors to get them to treat the colored men decently and to find them proper attention. When we came here most of the men were without beds. Now we have them upon, not only beds, but every man has also an iron bedstead, entirely covered by mosquito netting" (July 12). On August 9th, Jayne wrote that "There are very few agents here, who are adapted to such 'low' work as that of taking care of sick negroes" (August 9).

Jayne described in depth the types of wounds and afflictions the solders suffered. On August 4, he wrote "we are overcome with sick and wounded...I have found many who fought hand to hand with rebels, as their wounds are those made by the butts of muskets or clubs...We have twelve men digging graves today for our hospital alone." In a letter dated April 9th, he described a "terrible explosion" of an ammunition boat at City Point, Virginia, and its aftermath. Though the letters contain many details on his work managing the sick in the hospitals, they also include expressions of love for Charlotte, who Samuel was "compelled to write" in order "to keep [his] wits straight" (August 9, 1864). Jayne also commented on political and ethical issues of the war. For example, in the letter from August 19, 1864, he questioned the morality of paying black soldiers to fight in place of a drafted white soldier:

"I do not think it would be exactly fair to obtain a negro for a substitute. In the first place, in all modesty, they do not make as good soldiers as the whites, and at the present crisis of affairs, from all that I can learn from observation and report, one white man, even as insignificant as myself, is equal to two negroes for war purposes. Then, the negro fights under great disadvantages. If taken prisoner he is either murdered or sold into slavery--and I think that a government that permits its soldiers to be thus dealt with, without retaliating upon the enemy ought to go to perdition, or at least to a strongly seasoned purgatory. I would not ask a man to go as my substitute who would be murdered in cold blood because he was not of my race and color. Until we can procure the African some rights of civilized warfare, let the Anglo Saxon fight his own battles."

Jayne drew several sketches and commented on them. Of note is a picture of a ground plan of the U.S. Colored hospital, City Point, Virginia camp, annotated with the functions of many individual tents. It includes the positions of hospitals for the 5th, 6th, and 9th Corps. This plan accompanies the letter from July 15, 1864, in which Jayne provided additional details of the hospital camp.

Other illustrations include:

  • "Our pet lamb Molly," City Point Virginia, a pencil sketch of a young Black woman sitting in front of shelves of supplies (July 26, 1864).
  • "Special Diet," a barefoot black man walking past army tents holding a mug and plate of fish (August 10, 1864).
  • "For this are we Doctors," a black soldier with a bloody amputated arm (August 10, 1864).
  • "Lizzie," a profile of a black woman sitting on a crate with her hands to her head (August 10, 1864).
  • "Hospital bed" on the back: "This is a drawing of our hospital beds, with mosque-to netting. Made by Roberts, S. "(August 19, 1864).

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