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Echoes of the Week

The Illustrated London News, vol. 43, no. 1235, p. 602.

December 12, 1863


Little more than two years have elapsed since the Northern and Southern divisions of the United States would indulge in a large fight in the field without loss of life or limb to any one hero. Any veteran who could have exhibited an honest yawn resulting from over fatigue in the use of his arms--or legs--deserved to be decorated. The parturient mountain was, in the end, at least blessed with something, although only a mouse; but it certainly seemed that American troops would have all their labour in vain. Their engagements resulted in no more than do the engagements of "many a gentle girl and boy;" they were broken off long before the happy day could possibly have been fixed. Or, they may be said to have resembled Barmecide feasts, at which all parties make much dumb show, but go away a trifle more hungry than when they came. But a time arrived when blood was tasted, and since then it has been difficult to say how much blood has been spilt. A remarkable indication of the magnitude of American battles comes in the shape of print. To the list of Northern journals, or magazines, a new one was added in November, under the title of The Sanitary Commission Bulletin, to be published twice a month, at a cost to subscribers of two dollars annually. This bulletin chronicles all reports and information concerning the sick and wounded of the Northern army, the moneys received and expended, the different hospitals of different cities, the number of patients going in and out, the doctors, the Sisters of Mercy, and everything besides that so dismal a subject can suggest. The scale is prodigious. Our own Crimean philanthropies might be added and not felt--put on board like a ship's long-boat. The United States' Sanitary Commission declare that their expenses at the present moment are forty thousand dollars per month; but that is quite independent of supplies from "every village Sewing Circle, or Soldiers' Relief Society, or Church, or Dorcas Association." They have thousands of noble women connected with their work; but they want tens of thousands, nay, "five hundred thousand, other women, of similar views and feelings before the supplies can be accumulated in adequate quantities." A novel kind of relief is the "Home," at Washington. Here, during a period of nine months, were received nine hundred men who had their discharge-papers with them, and consequently had no kind of claim on any military fund. They had been discharged in good condition, but had fallen into disease and want on the road; they would have perished, but for the Home. There is a fine spirit in all this, for which every Englishman does not give credit to the Yankee.

Yet all this charitableness, springing as it does from envy and hatred, may be as a mere nucleus of doctor and Dorcas to what may come if Mr. Lincoln remain advised by his present advisers. He is said to be severely attacked by the White House Fever, a disease which generally seizes U. S. Presidents in their first November, and invariably lasts four years: that is, from the day of one election to the day of the next. The fever consists in the restless longing for re-election. There may possibly be some connection between the fact of a General selected and the probable voting of an army for the next presidentship. If this be so; if the supposed influence of officer over man be so great, an unskilful commander may gratify Mr. Lincoln's four summers of vanity at the cost of some two million men. Of these a goodly number may average from six to twelve months in hospital; and charity will have to bridge over that terrible river of Time which never could be successfully forded by the exchequer of Mr. Chase. Perhaps, after all, the White House Fever may not be so deadly as alleged. No matter to the patient; to him it is a royal road to illness.

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