Anonymous.

Opium Eating online

. (page 3 of 9)
Online LibraryAnonymousOpium Eating → online text (page 3 of 9)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


take us on to Salisbury, whither they said we were bound, we laid
ourselves down to rest and sleep.

"Care-charmer, Sleep, son of the sable Night,
Brother to Death, in silent darkness born,
Relieve my anguish, and restore the light;
With dark forgetting of my care, return,
And let the day be time enough to mourn
The shipwreck of my ill-advised youth;
Let waking eyes suffice to wail their scorn,
Without the torments of the night's untruth.
Cease, dreams, the images of day desires,
To model forth the passions of to-morrow;
Never let the rising sun prove you liars,
To add more grief, to aggravate my sorrow;
Still let me sleep, embracing clouds in vain,
And never wake to feel the day's disdain."
DANIEL.

During the night we were awakened by a loud noise and hubbub, arising from
the announcement that an exchange of prisoners had been effected, and that
we were going straight back to Wilmington to be turned over to our men.
This we hardly dared believe. We had been deceived so often, that we could
scarcely credit the report. But trains being got ready, we were put aboard
and started for Wilmington, sure enough. Arrived at the city of happy
deliverance, and debarked from the cars, we lay in the wind and sun all
day upon the sand. Toward evening we observed a great flurry among the
Confederates, and we were suddenly got together, put upon the cars, and
started for Goldsboro' again; and thus ended this exchange _fiasco_.




CHAPTER V.

RETURN TO GOLDSBORO'. - DRUNK WITH FEVER. - TOO SICK TO WALK. - LEFT
BEHIND. - GOD BLESS THE LADIES OF GOLDSBORO'. - PERSONAL
EXPERIENCES. - NEGOTIATIONS FOR A FRIEND. - AN IMPROVISED
HOSPITAL. - SICK UNTO DEATH. - SEMI-CONSCIOUSNESS. - MORE KINDNESS FROM
THE LADIES OF GOLDSBORO'. - PAROLED. - PASSED INTO OUR LINES NEAR
WILMINGTON. - AT WILMINGTON IN THE HANDS OF THE BLUE COATS. - FRIEND
LOST. - STILL VERY SICK WITH FEVER. - DETERMINED TO GO NORTH. - EFFORTS
TO GET NORTH. - ON BOARD SHIP. - HO FOR ANNAPOLIS! - INCIDENTS OF THE
VOYAGE. - ANNAPOLIS.-GETTING BETTER. - STOMACH TROUBLE. - SENT TO
BALTIMORE. - FURLOUGHED HOME.


On reaching Goldsboro', after alighting from the cars, we marched out to
camp again. This last time it was all I could do to walk to the camp. I
was fairly blind with fever, and staggered from side to side, almost dumb
and insensible from prolonged suffering and exertion in sickness. While at
Wilmington the last time, and from that time on, I was far too sick to
look after myself much.

I reached the camp, however, and there remained until removed by other
force than my own. The next morning, after coming to this camp, the lot of
prisoners to which I belonged was removed to another camping-ground, some
distance away. I essayed to go along, but accomplished nothing but wild
staggering to and fro, and the little distance I gained I had to be
carried back over.

Excepting some care received by our sick from the Sisters of Charity while
we were at Charleston, Goldsboro' was the first place in the South where
Southern women manifested any sympathy for our deplorable condition. Here,
the last time we came, the ladies of Goldsboro', though the guards strove
to keep them back, burst through the lines, and came into our camp loaded
with baskets of provisions, which they distributed among the sick and most
needy.

On being carried back to the camp, after my futile attempt to follow my
comrades, I, among other sick, was loaded on a wagon and hauled to a large
brick building near Goldsboro'. Here we were taken out and carried in. I
had selected as a companion, on my way thither, a boy of about my own age
by the name of Orlando. I promised to share my blankets with him, if he
would stay with and take care of me. As he had no blanket, and I had two,
one having been left with me by a man that made his escape at Macon, Ga.,
Orlando gladly accepted my offer, and we bunked together accordingly. Here
I laid - I don't know how many days exactly, but several - sick unto death,
and expecting to die momentarily. I was very low and weak. My comrade was
stronger. I noticed he prayed, and as I found difficulty in praying to my
satisfaction, though I did pray, _in desire to pray_, continually, I asked
Orlando if he would not pray for me. He did so, and I did everything I
could for him that he would do this; gave him the most of what the ladies
gave me (we depended solely on the ladies of Goldsboro' for provisions),
as I was so sick that I did not want food. One day, I noticed more
commotion than usual in the house. Soon after, among the rest, I was
carried to the cars and taken by railroad to a steamboat-landing, not many
miles distant from Wilmington; here we were put on board of a boat, and
placed in the hands of men bearing the uniform of the United States; and
the moment which I had during all my captivity looked forward to as the
happiest of my life, was one of the darkest I have ever known!

At Wilmington we were put in ambulances and hauled to improvised
hospitals. The city had just been taken by our army, and our authorities
were not prepared for us. But thank God that we came, anyhow, though they
were unprepared. I lay in a brick building several days, without knowing
any one about me. In my blind and crazy fever, I had strayed away from
Orlando, I think. I sometimes staggered out to houses and asked for milk,
thinking that would do me great good. I saw I was not getting along very
well, and did not know how soon I might die.

One day, a man thrust his head in the door and cried out: "All those
wishing to go North had better get ready and go down to the wharf, as a
boat is going to leave to-day." This news went through me like
electricity. I remarked to the head nurse that I was going. "Yes," said
he, "you are a sweet-looking thing to start North." I was then one of the
sickest patients in that ward. I replied, determined to make the attempt,
cost what it would, "that I might as well die on the way North as die
here," and started. I staggered down the streets without knowing the
direction to the point I desired to reach. Weak, sick, and reduced almost
to a skeleton, I was a ghastly-looking spectacle. On I stumbled, asking
almost every person I met to inform me the way, and sometimes forgetting
their advice a moment afterwards. I finally reached the wharf, and there
sank down to rest under the blasting disappointment of being told that no
boat would leave that day. I saw soon after standing near me a member of a
Kentucky regiment, whom I knew. He told me where he was staying, and that
it was not far from where we then were. I immediately got up, and started
for the place. I was not at all particular where I stayed; one place
suited me as well as another.

I reached my friend's stopping-place, and was taken up on the second
floor. I remained here for a couple of hours, and was then given permanent
quarters higher up. Reaching the room assigned me, after resting some
time, I felt the vermin attack me as I had not done for many days. I
hailed it as a good omen; a sign of returning sensibility. I felt that I
was getting a little better. I fell to exterminating the peculiar pests
with all the strength I could command. I had not been engaged in this
occupation long before a physician protruded his head into my room, and
stated that there was a boat going North, and that all who were able could
go.

I at once spruced up my best, and told the doctor that I was ready to
start. He smiled as he looked at me, but, perceiving my great anxiety to
go, allowed me to undertake the voyage.

When I reached the wharf, I saw so many there expecting to go, that I knew
some must be left behind; that the boat could not take all of us. I knew
the habit of prisoners, and that there would be a general rush when the
hatchways of the boat were thrown open. So I placed myself as near one of
the hatchways as possible, and when it was opened, and the rush made, the
crowd of its own force lifted me from my feet and bore me into the boat.

After several days of foggy weather - the month was March - we arrived at
Annapolis, Md. During our voyage I could see that many of my companions
were eating too much, and feared the result. As for myself, I was still
too sick to eat anything. Perhaps this was fortunate for me. To have been
turned into our lines with the starvation appetite, I might have killed
myself by over-eating, as many others undoubtedly did. At Annapolis I was
carried on a stretcher from the boat to a hospital in one of the Naval
School buildings. Here I remained for a couple of weeks, and was then sent
with some others to Baltimore, having recovered sufficiently to be allowed
to undertake the journey.

On commencing to get better at Annapolis, I found my greatest trouble was
with my stomach. It seemed contracted into a space no larger than my fist,
and everything I ate seemed to irritate it; and I could apparently feel
the exact size of any meal I had eaten, as it lay deposited in my stomach.
Everything I took into my stomach seemed to weigh like lead, and
constantly bear down so hard, that it made me continually miserable and
unwell.

We stayed at Baltimore a few days, when our furloughs, which had been made
out at Annapolis, were handed to us, and we started for home - two months'
pay and our ration commutation money having been paid to us before we left
Annapolis.




CHAPTER VI.

AT HOME. - NOTHING BUT A SKELETON. - A GOOD IMITATION OF LAZARUS. - A
DIGRESSION UPON THE SUBJECT OF SLEEPLESSNESS. - A WELL-INTENDED FRAUD
ON A HOSPITAL NURSE. - RETURN OF SLEEP. - IMPROVEMENT IN
HEALTH. - STOMACH THE ONLY DIFFICULTY. - A YEAR PASSES. - STOMACH
WORSE. - CONSTANT HEADACHE. - MUCH DEBILITATED. - AWFUL
SUFFERING. - BODILY AGONY DEBILITATES THE MIND. - SUFFERINGS
INTOLERABLE. - PHYSICIANS AND REMEDIES TRIED WITHOUT AVAIL. - FORLORN
HOPE AND LAST RESORT. - BETTER. - DOUBTS AS TO TREATMENT. - SUSPICIONS
CONFIRMED. - UNCOMPLIMENTARY REMARKS CONCERNING AN M. D. - UNCOMFORTABLE
DISCOVERIES AND REFLECTIONS.


On getting home and taking an inventory of myself, I found that I was but
a skeleton. Sores and scars soon covered me from head to foot. Decent
living was driving the corruption engendered by prison life out of my
system. So much of this stuff appeared on my skin, that I cannot but think
it was a very fortunate thing for me that it did come out in this way; for
had it lingered in me, and waited some slower process, it seems to me I
surely must have died. I began to have natural sleep at night, also. This
is a feature in my experience to which I should have referred before. I
cannot remember that I had any sleep at Wilmington, unless when we first
arrived. I could sleep none on the trip North, and when we got to
Annapolis, I told the attending physician that I had not slept for a
month, - for so it seemed to me, - and that I wanted him to give me some
medicine that would induce sleep. To this he objected, averring, that
being tired and having a clean body and clean clothing, I would now sleep
soundly. But I did not sleep at all, and the day following I was almost
distracted from the loss of much-needed sleep and rest. I so informed the
doctor, and he had a draught prepared for me; this sent me into a very
sweet sleep the succeeding night, and I awoke the next morning much
refreshed indeed. The ensuing night was sleepless again, the physician
refusing to prescribe anything for me. On the following night he did,
however, and I enjoyed another night's invigorating slumber and
recuperative rest.

With what felicity of expression and justice of observation the universal
Bard bodies forth the heavenly virtues of this ever-renewing well-spring
of life and health:

"Innocent sleep;
Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleeve of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labor's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast."

Since I suffered my great experience, I have had an inexpressible relish
of appreciation for the peculiar sweetness, simple truth, and inspiring
beauty of this rare gem of genuine poetry.

I could see that the doctor thought the medicine would be hurtful to me if
taken every night, and for that reason allowed me to have it only every
alternate night.

I felt that the sleep would, even with taking it, much more than
counterbalance all evil effects that would likely arise from the medicine,
and I determined to procure it if possible.

It was the custom of the doctor to prescribe his medicines, and leave the
prescriptions with the head nurse of each ward, who would go at a certain
time to the dispensary and get them filled. In cases where the same
medicines were prescribed each day, the same phials were used.

The phial which had been used for me I noticed still remained after the
physician had prescribed for our ward, one morning, without giving me
anything, and had gone; so when the hour for going after medicine came
around, I informed the head nurse that the doctor had prescribed my
draught for me as a general thing; that I was to have it every night, and
that he must not fail to get it for me. I startled the fellow; he looked
astonished.

"Why," said he, "I didn't hear him say anything about it. I guess not,"
etc.

"Yes, he did, though; I heard him," I replied; "and I want you to get it
without fail."

The stratagem was successful, and the duped nurse brought the medicine
regularly every day, and the result was that I slept every night, owing to
the kindness of the medicine, and my health began to improve from that
time; and I may say I noticed no injurious consequences or effects of the
medicine.

On arriving home, I told my mother of my inability to sleep. The first
night on my arrival home I did not, because, arriving in the night, I
could get no medicine; but the next day I spoke to my mother about the
matter, as I have stated, and she procured me some medicine. This I took
for a short time, when I discontinued it without any difficulty. I found
that I needed it no longer.

After this, for some time, my main and only trouble was with my stomach.
Although I had a good appetite, and was so hungry in _my mind_ that I
could not see victuals removed from the table, or scarcely a bone thrown
away, without feeling pained at the loss; I could not eat very much, as my
stomach seemed so diminutive that it would contain but a small quantity,
and what I did take into it seemed to turn to lead within me, or rather
into a pound of tenpenny nails, determined to cut and grind its way to the
outside. That is, it did not sour; my food digested (slowly and
painfully), but from some cause it hurt me continually. I gradually became
able to eat more; grew somewhat fleshy, and looked well; but my stomach
hurt me, nevertheless, _all the time_.

I did not apply for a pension within a reasonable time after coming home,
because my mother thought I was young, and would soon recover my health.

Alas! never was prophecy so contradicted or hope so defeated. For a year I
suffered from my stomach, keeping wonderfully well up in strength. At the
end of a year or more, I became afflicted with constant headache, viz.,
about 9 o'clock A. M., the headache would come on and continue during the
day. From the time I was liberated from Southern prisons (and in fact long
before I was released), up to the setting in of the daily headache, I had
been occasionally afflicted with it. Now, headache became one of the most
direful curses. From this time forward, for a year or more, I was on the
down-hill road. My stomach was much worse than ever, and my headache
became worse in proportion with my stomach. My body was very much
debilitated; I suffered fearfully, wretchedly. From the ravages made on my
entire physical system by constant headaches, and the terrible agonies and
torments of my stomach, my mind became debilitated. In my extremity, I
cried to God, and asked him why He so afflicted me! My sufferings were so
intolerable and continuous, that my face became the reflected image of
agony. My mother, God bless her! who could not conceive the uncommon
suffering I was enduring, and imagining that I might have some trouble on
my mind, begged me, in alarm, not to look so pain-stricken; that persons
were noticing the appalling expression of my countenance.

The reader will please remember that I was making my own living, during
all this time, as a clerk. I tried different physicians and remedies
without avail. Nothing seemed to benefit me, and I quit trying. At last a
physician in the town where I resided, in whom I had but little
confidence, and who for six months past had been endeavoring to get my
consent to allow him to treat my case, induced me to place myself under
his professional care. None of the rest had benefited me, and he could but
fail, and might do me some good. I would die if there were not a change
soon, and I could but do this at the worst under his treatment. Besides, I
wanted present relief from the most distracting pain. I was suffering
daily torment and torture, with a body weak and wasted, and a constitution
whose resisting power, before persistent and repeated assaults, had at
last given way; my mind was become greatly impaired, and my spirits had
sunk into a black midnight of despair.

"'Tis no time now to stickle over means and remedies; let him cure me who
can, or let me die if I must," I thought. Nevertheless, in going into this
physician's office, I emphatically charged him not to administer to me any
opium or morphia, as I had a horror of such things.

I perceived that he was going to use, in my case, what was a new
instrument in the practice there at that time, viz., the hypodermic
syringe. "Oh, have no fear," he replied, holding up at the same time a
phial of clear and colorless fluid; "this is no opium or morphia; it is
one of the simplest and most harmless things in the world; but it is a
secret, and no one in the town knows anything about it except myself." On
this assurance, I allowed him to inject a dose into my arm. This first
dose was too large, and nearly killed me or scared me to death, and I
determined not to go back to him again. And I would have adhered to my
determination, had he not accosted me at a hotel, about two weeks
thereafter, and asked me why I had remained away; and on my telling him
the reason, he entreated me to come back, saying, that as soon as he had
ascertained the right dose for me, he would certainly cure me. God in
heaven knows I wanted to be cured, and reasonably. I recommenced taking
the injections then, and allowed him full liberty to do what he could for
me.

Contemporaneously with the injections, though not by prescription from
this physician, but with his approval, I commenced taking carbonate of
iron.

This preparation of iron had been prescribed by another physician for one
of my sisters, who was suffering from neuralgia, and with good results; so
I thought it might probably have a beneficial effect in the case of my
headache and the generally debilitated condition of my system. I took
about one or two injections a week; sometimes, perhaps, I may have taken
one or two more. The number was varied by the frequency or infrequency of
the severer headaches. I did not go every day. I had headache every day,
but only submitted to the injection when it manifested itself more
severely than usual. The iron I took three times a day after meals. I thus
particularly notice the iron, because it had considerable to do in forming
an estimation of the results of this doctor's treatment, which I made at a
certain time. I continued the hypodermical treatment, taking about the
same number of injections for a couple of months, when I found myself
getting better, and in a much more substantial condition of health than I
had been for many a long day, or even year.

I felt, indeed, better; but I observed one peculiarity in my case that was
not comforting. It raised my suspicions, not having unlimited confidence
in my physician. But should my suspicions turn out well founded, I argued,
the great improvement in my health has justified my treatment, and I
cannot see yet that I am in any danger. Let me go on a little while
longer, until my health becomes permanently established, and then I will
drop this doctor and his treatment. I found that the taking of my medicine
had settled down into something like regularity, and when the time came
around that I was restless, lacking spirit, and unable to do anything to
any purpose till I had an injection.

Had such not been the case, everything would have been revealed at first,
and the terrible consequences averted; but, as it was, any suspicion of
the effect of the medicine - that is, immediate effect or _influence_ - had
been forestalled in my mind by my having read, previous to this treatment,
that there were other drugs of similar effect; but when I noticed the
unmistakable evidences of the habit forming, I was troubled about it.

My fears were confirmed some time after by my coming in upon the doctor
whilst he was preparing the solution, and thus detecting him. I exclaimed:
"Ah ha, doctor, you have been giving me morphia." "Yes," he replied, "a
little; but the main part was _cannabis indicus_" (Indian hemp). I don't
know that he ever gave me a particle of _cannabis indicus_, for I know
that some time after, and from _that_ period on, he did not disguise the
fact that he was giving me the unadulterated sulphate of morphia. The
doctor soon found he had an elephant on his hands, - saw that I was in the
habit; became tired of my regular calls for hypodermical injections, and
endeavored to shake me off. After giving him fully to understand his
culpability in the matter, we parted.

Knowing, then, that I was simply an opium eater, I purchased my own
morphia at the drug-stores, and took it per mouth instead of by a
hypodermic syringe. Thus was I, as the notorious fly, invited into the
parlor of the deceitful spider, and met with something like the same sad
fate. Tripped up by an ignoramus who had hung about me for six months to
allow him to treat my case; who had brought me medicine which I threw
behind my desk, and never tasted; who had told me he had "taken a fancy to
me;" who used every persuasive art within his command to get me to his
office, and under his professional care, only for the purpose of giving me
bare morphia by way of a syringe! - while I, well duped and deceived, gave
his treatment all the credit which the iron I was taking should have
received for building up my broken-down health.

His treatment in _conjunction_ with the iron did me good; the morphia
killed the pain, and the iron built me up; one might not have done without
the other. I might have died but for the opium; but this fact does not
exonerate this blundering and perjured empiricist from the charge of
malpractice. He did my case, as he had done others before, and no doubt
has done many since, and will go on doing until Divine Justice calls him
to account, and sinks his abhorred countenance out of the sight of man. I
soon realized that I had experienced all the good results to be obtained
from the treatment, and that to go on longer would be injurious. So I
endeavored to discontinue the morphia, but found myself in the fangs of a
monster more terrible than the Hydra of Lake Lerna, and whose protean
powers it is not man's to know till it is too late to escape.

I discovered that the power to fight and overcome great obstacles in this
life, and which had always served me in my struggles theretofore, and
which I relied upon then, was the very first thing destroyed by the enemy,
namely, the will. Here I was, then, an opium eater. The outward effects
and injurious properties of the drug soon made themselves manifest: what
was I to do? Quit it, some may say; but no one well posted upon the opium
habit would use those words, so hard and feelingless. A reply like this, I
think, would betray more wisdom and humanity: "Your case is wellnigh
hopeless; I can give you no encouragement whatever; do your utmost to
release yourself from the unhappy predicament in which you have been
placed; and may God help you, for I fear you will need other help beside
your own."

"What then? What rests?
Try what repentance can: what can it not?
Yet what can it, when one cannot repent?
Oh, wretched state!"




CHAPTER VII.

THE WAR BEGINS. - STRUGGLES TO RENOUNCE OPIUM. - PHYSICAL PHENOMENA


1 3 5 6 7 8 9

Online LibraryAnonymousOpium Eating → online text (page 3 of 9)