For three long years, Dr. William Child, a young country doctor from Bath, New Hampshire, served as a surgeon with the Fifth New Hampshire Volunteers, which shed more blood during the American Civil War than any other Union regiment. From Antietam, to bloody Fredericksburg, to Chancellorsville, Dr. Child witnessed the carnage and tended to the wounded. He was at Gettysburg, where the regiment’s gallant Col.
Edward Cross fell, and Cold Harbour, Virginia, and finally, at the end, inside Ford’s Theatre itself on April 14, 1865, where he was an eyewitness to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Through it all, Child dwrote heartfelt letters to his wife, Carrie, pouring out his angst and his loneliness as he described unforgettable scenes of war and the emotions they evoked.
“To see or feel that a power is in existence that can and will hurl masses of men against each other in deadly conflict – slaying each other by the thousands – mangling and deforming their fellow men – is almost impossible. But it is so – and why we cannot know,” Dr. Child wrote after the battle of Antietam in 1862.
In Letters From A Civil War Surgeon, Child’s war vividly comes to life in the more than 150 letters he wrote from 1862 to 1865. —from the foreward by Bob Zeller, author of The Civil War in Depth