Letter from Thomas McKean, from Washington, D.C., June 21, 1862

Washington D.C,
June 21st, 1862.

Dear Rachel – I have not written to you since last Sunday, chiefly because I had scarcely time enough to do it, and when I could have stolen time enough to do it, and when I could have stolen time enough, I felt too lazy. We are worked very hard now, because Congress is doing a good deal of business, and we are short of hands in the office. We try a great many hands, but either they give out, or they are not good enough printers to answer the purpose, and are discharged. My finger has troubled me a good deal this week, but I managed to get more done than last week. I enclosed five dollars. I suppose you get all the money I send. I have only missed sending one week since I commenced work, and that was last week.

I was a long time with Jim Henderson this afternoon. He had been getting along as well as possible until Thursday, when the principal artery in his arm ruptured, and he very nearly bled to death before they got it stopped. The surgeon happened to be in the ward, or it would have been all day with Jim. The Surgeon put a compress on the arm and left it on till yesterday when he took it off. This morning it commenced bleeding again, and the compress had to be applied again. I think it probable the artery will have to be taken up and tied. He bears up bravely against these discouragements. I wrote to his father on Thursday, and Jim wrote to him himself today.

He is pretty weak today, but he will soon get over that. I do not feel satisfied about the artery rupturing in the first place. It was not touched by the ball that wounded him, and how it should become involved now, when the wound is healing, is what I cannot understand. It may be nothing unusual; I am not a Surgeon enough to explain it satisfactorily. I can never see the Surgeon who attends him, or I would ask him.

Jim asked him this morning when he thought he would be able to get a discharge or furlough. He told him he would be able to rejoin his regiment and do duty in a few weeks. I do not think so. I do not think his arm will ever be strong enough to handle a musket, and besides I think he has done enough duty, and if it be possible to procure it, he shall have his discharge as soon as he is able to go home, which I think will be about the same time I go, perhaps before it. Congress may adjourn in three weeks. They are talking that way, but it is very uncertain. I had two letters from home this week from you, and one from Ellie and one from Will. He wrote me a very sensible letter. Tell him I will attend to what he spoke of. Ellie gave me a very good account of the storm she didn’t hear, but heard of. We have some sharp storms here. This day is very hot, but it is only about the third very hot day we have had yet. I want you to write to me as often as you can, whether I write or not. It does me good to hear from home.

I am sorry for Annie. Poor Girl; she has a hard time of it. It is enough for a man to do what she has to do, but it is more than a woman can do. Her brothers are a pair of heartless unprincipled scamps, or they would help her. I know that Will is a worthless, good for – nothing, but I thought Jim would have done some good. I must write to Annie this week. Give my love to all; and kisses to the children, especially to Sam and Virginia. I think much and often of you all at home; trying to imagine what you are all doing, especially in the evenings. I often forget while painting these mental pictures, that I am tired and sleepy.

Ever yours,