"An Incident" is the third song of Rorem's War Scenes cycle, which sets five texts of Walt Whitman relating to his experiences of the Civil War.
[Note: The song only sets the third paragraph of the text.]
Photo: Brandy Station, Virginia (vicinity), Field hospital of 3rd Division, 2nd Army Corps, 1864, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Digital ID: cwpb 04091
by Walt Whitman
It is Sunday afternoon, middle of summer, hot and oppressive, and very silent through the ward. I am taking care of a critical case, now lying in a half lethargy. Near where I sit is a suffering rebel, from
the 8th Louisiana; his name is Irving. He has been here a long time, badly wounded, and lately had his leg amputated; it is not doing very well. Right opposite me is a sick soldier-boy, laid down with his
clothes on, sleeping, looking much wasted, his pallid face on his
arm. I see by the yellow trimming on his jacket that he is a cavalry
boy. I step softly over and find by his card that he is named William
Cone, of the 1st Maine cavalry, and his folks live in Skowhegan.
Ice Cream Treat. -- One hot day toward the middle of June, I gave
the inmates of Carver hospital a general ice cream treat, purchasing a
large quantity, and, under convoy of the doctor or head nurse, going
around personally through the wards to see to its distribution.
An Incident. -- In one of the fights before Atlanta, a rebel
soldier, of large size, evidently a young man, was mortally wounded
top of the head, so that the brains partially exuded. He lived three
days, lying on his back on the spot where he first dropt. He dug with
his heel in the ground during that time a hole big enough to put in a
couple of ordinary knapsacks. He just lay there in the open air, and
with little intermission kept his heel going night and day. Some of
our soldiers then moved him to a house, but he died in a few minutes.
Another. -- After the battles at Columbia, Tennessee, where we
repuls'd about a score of vehement rebel charges, they left a
great many wounded on the ground, mostly within our range. Whenever
any of these wounded attempted to move away by any means, generally by
crawling off, our men without exception brought them down by a
bullet. They let none crawl away, no matter what his condition.