Saved family letters tell of war horrors, peacetime hopes and dreams
The Good Life|March 2021
Loving letters from long ago

This is what the doctor told him, he had a choice, amputate his leg or die.

He refused to let the old Sawbones cut off his leg and the doc told the nurse, take him into the dead tent.

As Smith Foreman lapsed back into unconsciousness he dreamed about what he could say to his family, what would his last words be? Would he be able to tell them that he loved them, that he did not want to die?

He was a young soldier from Pennsylvania fighting the Rebs in Virginia. It was 1862. Miraculously he lived and he wrote a letter to his sister that told an amazing tale.

A few weeks earlier he had been fighting Johnny Reb in a farmer’s field in northern Virginia. He was shot with some large bore rifle and it nearly took his right leg off.

He lay unconscious for hours and in the dusk, when the shooting had stopped and both sides were picking up their wounded, a big burly male nurse found him and loaded his bleeding body into a horse drawn wagon.

They bumped over rocky roads until they arrived at a hospital tent. There, the doctor, already exhausted from a day of cutting off shattered limbs and binding up wounds, told him it was amputate or die.

Smith was a young man of 20, he was a farmer and knew that without both legs he could never plow a field or shoe a horse, find a wife or support her. He would rather die.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine