The Life of Florence Nightingale Volume I Part 25

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(_To Florence Nightingale._) [_Nov._ 16, 1855.] Please, my dear, acknowledge a print which the Queen sends you for the soldiers. She heard thro' Lady Augusta Bruce that you had asked for one of her for the "Inkerman Cafe "; and she accordingly sends you the one of the Duke of Wellington presenting May flowers to the little Prince Arthur his G.o.dson; which is very pretty of her, for it combines so many things. It is sent to you to do what you like with, so I have said you most likely will wish to have it at Balaclava for your Reading Room plans. We have been racking our brains to get together amusing things for your men.... To mitigate the science I have slipped in the Madonna of the Sedia; which, my love, is domestic, if you please, not Popish. The d.u.c.h.ess of Kent sends a capital lot of books; she has been so pleased to be of use.

Both in the Crimea and at Scutari Miss Nightingale carried on, as opportunity offered, what her sister laughingly called "the education of the British Army." But it was at Scutari, where she princ.i.p.ally stayed, that the effort took the largest scope. Outside the Barrack Hospital a building was bought by Sir Henry Storks, on behalf of the Government, to provide a reading-room and a school-room. The reading-room, opened in January 1856, was supplied by Miss Nightingale with books, prints, maps, games, and newspapers. The other room was used as a garrison school; two schoolmasters were sent out; and evening lectures and cla.s.ses were given. A second school was conducted in a hut between the two large hospitals at Scutari.[194] For the convalescents, Miss Nightingale had at an earlier date established reading-huts in the Barrack Hospital, furnis.h.i.+ng them with books, newspapers, writing materials, prints, and games. In all the reading-huts the men attended numerously and constantly, their behaviour when there being, Miss Nightingale added, uniformly quiet and well-bred. The good manners, no less than the uncomplaining heroism of the common soldier, made an indelible impression upon the Lady-in-Chief.

[194] I take these particulars from a Memorandum, found among Miss Nightingale's papers, by the Rev. J. E. Sabin, Senior Chaplain at Scutari.

It was out of her experiences in the Crimean War that grew her love for the British soldier, to whose health, care, and comfort, at home and in India, she was to devote many years of her long life. In extreme old age, when failing powers were not equally alert to every call, she would sometimes, I have been told, show listlessness if her companion talked of nurses or nursing, but the old light would ever come into her eye, and the faltering mind would instantly stand at attention, upon the slightest reference to the British soldier.

CHAPTER XII

TO THE CRIMEA AGAIN

(September 1855-July 1856)

I am ready to stand out the War with any man.--FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE (Nov. 4, 1855).

On September 8, 1855, Sebastopol fell, after a.s.saults, as every one remembers, which had filled the British cemeteries and hospitals. Miss Nightingale's time from this date to the end of the war was divided between the Crimea and Scutari. On October 9, 1855, she left Scutari for Balaclava, and she remained in the Crimea till the end of November, when she hurried back to Scutari on hearing of a serious outbreak of cholera in the Barrack Hospital at that place. On Good Friday, 1856 (March 21), she again left Scutari for Balaclava, in consequence of an urgent appeal from the hospitals of the Land Transport Corps, and she remained there till the beginning of July. She left Scutari for England on July 28.

Miss Nightingale's work during her second and third visits to the Crimea (of two months in 1855, and of three in 1856) was the most arduous, and in some respects the most worrying, of all her labours in the East. The distances between the several Crimean hospitals, enumerated in an earlier chapter (p. 254), were great; how bad were the roads is known to every one who has read anything about the Crimean War; and Miss Nightingale experienced much of the rigour of a Crimean winter. "The extraordinary exertions she imposed upon herself would have been perfectly incredible," wrote M. Soyer, "if they had not been witnessed by many. I can vouch for the fact, having frequently accompanied her to the [Castle] Hospital as well as to the Monastery. The return from these places at night was a very dangerous experience, as the road led across a very uneven country. It was still more perilous when snow was upon the ground. I have seen her stand for hours at the top of a bleak rocky mountain near the Hospital, giving her instructions while the snow was falling heavily." She had for some years been somewhat subject to rheumatism, and in the Crimea she was at times tortured by sciatica. But she was "acclimatised," she said, and was strong to endure. Sometimes she spent long days in the saddle. At other times she drove in a rough cart. Her first conveyance was a cart--drawn by a mule and driven, adds the lively Soyer, by a donkey; and she suffered a nasty upset in it.

Colonel McMurdo, Commandant of the Land Transport Corps,[195] then kindly gave her the best vehicle procurable. It has been dignified by the name of "Miss Nightingale's Carriage," but was, in fact, a hooded baggage-car without springs.[196] Some time later M. Soyer identified the vehicle among other "Crimean effects" which were on sale at Southampton. It was shown at the Victorian Era Exhibition forty years later,[197] and is still preserved at Lea Hurst.

[195] Sir William Montagu Scott McMurdo (1819-94); K.C.B. 1881. Miss Nightingale had a very high opinion of his services in the Crimea, and Sidney Herbert appointed him Inspector-General of the Volunteers (see Miss Nightingale's Letter on the Volunteers, 1861).

[196] A woodcut of it appeared in the _Ill.u.s.trated London News_, August 30, 1856.

[197] See Vol. II. p. 409.

In this hooded vehicle, or on horseback, or if the roads were very bad on foot, Miss Nightingale made her rounds in all weathers, her headquarters being sometimes at the General and sometimes at the Castle Hospital. She never presumed on her s.e.x to save herself trouble or fatigue at the expense of others. She was now without Mr. Bracebridge's a.s.sistance, but she found that the absence of a civilian go-between was no disadvantage. "A woman," she said, "obtains from military courtesy (if she does not shock either their habits of business or their caste prejudices) what a man who pitted the civilian against the military effectually hindered." She superintended the nursing in all the hospitals under her orders. Of the hospital huts on the Genoese Heights, there is a vivid picture in Lady Hornby's _Travels_. "The first day of our arrival," she wrote, May 1856, "we took a long ramble on the heights of Balaclava, by the old Genoese castle. On one side is a solitary and magnificent view of sea and cliffs; but pa.s.s a sharp and lofty turning, and the crowded port beneath, and all the active military movements, are instantly before your eyes. Higher up we came to Miss Nightingale's hospital huts, built of long planks, and adorned with neatly bordering flowers. The sea was glistening before us, and as we lingered to admire the fine view, one of the nurses, a kind, motherly-looking woman, came into the little porch, and invited us to enter and rest. A wooden stool was kindly offered to us by another and younger Sister. On the large deal table was a simple pot of wild flowers, so beautifully arranged, they instantly struck my eye. How charming the little deal house appeared to me, with its perfect cleanliness, its glorious view, and the health, contentment, and usefulness of its inmates! How respectable their few wants seemed; how suited their simple dress to the stern realities, as well as to the charities of life, and how fearlessly they reposed on the care and love of G.o.d in that lonely place, far away from all their friends; how earnestly they admired and tended the few spring flowers of a strange land,[198] these brave, quiet women, who had witnessed and helped to relieve so much suffering! This was the pleasantest visit I ever made. Miss Nightingale had been there but a few days before, and this deal room and stool were hers."[199] Miss Nightingale established reading-rooms, bored for water to improve the supply near the hospitals, had the huts covered with felt for protection against the winter, and brought her extra-diet kitchens, with M. Soyer's good help, into full efficiency. In her absence the work had met with many difficulties from the supineness or hostility of officials towards what some regarded as her fads, and others as her interference. "In April," she wrote to Mrs. Herbert from the Castle Hospital (Nov. 17, 1855), "I undertook this Hospital, and from that time to this we cooked all the Extra Diet for 500 to 600 patients, and the _whole_ diet for all the wounded officers by ourselves in a shed; and though I sent up a French cook in July to whom I gave 100 a year, I could not get an Extra Diet Kitchen built, promised me in May, till I came up this time to do it myself in October. During the whole of this time, every egg, every bit of b.u.t.ter, jelly, ale, and Eau de Cologne which the sick officers have had has been provided out of Mrs. Samuel Smith's or my private pocket. On Nov. 4 I opened my Extra Diet Kitchen."

[198] For another reference to the Crimean flowers, see below, p. 450.

[199] _Hornby_, pp. 306-7.

II

Miss Nightingale's work in the Crimea was attended by ceaseless worry.

She had to fight her way into full authority. She knew that she would win, but her enemies were active, and were for the moment in possession of the field. "There is not an official," she said, "who would not burn me like Joan of Arc if he could, but they know that the War Office cannot turn me out because the country is with me." She was beset with jealousies in the Crimea, both in military and in medical quarters; and to make matters worse, religious, and even racial animosities mixed themselves up in the disputes. Lord Raglan, who believed in her and always supported her, was now dead; and by some strange omission, the instructions which had been sent to him from London at the time of her original appointment were unknown to his successors in the command. The words in the _published_ instructions--"in Turkey"--gave a sort of technical excuse (as already mentioned) to jealous officials for regarding Miss Nightingale as an interloper in the Crimea. The point, however, had no substance; for there was a female nursing establishment already in the Crimea, which had received no separate or independent instructions, and which was yet supported by Government. By what authority could it be there, except as delegated from the Lady Superintendent in Chief? But the intrusion of Miss Nightingale was, I suppose, resented by some military officers the more at Balaclava than at Scutari, in proportion as the scene was nearer to the front; how keen the resentment was, we have heard from Colonel Sterling. And as Headquarters were unsympathetic also, Miss Nightingale had an uphill task. "We get things done all the same," she wrote to Mrs. Herbert, "only a little more slowly. When we have support at Headquarters matters advance faster, that is all. The real grievance against us is that, though subordinate to the Medical Chiefs in Office, we are superior to them in influence and in the chance of being heard at home. It is an anomaly, but so is war in England." There had been in England no due provision for all the needs of the war. Miss Nightingale, seeing things that needed to be done, preferred to get them done by anomalous means rather than that by rule they should not be done at all.

That her a.n.a.lysis of the situation correctly explains the jealousy and opposition of the Medical Chiefs in Office may be gathered from their correspondence. The personal situation in the Crimea had not been eased by the statements of Mr. Bracebridge, already mentioned (p. 213). On his return home, he had not only extolled Miss Nightingale, but had made severe strictures upon the whole medical service in the East. His speech, delivered at a public meeting, was reported very fully in the _Times_ (Oct. 16, 1855). Miss Nightingale was doubtless suspected of complicity in this attack; but in fact she was innocent, and she was quite as angry as were the doctors when she saw the report. Mr.

Bracebridge was her friend, but truth and expediency were greater friends; and she proceeded to give Mr. Bracebridge a trenchant piece of her mind (Nov. 4). She objected to his speech: "_First_, because it is not our business, and I have expressly denied being a medical officer, and rejected all applications both of medical men and quacks to have their systems examined[200]; _secondly_, because it justifies all the attacks made against us for unwarrantable interference and criticism; and, _thirdly_, because I believe it to be utterly unfair." And she proceeded in much detail to defend the doctors against Mr. Bracebridge's aspersions. His indiscretion doubtless raised prejudice in medical quarters against Miss Nightingale; but there were other and deeper causes at work. Dr. Hall, the Princ.i.p.al Medical Officer in the Crimea, was, in some sort, the person most responsible, individually, for the state of things which had stirred so much outcry in England; and Mr.

Sidney Herbert at a very early stage had put his finger on Dr. Hall's touchy spot. "I cannot help feeling," he had written to Lord Raglan in December 1854, "that Dr. Hall resents offers of a.s.sistance as being slurs on his preparations."[201] Dr. Hall wrote fiercely about "a system of detraction against our establishments kept up by interested parties under the garb of philanthropy." Some became detractors, he went on, "to make their mission of importance, and they wish the world to believe that all the ameliorations in our inst.i.tutions are entirely owing to their own exertions or those of a few nurses; and I am sorry to say some of our own department have pandered to this, and have been rewarded for it." Miss Nightingale's remark upon this tirade was characteristic: "One is tempted to ask, have no others been rewarded who have nothing to show for the result of this same boasted hospital system, but the wreck of an Army, which they did not advise even the most ordinary precautions (as to diet and clothing) to prevent, and the graves at Scutari."[202] To me, after much reading of the doc.u.ments, it seems that Dr. Hall was the victim of a false position. He had been appointed Medical Inspector-General in the Crimea when he was still in India, and he did not arrive on the scene in time to think out the preparations properly.

Miss Nightingale never allowed personal feeling to affect the impartiality of her judgments. Dr. Hall disputed her authority and resented her interference. She fought him, and in the end she beat him; but there are pa.s.sages in her letters which bear testimony to his good services and high capacity in many respects. Nor were their personal relations unfriendly; but she saw in him throughout an antagonist influence. The Deputy Purveyor-in-Chief, Mr. David Fitz-Gerald, regarded her coming to the Crimea with equal, or greater, suspicion and dislike, and he sent home to the War Office a Confidential Report, criticizing the female nursing establishment, and making out an argumentative case against the desirability of sanctioning Miss Nightingale's claim to be the Lady Superior of the Crimean nurses. Miss Nightingale had been shown these reports by a friend, and she was angry at what she considered a campaign of secret hostility against her.

[200] There are applications of the kind among Miss Nightingale's papers.

[201] _Stanmore_, vol. i. p. 369.

[202] _Notes_, vol. i. sec. i. pp. xxiv.-v. In a private letter Miss Nightingale's irony was more bitter. "K.C.B." meant, she supposed, Knight of the Crimean Burial-grounds."

To add to the mischief, the professional difficulty (as I may call it) became entangled with the religious difficulty. Some of the nuns who had previously been a.s.signed to the hospitals at Koulali, proceeded in October 1855, at Dr. Hall's instance, to the General Hospital at Balaclava. This was naturally regarded by Miss Nightingale as an act of usurpation upon her authority; it gave an undue proportion of Roman Catholics to a particular hospital; and, moreover, she did not consider these particular ladies, or their Reverend Mother, Mrs. Bridgeman, wholly efficient. They were most devoted and self-sacrificing, and their spiritual ministrations were admirable, but as nurses and administrators she thought less highly of them. Mr. Fitz-Gerald, on the other hand, was strongly prepossessed, as independent observers thought, in their favour. As ill-luck would have it, these ladies were for the most part Irish, and the matter was made to a.s.sume the aspect of a racial-religious feud. People who could not understand Miss Nightingale's single-minded devotion to efficient and business-like administration supposed that she was actuated by prejudice. Dr. Hall was not moved by any such suspicion; but the ladies, whom Miss Nightingale regarded as not among the more efficient of her staff of nurses, were his nominees, and he strongly backed them. There was a somewhat similar dispute about another transference of nurses in the Crimea made without Miss Nightingale's sanction; and some of the women, taking their cue from their superiors, were inclined to question and flout her authority.

"I don't know what she wants here," said one, when the Lady Superintendent appeared on the scene.[203]

[203] _The Autobiography of a Balaclava Nurse_, vol. ii. p. 163.

III

All this controversy raised Miss Nightingale's vexation to white heat.

On January 7, 1856, she wrote an official letter to the War Office, complaining of the encroachment on her department by the Medical Officer. In semi-private letters to Mr. Sidney Herbert (Feb. 20, 21, 1856) she formulated her grievances. Dr. Hall was "attempting to root her out of the Crimea." Other officials were traducing her behind her back. The War Office was not adequately supporting her. "It is profuse,"

she said, "in tinsel and empty praise which I do not want, and does not give me the real business-like efficient standing which I do want." She begged Mr. Herbert to move in the House of Commons for the production of correspondence, so that the public might be able to judge between her and those who were traducing her, and striving to thwart her work. Mr.

Herbert, in a reply[204] marked alike by good sense and good feeling, ventured "to criticize and to scold" his friend. "You have been overdone," he said, "with your long, anxious, hara.s.sing work. You see jealousies and meannesses all round you. You hear of one-sided, unfair, and unjust reports made of your proceedings and of those under you. But you over-rate their importance, you attribute too much motive to them, and you write upon them with an irritation and vehemence which detracts very much from the weight which would attach to what you say." There are letters to show that this was the opinion also of the more sagacious among Miss Nightingale's nearest friends. To move for papers would, Mr.

Herbert added, be very injudicious. There was no public attack, and the publication of papers would call needless attention to disputes. The answers to her critics, which she had sent home, appeared to Mr. Herbert to be complete, and he understood that the War Office so considered them. Moreover the Secretary of State was about to issue orders which would clear up Miss Nightingale's position once and for all. And her own letters, though conclusive as to the facts, had in their tone done herself "less than justice."

[204] Printed _in extenso_ in _Stanmore_, vol. i. pp. 416-420.

All this was excellent advice, and Miss Nightingale took it in good part, but not, in a phrase now sanctioned in high politics, "lying down." She replied at great length and with full vigour. The gist of her letter was that it was easy to be calm and "statesmanlike" at a distance, but difficult not to be angry and downright when you were on the spot finding your work for the sick and wounded hampered at every turn. She had been criticized, among other things, for interference in the Purveyor's sphere. Her reply to Mr. Herbert on this point is decidedly effective, and incidentally throws light on the hardness of her life in the Crimea. Happily, she said, she had brought with her adequate supplies for herself and her staff. If she had not, they would have been in danger of starvation:--

(_Miss Nightingale to Sidney Herbert._) CRIMEA, _April_ 4 [1856]. I arrived here March 24 with Nurses for the two Land Transport Hospitals required by Dr. Hall in writing on March 10.[205] We have now been ten days without rations. Lord Cardigan was surprised to find his horses die at the end of a fortnight because they were without rations, and said that they "chose" to do it, obstinate brutes! The Inspector-General and Purveyors wish to see whether women can live as long as horses without rations. I thank G.o.d my charge has felt neither cold nor hunger (and is in efficient working order, having cooked and administered in both Hospitals the whole of the extras for 260 bad cases ever since the first day of their arrival). I have, however, felt both. I do not wish to make a martyr of myself; within sight of the graves of the Crimean Army of last winter (too soon forgotten in England), it would be difficult to do so. I am glad to have had the experience. For cold and hunger wonderfully sharpen the wits.... During these ten days I have fed and warmed these women at my own private expense by my own private exertions. I have never been off my horse till 9 or 10 at night, except when it was too dark to walk home over these crags even with a lantern, when I have gone on foot. During the greater part of the day I have been without food necessarily, except a little brandy and water (you see I am taking to drinking like my comrades of the Army). But the object of my coming has been attained, and my women have neither starved nor suffered.

[205] The letter is printed in _Hall_, p. 451.

The memory of the petty persecution to which she was subjected by hostile and jealous officials in the Crimea never faded from Miss Nightingale's mind. A reference to it will be found in a much later chapter,[206] and she often mentioned it in her notes and letters. But, though she fought the officials hard, she never showed temper in public, and she did not allow either the obstruction itself or her vexation at it to impede her work. She had come to the Crimea prepared, and her private stores sufficed to feed her staff till official obstruction was removed; whilst as for her vexation, she was careful not to show it lest her work should suffer.

[206] Vol. II. p. 195.

Meanwhile a dispatch was already on its way from the War Department, which gave to Miss Nightingale the full support for which she had asked.

The dispatch was not settled, however, without a stiff fight against it by subordinates at the War Office, who sided with Sir John Hall and Mr.

Fitz-Gerald. The curious in such matters may consult the minutes and counter-minutes upon Miss Nightingale's letter of protest preserved in the archives of the War Office. Lord Panmure, however, took her view.

Even when the lines of the dispatch were settled in accordance with his instructions, protests were still made against a policy which, in supporting Miss Nightingale, would censure Dr. Hall, but the Minister was not moved. He had already, on November 5, 1855, written to Miss Nightingale herself, stating that Mrs. Bridgeman was not justified in acting as she had done.[207] He now, on February 25, 1856, wrote to the Commander of the Forces directing that Dr. Hall's attention should be called to the irregularity of his proceeding in introducing nurses into a Hospital without previous communication with Miss Nightingale, and that the following statement should be issued:--

The Secretary of State for War has addressed the following dispatch to the Commander of the Forces, with a desire that it should be promulgated in General Orders: "It appears to me that the Medical Authorities of the Army do not correctly comprehend Miss Nightingale's position as it has been officially recognized by me.

I therefore think it right to state to you briefly for their guidance, as well as for the information of the Army, what the position of that excellent lady is. Miss Nightingale is recognized by Her Majesty's Government as the General Superintendent of the Female Nursing Establishment of the military hospitals of the Army.

No lady, or sister, or nurse is to be transferred from one hospital to another, or introduced into any hospital, without consultation with her. Her instructions, however, require to have the approval of the Princ.i.p.al Medical Officer in the exercise of the responsibility thus vested in her. The Princ.i.p.al Medical Officer will communicate with Miss Nightingale upon all subjects connected with the Female Nursing Establishment, and will give his directions through that lady."[208]

[207] See _Hall_, p. 438.

[208] _Hall_, p. 450. The text of the General Order as issued on March 16 was printed in the _Times_ of April 1, 1856.

Miss Nightingale's strong feeling in this matter was not caused, as a hasty, prejudiced, or uncharitable judgment might suggest, by wounded _amour propre_. It was based on the conviction which experience had given her, that only by the strictest discipline exercised through properly const.i.tuted authority, could the experiment of female nursing in military hospitals be made successful. In the Confidential Reports which were sent to the War Office criticizing the experiment, advantage was taken of mistakes and misdeeds which Miss Nightingale felt that she might have prevented had she been armed earlier with explicit and plenary authority.[209]

[209] See on this subject her Report to the Secretary of State, _Subsidiary Notes_, pp. 1, 2.

Armed with this full authority, Miss Nightingale proceeded to make such transferences among the nurses as she deemed necessary in the cause of efficiency. She had no desire to remove Mrs. Bridgeman and the nuns; she was anxious only to make some reforms in their administration, as she would now have express authority to do; and she begged Mrs. Bridgeman to remain. Sir John Hall and the Deputy Purveyor-in-Chief, smarting under the War Office's edict, seem to have laid their heads together, and advised Mrs. Bridgeman to resign.[210] "It must rest with you to decide," wrote Sir John, "whether you wish to remain subservient to the control of Miss Nightingale or not." She and her Sisterhood, resigning forthwith (March 28), returned to England, and Miss Nightingale filled their places by others of the staff. In her retrospect of the whole campaign, she regarded the spring of 1856 in the Crimea as one of the three periods when her nurses gave the greatest proof of their utility.[211] There was then great sickness among the Land Transport Corps. The other two periods were on the arrival of the wounded from Inkerman at Scutari (p. 181), and "during the heavy summer work of nursing the wounded at Balaclava in 1855." There is, I think, no memorial of Miss Nightingale in the Crimea. But on the heights above Balaclava, visible from a great distance at sea, is a tall marble cross, erected to the memory of the heroic dead, "and to those Sisters of Charity who had fallen in their service." The words engraved upon it are, "Lord, have mercy upon us."[212]

The Life of Florence Nightingale Volume I Part 25

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