Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Saturday. Sept. 24, 1864

Brother William came & brought us a dispatch from Rufus saying “Operation successfully performed.  A fearful ordeal.  Ephe all right” --  Dr. Shipman and his wife called this evening to inquire after the Major, she said she thought him one of the handsomest men she ever saw.  Both spoke of him in the highest terms of praise.
Just before bed time Rufus & Mary came in, he having come up from Cincinnati today.
He says that Dr. Blackman considers the operation a great success, but that it was a more extensive & terrible one than we at all expected.  For himself, he would rather fight his twenty battles over again, than to go through the scenes of last Thursday ----  Through it all Eph bore himself like a hero, showing endurance & self-control that was wonderful.  Dr. Blackman had invited a large number of the Physicians of Cincinnati to be present.  --  One of them told Rufus “that a man who could endure what Major Dawes had that day would bear burning at the stake.”  --- He was an hour and thirty minutes under the Surgeons knife.  Ephraim was wounded at Dallas, Georgia, on the 25” of May, by a minnie ball which carried away his chin and the front part of the lower jaw, making a most ghastly wound.  The flesh had healed before the operation.  Rufus tried to make us understand how the surgeon supplied a lower lip, by first cutting from the corner of the mouth back to the angle of the cheek on each side, then just below where the under lip should begin, cutting again, running back toward the ear, thus separating a strip about one inch wide, but which was still attached to the cheek near the ear -- these two strips were brought forward , a most painful operation, (the Doctor pulling and stretching them with all his strength) until they met and were sewed together over a set of under teeth.  Then long pins were run through this strip from the upper part of the cheek to that below and secured by winding threads about the ends back & forth.  This occasioned too much fullness of the upper lip & a gore on each side was cut out & then sewed up.  Then the flesh of the chin was cut and adjusted.
He lay upon the table unbound, the attendants simply holding his hands.  His self possession was remarkable obeying every direction of the operator, turning his head &c. &c. until the loss of blood and pain exhausted him.
Rufus held his hand during a part of the operation he said at first the convulsive movement of the muscles as the incisions were made were like the throes of a giant, but near the close only a quiver ran through his frame.  It is terrible to think what his sufferings must have been, and yet such was his heroic endurance that he showed no sign of his agony by groan or outcry!
After it was over, & some stimulants administered he walked up stairs to his room.  I tremble when I think how near this has brought him to the gates of Death, and feel truly thankful for his spared life -- may it be a good and honorable one.

Lucy will stay with him until he can be safely left in the hands of strangers.  William Jackson the colored boy who was Rufus’ Servant through the war, is to be sent to Cincinnati Monday to wait on Eph at the officers Hospital.

Ephraim Cutler Dawes
After his surgery

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