Unhappy Soul


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My enlistment came to an end in January 1865 and I was discharged from the army. I returned to the North with my wife. Four months later, General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Confederate Army on April 9, 1865. I was so upset to hear that less than a week after the Confederate Army surrendered, John Wilkes Booth assassinated my hero, President Abraham Lincoln. Emma and I joined thousands of other mourners who gathered outside the Chicago railroad station, waiting for the funeral train that was bringing the President’s body home to Springfield, Illinois, so that we could pay our respects. The war was over, my hero had been assassinated and I was left with wounds far more painful than the loss of my arm, and much deeper than anyone could see.

The hospital in which I stayed after I lost my arm was crowded and dirty, and my doctors did not know how important it was to wash their hands and sterilize their medical utensils in order to prevent infection. I underwent several operations but my arm never healed properly. Though it was always hurting me, I refused to consider myself handicapped. Many people, including my father, told me that I should accept my limitations; however, I refused to believe that I had any. I weighed only 110 pounds and had to learn to write and work with only my left arm. Unhappy and suffering from pain deep within, my wife Emma, was encouraging me to take a teaching job. I took her advice and went back to the university at which I had taught before enlisting in the army. I soon found myself teaching my students the way that Big George taught me. I was determined not to let the loss of my arm stop me from my scientific explorations. I led an expedition, accompanied by Emma and a group of students. We traveled by train, wagon and horseback into the Rocky Mountains in 1867. This served as a period of learning and testing for me, as I learned valuable lessons on assembling a team of scientists and explorers, handling scientific equipment in hazardous conditions and testing my own physical strength. The following summer Emma and I returned to the Rockies to lead another expedition, and we planned to remain in the Colorado Territory throughout the winter.