Unripe Apples

From Merrill’s history of the 70th Indiana, a story unrelated to this book’s purpose, but enlightening reading nonetheless:

J. E. Cleland: “It must have been the summer of 63 when Harry Meteer, of Company I, was sent to the hospital with the malady which carried so large a proportion of our army to the lazar house and beyond. The doctors diagnosed an ulcer on every quarter inch of his intestinal gearing. His digestive apparatus couldn’t turn a wheel, and he was strictly forbidden to swallow anything but toast and boiled milk, but he had a howling and continuing craving for all real and imaginary food, like a chronic drunkard ravenous for drink. Quantities of microby water, butter milk, hard fried eggs, green vegetables and fruits were devoured on the sly, when occasion could be found. The surgeons were amazed, and the nurses horrified, as, from his own mouth and other sources, damaging evidence of his transgressions abundantly flowed. Daily he wasted away, until there was left little promise in him of any further soldierly or other value. Only the regulation amount of bones and enough hide to hold them together were left.

“Some flattering obituary notices of him circulated in the North and drifted back to camp, but he thought it hardly worth while to make any denial, as a little previousness was all that seemed the matter with the necrological facts. His soul, or some other organ of his inner emptiness cried out for relief of some kind, and even death seemed less grim and forbidding than of old. The sick were expected to eat what, and only what, the surgeons prescribed, and Hobson, the nurse, was faithful to his trust and to the doctors. So when Meteer was heard to crunch green apples in the stillness of the night, and when a large supply of half-grown fruit was found under his pillow, the wrath of Hobson was consuming. He not only predicted death, but seemed to derive some satisfaction in the anticipation. In reply, Meteer, in a thin, but resolute voice, squeaked out, I may die, but I will not die empty, and here goes for the rest of that peck of apples. He refused to furnish the fulfillment of Hobson s prophecy, and his voice, now full and strong, may still be heard every Sunday preaching to other sinners, in Utah, if you happen to pass that way. The medical moral of this would seem to be, that unripe apples are good for some sick soldiers, at some times, under some circumstances. “

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