The Crutch was a newspaper printed by the patients at Annapolis Naval School Hospital. The hospital was erected on the grounds of the Naval Academy,
temporarily in the hands of the Union Army after the school had been evacuated to Newport, Rhode Island following the capture of Fort Sumpter.
The first article included mentions a "Professor C. of one of our flourishing New England colleges" this may or may not be referring to Chamberlain, who arrived at the hospital on the night
of the 20th. It is not uncommon for people with life changing wounds to ponder about their identify;
could the knife that keeps its identity no matter how broken be a metaphor for the broken bodies at the hospital?
Chamberlain writes elsewhere, " We were in wretched condition - broken, maimed, torn,
stiffened with clotted blood and matted hair and beard, dazed with that strange sensation of being suddenly
cut down from the full flush of vigorous health to hardly breathing bodies."1
The story of the knife is a classical philosophical debate known as Jeannot's knife, or Ship of Theseus.2
Flipping through this newspaper reveals the hospital was used to receiving a far smaller number of new patients.
The list on the day Chamberlain arrives fills up a full page. Chamberlain states,
"It seemed to me sometime after the second midnight that I was set on the wharf at Annapolis
Naval School, and left there a long time before my turn came, and then it was to be taken into
a naked dreary tent. I lay entirely alone for hours."3
Other interesting tidbits can be learned from reading other issues of the paper,
the full paper is online at: aomol.net
- In image 91 Chaplain H. C. Henries
, who wrote to Bangor about Chamberlain, is reported as having helped to add 500
volumes to the library that Chamberlain was seen perusing by Rev. John Sewall
- Image No. 112 tries to put a positive spin on the fact that no elaborate 4th of July celebrations took place.
"The young Surgeon need not count on the 5th for new cases, since his wealthy patient just from the front, cannot
get where he can shatter legs or arms, or injure his digestive powers by eating fruit, and drinking ice-water, or take
cold from over-indulgences in fancy linen and white duck!"
- Image No. 113 mentions a fire breaking out on the fifth of July near the depot, the hospital's fire department
quickly reporting to the scene. If the alarm of the fire and the shouts of the firemen were heard by
Chamberlain, (who at this point was too weak to even write his own letters and could certainly not escape a fire had one come his way)
lying there helpless he likely thought back to July 5th
one year before after the battle of Gettysburg when the 20th Maine was stationed near a barn that while in use as a hospital burned to the ground.
The sight and smell was more horrifying to the 20th Maine than any of the battle scenes they previously observed.4
- By July 14 rumors were spreading in the North that Annapolis had fallen to the rebels.
Image 121 of the Crutch states it gave them all a bit of excitement.
This uncertainty likely made it a bit tense for John Chamberlain who was making plans to visit his brother.
See Brother John's Visit to Annapolis