An experienced doctor who had little more to do than carry a stretcher – that was a waste in his eyes, and as an atheist he saw no point in living like a martyr. He wanted to return home as soon as his contract expired in the first week of 1864.
Christmas Eve was sad and moving at the same time. Services were held in front of the tents. On one side of the Rappahannock, the 119th Indiana musicians were playing “Adeste Fidelis,” and when they had finished, the Confederate band on the other bank was playing “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.”
The melody wafted ghostly over the dark water, and then “Silent Night” followed. Kapellmeister Fitts raised his baton and the Union and Confederate musicians played together, and the soldiers sang along on both banks. They could clearly see the enemy’s campfires.
It really became a quiet night: no shot was fired. There was no turkey for the feast, but the Army had provided a perfectly acceptable soup, including meat that tasted like beef, and each soldier in the regiment got a sip of holiday whiskey. That turned out to be a mistake, as the sip made the thirst for more. When the concert was over, Rob J. met Wilcox and Ordway staggering up from the riverside. There they had emptied a jug of fusel that they had bought from a dealer. Wilcox was supporting Ordway, but he wasn’t sure of himself.
“Go to sleep, Abner!” Said Rob J. to him. “I’ll take your comrade to his tent.” Wilcox nodded and staggered away, but Rob J. did not do what he had announced. Rather, he led Ordway away from the tents and leaned him against a rock. “Lanny,” he said, “Lanny, my boy, let’s talk! Just between us. “
Ordway looked at him with half-closed eyes with a slightly cross-eyed look. “… Merry Christmas, Doc!”
“Merry Christmas, Lanny! Let’s talk about the Order of the Star-Spangled Bannen! ”Suggested Rob J.
So he came to believe that whiskey was a miracle cure that would lure everything the stretcher knew from Lanning Ordway.
On January 3rd, when Colonel Symonds came to him with a new contract, he watched Ordway carefully fill his backpack with fresh compresses and morphine tablets. Rob J. hesitated only a moment. Then he scribbled his signature on the paper, signing up for another three months.