No. 271.
Mr. Atkinson to Mr. Evarts.

No. 180.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith two copies of an article from the Journal de St. Petersburg, with translation, giving some interesting details of a railway ambulance train which left St. Petersburg last Sunday for the army of the south.

It seems to embrace no feature of distinct novelty in its system, but is faultless in its provision for the needs of those who may have cause to use it. The reference in the article to the work going on with such devotion, for the care and comfort of the soldiers who may be wounded or ill, is not exaggerated, for the glorious deeds of our country, during the war which called the sanitary commission and the Christian commission into existence are being duplicated to-day in Russia, and the fact that noble ladies are picking lint and sewing coarse garments for suffering soldiers, proves that Russia’s best feelings are interested in the war and in the fate of her people. The Empress is pre-eminently at the head of this movement, and both as a sovereign and as a tender-hearted woman, her example places before the people that there are other duties in war than the mere destruction of forces.

I have, &c.,


[From the Journal de St. Petersburg 10th (22d) May, 1877.]

Sunday afternoon, a train destined for the sanitary service of the army of the south, “the First Sanitary Train of the Empress,” left St. Petersburg for Kischineff, by the Nicholas Railway. The departure attracted a large crowd, not only in the station where permission was necessary, but in all the streets leading from the Winter Palace to the Moscow Station. It was known that Their Imperial Majesties would visit the train, before its departure, and people waited to cheer them on the way. The Emperor and Empress were there at the time named. The ceremony began by prayers for those leaving and for the enterprise, chanted by the clergy in one of the halls of the station; then Their Majesties, accompanied by several members of the imperial family and by high persons of the court, went to visit the railway carriages. The visit was long and scrutinizing. The august visitors wished to examine everything themselves, and showed themselves much satisfied. The fact is that the arrangements of this train offer every comfort of which the service for which it is designed is capable. The carriages [Page 473]are arranged in the American fashion, with a middle aisle which allows free passage from one end of the train to the other. On the two sides are raised a double row of beds, suspended one above the other, and held by springs strong enough to keep them in place, and flexible enough to break all shocks. These beds are arranged simply with springs, and form real litters on which two men can carry an ill man without in the least disturbing him. As the passage-ways of the two ends are a little narrow, they have managed to put on one side of each carriage a double sliding door, allowing these movable beds to be carried in and out, without trouble and without jar. Each bed comprises a mattress placed upon an elastic support, two pillows, a sheet, and a cover of gray wool for the soldiers, and for the officers a counterpane quilted. Should the invalid wish to have his head raised, a mechanism allows the head of the bed to be lifted. If he wishes to use his hands, a movable planchette table which fits against the side of the carriage serves to hold the dishes brought to him. Each carriage contains sixteen of these beds separated by day partitions. There is in each carriage a service for tea, a samovar (water-boiling urn), cups, &c., and, opposite, necessaries for the toilette. The train also carries its pharmacy, a train-kitchen well found, a storeroom for provisions, and two baggage-cars, containing lint, linen, clothing for the wounded; in short, the results of all the work accomplished by so much zeal and sacrifice by the most distinguished ladies for the service of the “Red Cross.”

The officers’ carriages are arranged like those of the soldiers. There is hardly a difference but in the quality of the linen, in the presence of some tables and sideboards, where may be placed books to while away the tedium of convalescence.

One carriage is devoted to the office, for the Sisters of Charity, and for the nurses. In this the beds are replaced by seats, but mattressed seats, which convert into beds during the night. The physicians, who have also an especial carriage, are surrounded by sufficient comfort to remove all care beyond that of their patients.

It is only after a comparative study of all that was done for the sick and wounded soldiers in France and in Germany that these arrangements, so simple and commodious, were arrived at, where everything is provided for, where neither exertion nor space is wasted, where all is organized to mollify, as much as possible, the sufferings which war entails.

It is useless to remark that Their Majesties were greeted on their arrival and on their departure by the most enthusiastic acclamations.

This convoy of last Sunday is the first of its kind sent. It will be followed by a great number of others. Public charity, so nobly stimulated by the example given in the palace, far from decreasing, seems to increase daily, and the zeal shown in this respect by all classes of the people proves that this war against Turkey is a war truly national.