Co. H, 52nd New York
Co. H, 52d Reg., New York
Disabled at Spottsylvania Court House
The Disabled Soldier
Air – Just After the Battle
Stranger, when the fight was fiercest,
When my comrades ‘round me fell,
I was wounded in the trenches,
By the bursting of a shell.
Hundreds died all crushed and mangled
Some in agony of pain,
Bit the very earth beneath them,
Soaked with life blood of the slain.
It was not my fate to perish
In the storm of iron hail,
But a mutilated soldier,
I have come to tell the tale;
That ten thousand are repeating
Through our peaceful land to-day,
How the fought and how they suffered,
In the din of deadly fray.
Mine is but a simple story,
And I need not make it long,
Only in your joy and plenty –
Buy a copy of my song.
‘Twas your foe and mine, whose missile
Made a cripple of the strong,
Stranger, pardon if I ask you
Buy a Disabled Soldier’s Song.
Price 5 cents
This poem was written by a veteran of the 52nd New York, named Alexander Schelle (also appears as Shelle, Shelly or Shelley. Schelle was the most commonly used spelling), who lost his leg at Spotsylvania. Though awarded a pension in March 1865 that he collected for the rest of his life, he probably still had to supplement it, and selling this poem was probably one way for him to do so.
Alexander Schelle was probably born around 1843. His discharge states he was born in Ireland but postwar documents say he was born in Canada. He enlisted on September 5, 1863 in New York City as a Private in the 52nd New York and mustered into Co. H on the same day. He gave his age as 30, though medical and postwar documents say he was really about 20. On his discharge, he is described as having a light complexion, blue eyes, brown hair, standing 5 feet 2.5 inches and a peddler by occupation. Before his enlistment, he was living in Troy, New York.
Wounded in the right leg by gunfire or an artillery shell on May 10, 1864, Alexander was left behind on the field as the 52nd and the rest of the 1st Division retreated across the Po River at Spotsylvania. He was captured by the Confederates and his right leg was amputated on May 12, 1864 at the upper third of the femur, leaving only a 4-inch stump. He spent three months as a prisoner in Richmond before being paroled on August 13, 1864 at Aikens Landing, Virginia. The next day he was admitted to a hospital at Annapolis, Maryland, where he was discharged for disability on December 26, 1864.
Soon after his discharge, Alexander applied for a pension, which was granted in March 1865 for $8. He was living in Albany in 1866 when his pension was increased to $15. Due to the small size of the stump, he was unable to wear a prosthetic leg and had to rely on crutches to get around. In 1867 he applied to live at the National Soldiers Home in Togus, Maine.
Alexander was in the home at Togus for only several months before leaving. He then went to the home at Dayton, Ohio for a few months before friends took him out, as they said they would care for him. In 1868, he went to the home at Milwaukee, but was discharged after a few months for drunkenness and disorderly conduct.
Afterwards, little about Alexander is known. He was living in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1873 when he applied for a pension increase to $24. He then appears in Montreal, Canada in 1883, when his pension was increased to $30, and then to $45 in 1886. He died there on October 18, 1893.
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