previous next

Clara Davis.

  • Miss Davis not a native of this country
  • -- her services at the Broad and Cherry Street Hospital, Philadelphia -- one of the Hospital Transport corps -- the steamer “John Brooks” -- mile Creek Hospital -- Mrs. Husband's account of her -- at Frederick City, Harper's Ferry, and Antietam -- Agent of the Sanitary Commission at camp Parole, Annapolis, Maryland -- is seized with typhoid fever here -- when partially recovered, she resumes her labors, but is again attacked and compelled to withdraw from her work -- her other labors for the soldiers, both sick and well -- obtaining furloughs -- sending home the bodies of dead soldiers -- providing head-boards for the soldiers' graves

This lady, now the wife of the Rev. Edward Abbott, of Cambridgeport, Massachusetts, was one of the earliest, most indefatigable and useful of the laborers for Union soldiers during the war. Her labors commenced early in the winter of 1861-62, in the hospitals of Philadelphia, in which city she was then residing.

Her visits were at first confined to the Broad and Cherry Street Hospital, and her purpose at first was to minister entirely to the religious wants of the sick, wounded and dying soldiers. Her interest in the inmates of that institution was never permitted to die out.

It was not patriotism,--for Miss Davis was not a native of this country-but rather a profound sympathy with the cause in which they were engaged which led her, in company with the late Rev. Dr. Vaughan of Philadelphia (of whose family she was an inmate) to visit this place and aid him in his philanthropic and official duties. The necessity of the case led her to labor regularly and assiduously to supply the lack of many comforts which was felt here, and the need of woman's nursing and comforting ways. By the month of May, ensuing, she was giving up her whole time to these ministrations, and this at a considerable sacrifice, and extending her efforts so as to alleviate the temporal condition of the sufferers, as well as to minister to their spiritual ones.

In the early part of this summer, memorable as the season of [401] the Peninsula Campaign, she, in company with Mrs. M. M. Husband, of Philadelphia, entered upon the transport service on the James and Potomac Rivers, principally on board the steamer “John Brooks” --passing to and fro with the sick and wounded between Harrison's Landing, Fortress Monroe and Philadelphia. This joint campaign ended with a sojourn of two months at Mile Creek Hospital, Fortress Monroe.

Her friend, Mrs. H. thus speaks of her. “A more lovely Christian character, a more unselfishly devoted person, than Miss Davis, I have never known. Her happy manner of approaching the soldiers, especially upon religious subjects, was unequalled; the greatest scoffer would listen to her with respect and attention, while the majority followed her with a glance of veneration as if she were a being of a superior order. I heard one say, ‘there must be wings hidden beneath her cloak.’ ”

After leaving Fortress Monroe, Miss Davis returned to Philadelphia, and recruited her supplies for the use of the soldiers. She was anxious to be permitted to serve in the field hospitals, but owing to unusual strictness of regulation at that time, she was not permitted to do so. Later in the season she accompanied Mrs. Husband to Frederick City, Harper's Ferry and Antietam, at which latter place, by the invitation of Surgeon Vanderkieft, and Miss Hall, she remained several weeks doing very acceptable service.

During the winter of 1863 she renewed her efforts to gain permission to serve in the field hospitals of the army, then in winter quarters between Falmouth and Acquia Creek, but was again repulsed. In the spring she once more renewed her efforts, but without success. Again visiting Washington, she was requested to become the agent of the Sanitary Commission, at Camp Parole, Annapolis, Maryland.

She commenced her laborious duties at Camp Parole about the 1st of May, 1863. She made numerous friends here, among all classes with whom she came in contact, and did a most admirable [402] work among the returned prisoners. She remained here the whole summer, never allowing herself one day's absence, until October. She suffered from ague, and her labors were far too great for her strength. Camp, or typhoid fever, seized her, and after long striving against weakness and pain, she was obliged to return to her home to recruit. She made great efforts to again take up her work where she had been obliged to leave it, but her strength would not admit.

She did not recover from this illness until the following February, nor even then could she be said to have fully recovered. As soon as the state of her health permitted, indeed before her physician gave his consent, she resumed her labors at Camp Parole, but in a few weeks the fever set in again, and further service was rendered impossible. Thus closed the ministrations in field and hospital, of one, of whom a friend who knew her well, and appreciated her fully, simply says, “Her deeds were beyond praise.”

Her health was so undermined by her labors, that it has never been fully recovered, and she still suffers, as she perhaps will to the end of her life, from the weakness and diseases induced, by her unwonted exertions, and the fevers which so greatly prostrated her.

Nearly two years, as we have seen, she gave to her labors in camp and hospital, labors which, as we have seen, were principally directed to the relief of physical sufferings, though she never forgot to mingle with them the spiritual ministrations which were the peculiar feature of her usefulness.

The interest of Miss Davis was not limited to soldiers in hospitals, any more than were her labors confined to efforts for their relief. From her numerous friends, and from societies, she was in constant receipt of money, delicacies, reading matter, and many other things, both valuable and useful to the soldiers, and not embraced in the government supplies, nor sold by sutlers. These she distributed among both sick and well, as their needs required. [403]

“She corresponded largely with the friends of sick soldiers; she represented their needs to those who had the means to relieve them; she used her influence in obtaining furloughs for the convalescents, and discharges for the incurables; she importuned tape-bound officials for passes, that the remains of the poor unpaid soldier might be buried beside his parents; she erected headboards at every soldier's grave at that time in the cemetery at West Philadelphia, as a temporary memorial and record.”

In the heat of Virginian summers, and the inclement winters, it was with her the same steady unchanged work, till sickness put an end to her labors. Till the last her intercourse with the soldiers was always both pleasant, and in the highest sense profitable. [404]

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Clara Davis (6)
M. M. Husband (2)
Mary C. Vaughan (1)
D. Vanderkieft (1)
Mary Morris Husband (1)
Maria M. C. Hall (1)
Edward Abbott (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
May 1st, 1863 AD (1)
1863 AD (1)
1862 AD (1)
1861 AD (1)
October (1)
May (1)
February (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: