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Introductory Chapter.

  • Patriotism in some form, an attribute of woman in all nations and climes
  • -- its modes of manifestation -- paeans for victory -- lamentations for the death of a heroic leader -- personal leadership by women -- the assassination of tyrants -- the care of the sick and wounded of national armies -- the hospitals established by the Empress Helena -- the Beguines and their successors -- the cantinieres, vivandieres, etc -- other modes in which women manifested their patriotism -- Florence Nightingale and her labors -- the results -- the awakening of patriotic zeal among American women at the opening of the war -- the organization of philanthropic effort -- Hospital nurses -- Miss Dix's rejection of great numbers of applicants on account of youth -- hired nurses -- their services generally prompted by patriotism rather than pay -- the State Relief agents (Ladies) at Washington -- the Hospital transport system of the Sanitary Commission -- Mrs. Harris's, Miss Barton's, Mrs. Fales', Miss Gilson's, and other Ladies' services at the front during the battles of 1862 -- services of other Ladies at Chancellorsville, at Gettysburg -- the field Relief of the Sanitary Commission, and services of Ladies in the later battles -- voluntary services of women in the armies in the field at the West -- services in the hospitals of garrisons and fortified towns -- soldiers' homes and lodges, and their matrons -- homes for refugees -- instruction of the Freedmen -- Refreshment Saloons at Philadelphia -- regular visiting of hospitals in the large cities -- the soldiers' Aid Societies, and their mode of operation -- the extraordinary labors of the managers of the Branch Societies -- Government clothing contracts -- Mrs. Springer, Miss Wormeley and Miss Gilson -- the managers of the local soldiers' Aid Societies -- the sacrifices made by the poor to contribute supplies -- examples -- the labors of the young and the old inscriptions on articles -- the poor seamstress -- five hundred bushels of wheat -- the five dollar gold piece -- the army of martyrs -- the effect of this female patriotism in stimulating the courage of the soldiers -- lack of persistence in this work among the women of the South -- present and future -- effect of patriotism and self-sacrifice in elevating and ennobling the female character

An intense and passionate love of country, holding, for the time, all other ties in abeyance, has been a not uncommon trait of character among women of all countries and climes, throughout the ages of human history. In the nomadic races it assumed the form of attachment to the patriarchal rules and chiefs of the tribe; in the more savage of the localized nations, it was reverence for the ruler, coupled with a filial regard for the resting-places and graves of their ancestors. [40]

But in the more highly organized and civilized countries, it was the institutions of the nation, its religion, its sacred traditions, its history, as well as its kings, its military leaders, and its priests, that were the objects of the deep and intense patriotic devotion of its noblest and most gifted women.

The manifestations of this patriotic zeal were diverse in different countries, and at different periods in the same country. At one time it contented itself with triumphal paeans and dances over victories won by the nation's armies, as in the case of Miriam and the maidens of Israel at the destruction of the Egyptians at the Red Sea, or the victories of the armies led by David against the Philistines; or in the most heart-rending lamentations over the fall of the nation's heroes on the field of battle, as in the mourning of the Trojan maidens over the death of Hector; at other times, some brave and heroic spirit, goaded with the sense of her country's wrongs, girds upon her own fair and tender form, the armor of proof, and goes forth, the self-constituted but eagerly welcomed leader of its mailed hosts, to overthrow the nation's foes. We need only recall Deborah, the avenger of the Israelites against the oppressions of the King of Canaan; Boadicea, the daring Queen of the Britons, and in later times, the heroic but hapless maid of Orleans, Jeanne d'arc; and in the Hungarian war of 1848, the brave but unfortunate Countess Teleki, as examples of these female patriots.

In rare instances, this sense of the nation's sufferings from a tyrant's oppression, have so wrought upon the sensitive spirit, as to stimulate it to the determination to achieve the country's freedom by the assassination of the oppressor. It was thus that Jael brought deliverance to her country by the murder of Sisera; Judith, by the assassination of Holofernes; and in modern times, Charlotte Corday sought the rescue of France from the grasp of the murderous despot, Marat, by plunging the poniard to his heart.

A far nobler, though less demonstrative manifestation of patriotic [41] devotion than either of these, is that which has prompted women in all ages to become ministering angels to the sick, the suffering, and the wounded among their countrymen who have periled life and health in the nation's cause.

Occasionally, even in the earliest recorded wars of antiquity, we find high-born maidens administering solace to the wounded heroes on the field of battle, and attempting to heal their wounds by the appliances of their rude and simple surgery; but it was only the favorite leaders, never the common soldier, or the subordinate officer, who received these gentle attentions. The influence of Christianity, in its earlier development, tended to expand the sympathies and open the heart of woman to all gentle and holy influences, and it is recorded that the wounded Christian soldiers were, where it was possible, nursed and cared for by those of the same faith, both men and women.

In the fifth century, the Empress Helena established hospitals for the sick and wounded soldiers of the empire, on the routes between Rome and Constantinople, and caused them to be carefully nursed. In the dark ages that followed, and amid the downfall of the Roman Empire, and the uprearing of the Gothic kingdoms that succeeded, there was little room or thought of mercy; but the fair-haired women of the North encouraged their heroes to deeds of valor, and at times, ministered in their rude way to their wounds. The monks, at their monasteries, rendered some care and aid to the wounded in return for their exemption from plunder and rapine, and in the ninth century, an order of women consecrated to the work, the Beguines, predecessors of the modern Sisters of Charity, was established “to minister to the sick and wounded of the armies which then, and for centuries afterward, scarred the face of continental Europe with battle-fields.” With the Beguines, however, and their successors, patriotism was not so much the controlling motive of action, as the attainment of merit by those deeds of charity and self-sacrifice.

In the wars of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and the early part [42] of the nineteenth century, while the hospitals had a moderate share of fair ministrants, chiefly of the religious orders, the only female service on the battle-field or in the camp, often the scene of fatal epidemics, was that of the cantinieres, vivandieres, filles du regiment, and other camp followers, who, at some risk of reputation, accompanied the armies in their march, and brought to the wounded and often dying soldier, on the field of battle, the draught of water which quenched his raging thirst, or the cordial, which sustained his fast ebbing strength till relief could come. Humble of origin, and little circumspect in morals as many of these women were, they are yet deserving of credit for the courage and patriotism which led them to brave all the horrors of death, to relieve the suffering of the wounded of the regiments to which they were attached. Up to the period of the Crimean war in 1854, though there had been much that was praiseworthy in the manifestations of female patriotism in connection with the movements of great armies, there had never been any systematic ministration, prompted by patriotic devotion, to the relief of the suffering sick and wounded of those armies.

There were yet other modes, however, in which the women of ancient and modern times manifested their love of their country. The Spartan mother, who, without a tear, presented her sons with their shields, with :the stern injunction to return with them, or upon them, that is, with honor untarnished, or dead,--the fair dames and maidens of Carthage, who divested themselves of their beautiful tresses, to furnish bowstrings for their soldiers,--the Jewish women who preferred a death of torture, to the acknowledgment of the power of the tyrant over their country's rulers, and their faith — the women of the Pays-de Vaud, whose mountain fastnesses and churches were dearer to them than life-the thousands of wives and mothers, who in our revolutionary struggle, and in our recent war, gave up freely at their country's call, their best beloved, regretting only that they had no more to give; knowing full well, that in giving them up they condemned [43] themselves to penury and want, to hard, grinding toil, and privations such as they had never before experienced, and not improbably to the rending, by the rude vicissitudes of war, of those ties, dearer than life itself-those who in the presence of ruffians, capable of any atrocity dared, and in many cases suffered, a violent death, and indignities worse than death, by their fearless defense of the cause and flag of their country-and yet again, those who, in peril of their lives, for the love they bore to their country, guided hundreds of escaped prisoners, through the regions haunted by foes, to safety and freedom-all these and many others, whose deeds of heroism we have not space so much as to name, have shown their love of country as fully and worthily, as those who in hospital, in camp or on battle-field have ministered to the battle-scarred hero, or those who, in all the panoply of war, have led their hosts to the deadly charge, or the fierce affray of contending armies.

Florence Nightingale, an English gentlewoman, of high social position and remarkable executive powers, was the first of her sex, at least among English-speaking nations, to systematize the patriotic ardor of her countrywomen, and institute such measures of reform in the care of sick and wounded soldiers in military hospitals, as should conduce to the comfort and speedy recovery of their inmates. She had voluntarily passed through the course of training, required of the hospital nurses and assistants, in Pastor Fliedner's Deaconess' Institution, at Kaiserswerth on the Rhine, before she entered upon her great mission in the hospitals at Scutari. She was ably seconded in her labors by other ladies of rank from England, who, actuated only by patriotic zeal, gave themselves to the work of bringing order out of chaos, cheerfulness out of gloom, cleanliness out of the most revolting filth, and the sunshine of health out of the lazar house of corruption and death In this heroic undertaking they periled their lives, more certainly, than those who took part in the fierce charge of Balaclava Some fell victims to their untiring zeal; others, and Miss [44] Nightingale among the number, were rendered hopeless invalids for life, by their exertions.

Fifty years of peace had rendered our nation more entirely unacquainted with the arts of war, than was Great Britain, when, at the close of forty years of quiet, she again marshalled her troops in battle array. But though the transition was sudden from the arts of peace to the din and tumult of war, and the blunders, both from inexperience and dogged adherence to routine, were innumerable, the hearts of the people, and especially the hearts of the gentler sex, were resolutely set upon one thing; that the citizen soldiers of the nation should be cared for, in sickness or in health, as the soldiers of no nation had ever been before. Soldiers' Aid Societies, Sewing Circles for the soldiers, and Societies for Relief, sprang up simultaneously with the organization of regiments, in every village, town, and city throughout the North. Individual benevolence kept pace with organized charity, and the managers of the freight trains and expresses, running toward Washington, were in despair at the fearful accumulation of freight for the soldiers, demanding instant transportation. It was inevitable that there should be waste and loss in this lavish outpouring; but it was a manifestation of the patriotic feeling which throbbed in the hearts of the people, and which, through four years of war, never ceased or diminished aught of its zeal, or its abundant liberality. It was felt instinctively, that there would soon be a demand for nurses for the sick and wounded, and fired by the noble example of Florence Nightingale, though too often without her practical training, thousands of young, fair, and highly educated women offered themselves for the work, and strove for opportunities for their gentle ministry, as in other days they might have striven for the prizes of fortune.

Soon order emerged from the chaos of benevolent impulse; the Sanitary Commission and its affiliated Societies organized and wisely directed much of the philanthropic effort, which would otherwise have failed of accomplishing its intended work through [45] misdirection; while other Commissions, Associations, and skilfully managed personal labors, supplemented what was lacking in its earlier movements, and ere long the Christian Commission added intellectual and religious aliment to its supplies for the wants of the physical man.

Of the thousands of applicants for the position of Hospital Nurses, the greater part were rejected promptly by the stern, but experienced lady, to whom the Government had confided the delicate and responsible duty of making the selection. The ground of rejection was usually the youthfulness of the applicants; a sufficient reason, doubtless, in most cases, since the enthusiasm, mingled in some instances, perhaps, with romance, which had prompted the offer, would often falter before the extremely unpoetic realities of a nurse's duties, and the youth and often frail health of the applicants would soon cause them to give way under labors which required a mature strength, a firm will, and skill in all household duties. Yet “to err is human,” and it need not surprise us, as it probably did not Miss Dix, to learn, that in a few instances, those whom she had refused to commission on account of their youthfulness, proved in other fields, their possession of the very highest qualifications for the care of the sick and wounded. Miss Gilson was one of the most remarkable of these instances; and it reflects no discredit on Miss Dix's powers of discrimination, that she should not have discovered, in that girlish face, the indications of those high abilities, of which their possessor was as yet probably unconscious. The rejection of so many of these volunteer nurses necessitated the appointment of many from another class,--young women of culture and education, but generally from the humbler walks of life, in whose hearts the fire of patriotism was not less ardent and glowing than in those of their wealthier sisters. Many of these, though they would have preferred to perform their labors without fee or reward, were compelled, from the necessities of those at home, to accept the wholly inadequate pittance (twelve dollars a month [46] and their food) which was offered them by the Government, but they served in their several stations with a fidelity, intelligence, and patient devotion which no money could purchase. The testimony received from all quarters to the faithfulness and great moral worth of these nurses, is greatly to their honor. Not one of them, so far as we can learn, ever disgraced her calling, or gave cause for reproach. We fear that so general an encomium could not truthfully be bestowed on all the volunteer nurses.

But nursing in the hospitals, was only a small part of the work to which patriotism called American women. There was the collection and forwarding to the field, there to be distributed by the chaplains, or some specially appointed agent, of those supplies which the families and friends of the soldiers so earnestly desired to send to them; socks, shirts, handkerchiefs, havelocks, and delicacies in the way of food. The various states had their agents, generally ladies, in Washington, who performed these duties, during the first two years of the war, while as yet the Sanitary Commission had not fully organized its system of Field Relief. In the West, every considerable town furnished its quota of supplies, and, after every battle,--voluntary agents undertook their distribution.

During McClellan's peninsular campaign, a Hospital Transport service was organized in connection with the Sanitary Commission, which numbered among its members several gentlemen and ladies of high social position, whose labors in improvising, often from the scantiest possible supplies, the means of comfort and healing for the fever-stricken and wounded, resulted in the preservation of hundreds of valuable lives.

Mrs. John Harris, the devoted and heroic Secretary of the Ladies' Aid Society of Philadelphia, had already, in the Peninsular campaign, encountered all the discomforts and annoyances of a life in the camp, to render what assistance she could to the sick and wounded, while they were yet in the field or camp hospital. At Cedar Mountain, and in the subsequent battles of [47] August, in Pope's Campaign, Miss Barton, Mrs. T. J. Fales, and some others also brought supplies to the field, and ministered to the wounded, while the shot and shell were crashing around them, and Antietam had its representatives of the fair sex, angels of mercy, but for whose tender and judicious ministrations, hundreds and perhaps thousands would not have seen another morning's light. In the race for Richmond which followed, Miss Barton's train was hospital and diet kitchen to the Ninth Corps, and much of the time for the other Corps also. At Fredericksburg, Mrs. Harris, Mrs. Lee, Mrs. Plummer, Mrs. Fales, and Miss Barton, and we believe also, Miss Gilson, were all actively engaged. A part of the same noble company, though not all, were at Chancellorsville.

At Gettysburg, Mrs. Harris was present and actively engaged, and as soon as the battle ceased, a delegation of ladies connected with the Sanitary Commission toiled most faithfully to alleviate the horrors of war. In the subsequent battles of the Army of the Potomac, the Field Relief Corps of the Sanitary Commission with its numerous male and female collaborators, after, or at the time of all the great battles, the ladies connected with the Christian Commission and a number of efficient independent workers, did all in their power to relieve the constantly swelling tide of human suffering, especially during that period of less than ninety days, when more than ninety thousand men, wounded, dying, or dead, covered the battle-fields with their gore.

In the West, after the battle of Shiloh, and the subsequent engagements of Buell's campaign, women of the highest social position visited the battle-field, and encountered its horrors, to minister to those who were suffering, and bring them relief. Among these, the names of Mrs. Martha A. Wallace, the widow of General W. H. L. Wallace, who fell in the battle of Shiloh; of Mrs. Harvey, the widow of Governor Louis Harvey of Wisconsin, who was drowned while on a mission of philanthropy to the Wisconsin soldiers wounded at Shiloh; and the sainted Margaret [48] E. Breckinridge of St. Louis, will be readily recalled. During Grant's Vicksburg campaign, as well as after Rosecrans' battles of Stone River and Chickamauga, there were many of these heroic women who braved all discomforts and difficulties to bring healing and comfort to the gallant soldiers who had fallen on the field. Mrs. Hoge and Mrs. Livermore, of Chicago, visited Grant's camp in front of Vicksburg, more than once, and by their exertions, saved his army from scurvy; Mrs. Porter, Mrs. Bickerdyke, and several others are deserving of mention for their untiring zeal both in these and Sherman's Georgian campaigns. Mrs. Bickerdyke has won undying renown throughout the Western armies as pre-eminently the friend of the private soldier.

As our armies, especially in the West and Southwest, won more and more of the enemy's territory, the important towns of which were immediately occupied as garrisons, hospital posts, and secondary bases of the armies, the work of nursing and providing special diet and comfort in the general hospitals at these posts, which were often of great extent, involved a vast amount of labor and frequently serious privation, and personal discomfort on the part of the nurses. Some of these who volunteered for the work were remarkable for their earnest and faithful labors in behalf of the soldiers, under circumstances which would have disheartened any but the most resolute spirits. We may name without invidiousness among these, Mrs. Colfax, Miss Maertz, Miss Melcenia Elliott, Miss Parsons, Miss Adams, and Miss Brayton, who, with many others, perhaps equally faithful, by their constant assiduity in their duties, have given proof of their ardent love of their country.

To provide for the great numbers of men discharged from the hospitals while yet feeble and ill, and without the means of going to their often distant homes, and the hundreds of enfeebled and mutilated soldiers, whose days of service were over, and who, often in great bodily weakness, sought to obtain the pay due them from the Government, and not unseldom died in the effort; [49] the United States Sanitary Commission and the Western Sanitary Commission established Soldiers' Homes at Washington, Cincinnati, Chicago, Louisville, Nashville, St. Louis, Memphis, Vicksburg, and other places. In these, these disabled men found food and shelter, medical attendance when needed, assistance in collecting their dues, and aid in their transportation homeward. To each of these institutions, a Matron was assigned, often with female assistants. The duties of these Matrons were extremely arduous, but they were performed most nobly. To some of these homes were attached a department for the mothers, wives and daughters of the wounded soldiers, who had come on to care for them, and who often found themselves, when ready to return, penniless, and without a shelter. To these, a helping hand, and a kind welcome, was ever extended.

To these should be added the Soldiers' Lodges, established at some temporary stopping-places on the routes to and from the great battle-fields; places where the soldier, fainting from his wearisome march, found refreshment, and if sick, shelter and care; and the wounded, on their distressing journey from the battle-field to the distant hospitals, received the gentle ministrations of women, to allay their thirst, relieve their painful positions, and strengthen their wearied bodies for further journeyings. There were also, in New York, Boston, and many other of the Northern cities, Soldiers' Homes or Depots, not generally connected with the Sanitary Commission, in which invalid soldiers were cared for and their interests protected. In all these there were efficient and capable Matrons. In the West, there were also Homes for Refugees, families of poor whites generally though not always sufferers for their Union sentiments, sent north by the military commanders from all the States involved in the rebellion. Reduced to the lowest depths of poverty, often suffering absolute starvation, usually dirty and of uncleanly habits, in many cases ignorant in the extreme, and intensely indolent, these poor creatures had often little to recommend them to the sympathy [50] of their northern friends, save their common humanity, and their childlike attachment to the Union cause. Yet on these, women of high culture and refinement, women who, but for the fire of patriotism which burned in their hearts, would have turned away, sickened at the mental and moral degradation which seemed proof against all instruction or tenderness, bestowed their constant and unwearying care, endeavoring to rouse in them the instinct of neatness and the love of household duties; instructing their children, and instilling into the darkened minds of the adults some ideas of religious duty, and some gleams of intelligence. No mission to the heathen of India, of Tartary, or of the African coasts, could possibly have been more hopeless and discouraging; but they triumphed over every obstacle, and in many instances had the happiness of seeing these poor people restored to their southern homes, with higher aims, hopes, and aspirations, and with better habits, and more intelligence, than they had ever before possessed.

The camps and settlements of the freedmen were also the objects of philanthropic care. To these, many highly educated women volunteered to go, and establishing schools, endeavored to raise these former slaves to the comprehension of their privileges and duties as free men. The work was arduous, for though there was a stronger desire for learning, and a quicker apprehension of religious and moral instruction, among the freedmen than among the refugees, their slave life had made them fickle, untruthful, and to some extent, dishonest and unchaste. Yet the faithful and indefatigable teachers found their labors wonderfully successful, and accomplished a great amount of good.

Another and somewhat unique manifestation of the patriotism of our American women, was the service of the Refreshment Saloons at Philadelphia. For four years, the women of that portion of Philadelphia lying in the vicinity of the Navy Yard, responded, by night or by day, to the signal gun, fired whenever one or more regiments of soldiers were passing through the city, [51] and hastening to the Volunteer or the Cooper Shop Refreshment Saloons, spread before the soldiers an ample repast, and served them with a cordiality and heartiness deserving all praise. Four hundred thousand soldiers were fed by these willing hands and generous hearts, and in hospitals connected with both Refreshment Saloons the sick were tenderly cared for.

In the large general hospitals of Washington, Philadelphia, New York, Cincinnati, and St. Louis, in addition to the volunteer and paid nurses, there were committees of ladies, who, on alternate days, or on single days of each week, were accustomed to visit the hospitals, bringing delicacies and luxuries, preparing special dishes for the invalid soldiers, writing to their friends for them, etc. To this sacred duty, many women of high social position devoted themselves steadily for nearly three years, alike amid the summer's heat and the winter's cold, never failing of visiting the patients, to whom their coming was the most joyous event of the otherwise gloomy day.

But these varied forms of manifestation of patriotic zeal would have been of but little material service to the soldiers, had there not been behind them, throughout the loyal North, a vast network of organizations extending to every village and hamlet, for raising money and preparing and forwarding supplies of whatever was needful for the welfare of the sick and wounded. We have already alluded to the spontaneity and universality of these organizations at the beginning of the war. They were an outgrowth alike of the patriotism and the systematizing tendencies of the people of the North. It might have been expected that the zeal which led to their formation would soon have cooled, and, perhaps, this would have been the case, but for two causes, viz.: that they very early became parts of more comprehensive organizations officered by women of untiring energy, and the most exalted patriotic devotion; and that the events of the war constantly kept alive the zeal of a few in each society, who spurred on the laggards, and encouraged the faint-hearted. These [52] Soldiers' Aid Societies, Ladies' Aid Associations, Alert Clubs, Soldiers' Relief Societies, or by whatever other name they were called, were usually auxiliary to some Society in the larger cities, to which their several contributions of money and supplies were sent, by which their activity and labors were directed, and which generally forwarded to some central source of supply, their donations and its own. The United States Sanitary Commission had its branches, known under various names, as Branch Commissions, General Soldiers' Aid Societies, Associates, Local Sanitary Commissions, etc., at Boston, Albany, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Buffalo, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Chicago, and three central organizations, the Women's Central Association of Relief, in New York, the Sanitary Commission, at Washington, and the Western Depot of Supplies, at Louisville, Kentucky. Affiliated to these were over twelve thousand local Soldiers' Aid Societies. The Western Sanitary Commission had but one central organization, besides its own depot, viz.: The Ladies' Union Aid Society, of St. Louis, which had a very considerable number of auxiliaries in Missouri and Iowa. The Christian Commission had its branches in Boston, New York, Brooklyn, Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis, and several thousand local organizations reported to these. Aside from these larger bodies, there were the Ladies' Aid Association of Philadelphia, with numerous auxiliaries in Pennsylvania, the Baltimore Ladies' Relief Association, the New England Soldiers' Relief Association of New York; and during the first two years of the war, Sanitary Commissions in Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois, and State Relief Societies in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, New York, and some of the other States with their representative organizations in Washington. Several Central Aid Societies having large numbers of auxiliaries, acted independently for the first two years, but were eventually merged in the Sanitary Commission. Prominent among these were the Hartford Ladies' Aid Society, having numerous auxiliaries throughout Connecticut, the Pittsburg Relief Committee, drawing [53] its supplies from the circumjacent country, and we believe, also, the Penn Relief Society, an organization among the Friends of Philadelphia and vicinity. The supplies for the Volunteer and Cooper Shop Refreshment Saloons of Philadelphia, were contributed by the citizens of that city and vicinity.

When it is remembered, that by these various organizations, a sum exceeding fifty millions of dollars was raised, during a little more than four years, for the comfort and welfare of the soldiers, their families, their widows, and their orphans, we may be certain that there was a vast amount of work done by them. Of this aggregate of labor, it is difficult to form any adequate idea. The ladies who were at the head of the Branch or Central organizations, worked day after day, during the long and hot days of summer, and the brief but cold ones of winter, as assiduously and steadily, as any merchant in his counting-house, or the banker at his desk, and exhibited business abilities, order, foresight, judgment, and tact, such as are possessed by very few of the most eminent men of business in the country. The extent of their operations, too, was in several instances commensurate with that of some of our merchant princes. Miss Louisa Lee Schuyler and Miss Ellen Collins, of the Women's Central Association of Relief at New York, received and disbursed in supplies and money, several millions of dollars in value; Mrs. Rouse, Miss Mary Clark Brayton, and Miss Ellen F. Terry, of the Cleveland Soldiers' Aid Society, somewhat more than a million; Miss Abby May, of Boston, not far from the same amount; Mrs. Hoge, and Mrs. Livermore, of the N. W. Sanitary Commission, over a million; while Mrs. Seymour, of Buffalo, Miss Valeria Campbell, of Detroit, Mrs. Colt, of Milwaukie, Miss Rachel W. McFadden, of Pittsburg, Mrs. Hoadley, and Mrs. Mendenhall, of Cincinnati, Mrs. Clapp, and Miss H. A. Adams, of the St. Louis Ladies' Aid Society, Mrs. Joel Jones, and Mrs. John Harris, of the Philadelphia Ladies' Aid Society, Mrs. Stranahan, and Mrs. Archer, of Brooklyn, if they did not do [54] quite so large a business, at least rivaled the merchants of the smaller cities, in the extent of their disbursements; and when it is considered, that these ladies were not only the managers and financiers of their transactions, but in most cases the bookkeepers also, we think their right to be regarded as possessing superior business qualifications will not be questioned.

But some of these lady managers possessed still other claims to our respect, for their laborious and self-sacrificing patriotism. It occurred to several ladies in different sections of the country, as they ascertained the suffering condition of some of the families of the soldiers, (the early volunteers, it will be remembered, received no bounties, or very trifling ones), that if they could secure for them, at remunerative prices, the making of the soldiers' uniforms, or of the hospital bedding and clothing, they might thus render them independent of charity, and capable of self-support.

Three ladies (and perhaps more), Mrs. Springer, of St. Louis, in behalf of the Ladies' Aid Society of that city, Miss Katherine P. Wormeley, of Newport, R. I., and Miss Helen L. Gilson, of Chelsea, Mass., applied to the Governmental purveyors of clothing, for the purpose of obtaining this work. There was necessarily considerable difficulty in accomplishing their purpose. The army of contractors opposed them strongly, and in the end, these ladies were each obliged to take a contract of large amount themselves, in order to be able to furnish the work to the wives and daughters of the soldiers. In St. Louis, the terms of the contract were somewhat more favorable than at the East, and on the expiration of one, another was taken up, and about four hundred women were supplied with remunerative work throughout the whole period of the war. The terms of the contract necessitated the careful inspection of the clothing, and the certainty of its being well made, by the lady contractors; but in point of fact, it was all cut and prepared for the sewing-women by Mrs. Springer and her associates, who, giving their services to this work, divided among [55] their employs the entire sum received for each contract, paying them weekly for their work. The strong competition at the East, rendered the price paid for the work, for which contracts were taken by Miss Wormeley and Miss Gilson, less than at the West, but Miss Gilson, and, we believe, Miss Wormeley also, raised an additional sum, and paid to the sewing-women more than the contract price for the work. It required a spirit thoroughly imbued with patriotism and philanthropy to carry on this work, for the drudgery connected with it was a severe tax upon the strength of those who undertook it. In the St. Louis contracts, the officers and managers of the Ladies' Aid Society, rendered assistance to Mrs. Springer, who had the matter in charge, so far as they could, but not satisfied with this, one of their number, the late Mrs. Palmer, spent a portion of every day in visiting the soldiers' families who were thus employed, and whenever additional aid was needed, it was cheerfully and promptly bestowed. In this noble work of Christian charity, Mrs. Palmer overtasked her physical powers, and after a long illness, she passed from earth, to be reckoned among that list of noble martyrs, who sacrificed life for the cause of their country.

But it was not the managers and leaders of these central associations alone whose untiring exertions, and patient fidelity to their patriotic work should excite our admiration and reverence. Though moving in a smaller circle, and dealing with details rather than aggregates, there were, in almost every village and town, those whose zeal, energy, and devotion to their patriotic work, was as worthy of record, and as heroic in character, as the labors of their sisters in the cities. We cannot record the names of those thousands of noble women, but their record is on high, and in the grand assize, their zealous toil to relieve their suffering brothers, who were fighting or had fought the nation's battles, will be recognized by Him, who regards every such act of love and philanthropy as done to Himself.

Nor are these, alone, among those whose deeds of love and [56] patriotism are inscribed in the heavenly record. The whole history of the contributions for relief, is glorified by its abundant instances of self-sacrifice. The rich gave, often, largely and nobly from their wealth; but a full moiety of the fifty millions of voluntary gifts, came from the hard earnings, or patient labors of the poor, often bestowed at the cost of painful privation. Incidents like the following were of every-day occurrence, during the later years of the war: “In one of the mountainous countries at the North, in a scattered farming district, lived a mother and daughters, too poor to obtain, by purchase, the material for making hospital clothing, yet resolved to do something for the soldier. Twelve miles distant, over the mountain, and accessible only by a road almost impassable, was the county-town, in which there was a Relief Association. Borrowing a neighbor's horse, either the mother or daughters came regularly every fortnight, to procure from this society, garments to make up for the hospital. They had no money; but though the care of their few acres of sterile land devolved upon themselves alone, they could and would find time to work for the sufferers in the hospitals. At length, curious to know the secret of such fervor in the cause, one of the managers of the association addressed them: ‘You have some relative, a son, or brother, or father, in the war, I suppose?’ ‘No!’ was the reply, ‘not now; our only brother fell at Ball's Bluff.’ ‘Why then,’ asked the manager, ‘do you feel so deep an interest in this work?’ ‘Our country's cause is the cause of God, and we would do what we can, for His sake,’ was the sublime reply.”

Take another example. “In that little hamlet on the bleak and barren hills of New England, far away from the great city or even the populous village, you will find a mother and daughter living in a humble dwelling. The husband and father has lain for many years 'neath the sod in the graveyard on the hill slope; the only son, the hope and joy of both mother and sister, at the call of duty, gave himself to the service of his country, and left those whom he loved as his own life, to toil at home alone. By [57] and bye, at Williamsburg, or Fair Oaks, or in that terrible retreat to James River, or at Cedar Mountain, it matters not which, the swift speeding bullet laid him low, and after days, or it may be weeks of terrible suffering, he gave up his young life on the altar of his country. The shock was a terrible one to those lone dwellers on the snowy hills. He was their all, but it was for the cause of Freedom, of Right, of God; and hushing the wild beating of their hearts they bestir themselves, in their deep poverty, to do something for the cause for which their young hero had given his life. It is but little, for they are sorely straitened; but the mother, though her heart is wrapped in the darkness of sorrow, saves the expense of mourning apparel, and the daughter turns her faded dress; the little earnings of both are carefully hoarded, the pretty chintz curtains which had made their humble room cheerful, are replaced by paper, and by dint of constant saving, enough money is raised to purchase the other materials for a hospital quilt, a pair of socks, and a shirt, to be sent to the Relief Association, to give comfort to some poor wounded soldier, tossing in agony in some distant hospital. And this, with but slight variation is the history of hundreds, and perhaps thousands of the articles sent to the soldiers' aid societies.”

This fire of patriotic zeal, while it glowed alike in the hearts of the rich and poor, inflamed the young as well as the old. Little girls, who had not attained their tenth year, or who had just passed it, denied themselves the luxuries and toys they had long desired, and toiled with a patience and perseverance wholly foreign to childish nature, to procure or make something of value for their country's defenders. On a pair of socks sent to the Central Association of Relief, was pinned a paper with this legend: “These stockings were knit by a little girl five years old, and she is going to knit some more, for mother said it will help some poor soldier.” The official reports of the Women's Soldiers' Aid Society of Northern Ohio, the Cleveland branch of the Sanitary Commission, furnish the following incident: “Every Saturday morning [58] finds Emma Andrews, ten years of age, at the rooms of the Aid Society with an application for work. Her little basket is soon filled with pieces of half-worn linen, which, during the week, she cuts into towels or handkerchiefs; hems, and returns, neatly washed and ironed, at her next visit. Her busy fingers have already made two hundred and twenty-nine towels, and the patriotic little girl is still earnestly engaged in her work.” Holidays and half holidays in the country were devoted by the little ones with great zeal, to the gathering of blackberries and grapes, for the preparations of cordials and native wines for the hospitals, and the picking, paring and drying peaches and apples, which, in their abundance, proved a valuable safeguard against scurvy, which threatened the destruction or serious weakening of our armies, more than once. In the cities and large villages the children, with generous self-denial, gave the money usually expended for fireworks to purchase onions and pickles for the soldiers, to prevent scurvy. A hundred thousand dollars, it is said, was thus consecrated, by these little ones, to this benevolent work.

In the days of the Sanitary Fairs, hundreds of groups of little girls held their miniature fairs, stocked for the most part with articles of their own production, upon the door step, or the walk in front of their parents' dwellings, or in the wood-shed, or in some vacant room, and the sums realized from their sales, varying from five to one hundred dollars, were paid over, without any deduction for expenses, since labor and attendance were voluntary and the materials a gift, to the treasuries of the great fairs then in progress.

Nor were the aged women lacking in patriotic devotion. Such inscriptions as these were not uncommon. “The fortunate owner of these socks is secretly informed, that they are the one hundred and ninety-first pair knit for our brave boys by Mrs. Abner Bartlett, of Medford, Mass., now aged eighty-five years.”

A barrel of hospital clothing sent from Conway, Mass., contained a pair of socks knit by a lady ninety-seven years old, who [59] declared herself ready and anxious to do all she could. A homespun blanket bore the inscription, “This blanket was carried by Milly Aldrich, who is ninety-three years old, down hill and up hill, one and a-half miles, to be given to some soldier.”

A box of lint bore this touching record, “Made in a sick-room where the sunlight has not entered for nine years, but where God has entered, and where two sons have bade their mother goodbye, as they have gone out to the war.”

Every one knows the preciousness of the household linen which has been for generations an heirloom in a family. Yet in numerous instances, linen sheets, table-cloths, and napkins, from one hundred and twenty to two hundred years old, which no money could have purchased, were dedicated, often by those who had nought else to give, to the service of the hospital.

An instance of generous and self-denying patriotism related by Mrs. D. P. Livermore, of the Northwestern Sanitary Commission, deserves a record in this connection, as it was one which has had more than one counterpart elsewhere. “Some two or three months ago, a poor girl, a seamstress, came to our rooms. ‘I do not feel right,’ she said, ‘that I am doing nothing for our soldiers in the hospitals, and have resolved to do something immediately. Which do you prefer — that I should give money, or buy material and manufacture it into garments?’ ”

“You must be guided by your circumstances,” was the answer made her; “we need both money and supplies, and you must do that which is most convenient for you.”

“I prefer to give you money, if it will do as much good.”

“Very well; then give money, which we need badly, and without which we cannot do what is most necessary for our brave sick men.”

“Then I will give you the entire earnings of the next two weeks. I'd give more, but I have to help support my mother who is an invalid. Generally I make but one vest a day, but I will work earlier and later these two weeks.” In two weeks she [60] came again, the poor sewing girl, her face radiant with the consciousness of philanthropic intent. Opening her porte-monnaie, she counted out nineteen dollars and thirty-seven cents. Every penny was earned by the slow needle, and she had stitched away into the hours of midnight on every one of the working days of the week. The patriotism which leads to such sacrifices as these, is not less deserving of honor than that which finds scope for its energies in ministering to the wounded on the battle-field or in the crowded wards of a hospital.

Two other offerings inspired by the true spirit of earnest and active philanthropy, related by the same lady, deserve a place here.

Some farmers' wives in the north of Wisconsin, eighteen miles from a railroad, had given to the Commission of their bed and table linen, their husbands' shirts and drawers, their scanty supply of dried and canned fruits, till they had exhausted their ability to do more in this direction. Still they were not satisfied. So they cast about to see what could be done in another way. They were all the wives of small farmers, lately moved to the West, all living in log cabins, where one room sufficed for kitchen, parlor, laundry, nursery and bed-room, doing their own house-work, sewing, baby-tending, dairy-work, and all. What could they do?

They were not long in devising a way to gratify the longings of their motherly and patriotic hearts, and instantly set about carrying it into action. They resolved to beg wheat of the neighboring farmers, and convert it into money. Sometimes on foot, and sometimes with a team, amid the snows and mud of early spring, they canvassed the country for twenty and twenty-five miles around, everywhere eloquently pleading the needs of the blue-coated soldier boys in the hospitals, the eloquence everywhere acting as an open sesame to the granaries. Now they obtained a little from a rich man, and then a great deal from a poor man-deeds of benevolence are half the time in an inverse [61] ratio to the ability of the benefactors-till they had accumulated nearly five hundred bushels of wheat. This they sent to market, obtained the highest market price for it, and forwarded the proceeds to the Commission. As we held this hard-earned money in our hands, we felt that it was consecrated, that the holy purpose and resolution of these noble women had imparted a sacredness to it.

Very beautiful is the following incident, narrated by the same lady, of a little girl, one of thousands of the little ones, who have, during the war, given up precious and valued keepsakes to aid in ministering to the sick and wounded soldiers. “A little girl not nine years old, with sweet and timid grace, came into the rooms of the Commission, and laying a five dollar gold-piece on our desk, half frightened, told us its history. ‘My uncle gave me that before the war, and I was going to keep it always; but he's got killed in the army, and mother says now I may give it to the soldiers if I want to-and I'd like to do so. I don't suppose it will buy much for them, will it?’ ” We led the child to the store-room, and proceeded to show her how valuable her gift was, by pointing out what it would buy-so many cans of condensed milk, or so many bottles of ale, or pounds of tea, or codfish, etc. Her face brightened with pleasure. But when we explained to her that her five dollar gold-piece was equal to seven dollars and a half in greenbacks, and told her how much comfort we had been enabled to carry into a hospital, with as small an amount of stores as that sum would purchase, she fairly danced with joy.

“Oh, it will do lots of good, won't it?” And folding her hands before her, she begged, in her charmingly modest way, “Please tell me something that you've seen in the hospitals?” A narrative of a few touching events, not such as would too severely shock the little creature, but which plainly showed the necessity of continued benevolence to the hospitals, filled her sweet eyes with tears, and drew from her the resolution, “to save [62] all her money, and to get all the girls to do so, to buy things for the wounded soldiers.”

Innumerable have been the methods by which the loyalty and patriotism of our countrywomen have manifested themselves; no memorial can ever record the thousandth part of their labors, their toils, or their sacrifices; sacrifices which, in so many instances, comprehended the life of the earnest and faithful worker. A grateful nation and a still more grateful army will ever hold in remembrance, such martyrs as Margaret Breckinridge, Anna M. Ross, Arabella Griffith Barlow, Mrs. Howland, Mrs. Plummer, Mrs. Mary E. Palmer, Mrs. S. C. Pomeroy, Mrs. C. M. Kirkland, Mrs. David Dudley Field, and Sweet Jenny Wade, of Gettysburg, as well as many others, who, though less widely known, laid down their lives as truly for the cause of their country; and their names should be inscribed upon the ever during granite, for they were indeed the most heroic spirits of the war, and to them, belong its unfading laurels and its golden crowns.

And yet, we are sometimes inclined to hesitate in our estimate of the comparative magnitude of the sacrifices laid upon the Nation's altar; not in regard to these, for she who gave her life, as well as her services, to the Nation's cause, gave all she had to give; but in reference to the others, who, though serving the cause faithfully in their various ways, yet returned unscathed to their homes. Great and noble as were the sacrifices made by these women, and fitted as they were to call forth our admiration, were they after all, equal to those of the mothers, sisters, and daughters, who, though not without tears, yet calmly, and with hearts burning with the fire of patriotism, willingly, gave up their best beloved to fight for the cause of their country and their God? A sister might give up an only brother, the playmate of her childhood, her pride, and her hope; a daughter might bid adieu to a father dearly beloved, whose care and guidance she still needs and will continue to need. A mother might, perchance, relinquish her only son, he on whom she had hoped [63] to lean, as the strong staff and the beautiful rod of her old age; all this might be, with sorrow indeed, and a deep and abiding sense of loneliness, not to be relieved, except by the return of that father, brother, or son. But the wife, who, fully worthy of that holy name, gave the parting hand to a husband who was dearer, infinitely dearer to her than father, son, or brother, and saw him go forth to the battle-field, where severe wounds or sudden and terrible death, were almost certainly to be his portion, sacrificed in that one act all but life, for she relinquished all that made life blissful. Yet even in this holocaust there were degrees, gradations of sacrifice. The wife of the officer might, perchance, have occasion to see how her husband was honored and advanced for his bravery and good conduct, and while he was spared, she was not likely to suffer the pangs of poverty. In these particulars, how much more, sad was the condition of the wife of the private soldier, especially in the earlier years of the war. To her, except the letters often long delayed or captured on their route, there were no tidings of her husband, except in the lists of the wounded or the slain; and her home, often one of refinement and taste, was not only saddened by the absence of him who was its chief joy, but often stripped of its best belongings, to help out the scanty pittance which rewarded her own severe toil, in furnishing food and clothing for herself and her little ones. Cruel, grinding poverty, was too often the portion of these poor women. At the West, women tenderly and carefully reared, were compelled to undertake the rude labors of the field, to provide bread for their families. And when, to so many of these poor women who had thus struggled with poverty, and the depressing influences of loneliness and weariness, there came the sad intelligence, that the husband so dearly loved, was among the slain, or that he had been captured and consigned to death by starvation and slow torture at Andersonville, where even now he might be filling an unknown grave, what wonder is it that in numerous cases the burden was too heavy for the wearied spirit, [64] and insanity supervened, or the broken heart found rest and reunion with the loved and lost in the grave.

Yet in many instances, the heart that seemed nigh to breaking, found solace in its sorrow, in ministering directly or indirectly to the wounded soldier, and forgetting its own misery, brought to other hearts and homes consolation and peace. This seems to us the loftiest and most divine of all the manifestations of the heroic spirit; it is nearest akin in its character to the conduct of Him, who while “he was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” yet found the opportunity, with his infinite tenderness and compassion, to assuage every sorrow and soothe every grief but his own.

The effect of this patriotic zeal and fervor on the part of the wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters of the loyal North, in stimulating and encouraging the soldiers to heroic deeds, was remarkable. Napoleon sought to awaken the enthusiasm and love of fame of his troops in Egypt, by that spirit-stirring word, “Soldiers, from the height of yonder pyramids forty centuries look down upon you.” But to the soldier fighting the battles of freedom, the thought that in every hamlet and village of the loyal North, patriotic women were toiling and watching for his welfare, and that they were ready to cheer and encourage him in the darkest hour, to medicine his wounds, and minister to his sickness and sorrows in the camp, on the battle-field, or in the hospital wards, was a far more grateful and inspiring sentiment, than the mythical watch and ward of the spectral hosts of a hundred centuries of the dead past.

The loyal soldier felt that he was fighting, so to speak, under the very eyes of his countrywomen, and he was prompted to higher deeds of daring and valor by the thought. In the smoke and flame of battle, he bore, or followed the flag, made and consecrated by female hands to his country's service; many of the articles which contributed to his comfort, and strengthened his good right arm, and inspirited his heart for the day of battle [65] were the products of the toil and the gifts of his countrywomen; and he knew right well, that if he should fall in the fierce conflict, the gentle ministrations of woman would be called in requisition, to bind up his wounds, to cool his fevered brow, to minister to his fickle or failing appetite, to soothe his sorrows, to communicate with his friends, and if death came to close his eyes, and comfort, so far as might be those who had loved him. This knowledge strengthened him in the conflict, and enabled him to strike more boldly and vigorously for freedom, until the time came when the foe, dispirited and exhausted, yielded up his last vantage ground, and the war was over.

The Rebel soldiers were not thus sustained by home influences. At first, indeed, Aid Societies were formed all over the South, and supplies forwarded to their armies; but in the course of a year, the zeal of the Southern ladies cooled, and they contented themselves with waving their handkerchiefs to the soldiers, instead of providing for their wants; and thenceforward, to the end of the war, though there were no rebels so bitter and hearty in their expressions of hostility to the North, as the great mass of Southern women, it was a matter of constant complaint in the Rebel armies, that their women did nothing for their comfort. The complaint was doubtless exaggerated, for in their hospitals there were some women of high station who did minister to the wounded, but after the first year, the gifts and sacrifices of Southern women to their army and hospitals, were not the hundredth, hardly the thousandth part of those of the women of the North to their countrymen.

A still more remarkable result of this wide-spread movement among the women of the North, was its effect upon the sex themselves. Fifty years of peace had made us, if not “a nation of shop-keepers,” at least a people given to value too highly, the pomp and show of material wealth, and our women were as a class, the younger women especially, devoting to frivolous pursuits, society, gaiety and display, the gifts wherewith God had [66] endowed them most bountifully. The war, and the benevolence and patriotism which it evoked, changed all this. The gay and thoughtless belle, the accomplished and beautiful leader of society, awoke at once to a new life. The soul of whose existence she had been almost as unconscious as Fouqud's Undine, began to assert its powers, and the gay and fashionable woman, no longer ennuyed by the emptiness and frivolity of life, found her thoughts and hands alike fully occupied, and rose into a sphere of life and action, of which, a month before, she would have considered herself incapable.

Saratoga and Newport, and the other haunts of fashion were not indeed deserted, but the visitors there were mostly new faces, the wives and daughters of those who had grown rich through the contracts and vicissitudes of the war, while their old habitues were toiling amid the summer's heat to provide supplies for the hospitals, superintending sanitary fairs, or watching and aiding the sick and wounded soldiers in the hospitals, or at the front of the army. In these labors of love, many a fair face grew pale, many a light dancing step became slow and feeble, and ever and anon the light went out of eyes, that but a little while before had flashed and glowed in conscious beauty and pride. But though the cheeks might grow pale, the step feeble, and the eyes dim, there was a holier and more transcendent beauty about them than in their gayest hours. “We looked daily,” says one who was herself a participant in this blessed work, in speaking of one who, after years of self-sacrificing devotion, at last laid down her young life in patriotic toil, “we looked daily to see the halo surround her head, for it seemed as if God would not suffer so pure and saintly a soul to walk the earth without a visible manifestation of his love for her.” Work so ennobling, not only elevated and etherealized the mind and soul, but it glorified the body, and many times it shed a glory and beauty over the plainest faces, somewhat akin to that which transfigured the Jewish lawgiver, when he came down from the Mount. But it has done more [67] than this. The soul once ennobled by participation in a great and glorious work, can never again be satisfied to come down to the heartlessness, the frivolities, the petty jealousies, and littlenesses of a life of fashion. Its aspirations and sympathies lie otherwheres, and it must seek in some sphere of humanitarian activity or Christian usefulness, for work that will gratify its longings.

How pitiful and mean must the brightest of earth's gay assemblages appear, to her who, day after day, has held converse with the souls of the departing, as they plumed their wings for the flight heavenward, and accompanying them in their upward journey so far as mortals may, has been privileged with some glimpse through the opening gates of pearl, into the golden streets of the city of our God!

With such experiences, and a discipline so purifying and ennobling, we can but anticipate a still higher and holier future, for the women of our time. To them, we must look for the advancement of all noble and philanthropic enterprises; the lifting vagrant and wayward childhood from the paths of ruin; the universal diffusion of education and culture; the succor and elevation of the poor, the weak, and the down-trodden; the rescue and reformation of the fallen sisterhood; the improvement of hospitals and the care of the sick; the reclamation of prisoners, especially in female prisons; and in general, the genial ministrations of refined and cultured womanhood, wherever these ministrations can bring calmness, peace and comfort. Wherever there is sorrow, suffering, or sin, in our own or in other lands, these heaven-appointed Sisters of Charity will find their mission and their work.

Glorious indeed will be the results of such labors of love and Christian charity. Society will be purified and elevated; giant evils which have so long thwarted human progress, overthrown; the strongholds of sin, captured and destroyed by the might of truth, and the “new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness,” so [68] long foretold by patriarch, prophet, and apostle, become a welcome and enduring reality.

And they who have wrought this good work, as, one after another, they lay down the garments of their earthly toil to assume the glistening robes of the angels, shall find, as did Enoch of old, that those who walk with God, shall be spared the agonies of death and translated peacefully and joyfully to the mansions of their heavenly home, while waiting choirs of the blessed ones shall hail their advent to the transcendent glories of the world above.

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