Woman's Work in the Civil War: Civil War Classic Library
Log in to rate this item
The preparation of this work, or rather the collection of material for it, was commenced in the autumn of 1863. While engaged in the compilation of a little book on 'The Philanthropic Results of the War' for circulation abroad, in the summer of that year, the writer became so deeply impressed with the extraordinary sacrifices and devotion of loyal women, in the national cause, that he determined to make a record of them for the honor of his country. A voluminous correspondence then commenced and continued to the present time, soon demonstrated how general were the acts of patriotic devotion, and an extensive tour, undertaken the following summer, to obtain by personal observation and intercourse with these heroic women, a more clear and comprehensive idea of what they had done and were doing, only served to increase his admiration for their zeal, patience, and self-denying effort. Meantime the war still continued, and the collisions between Grant and Lee, in the East, and Sherman and Johnston, in the South, the fierce campaign between Thomas and Hood in Tennessee, Sheridan's annihilating defeats of Early in the valley of the Shenandoah, and Wilson's magnificent expedition in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, as well as the mixed naval and military victories at Mobile and Wilmington, were fruitful in wounds, sickness, and death. Never had the gentle and patient ministrations of woman been so needful as in the last year of the war: and never had they been so abundantly bestowed, and with such zeal and self-forgetfulness. From Andersonville, and Millen, from Charleston, and Florence, from Salisbury, and Wilmington, from Belle Isle, and Libby Prison, came also, in these later months of the war, thousands of our bravest and noblest heroes, captured by the rebels, the feeble remnant of the tens of thousands imprisoned there, a majority of whom had perished of cold, nakedness, starvation, and disease, in those charnel houses, victims of the fiendish malignity of the rebel leaders. These poor fellows, starved to the last degree of emaciation, crippled and dying from frost and gangrene, many of them idiotic from their sufferings, or with the fierce fever of typhus, more deadly than sword or minié: bullet, raging in their veins, were brought to Annapolis and to Wilmington, and unmindful of the deadly infection, gentle and tender women ministered to them as faithfully and lovingly, as if they were their own brothers. Ever and anon, in these works of mercy, one of these fair ministrants died a martyr to her faithfulness, asking, often only, to be buried beside her 'boys,' but the work never ceased while there was a soldier to be nursed. Nor were these the only fields in which noble service was rendered to humanity by the women of our time. In the larger associations of our cities, day after day, and year after year, women served in summer's heat and winter's cold, at their desks, corresponding with auxiliary aid societies, taking account of goods received for sanitary supplies, re-packing and shipping them to the points where they were needed, inditing and sending out circulars appealing for aid, in work more prosaic but equally needful and patriotic with that performed in the hospitals: and throughout every village and hamlet in the country, women were toiling, contriving, submitting to privation, performing unusual and severe labors, all for the soldiers.