The Kindness of the Ladies~September 1863~the 5th to the 7th

The Kindness of the Ladies ~ J. T. McKinnon, 110th Ohio Regiment


Women nurse and feed the sick and wounded, deal with bandits and, like Charlotte Forten Grimke, seek needed respite. Fighting on many fronts shows no sign of decreasing and many wonder if another major battle or two will be fought before winter brings an end to campaigning. Soldiers write home about food, about religious faith and about female care. In Europe, Charles Francis Adams warns the British government that the United States will go to war with England if the ships built for the Confederacy are allowed to sail and an American citizen writes that most ordinary Europeans support the Union cause.

September 5– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– “What a difference it is with me here, I tell you, Nat, my evenings are frequently spent in scenes that make a terrible difference for I am still a hospital visitor, there has not passed a day for months (or at least not more than two) that I have not been among the sick & wounded, either in hospitals or down in camp– occasionally here I spend the evenings in hospital– the experience is a profound one, beyond all else, & touches me personally, egotistically, in unprecedented ways. I mean the way often the amputated, sick, sometimes dying soldiers cling & cleave to me as it were as a man overboard to a plank, & the perfect content they have if I will remain with them, sit on the side of the cot awhile, some youngsters often, & caress them &c. It is delicious to be the object of so much love & reliance, & to do them such good, soothe & pacify torments of wounds &c. You will doubtless see in what I have said the reason I continue so long in this kind of life as I am entirely on my own hook too. Life goes however quite well with me here. I work a few hours a day at copying &c, occasionally write a newspaper letter, & make enough money to pay my expenses. I have a little room, & live a sort of German or Parisian student life– always get my breakfast in my room, (have a little spirit lamp) & rub on free & happy enough, untrammeled by business, for I make what little employment I have suit my moods, walk quite a good deal, & in this weather the rich & splendid environs of Washington are an unfailing fountain to me, go down the river, or off into Virginia once in a while. All around us here are forts, by thescore, great ambulance & teamsters’ camps – these I go to– some have little hospitals, I visit, &c &c.” ~ Letter from Walt Whitman to Nathaniel Bloom.

September 5– Saturday– near Sulphur Springs, Virginia– You wish to know if I am quite well now. Well I can assure you that it is the best that it has been in years & in regard to what I get to eat. It is better living than I have had since I came out. We have corn syrup or fried corn or have it roasted. Every day we have green beans, corn & pickled pork cooked together an excellent dish. We draw potatoes & roast them or cook them any way we like for breakfast. Several days back we have had our potatoes pared & an onion or two & sliced & then after frying our meat we put them in with it & pour on some water & let them stew down cooking soft with a rich gravy. Then our cup of coffee & my dish of elderberries & fox grapes stewed with plenty of sugar to season & our soft bread (as we are getting it now) makes a good enough meal for a soldier. The boys are all living well now. We got some pickled cabbage from the commissary the other day & I don’t think any of them care for it. As far as food & clothing are concerned there are thousands of soldiers better provided for here than they would be at home.” ~ Letter from Union soldier Samuel Potter to his wife Cynthia.


September 5– Saturday– Alpine, Georgia; Lebanon, Alabama; Tazewell, Tennessee; Maysville, Arkansas– Skirmishes, raids and fire fights occur as each side presses for advantage.

September 5– Saturday– Memphis, Tennessee– The Memphis Bulletin reports on the pluck of a local woman. “A day or two ago a widow lady named Ward, who resides some eight miles from the city on the Pigeonroost road, was coming to this city, with two bales of cotton, when she was stopped by three guerrillas who declared their intention to burn her cotton. The lady was not disposed to submit very tamely to this arrangement. She therefore produced a repeater, and told them that she would shoot the first man who dared to move a step toward carrying out their threat. This heroic determination on the part of the lady deterred the villains from the execution of their threat, and they ‘slunk away’ to their hiding place.”

September 5– Saturday– London, England– U S Minister Charles Francis Adams protests British aid to the Confederacy and threatens that the United States will break diplomatic relations with Britain if such aid continues. He tells Her Majesty’s Government that if the Laird rams escape the United States will go to war against Britain. “It would be superfluous for me to point out to your Lordship that this is war,” he tells Foreign Minister Lord Russell.

September 6– Sunday– Salem, Massachusetts– “Spent most of the day with Mary who read me some beautiful hymns, and passages from Mrs [Frances] Kemble’s book, which interested me greatly. . . . It fills one with admiration for the noble woman whose keen sense of justice, whose true humanity shrank with the utmost loathing from the terrible system whose details she saw day after day.” ~ Diary of Charlotte Forten Grimke.

Charlotte Forten Grimke

Charlotte Forten Grimke

September 6– Sunday– New York City– “The sight of a New-York Times this morning was like the face of a dear old friend; and indeed, next to the Stars and Stripes, which we seldom see in these distant seas, I know of no inanimate object which could bring more joy, because when I touch it like the palm of a tried friend I know it is loyal, and so I will tell you that away here at the foot of the Tyrolese Alps, and upon the Adriatic, there were many glad hearts when the news arrived of our decisive successes. Not alone the Americans here, but the eyes of Austrian-Italy are looking wistfully toward the success of liberty the world over, and is glad to receive consolation and strength from any source, preparatory to that longed-for day when she shall successfully throw off the yoke which galls so deeply the fair neck of Italy. In an extended journey one meets with intelligent people from all parts of the world, and of the many opinions and feelings expressed, I have, with scarcely an exception, heard only sympathy for liberty and the North. And I may appropriately say here, that the only unpleasant or disagreeable personage I have met, has been the Northern Copperhead, who was violent in condemnation of his Government and its supporters, but never a word against those who seek to destroy our Union. But be assured these men are despised by every European who has for his country a loyal feeling – and say, truly, the open rebels are more honorable.” ~ Letter to the editor of The New York Times from an American living in Venice, Italy. [Despite the success of Garibaldi, at this time Austria still controls sections of northern Italy, French soldiers remain in Rome and the Pope retains some of the territory of the old Papal States.]

September 6– Sunday– near Warrenton, Virginia– “We are having considerable religious interest in our Regiment, and I pray God that it may continue. Soldiers are not the worst men in the world, but they are very careless in regard to matters of religion. We have had no Chaplain for many months and consequently no regular services. . . . last week about thirty were present [for prayer meeting]. Tonight I was invited to join them. I accepted and made an address. . . . soon nearly every officer and man of our Regiment was listening to the service. I never saw such a prayer meeting before and I know the Spirit of the Lord was with us.” ~ Elisha Hunt Rhodes in his diary. [Rhodes is an observant member of a Baptist church.]

Elisha Hunt Rhodes

Elisha Hunt Rhodes

September 6– Sunday– Charleston, South Carolina– At nightfall, after a day-long Federal bombardment, the Confederate garrison evacuates Fort Wagner. Fort Sumter, reduced to rubble, continues to hold out.

September 6– Sunday– Stevens’ Gap, Georgia; Sweet Water, Tennessee; Carter’s Run, Virginia; Petersburg, West Virginia; Fort Scott, Kansas; Carthage, Missouri; Hutton Valley, Missouri– Small but deadly fighting takes lives.

September 6– Sunday– near Little Rock, Arkansas– Confederate General Lucius Marshall Walker is mortally wounded in a pistol duel with Confederate General John Marmaduke.

September 7– Monday– Bear Skin Lake, Missouri; Ferry Landing, Arkansas; Morgan’s Ferry, Louisiana; Holly Springs, Mississippi; Bath, West Virginia– Bitter fighting takes a toll.

September 7– Monday– West Jefferson, Ohio– “We chanced to spend a few days in the Atheneum hospital of your city in a wounded and very week condition, at least, such was our condition when first arriving there. The Union ladies learning our situation came in to see us, loaded with viands, which they spread out before us in such abundance, that we could select the most palatable of the luxuries, and the part we considered the most conducive to health, so that our improvement was remarkably rapid while we stayed there. We do not wish to mention the kindness of the ladies of Wheeling exclusively, for after the rebels left Winchester and the citizens were permitted to enter the hospital, they manifested a great deal of interest in our welfare, and treated us very kindly; the same may be said of the loyal ladies of Martinsburg, where we spent a few days in the hospital; but we have yet to see the ladies of Wheeling surpassed in hospitality and devotion to the Union cause. If such a devotion to the Union was universal throughout the North, what would be the result? Those leading traitors whose only hope of success is in a divided North, would begin to seek refuge in foreign countries to avoid that fate which all traitors to a free, prosperous and happy country deserve. New light dawning upon their deluded followers would cause them to see the error of their way, and to depart from it and come back into the Union and remain peaceful and loyal citizens. Our Union would then be restored to that state in which it was transmitted by our forefathers to their children, after having purchased it at the cost of so much blood and treasure, and in the same condition in which it descended to us. It would then resume its former proud position among the nations of the earth. We, as a nation, in our struggle for self existence, should imitate the actions of those revolutionary heroes, whose self sacrifices and patient endurance of hardships in that noted struggle for liberty, has become proverbial. Our wound is slowly improving, and we hope to be able soon to take our place with our brave comrades by whose side we were fighting when wounded.” ~ Letter from J. T. McKinnon, 110th Ohio Regiment, to the editor of the Wheeling Intelligencer.


September 7– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “You spoke the other day, partly in fun, about the men being so undemonstrative. I thought I would write you a line, as I hear you leave the hospital tomorrow for a few weeks. Your labor of love & disinterestedness here in Hospital is appreciated. I have invariably heard the Ward A patients speak of you with gratitude, sometimes with enthusiasm. They have their own ways (not outside eclat, but in manly American hearts, however rude, however undemonstrative to you). I thought it would be sweet to your tender & womanly heart, to know what I have so often heard from the soldiers about you, as I sat by their sick cots. I too have learnt to love you, seeing your tender heart, & your goodness to those wounded & dying young men– for they have grown to seem to me as my sons or dear young brothers. As I am poor I cannot make you a present, but I write you this note, dear girl, knowing you will receive it in the same candor & good faith it is written.” ~ Walt Whitman’s letter to a Miss Gregg

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