The Honor of Our Sex~May 1864~the 1st & 2nd

The Honor of Our Sex~Ladies National Covenant

Charlotte Forten

Charlotte Forten

A group of Northern women from political and military circles pledge careful budgeting to help the war effort. Charlotte Forten describes her experiences in Atlantic Monthly. Yet another report of a woman disguised for soldiering appears in a newspaper. A woman convicted of spying goes to prison. Women are working for the government in Washington. Women are teaching and nursing.

The New York Times updates readers about the situation in Mexico. Soldiers are concerned about spiritual matters.

May– Boston, Massachusetts– This month’s issue of the Atlantic Monthly carries a ten page article by Charlotte Forten describing her arrival in the fall of 1862 and first days of teaching at St Helena Island, South Carolina. “The Sunday after our arrival we attended service at the Baptist Church. The people came in slowly; for they have no way of knowing the hour, except by the sun. By eleven they had all assembled, and the church was well filled. They were neatly dressed in their Sunday-attire, the women, mostly wearing clean, dark frocks, with white aprons and bright-colored head-handkerchiefs. Some had attained to the dignity of straw hats with gay feathers, but these were not nearly as becoming nor as picturesque as the handkerchiefs. The day was warm, and the windows were thrown open as if it were summer, although it was the second day of November. It was very pleasant to listen to the beautiful hymns, and look from the crowd of dark, earnest faces within, upon the grove of noble oaks without. The people sang, ‘Roll, Jordan, roll,’ the grandest of all their hymns. There is a great, rolling wave of sound through it all. . . . The first day at school was rather trying. Most of my children were very small, and consequently restless. Some were too young to learn the alphabet. These little ones were brought to school because the older children– in whose care their parents leave them while at work– could not come without them. We were therefore willing to have them come, although they seemed to have discovered the secret of perpetual motion, and tried one’s patience sadly. But after some days of positive, though not severe treatment, order was brought out of chaos, and I found but little difficulty in managing and quieting the tiniest and most restless spirits. I never before saw children so eager to learn, although I had had several years’ experience in New-England schools. Coming to school is a constant delight and recreation to them. They come here as other children go to play. The older ones, during the summer, work in the fields from early morning until eleven or twelve o’clock, and then come into school, after their hard toil in the hot sun, as bright and as anxious to learn as ever.”

African American church on St Helena Island

African American church on St Helena Island

May 1– Sunday– New York City– The New York Times reports that this past week in Palmyra, New York, a Mr Sanford was sentenced to five years in state prison for bigamy. He had married a certain Miss Miller by impersonating an officer in the Union army with whom she had been corresponding without ever having seen him. Eventually it was discovered that he was a deserter and already had a wife in New York City.

May 1– Sunday– New York City– “In another column we give copious extracts from our files of English journals, together with translations of notable passages from our French files, to illustrate the popular feeling abroad regarding the progress of events in Mexico. The supercilious, insulting tone in which reference is made to the disability of our Government to interfere at present with the erection of a monarchy upon the ruins of the Mexican Republic might, and perhaps would, excite
our indignation, were it not for the ludicrous perplexity in which both the English and French journalists appear to be regarding what has actually been accomplished by Napoleon, and the fears which seem to haunt them unless the would-be Emperor may not after all find his path to the Mexican capital strewn with roses. The London Times, for instance, speaks of the historical significance of the fact that a republic has been superseded by a monarchy in America, and in the next breath congratulates the world that Napoleon has instituted a Government where anarchy – no government at all – existed. La France announce that the French troops will be withdrawn from the scene of their conquests immediately upon the arrival of the Emperor Maximilian, and by a curious coincidence its prophecy seems to be anticipated simultaneously with its utterance, for we have a rumor that the French have already left the City of Mexico. If events continue to progress at this rate, the Emperor in embryo will not only want a blessing from the Pope to insure the throne to his posterity; – he will need one none the less to make secure his own occupation of it.” ~ New York Times

May 1– Sunday– Camp Sedgwick, Virginia– “We have had our regular service today, but it has not seemed much like Sunday for we are preparing for a march and the camp is in confusion. The officers are packing up and sending off their surplus baggage and the ladies have left our camp for home. Our move means fight; may God grant us the victory.”~ Diary of Elisha Hunt Rhodes.

May 1– Sunday– near Orange Courthouse, Virginia– “I have been distributing religious papers this morning for Brother Haygood. I have distributed about four hundred in our brigade and some in others. I love to give them out, the boys are so glad to get them and I hope they may do them good. There has [been] twenty or thirty-five joined the church in the last week and the altar is still full of them. Thank God for his goodness and grace. I hope that God may bless the church at home. . . . Oh, that God may bless us and give us peace that we may get them to worship around our family altar.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier W A Stilwell to his wife Molly. [He will survive the war and enter the ministry.]


May 1– Sunday– near Orange Courthouse, Virginia– “What is the matter? I have been two weeks here & have written to you three times & not one word have I heard from you and I have imagined that all sorts of things have happened. My coming away without being able to come home again, did
not make you sick, did it? But I will hope that there has nothing happened; that you have written to me in your prompt & loving way & that the cruel mails have been making sport of me & that I shall hear from you by tomorrow. Be sure & write to me often, if only a few words at a time, that I may not fail to know of your welfare. May Heaven be kind to you all– you are in the hands of the Father of Mercies & He only, at any time, has power to safely guard. . . . . Man cannot become hardened to the horrors of war. O that the blessed days when war shall be no more would come upon the earth! But we have accepted the issue of ‘liberty or death.’ There is now no retiring from the contest – we are to fight it out & leave the issue in the hands of the Dispenser of all events. All feel confident of success – the events of the year have all been favorable to us & are happy auguries of the event of this great struggle that must again baptize the soil of Old Virginia in blood. We are calmly waiting the coming conflict – hoping & praying it may be the last.”~ Letter from Confederate officer Jedediah Hotchkiss to Sara, his wife.

May 1– Sunday– Nashville, Tennessee– “A Female soldier, who has served over two years with the 54th Indiana regiment and participated in several battles, was arrested by the Military conductor on the Louisville and Nashville Railroad on Thursday last [April 28]. The regiment of which she claimed she was a member was in transit at the time. She was dressed in full uniform, and displayed the badge which indicates the rank of an orderly sergeant. The conductor brought her to Nashville, and reported her to the Provost Marshal for disposal.” ~ Nashville Dispatch.

a woman who served as a Union soldier

a woman who served as a Union soldier

May 1– Sunday– Nashville, Tennessee– “This P. M., Miss O and myself accompanied Rev. E. P. Smith to listen to his ‘colored preaching,’ as he termed it, in the same church in which is the school for the colored children. It was a rare treat– and the first colored audience I ever saw. Do not imagine a squalid, ragged, filthy audience; but one where silks, ribbons, velvet, broadcloth, spotless linen and beavers predominated, with a sprinkling of beautifully cared for silver, and gold-headed canes, with about the usual proportion of fops to the canes that one may find in an audience of equal size, orour own color. Some of these persons are free and own property. But one would scarcely covet some of the ladies their silks and velvets, when she learns that it is purchased with the avails of extra labor at night after the day’s work ‘for de missus is done.’ But so it is. And although the church was built some years ago with their money, yet it was held in trust by white people because ‘Negroes cannot own property.’ I have been repeatedly told that I would turn pro-slavery when I came south and saw how things really were. I do not feel any of the first symptoms as yet, but quite the contrary. Instead, I’m getting to believe that the day when the Emancipation Document was sent forth, was that of which it is said ‘a nation shall be born in a day,’ and I’m learning to think that this gospel, which is ‘Writ in burnished rows of steel’ And read by ‘The watch-fires of an hundred circling camps,’ is the ‘word’ which ‘makes men free,’ and will forever strike the manacles from the oppressed bondsman.” ~ Journal of Elvira Powers.

May 1– Sunday– Andersonville, Georgia– At the Andersonville prison camp the bake-house, which is located outside the west wall near the prison creek, begins service. It will never able to prepare rations for more than a fraction of the growing inmate population, while grease from the facility is emptied into the creek branch upstream of the stockade, thus adding to the pollution in the only source of water for the prisoners.

May 1– Sunday– Governor Moore’s plantation, Louisiana; Pine Bluff, Arkansas; Ashton, Louisiana; Stone Church, Georgia; Clinton, Louisiana; Lee’s Creek, Arkansas; Berwick, Louisiana– Skirmishes and firefights.

May 2– Monday– New York City– An early morning fire destroys a building at the junction of Doyer Street and Chatham Square, killing a young couple and their three children, ages 4 years, 2 years and 15 months.

May 2– Monday– Washington, D.C.– A group of 73 women, most of them the wives of senators, congressmen, judges, clergy or military officers, form a “Ladies National Covenant” and agree to help the war effort by refraining from purchasing European goods. “For the good of our country and the honor of our sex, let us redeem ourselves from this reproach of wanton extravagance.” The women include Mary Ellen McClellan, Jessie Fremont, Julia Grant, Margaret Sarah Sherman (wife of Senator John Sherman and sister-in-law to General Sherman), Lucretia Garfield and Adele Douglas, widow of the late Senator Stephen A Douglas who ran against Lincoln in the 1860 election. They agree to encourage women across the country to make the same pledge.

Julia Grant

Julia Grant

May 2– Monday– Wheeling, West Virginia– “On Friday Miss Sallie Pollack, a resident of Cumberland, Maryland, arrived in this city, under charge of Lieutenant Neidart, of the Sixth West Virginia Infantry, she having been sentenced to imprisonment in the Western Penitentiary, at Allegheny City, until the conclusion of the war. Captain Birmingham, of that institution, refused to receive the prisoner unless she was subjected to the regular prison discipline. The Lieutenant refused to deliver up the prisoner under these conditions, and she was given into the custody of Captain Wright to await orders from General Sigel. She is accordingly under guard at the Girard House, Pittsburgh. The prisoner was convicted before a military commission held in Cumberland, Maryland, on the 11th instant, of being a rebel mail carrier, and was sentenced to be confined in the Western Penitentiary during the continuance of the war. She is apparently very intelligent, and is well posted in relation to the movements of troops in West Virginia. The prisoner is said to be in very poor health, and is accompanied by a lady, who intended to wait on her during her imprisonment in the Penitentiary. It is probable that she will be transferred to the female prison in Massachusetts.” ~ Wheeling Daily Intelligencer.

May 2– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “Rumors thick and unpleasant in regard to the clerks and women employed at the Treasury. Much is doubtless exaggeration, but there are some disagreeable truths.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

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