Welcome to the Falmouth Library's page designed to shed light on the role women played in the American Civil War. As we approach the Sesquicentennial of the War, we will be sharing resources and information about this topic, focusing specifically on the role Maine women played during the war.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Approaching the Sesquicentennial

The American Civil War began in 1861, which  will be 150 years ago in the coming year of 2011. Many believe that the Civil War was the war that defined our nation. When the nation was threatened with splitting into sections, northern Yankees fought more to keep the nation together than to abolish slavery. In the end, the nation remained undivided and slavery was abolished. The transition was not smooth. Much more work needed to be done to truly finish the job and today we continue to work towards creating one nation with liberty and justice for all.
In the coming year, we will be focusing on bringing more information to you, the reader, about the Civil War and how it affected the development of our nation. We will be focusing especially on how it affected women and bring you news of ways you can learn more about the Civil War including places to visit and events you can attend. Please check back.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Henrietta Ingersoll, hospital worker and reformer

Armory Square Hospital, shown on the left, was where several Maine women served as nurses. Among them was Mrs. Henrietta Ingersoll, a widow from Bangor, Maine. Her husband, an attorney who had just been appointed Maine Attorney General in 1860, died before taking office, leaving Henrietta to fend for herself . When the war broke out, she was just one of many women that volunteered to do their part and she moved to Washington with her children. Well educated and well-connected, she soon found herself an important part of the work at one of the first of the modern Civil War hospitals and one that would serve as a model to subsequent hospitals set up during the war. Set up on the mall in the center of Washington, D.C, it was often visited by dignitaries including President Lincoln. She defended the work of the good doctors, championed women's rights and, in addition to her hospital duties, became the publisher of The Hospital Gazette printed at the Armory Square Hospital in 1864.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mary Brown: Female soldier?

Mary Ann Berry from Lewiston, Maine, was 21 years old when she met Ivory Brown from Parsonsfield, Maine and married him in 1861, the year the Civil War began. He decided to enlist with the 31st Maine Infantry Regiment in 1864 and Mary decided she would go with him. Not surprisingly, Mary was rejected by the army. She persisted, however, and took on clerical jobs for the regiment and eventually she went south with the regiment as a field nurse. Records of her service cannot be found, but in 1930 she was interviewed by a reporter and she told her story to him. Besides nursing and caring for the soldiers, she told the reporter that she also fought beside them. When asked, "Did you carry a musket and fight with the Union men?" she replied, "Yes, sir. I carried a musket - a 16 shooter [possibly a Henry Repeater rifle] and a sword and a dirk, too, to fight my way through like the rest of them." Mary was standing right next to her brother-in-law at the siege of Petersburg when he was killed. It is possible that Mary was disguised as a soldier, since General Grant had issued orders that no women be allowed at the front. Ivory was also injured at Petersburg and Mary was there to care for him - first at the field hospital and then later, at Harewood Hospital, where she also cared for other soldiers. Ivory was discharged in June of 1865 and the couple went home to Brownfield, Maine. Ivory died in 1902. Mary outlived him by 34 years, dying in 1936 at age 96.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Battle of Gettysburg brings a brother and sister together

Mary Hunt from Gorham, Maine, married and moved with her banker husband, T. Duncan Carson, to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in 1856. On the eve of the famous battle of Gettysburg, Mr. Carson was busy moving the assets of the Gettysburg National Bank (shown here) to safer grounds. Mary, on her part, gathered 19 women and children, 2 dogs and a cat and moved into the bank's vault for safety.

She was unaware that, as she was seeking safety from shelling, her brother, Charles, was marching through town with his regiment, the 5th Maine Battery. Supposedly, as they passed near the bank he said to his comrades, "If ever I am to be wounded, it should be here, for my sister lives over there." He indicated the bank building and it's nearby residence. The battle was fiercely fought during the first day and did not go well for Union troops. Lt. Hunt was indeed injured and his companions brought him to the bank. He was taken into the vault where a neighbor/doctor operated on him, removing a bullet from his leg. Mary took care of him and many other wounded soldiers for weeks after the battle. Charles recovered and went home to Maine. After the war he studied to become a doctor and was later appointed the first director of the Maine General Hospital (now known as Maine Medical Center) in Portland, Maine.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Nellie Forbes of Norridgewock, Maine, began her service by nursing soldiers wounded in the first battle of Bull Run and continued until February 1863 when her own life was in danger from the malaria she contracted. She had been in Washington at the beginning of the war visiting her uncle, Sidney Perham, a congressman from Maine (and later governor). During her years of nursing, she received much praise and many letters from her former patients. One wrote, "Since I left Washington one year ago I have often thought of the many kindnesses I rec'd from you while I lay there wounded and almost helpless. The many little deeds of kindness which helped while away the long hours, that I rec'd from you shall never be forgot so long as my reason remains. Though I may never see you again I shall ever remember you. May God grant you a long and happy life."
Nellie became very good friends with one patient, Mr. Eleazer Tolman of Milo, Maine who served with the 2nd Maine Regiment. They were married in 1864 and moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts where she continued to care for soldiers and help them get the pensions they deserved. She herself got a pension of $25 a month by a special act of Congress in 1886 with the help of her Uncle Perham, Hannibal Hamlin, Brigadier General George Beal and others.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Maine Camp Hospital Association of Portland, Maine

The Maine Camp Hospital Association was one of the best organized soldiers’ aid societies in the North. Based in Portland, Maine, it was so well organized that it was able to send agents into the field to make sure their supplies reached the Maine soldiers they were intended for. Their origins were with the women of the Free Street Baptist Church (pictured on right) in Portland. Their reputation was such that other, smaller soldiers’ aid societies would send their collected supplies and contributions to them to distribute. Their first two agents, Mrs. Isabella Fogg and Mrs. Harriet Eaton, arrived in the arena of the war in October, 1862 and immediately began searching out Maine soldiers injured at the battle of Antietam which took place September 17, 1862. The men were always glad to see them and receive the gifts and supplies sent from home. The two labored in the field, surviving illness and enemy bombardments until after the battle of Chancellorsville in early May, 1863. Mrs. Eaton went home to Maine; Mrs. Fogg became an agent for the Christian Commission. The Maine Camp Hospital Association sent other agents. At the end of the war, when Petersburg, Virginia, was under siege by Grant’s forces, the agents were Ruth Mayhew (photo on left), Mary Dupee and Rebecca Usher.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Mary Kneeland - A Spy in the enemy's Midst

Mary Austin was a both a nurse and spy during the Civil War. Born in Byron, Maine, she married Dr. John Kneeland of New Hampshire in 1854. The couple moved to eastern Tennessee, hoping the warmer climate would be good for his health. Unfortunately, he died the following year, anyway. Mary remained in Tennessee, and soon found herself in a contested area - occupied by both Union and Confederate forces. She took it upon herself to inform Union forces of the movements and plans of the Confederates when she could, riding miles through enemy held territory. She also cared for and hid Union soldiers separated from their units or escaped from the Confederates, from time to time. At one point Confederate General Vaughan came to arrest her, but she entertained him with some fine blackberry wine. He said, "Madam, I came here to have you arrested but you have been so kind I shall not do it."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Amy Morris Bradley

Amy Morris Bradley was a school teacher from Vassalborough, Maine. She volunteered first as a field nurse with the 3rd and then the 5th Maine Infantry Regiments before becoming an agent for the U.S. Sanitary Commission. She served aboard hospital ships, ran a Soldiers' Home in Washington, D.C., before taking charge at Camp Convalescent of the distribution of supplies, helping soldiers get honorable discharges, back pay, and transport home when needed. She even began a camp newspaper, The Soldiers Journal, to which President Lincoln and V.P Hamlin subscribed.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Louisa Titcomb of Stroudwater

Louisa Titcomb, of Stroudwater, Maine, was only one of at least 14 women from Maine who volunteered to work as a nurse at the Naval School Hospital in Annapolis. She worked there from August 1863 until May 1865, The hospital, pictured on the left, appeared on stationary she sent Rebecca Usher in April of 1864. While at the Naval School Hospital, she became editor of the hospital's newspaper, "The Crutch," which was created to keep hospitalized soldiers informed of events.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rebecca Usher of Bar Mills, Maine

Rebecca Usher grew up in a large brick house on the Saco River. Her father had made his fortune in the lumber industry and she and her sisters were all very well educated and involved in the community. It is not surprising that she and her sisters Ellen, Martha, and Jane all did volunteer work to aid the Maine soldiers. What is surprising is that Rebecca left her home and family to become a nurse during the Civil War. She worked first at what she called the Chester School Hospital and later she worked for the Maine Camp Hospital Association at City Point, outside of Petersburg, Virginia. She had met President Lincoln on her second trip south. When she learned of his death, she wrote, " I could not believe it at first, but when the terrible truth was forced upon me, I was almost paralyzed. It seemed as if the sun would never shine again."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mrs. Harriet Eaton, of Portland, Maine, was a widow with three children by the time the Civil War began. When Mrs. Isabella Fogg asked for assistance in the war effort, Harriet signed up, leaving her two younger children with friends. Her son had already enlisted in the army. The two women faced extreme hardships as they traveled through the war-torn country-side in the vicinity of Virginia and Maryland, distributing supplies sent from home. They visited regimental encampments and hospitals throughout the area and were constantly apalled by conditions they found. Harriet wrote in her journal, " Oh these poor men! They have to dress their own wounds, wash themselves if they are washed at all and eat -- I wish I could attach one of their rations to this book that it might be seen at home... It is discouraging to go into this Hospital for the poor men are most starved I have not a doubt of it. " The two women struggled on and did what they could. After the battle of Chancellorsville, where the hospital she was working in came under attack, Harriet returned home to her children, and worked with the Maine Camp Hospital Association in Portland. In 1864 she returned to work at City Point, Virginia, very close to where the Union Army was laying siege to Petersburg, Virginia and remained several months at the "Maine Agency" until Mrs. Mayhew, from Rockland, Maine, relieved her.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Isabella Fogg, a seamstress from Calais, Maine, was one of the first Maine women to volunteer as a nurse for Maine soldiers. After spending several months in Washington D.C. in 1861 and 1862 nursing fever-ridden soldiers, she returned to Maine to request supplies and support for her efforts. The appeal resulted in the creation of the Maine Camp Hospital Association, which became one the best organized Soldiers' Aid Societies in the North. She left Portland for the "Front" with supplies and Mrs. Harriet Eaton, the widow of the late minister of the Free Will Baptist Church in Portland. Arriving shortly after the battle of Antietam in the fall of 1862, their supplies and help were desperately needed. Together, not always in harmony, the pair did their best to help sick and wounded soldiers until shortly after the battle of Fredericksburg in 1863, when Harriet returned to Maine and the care of her children. Isabella Fogg continued to labor in the field, following the Army of the Potomac to which many Maine soldiers were attached. Colonel Joshua Chamberlain of the 20th Maine Infantry Regiment wrote, "I consider Mrs. Fogg one of the most faithful, earnest, and efficient workers in the humane cause in which she has been engaged for the last 3 years that I have ever seen in the field."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

When the first shots were fired at Union-held Fort Sumter in April of 1861, patriotic fervor was aroused to great heights throughout the North. The Union must be preserved! Men enlisted in droves, but what about the women? They could not sit at home and carry on as before. They started by sewing flags, sewing uniforms, and taking over the jobs the men left behind. They ran shops, businesses, farms, post offices, and even operated fire fighting equipment when needed.

They worked in the mills making tent fabric and cloth for uniforms. They made cartridges for the rifles and much more. They supported the war effort by organizing Soldiers' Aid societes and making hospital clothing, gathering and shipping supplies, and raising money to aid the soldiers. Some did much more -- leaving home and family to serve as nurses for the sick and wounded soldiers. Hundreds of women from Maine and thousands throughout the North stepped far outside the traditional roles of Victorican women to do their duty to their country.