Mrs. (Jane Currie Blaikie) Hoge.

The boys in blue; or, Heroes of the rank and file. Comprising incidents and reminiscences from camp, battle-field, and hospital, with narratives of the sacrifice, suffering, and triumphs of the soldiers of the republic online

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Online LibraryMrs. (Jane Currie Blaikie) HogeThe boys in blue; or, Heroes of the rank and file. Comprising incidents and reminiscences from camp, battle-field, and hospital, with narratives of the sacrifice, suffering, and triumphs of the soldiers of the republic → online text (page 17 of 32)
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to the talk. As she disappeared he fumbled in his ragged
pocket and drew out a small handful of crumpled and soiled
paper currency. "Here," said he, "I'll give you' so much
for them ere sick fellows in the hospitals," and he put fifty-
five cents into our baud, all in five-cent currency. "We hesi-
tated. " No, my boy, don't give it. You're a noble little fel-
low, but I'm afraid you can't afibrd to give so much. You
keep it and I'll give the fifty-five cents, or somebody else
will." "Oh, no," he replied, " you keep it. P'raps I ain't so
poor as you think. My father, he saws wood, and my
mother, she takes- in washin', and I sells matches — and
p'raps we've got more money than you think. Keep it ; "
and he turned his dirty, earnest face to us with a most
beseeching look — " Keep it, do." ^

"We took the crumpled currency — we forgot the dirty face
and tattered cap — we forgot we had called the little scamp a
" nuisance " every day for months, when he had fairly made


US jump from our seat with his shrill, unexpected cry of
" Matches ! matches ! " and made a dive at him to kiss 'him.
But he .was too quick for us, and darted out of the room as
if he had been shot. Ever since, when he meets us, he gives
U3 a wide berth, 'and walks off the sidewalk into the gutter,,
ejing us with a suspicious, sidelong glance, as though he sus-
pected we still meditated kissing intentions towards him. If
we speak to him he looks at us shyly, and offers no reply;
but if we pass him without speaking, he challenges us with a
hearty " Hallo, you ! " that brings us to a halt instantly.

Had we space, we might continue similar narratives
through pages. All who would, could do something for our
poor boys in hospitals. If it were little, " many a mickle
makes a muckle," and if it were much, it brought the bless-
ing of many ready to perish on the donor. But all could do
SOMETHING. " "Where there's a will there's a way."

The most significant, and perhaps assuredly the most
novel, chapter in the history of woman's patriotism, was
famished by the manual labor and bond fide muscular
achievements of the wives .and daughters of North-Western
farmers, to release their husbands for army service, and
keep the wheels of home machinery in motion, without
disastrous friction or rupture. We have heretofore alluded
to this new ^nd strange manifestation, and gratefully accept a
pen-picture of this phase of prairie woman^s life, from Mrs.
Livermore, who" has placed it at our service.


During the war we were called much into the country.
Throughout the harvest we visited, more or less, the great


farmicg districts of our beautiful prairie-land, and saw for
ourselves how busy a time the harvest season was to farmers.
It seemed to us, as we rushed along the railroad, for forty,
sixty, or a hundred, or a hundred and fifty miles, let our
course lie in whatever direction it might, that our way always
led through one continuous wheat-field. Everywhere the
golden grain was waving ; and the two-horse reapers cutting
it down in a wholesale fashion, that would astonish a New
England farmer, could be counted by hundreds in a ride of
halfa-dozen hours. The crops were generally good, and
in some instances heavy, and every man 'and boy was
pressed into the service to secure an abundant harvest.

More than this, we found women extensively in the field,
driving the reapers and binding, shocking and loading grain
— an unusual sight to our eyes. At first we were displeased
with it, and turned away, in aversion. But by-and-by, we
came to observe how skilfully they drove the horses around
and around the wheat-field, diminishing, more and more its
periphery at every circuit, the. glittering blades of the reaper,
cutting wide swaths with a crisp, craunching sound, that it
was pleasant to hear. Then also we saw that when they
followed the reapers, binding and shocking, although they
did not keep up with the men, yet their work was done
with more precision and nicety, and the sheaves had an
artistic finish that the others lacked. • So we said to ourself,
"they are worthy women, and deserve praise; their hus-
bands are probably too poor to hire help, and so, like the
helpmeets that God designed them to. be, they have girt
themselves to do the work of men, and are doing it, famous-
ly, ' Good wives I Good women ! "


Sometimes in our journeys, our route led us off from the
railroad, across the country, six, ten and twenty miles — and
always and ever, through the same yellow fields of grain,
and green waving corn. Now a river shimmered like silver
through the gold of the wheat and oats, and now a fine
growth of young timber made a dark green background for
the harvest fields. And here, as everywhere, in greater or
less numbers, women were busy at the harvesting. On one
occasion the carriage came to a halt opposite a field where
some half-dozen women were harvesting with two men, and
not a little curious to 'know what these female reapers were
like, we walked over and accosted them.

" And so you are helping to gather the harvest,"- we said
to a woman of forty-five, who sat on the reaper to drive, as
she stopped her horses for a brief rest. Her face was pleasant
and comely, although sunburned, with honest, straightfor-
ward eyes, a broad brow, and mouth of more sweetness than
firmness. Her dress, a strong calico, without hoops, strong
shoes, and a shaker."

"Yes, ma'am," she said; "the men have all gone to the
war, so that my man can't hire help, and I told my girls we
must turn to and give him a lift with the harvestin'."

" Have you sons in the army ? "

" Yes, ma'am," and a shadow fell over the motherly face ;
" all three of 'em listed; and Neddy, the youngest, was killed
at Stone Eiver, the last day of last year. We've money
enough to hire help, if it could be had, and my man don't
like for me and the girls to be workin' out o' doors ; but
there don't seem no help for it now."

We stepped over to where the girls were binding the fallen


grain. They were ffne lasses, with the eyes and honest
mouth of the mother, but brown like her, and clad in the
same sensible costume.

" Well, it seems that you, like your mother, are not afraid
to lend a hand to the harvesting."

"No; we*re willing to help out doors in these times. My
three brothers went into the army, and my cousins and most
of the men we used to hire ; so that there's no help to be got
but women's, and the crops must be got in, you know, all the

"I tell mother," said one of the girls, "as long as the
country can't get along without grain, nor the army fight
without food, that we were serving the country just as much
here in the harvest-field as our boys are in the battle-field,
and that sort o' takes the edge off from this business of doing
men's work, you know ; " and a hearty laugh followed this

Another was the wife of one of the soldier-sons, with a
three-year-old boy toddling beside her, tumbling arhong the
sheaves, getting into mischief every five minutes, and "caus-
ing more plague than profit," as his mother declared. From
her came the same hearty assent to this new work, which the
strait of the country had imposed upon her, and she added,
with a kind of homely pride, that she was considered " as good
a binder as a man, and could keep up with the best of 'em. I,
for my part," she continued, " am willing to do anything to
keep along in these war times."

We wo.uld have talked longer with these women, who
were now invested with a new and heroic interest, but the
driver calling out that he had mended the broken harness,


and was ready to go on, we could only assure tbem " thai;
they were worthy of the days of the Eevolution, and that we
were proud to have met them," and bade them " good-by."

Now we saw things with different eyes. No longer were
the women of the harvest-field an unwelcome sight. Patriot-
ism inspired them to the unusual work, and each brown,
hard-handed, toiling woman was a heroine. Their husbands
and sons had left the plough in the furrow, and the reaper in
the grain, at the anguished, call, of the country, and, these
noble women had joyfully bid them " God-speed," and with-
out weak murmuring or complaint, had put their own shoul-
ders to the hard, rough farm-work, feeling that thus they also
served tbe common cause. Yes, and amid all this weary
labor, these women found time for the manufacture of hospi-
tal supplies, which came, box after box, filled with shirts
and drawers, dried apples and pickles, currant wine and
blackberry jam, to be forwarded to the poor fellows languish-
ing in far-off Southern hospitals.' All honor to the farmers'
wives of the great North- West I " Many women have done
excellently well, but these excelled them all."

At the first call, after the pressure consequent upon severe
army sickness at Young's Point, Mrs. Livermore a'nd Mrs.
Colt, at the request of the Sanitary Commission, visited the
army, which had been driven by the swelling flood from the
levee at Young's Point to the transports, and thence to Milli-
ken's Bend, where it lay encamped at the time. This valua-
ble contribution consists of a series of letters, written by
Mrs. Livermore from the scene of action. While these com-
plete the chain of our military and sanitary work at that
period, they furnish gratifying and abundant evidence of the


success of the battle waged with the insidious army foe by
various sanitary organizations throughout the Western and
North-Western States. .

On Board Steamer " Curlew," some down the Mississippi Riteh,

Saturday, March 14, 1852.

Dear : — The wail of suffering from our brave men in

front of Vicksburg, has been borne to the listening ears and
tender hearts of the great North-West. The death which they
looked for on Southern battle-fields, and to which they proudly
hurled defiance, lay crouched unaware in the bottom-lands
of the Mississippi, where their white tents had spread shel-
tering wings, and lurked in the clear water of the deadly
Yazoo, and has sprung upon them like a tiger. Before they
had learned of their danger, long trenches were .filled with
the uncof&ned dead, and the quickly extemporized hospitals
were crowded with the wasted forms and wan faces of our
gallant North- Westerns, who patiently exhaled their lives on
a fever-smitten air, or lingered in an agony worse than death.
Simultaneously the West and the North- West have hastened
to the rescue ; Cincinnati, Louisville, Chicago, Milwaukee
and St. Louis, moved by a common patriotism and benevo-
lence, have sent to their relief the aid and succor necessary
to conquer this insidious miasmatic foe, and to restore the sick
to health. Wives and mothers have brought forth canned
fruit, jellies and cooling syrups from their store closets, and
shirts, drawers and sheets from their linen-presses. Farmers
have unburied their vegetables, secured from the winter
frosts, and barreled up potatoes, onions and pickled cab-
bage for the poor scorbutics, and everybody has poured
forth money for the purchase of farina, corn-starch, lemons,


oranges, pearl-barley, tea, sugar, stimulants, condensed milk,
and the other necessaries of life to the hospital patients.

Nor has the work stopped her&. Delegations of men
and women, strong and skilled and tender, have accom-
panied these contributions. Surgeons and physicians who
have grown gray in their successful fight with sickness and
■ death, men of large executive ability, skilful in planning
the transmission and distribution of the continual shipments
of stores, women who have become familiarized with .the
horrors of hospitals, and whose mother hearts do not
blench from them — these have been delegated as a corps
of ' relief in this holy work ; and so successfully have
they labored, that already, death and disease have been
beaten back, and our men are slowly emerging from the
hospital -to the battle-field, to them a welcome transition.

Still the work of relieving the sick of the Mississippi fleet
goes bravely on. Twice, since January, have the Chicago
Commission sent down to the sick in hospitals and on trans-
ports, in front of Vicksburg, immense quantities of supplies,
with nurses and agents to disburse them, and there is now
floating down the Mississippi, on the steamer " Curlew," a
third shipment and a third delegation, bound on the same
errand and to the same destination, and 'I have been privi-
leged to be one of the delegation.

"We left Chicago, Tuesday evening, March 10. The
notable persons of the party are Surgeon-Gen. Wolcott, of
"Wisconsin — so noble a man that .all who know him' wish
he might be multiplied a hundred-fold ; Quartermaster-Gen.
Tread way, of the same State; and Hon. A. G.'Throop, a
loyal member of the Illinois Legislature. There were also


in our party female nurses, and women as true, tender and
competent as the sun ever shone on, but they are not " nota-
able," as the world goes, and would be affrighted to see their
names in print. The soldiers will carry their names in their
grateful hearts into eternity, and that is glory enough.
Between four and five hundred boxes, to be largely re-
enforced at Memphis, labelled Chicago Sanitary Commis-
sion, all packed with every variety of hospital supplies, were
committed to us for disbursement among the sick in front of
Vicksburg, and we started on our sacred mission.

As we approached Cairo, we found that the Mississippi
was indeed " on the rampage." For eight or ten miles back,
the country was completely submerged, and we crept along at
a snail's pace. As we entered the nondescript town, where
one needs a "dug-out" most of the year to navigate the
streets, we found the steam-pumps at work, for the water
had so invaded the place, hollowed out like a wash-basin,
that there was danger of inundation. "When the water of
the town rises above a certain permitted height, it is pumped
out, as fi-om the hold of a vessel. Here, in oensequence of
the difficulty of obtaining transp'ortation for our hundreds of
packages, we were detained twenty-four hours.

While regretting the delay we were so fortunate as to run
across James B. Yeatman, Esq., President of the Western
Sanitary Commission, St. Louis, who was on his return
route from Vicksburg, where he had been laboring for the
last six or eight weeks. From him we gathered much infor-
mation. The fearful and deathly sickness among our troops
was abating when he left, the camps were becoming dry,
hospital stores more abundant, and officers more considerate


of the health of their men. Drinking the seapage water is
said to have caused more sickness among our troops than the
protracted rains, mud, high water, exposure and neglect of
officers all combined — and orders forbidding this have been
issued in some sections, and soon will be in all.

As soon as our men get on shore, out of the . transports
into camp, their first effort is to devise ways and means, to
obtain drinking water, without going to the Mississippi for
it, which is not unfrequen-tly some little distance from the
camp. So they dig a well and sink a barrel, which is instant-
ly half filled with water clear as crystal, beautiful to look at,
and delicious to taste. This is called seapage water, but to
drink it is death to either man or beast. It percolates through
the decayed vegetable matter of the swamps and bottom-
lands, and in the present instance is rendered more poisonous
by the infiltrating of the water from the encampments above.
A negro on the plantations in the neighborhood who is
detected drinking seapage water, is whipped more severely
than for any other misdemeanor. Gren. Sherman has
already learned its deleterious consequences, and-has-er—
dered any captain put under arrest who allows his men, to
drink it.

"We came on board the " Curlew " on Thursday evening
about eight o'clock, having been assured by the captain that
she would start punctually at ten. Then the time was post-
poned till midnight; then deferred till the arrival of the
morning train from Chicago, as some of the boat's crew were
said to be coming on that train ; then until after breakfast,
when the rudder collided with that of another boat, which,
of course, broke it, and it must needs be repaired, and after-


noon found us still hugging the levee at Cairo, as though
loth to leave the hideous place. But at last we got off,. and
steamed slowly down to Columbus, Kentucky, where more
freight was piled on the already overladen, crowded and
unsafe little craft, and a barge of hay made fast to her, to be
towed down the river. Those of us whose thoughts are on
the sick soldiers ran ashore for a brief visit to the hospital,
whose appearance was passably tidy and comfortable.

About midnight, I think, all the passengers on board had
a new experience and a new sensation. "We touched at
Island No. 10, and were boarded by naval of6.cers from an
adjoining gunboat, who ordered all state-rooms, unlocked,
and proceeded to examine trunks, valises, baskets, carpet-
bags, etc.,' pulling beds to pieces in the search; looking
under berths and indulging similar quizzical vagaries. The
search of all boats going down the river is ordered by Uncle
Sam, who, with all reverence be it written, has a penchant
for " saving at the spigot and wasting at the bung-hole," or,
in the words of holy writ, for " straining at a gnat and swal-
lowing a camel." A contraband trade in cotton has been
carried on for months, supplying the rebels with the sinews
of war, and is not yet wholly suppressed. This, however, is
winked at, or timidly forbidden, the trade flourishes when
it might be suppressed ; but the trunks of loyal mfen and
women must be overhauled for quinine and morphine, cot-
ton cloth in the piece, and .medicines in the package, which
are rarely found.

The exa,mining officers on this occasion were by no means
formidable in appearance, notwithstanding the naval tog-
gery with which they were accoutred, with fearful append-


ages of "sword and pistol by ttie side." Ranged along the
saloon was a body of marines, sooty and grimy, armed with,
cutlasses, which they brandished as though about to depose
our heads from our shoulders, and endeavoring to look
very fierce at the bystanders, who stared in wonderment.
No words of mine can do justice to the manner of the search.
The principal officer was a beardless youth of eighteen or
twenty, quite small when measured by feet and inches, but
huge, colossal, yes, a very Hercules, if taken at his own esti-
mation. Approaching a state-room, where a feeble lady had
retired for the night, he gave a thunderous blow, as though
summoning a giant to the door of his castle ; and when the
poor woman delayed to dress as became decency, he twice
repeated the insolent summons, and in the most lordly way
ordered her to " make haste and come out of that." The
ladies' baggage seemed specially obnoxious to these naval
.gentlemen. Plunging to the bottom of the nicely-packed
trunks, they squeezed in a crushed heap immaculate collars
and tasteful head-dresses, under-sleeves, under-clothing and
all, kneading the whole in a heterogeneous mass, as though

mixing bread ; and when the work was over, the trunks


looked, as one of the ladies remarked, as though "stirred up
with a big spoon." To ■ the ' search none objected, if the
Government had ordered it ; but the manner in which it was
conducted, and the arrogant airs put on by these boys, born
into the volunteer navy not six months ago, made at least
one woman indignant. Your correspondent spoke so con-
temptuously of the whole farcical performance, that one of
-those ungentlemanly boys pronounced her a secesh, but as he
left her trunk alone, of all the others, unlocked, and un-


searched and unexamined, I very much question whether he
believed his own assertion.

Our sail down the Mississippi would be very delightful,
if we were not in such anxious haste that our slow progress
almost throws us into a nervous fever. Forty-eight hours
from Cairo to Memphis, when the trip is usually 'made in
twenty -four 1 The boat is very slow, and moves " like a sick
man in his sleep, three paces, then falters," stopping at every
landing to take on or off freight or passengers. The weather
is evidently on its best behavior, for the sky is cloudless, and
the air as soft as in June. The river is all' over its banks,
submerging the country adjacent, and making its width
magnificent. The captain tells us this is a decided advan-
tage, particularly now that we are approaching Memphis.
The boat keeps very nearly the centre of the stream, and
there are but few places along the route where cannon could
be planted.

Memphis, Sunday, March 15.

"We have at last reached the city of Memphis, and taken
rooms at the Gayoso House, which has the reputation of be-
ing stylish, secesh, and not very comfortable. As soon as
possible we shall proceed to Vicksburg, but during our stay
here I will write of this city, with it? dozen hospitals, filled
with our northern boys.

Gatoso House, Memphis, Tenn., March, 1863.

Dear : — "We have spent some days in Memphis,

which have been employed to the utmost. It has been
no easy thing to find transportation down the river for our
stores and ourselves; and, indeed, up to the present time,


but one boat has left for Vicksburg since our arrival. A,
strict military surveillance is kept ov^ all boats going down
the river, and no one. is allowed to leave without a pass from
Gen. Hurlbut, who is in command here. But at last all
difficulties are surmounted, passes are made out, state-rooms
are engaged on the dispatch boat "Tigress," our four hun-
dred and eighty boxes of supplies are shipped, and a guard
placed over them to keep them from thieves, and at six
o'clock this evening we are off. In the interim, while resting
and waiting, let me tell you what I have seen in Memphis.

The hospitals have claimed our chief attention. There are
eleven of them, and they contain about five thousand patients.
Others are being fitted up. They occupy magnificent build-
ings, spacious brick blocks, confiscated hotels, and similar
edifices. Their general management is fair, and is constantly
improving, and the rate of mortality in them is much less
than has been represented. In these particulars I confess
myself happily disappointed. The terrible rumors that have
reached us, of the shocking condition of the hospitals in
Memphis, their neglected and uncared for state, and the
frightful number of deaths occurring in thena- daily, are, I
am glad to say, devoid of truth. There is fair order and
medical attendance, female nursing, cleanliness, humanity
and tenderness, evident in many of the wards. "We (Mrs.
Colt, of Milwaukee, and myself) have passed through, nearly
every ward of them all, have conversed wifh hundreds of the
patients, and with most of the matrons aiid nurses.

The "Overton Hospital" is a magnificent building, de-
signed for a hotel, but never occupied as such. The Yan-
kees interfered with the plans of the proprietors by enteritig


the city saris ceremonie, and appropriating it for hospital
work. The Sisters of Mercy, nine in number, are the nurses,
and are faithful, gentle and tender. It is perhaps the pleas-
antest hospital of them all, in its general" appearance, within
and without. Most of the patients are convalescing, and
all seem contented and happy.

The " Gayoso Hospital " has for its matron " Mother Bick-
erdyke," as all the soldiers call her — a woman of amazing
energy, full of maternal tenderness to the sick and wounded
soldiers, and nursing them through the depths of neglect,
squalor, destitution and disease. But woe to him who steps
between her and her charge, or infringes on the rights or
privileges of her sick boys, or who is guilty of fraud or
neglect of them — he is sure to be ground to powder. On
all such, and on all drunken, incompetent and neglectful hos-
pital officials, she comes down with sledge-hammer force,
never remitting her hostilitj^till they are beaten ou,t of the
service, or into decent manhood. She is a very unique
person — a rara avis — sometimes a very Alecto, while many

Online LibraryMrs. (Jane Currie Blaikie) HogeThe boys in blue; or, Heroes of the rank and file. Comprising incidents and reminiscences from camp, battle-field, and hospital, with narratives of the sacrifice, suffering, and triumphs of the soldiers of the republic → online text (page 17 of 32)