For Mother's Day: Your story of a woman's heartache or triumph

Georgia Sixth

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Dec 14, 2011
Location
Texas
I would love to learn of your favorite stories involving women -- especially mothers -- in the war. Your favorite story of survival against odds, losing loved ones, saving others from harm, or standing up against the odds.

Mine is a dark one, a story that has haunted me since the first time I read it many years ago. It took place on the battlefield of Prairie Grove in the wild northwest corner of Arkansas. A Federal soldier the night after the battle witnessed an Arkansas woman -- with a couple of small children in tow! -- going through the bodies on the battlefield, looking for her husband by lantern light. He knew she found him when the wailing started. She held his bloodied corpse in her arms, sobbing, crying aloud about not only her grief but her fear for what lay ahead. Indeed, the very next day she had to somehow begin rebuilding her life with needy dependents and in a region with little infrastructure, certainly no social safety net, and a countryside filled with bushwhackers. I have often wondered what became of her. Did she and her children starve? Did they die of exposure? And I've wondered how the memories of that night impacted the children who saw horrendous sights, only one of which was their lifeless father.

Making this all the more tragic to me is knowing how widely unpopular the war was in this region. Most people wanted no part of it. Conscription was carried out ruthlessly and desertion was common. Odds are, her husband never wanted to be in that army, much less at that battle. There was no "glory" here. Only tragedy.
 

Mrs. V

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 5, 2017
I think in the time, death was such an ordinary event, that the children may not have been as affected as a modern person. That and perhaps knowing the outcome of the battle for their Father, may have been a relief and brought needed closure.
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
Member of the Month
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
I would love to learn of your favorite stories involving women -- especially mothers -- in the war. Your favorite story of survival against odds, losing loved ones, saving others from harm, or standing up against the odds.

Mine is a dark one, a story that has haunted me since the first time I read it many years ago. It took place on the battlefield of Prairie Grove in the wild northwest corner of Arkansas. A Federal soldier the night after the battle witnessed an Arkansas woman -- with a couple of small children in tow! -- going through the bodies on the battlefield, looking for her husband by lantern light. He knew she found him when the wailing started. She held his bloodied corpse in her arms, sobbing, crying aloud about not only her grief but her fear for what lay ahead. Indeed, the very next day she had to somehow begin rebuilding her life with needy dependents and in a region with little infrastructure, certainly no social safety net, and a countryside filled with bushwhackers. I have often wondered what became of her. Did she and her children starve? Did they die of exposure? And I've wondered how the memories of that night impacted the children who saw horrendous sights, only one of which was their lifeless father.

Making this all the more tragic to me is knowing how widely unpopular the war was in this region. Most people wanted no part of it. Conscription was carried out ruthlessly and desertion was common. Odds are, her husband never wanted to be in that army, much less at that battle. There was no "glory" here. Only tragedy.
There were too many widows and fatherless children left behind. Many had no final closure--their husbands marched off, then the letters stopped, then...nothing.

My "favorite" story is that of a Quaker woman in a little town north of my own. Her husband, one of the Quakers who refused to fight, was drafted. A rifle was strapped onto him and he was pushed onto the battlefield. Of course, he didn't fare well, was captured and ended up as one of the poor souls who died in Andersonville. His widow struggled alone with their large family. At first, the government refused her request for a war pension but, with the support of the entire community (both Quaker and non-Quaker) which inundated the pension agent with letters and visits of support, she received a pension.

Did she know of his imprisonment in that place? When did she receive word of her husband's death. Her town was quite little and rather isolated--how did she manage alone with small children during Maine winters?

I always thought that it was a terrible story, redeemed, somewhat by the compassion of a community. Strong women indeed.
 

Lubliner

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
I always believed it was a sad fate Mrs. Mary Anna Custis Lee lived through. Being of such prominence and her high standing as an American, her whole life was eclipsed by her husband, General Robert Edward Lee. Whenever we meet her in the pages of history we are introduced to a crippled and shriveled up old lady, when in fact she at one time in her youth was a bright and beautiful lady. She has always been 'kicked' off into the corner of the stage as her brave husband enters, and little is made of her, other than the decrepit image of old age and illness. She deserves better than this, and I pray one day she can once again rise up to the stature her husband was, to stand with him in glory.
Lubliner.
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
Member of the Month
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
I always believed it was a sad fate Mrs. Mary Anna Custis Lee lived through. Being of such prominence and her high standing as an American, her whole life was eclipsed by her husband, General Robert Edward Lee. Whenever we meet her in the pages of history we are introduced to a crippled and shriveled up old lady, when in fact she at one time in her youth was a bright and beautiful lady. She has always been 'kicked' off into the corner of the stage as her brave husband enters, and little is made of her, other than the decrepit image of old age and illness. She deserves better than this, and I pray one day she can once again rise up to the stature her husband was, to stand with him in glory.
Lubliner.
I couldn't agree with you more! Mrs. Lee is one of the women from this time who I like most (the other being Mary Todd Lincoln). Mrs. Lee--who had, indeed, been a glorious young woman--provided the General with a life that he couldn't have anticipated back when he was a penniless lad, abandoned by his father. In the end, she lost almost everything--her home and too many members of her family. You're right: she does deserve much better than to be described as a Whiny Old Woman.
 

Lubliner

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
I couldn't agree with you more! Mrs. Lee is one of the women from this time who I like most (the other being Mary Todd Lincoln). Mrs. Lee--who had, indeed, been a glorious young woman--provided the General with a life that he couldn't have anticipated back when he was a penniless lad, abandoned by his father. In the end, she lost almost everything--her home and too many members of her family. You're right: she does deserve much better than to be described as a Whiny Old Woman.
The other southern ladies of prominence Mrs. Chesnut makes mention of in her diary. Mainly the goings and comings of Mrs. Davis and many Richmond socialites, as well as generals. But I can't seem to recall any mention of Mrs. Lee, nor description made of her in the diary. It seems she has been eclipsed from all sides and angles, secluded into some distant place and kept alone. Thanks @Fairfield.
Lubliner.
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
Member of the Month
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
The other southern ladies of prominence Mrs. Chesnut makes mention of in her diary. Mainly the goings and comings of Mrs. Davis and many Richmond socialites, as well as generals. But I can't seem to recall any mention of Mrs. Lee, nor description made of her in the diary. It seems she has been eclipsed from all sides and angles, secluded into some distant place and kept alone. Thanks @Fairfield.
Lubliner.
Arlington was lost very early on during the war and, as a result, Mrs. Lee "bounced" from home to home (living with friends and relatives). She had no fixed abode. Descriptions of her life are almost always second hand: a letter from the General indicate that she made socks for soldiers. Although not enthusiastic about the war in the beginning, she became a staunch Confederate as she saw her home and family decimated. So strong, in fact, that when news was brought to her of the surrender at Appomattox, she replied "the General is not the Confederacy".
 
Joined
Mar 2, 2019
Location
Reno, Nevada
I've found the basic facts about my gg-grandmother in my genealogical research, but all I know about her personally is from the diary my gg-grandfather (a corporal in the 14th Iowa Infantry) kept at Fort Halleck in 1863. He often mentioned getting letters from her and sending her money and photos (which I've never found).

On Aug. 28, 1863, he complained that he hadn't had a letter from his wife in two weeks. Although he doesn't admit it, the letter he received the next day probably explains why she hadn't been writing. In the middle of his Aug. 29, 1863, entry, he mentions, "I rec[eive]d a letter today from my wife stating that her and my two oldest children was well but the two youngest was very sick. The babe she fears will not get well. This is beautiful weather today clear and nice." Yes, he wrote that his wife was afraid their baby was going to die and went on to discuss the weather and other things. He did add that he wrote back to her.

He received a photo of the baby from her Sept. 5, and his diary ends Sept. 15. Soon after, he requested and was granted leave for “the most serious illness of his family." I am assuming the baby died, but I have never found any record of this fourth child's birth or death.

Three of their daughters survived, one of which was my great-grandmother Clara, the woman you see in my avatar. I think I look like her, and I would like to think that she looked like her mother.

More info about the diary in my signature.
 
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