Mrs. Mary Morris Husband

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
This is terribly long, so long I thought about editing it, since very few people tend to stick it out for a long post. it would have been doing Mrs. Husband an injustice. Her synopsis of her Civil War service is long because so was her service- astonishing woman and work. As is stated in the final paragraph, she was never paid for any of her work, just felt it was what she was supposed to be doing.

It's a great story, about a great woman.


cw Mary Husband.jpg


http://www.gutenberg.org/files/21853/21853-h/21853-h.htm#husband

MRS. MARY MORRIS HUSBAND.

here are some noble souls whose devotion to duty, to the welfare of the suffering and sorrowing, and to the work which God has set before them, is so complete that it leaves them no time to think of themselves, and no consciousness that what they have done or are doing, is in any way remarkable. To them it seems the most natural thing in the world to undergo severe hardships and privations, to suffer the want of all things, to peril health and even life itself, to endure the most intense fatigue and loss of rest, if by so doing they may relieve another's pain or soothe the burdened and aching heart; and with the utmost ingenuousness, they will avow that they have done nothing worthy of mention; that it is the poor soldier who has been the sufferer, and has made the only sacrifices worthy of the name.

The worthy and excellent lady who is the subject of this sketch, is one of the representative women of this class. Few, if any, have passed through more positive hardships to serve the soldiers than she; but few have as little consciousness of them.

Mrs. Mary Morris Husband, is a granddaughter of Robert Morris, the great financier of our Revolutionary War, to whose abilities and patriotism it was owing that we had a republic at all. She is, in her earnest patriotism, well worthy of her ancestry. Her husband, a well-known and highly respectable member of the Philadelphia bar, her two sons and herself constituted her household at the commencement of the war, and her quiet home[288] in the Quaker City, was one of the pleasantest of the many delightful homes in that city. The patriotic instincts were strong in the family; the two sons enlisted in the army at the very beginning of the conflict, one of them leaving his medical studies to do so; and the mother, as soon as there was any hospital work to do was fully prepared to take her part in it. She had been in poor health for some years, but in her anxiety to render aid to the suffering, her own ailings were forgotten. She was an admirable nurse and a skilful housewife and cook, and her first efforts for the sick and wounded soldiers in Philadelphia, were directed to the preparation of suitable and palatable food for them, and the rendering of those attentions which should relieve the irksomeness and discomforts of sickness in a hospital. The hospital on Twenty-second and Wood streets, Philadelphia, was the principal scene of these labors.

But the time had come for other and more engrossing labors for the sick and wounded, and she was to be inducted into them by the avenue of personal anxiety for one of her sons. In that fearful "change of base" which resulted in the seven days' battle on the peninsula, when from the combined influence of marsh malaria, want of food, overmarching, the heat and fatigue of constant fighting, and the depression of spirits incident to the unexpected retreat, more of our men fell down with mortal sickness than were slain or wounded in the battles, one of Mrs. Husband's sons was among the sufferers from disease, and word was sent to her that he was at the point of death. She hastened to nurse him, and after a great struggle and frequent relapses, he rallied and began to recover. Meantime she had not been so wholly engrossed with her care for him as to be neglectful of the hundreds and thousands around, who, like him, were suffering from the deadly influences of that pestilential climate and soil, or of the wounded who were wearing out their lives in agony, with but scant attention or care; and every moment that could be spared from her sick boy, was given to the other sufferers around her.

It was in this period of her work that she rendered the service to a young soldier, now a physician of Brooklyn, New York, so graphically described in the following extract from a letter addressed to the writer of this sketch:

"I was prostrated by a severe attack of camp dysentery, stagnant water and unctuous bean soup not being exactly the diet for a sick person to thrive on. I got "no better" very rapidly, till at length, one afternoon, I lay in a kind of stupor, conscious that I was somewhere, though where, for the life of me I could not say. As I lay in this state, I imagined I heard my name spoken, and opening my eyes with considerable effort, I saw bending over me a female form. I think the astonishment restored me to perfect consciousness (though some liquor poured into my mouth at the same time, may have been a useful adjunct). As soon as I could collect myself sufficiently, I discovered the lady to be a Mrs. Husband, who, with a few other ladies, had just arrived on one of the hospital boats. Having lost my own mother when a mere child, you may imagine the effect her tender nursing had upon me, and when she laid her hand upon my forehead, all pain seemed to depart. I sank into a sweet sleep, and awoke the next morning refreshed and strengthened in mind and in body. From that moment my recovery was rapid, and in ten days I returned to my duty."

As her son began to recover, she resolved, in her thankfulness for this mercy, to devote herself to the care of the sick and wounded of the army. She was on one of the hospital transports off Harrison's Landing, when the rebels bombarded it, and though it was her first experience "under fire," she stood her ground like a veteran, manifesting no trepidation, but pursuing her work of caring for the sick as calmly as if in perfect safety. Finding that she was desirous of rendering assistance in the care of the disabled soldiers, she was assigned, we believe, by the Sanitary Commission, to the position of Lady Superintendent of one of the hospital transports which bore the wounded and sick to New York. She made[290] four trips on these vessels, and her faithful attention to the sick, her skilful nursing, and her entire forgetfulness of self, won for her the hearty esteem and regard of all on board. The troops being all transferred to Acquia Creek and Alexandria, Mrs. Husband went to Washington, and endeavored to obtain a pass and transportation for supplies to Pope's army, then falling back, foot by foot, in stern but unavailing resistance to Lee's strong and triumphant force. These she was denied, but Miss Dix requested her to take charge temporarily of the Camden Street Hospital, at Baltimore, the matron of which had been stricken down with illness. After a few weeks' stay here, she relinquished her position, and repaired to Antietam, where the smoke of the great battle was just rolling off over the heights of South Mountain. Here, at the Smoketown Hospital, where the wounded from French's and some other divisions were gathered, she found abundant employment, and at the request of that able surgeon and excellent man, Dr. Vanderkieft, she remained in charge two months. Mrs. Harris was with her here for a short time, and Miss Maria M. C. Hall, during her entire stay. Her presence at this hospital brought perpetual sunshine. Arduous as were her labors, for there were very many desperately wounded, and quite as many dangerously sick, she never manifested weariness or impatience, and even the sick and wounded men, usually exacting, because forgetful of the great amount of labor which their condition imposes upon the nurses, wondered that she never manifested fatigue, and that she was able to accomplish so much as she did. Often did they express their anxiety lest she should be compelled from weariness and illness to leave them, but her smiling, cheerful face reassured them. She and Miss Hall occupied for themselves and their stores, a double hospital tent, and let the weather be what it might, she was always at her post in the hospitals promptly at her hours, and dispensed with a liberal hand to those who needed, the delicacies, the stimulants, and medicines they required. She had made a flag for her tent by sewing upon a breadth of[291] calico a figure of a bottle cut out of red flannel, and the bottle-flag flew to the wind at all times, indicative of the medicines which were dispensed from the tent below. We have endeavored to give a view of this tent, from which came daily such quantities of delicacies, such excellent milk-punch to nourish and support the patients whose condition was most critical, such finely flavored flaxseed tea for the army of patients suffering from pulmonic diseases ("her flaxseed tea," says one of her boys, "was never insipid"), lemonades for the feverish, and something for every needy patient. See her as she comes out of her tent for her round of hospital duties, a substantial comely figure, with a most benevolent and motherly face, her hands filled with the good things she is bearing to some of the sufferers in the hospital; she has discarded hoops, believing with Florence Nightingale, that they are utterly incompatible with the duties of the hospital; she has a stout serviceable apron nearly covering her dress, and that apron is a miracle of pockets; pockets before, behind, and on each side; deep, wide pockets, all stored full of something which will benefit or amuse her "boys;" an apple, an orange, an interesting book, a set of chess-men, checkers, dominoes, or puzzles, newspapers, magazines, everything desired, comes out of those capacious pockets. As she enters a ward, the whisper passes from one cot to another, that "mother" is coming, and faces, weary with pain, brighten at her approach, and sad hearts grow glad as she gives a cheerful smile to one, says a kind word to another, administers a glass of her punch or lemonade to a third, hands out an apple or an orange to a fourth, or a book or game to a fifth, and relieves the hospital of the gloom which seemed brooding over it. But not in these ways alone does she bring comfort and happiness to these poor wounded and fever-stricken men. She encourages them to confide to her their sorrows and troubles, and the heart that, like the caged bird, has been bruising itself against the bars of its cage, from grief for the suffering or sorrow of the loved ones at home or oftener still, the soul that finds itself on the confines of an unknown[292] hereafter, and is filled with distress at the thought of the world to come, pours into her attentive ear, the story of its sorrows, and finds in her a wise and kind counsellor and friend, and learns from her gentle teachings to trust and hope.

Hers was a truly heroic spirit. Darkness, storm, or contagion, had no terrors for her, when there was suffering to be alleviated, or anguish to be soothed. Amid the raging storms of the severe winter of 1862-3, she often left her tent two or three times in the night and went round to the beds of those who were apparently near death, from the fear that the nurses might neglect something which needed to be done for them. When diphtheria raged in the hospital, and the nurses fearing its contagious character, fled from the bed-sides of those suffering from it, Mrs. Husband devoted herself to them night and day, fearless of the exposure, and where they died of the terrible disease received and forwarded to their friends the messages of the dying.

It is no matter of surprise that when the time came for her to leave this hospital, where she had manifested such faithful and self-sacrificing care and tenderness for those whom she knew only as the defenders of her country, those whom she left, albeit unused to the melting mood, should have wept at losing such a friend. "There were no dry eyes in that hospital," says one who was himself one of its inmates; "all, from the strong man ready again to enter the ranks to the poor wreck of humanity lying on his death-bed gave evidence of their love for her, and sorrow at her departure in copious tears." On her way home she stopped for an hour or two at camps A and B in Frederick, Maryland, where a considerable number of the convalescents from Antietam had been sent, and these on discovering her, surrounded her ambulance and greeted her most heartily, seeming almost wild with joy at seeing their kind friend once more. After a brief stay at Philadelphia, during which she visited the hospitals almost constantly, she hastened again to the front, and at Falmouth early in 1863, after that fearful and disastrous[293] battle of Fredericksburg she found ample employment for her active and energetic nature. As matron of Humphreys' Division Hospital (Fifth Corps) she was constantly engaged in ministering to the comfort of the wounded, and her solicitude for the welfare and prosperity of the men did not end with their discharge from the hospital. The informalities or blunders by which they too often lost their pay and were sometimes set down as deserters attracted her attention, and so far as possible she always procured the correction of those errors. Early in April, 1863, she made a flying visit to Philadelphia, and thus details in a letter to a friend, at the time the kind and amount of labor which almost always filled up every hour of those journeys. "Left Monday evening for home, took two discharged soldiers with me; heard that I could not get a pass to return; so instead of going directly through, stayed in Washington twenty-four hours, and fought a battle for a pass. I came off conqueror of course, but not until wearied almost to death—my boys in the meantime had gotten their pay—so I took them from the Commission Lodge (where I had taken them on arriving) to the cars, and off for Baltimore. There I placed them in the care of one of the gentlemen of the Relief Associations, and arrived home at 1.30 A. M. I carried money home for some of the boys, and had business of my own to attend to, keeping me constantly going on Wednesday and Thursday; left at midnight (Thursday night) for Washington, took the morning boat and arrived here this afternoon." This record of five days of severe labor such as few men could have gone through without utter prostration, is narrated in her letter to her friend evidently without a thought that there was anything extraordinary in it; yet it was in a constant succession of labors as wearing as this that she lived for full three years of her army life.

Immediately after the battles of Chancellorsville she went to United States Ford, but was not allowed to cross, and joined two Maine ladies at the hospital on the north side of the Rappahannock,[294] where they dressed wounds until dark, slept in an ambulance, and early in the morning went to work again, but were soon warned to leave, as it was supposed that the house used as a hospital would be shelled. They left, and about half a mile farther on found the hospital of the Third and Eleventh Corps. Here the surgeon in charge urged Mrs. Husband to remain and assist him, promising her transportation. She accordingly left her ambulance and dressed wounds until midnight. By this time the army was in full retreat and passing the hospital. The surgeon forgot his promise, and taking care of himself, left her to get away as best she could. It was pitch dark and the rain pouring in torrents. She was finally offered a part of the front seat of an army (medicine) wagon, and after riding two or three miles on the horrible roads the tongue of the wagon broke, and she was compelled to sit in the drenching rain for two or three hours till the guide could bring up an ambulance, in which she reached Falmouth the next day.

The hospital of which she was lady matron was broken up at the time of this battle, but she was immediately installed in the same position in the hospital of the Third Division of the Third Corps, then filled to overflowing with the Chancellorsville wounded. Here she remained until compelled to move North with the army by Lee's raid into Pennsylvania in June and July, 1863.

On the 3d of July, the day of the last and fiercest of the Gettysburg battles, Mrs. Husband, who had been, from inability to get permission to go to the front, passing a few anxious days at Philadelphia, started for Gettysburg, determined to go to the aid and relief of the soldier boys, who, she well knew, needed her services. She reached the battle-field on the morning of the 4th by way of Westminster, in General Meade's mail-wagon. She made her way at first to the hospital of the Third Corps, and labored there till that as well as the other field hospitals were broken up, when she devoted herself to the wounded in Camp[295] Letterman. Here she was attacked with miasmatic fever, but struggled against it with all the energy of her nature, remaining for three weeks ill in her tent. She was at length carried home, but as soon as she was convalescent, went to Camp Parole at Annapolis, as agent of the Sanitary Commission, to fill the place of Miss Clara Davis, (now Mrs. Edward Abbott), who was prostrated by severe illness induced by her severe and continued labors.

In December, 1863, she accepted the position of matron to her old hospital, (Third Division of the Third Corps), then located at Brandy Station, where she remained till General Grant's order issued on the 15th of April caused the removal of all civilians from the army.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
A month had not elapsed, before the terrible slaughter of the "Wilderness" and "Spottsylvania," had made that part of Virginia a field of blood, and Mrs. Husband hastened to Fredericksburg where no official now barred her progress with his "red tape" prohibitions; here she remained till the first of June, toiling incessantly, and then moving on to Port Royal and White House, where the same sad scenes were repeated, and where, amid so much suffering and horror, it was difficult to banish the feeling of depression. At White House, she took charge of the low diet kitchen for the whole Sixth Corps, to which her division had been transferred. The number of wounded was very large, this corps having suffered severely in the battle of Cold Harbor, and her duties were arduous, but she made no complaint, her heart being at rest, if she could only do something for her brave soldier boys.

When the base was transferred to City Point, she made her way to the Third Division, Sixth Corps' Hospital at the front, where she remained until the Sixth Corps were ordered to the Shenandoah Valley, when she took charge of the low diet kitchen of the Second Corps' Hospital at City Point, and remained there until the end. Her labors among the men in this hospital were[296] constant and severe, but she won all hearts by her tenderness, cheerfulness, and thoughtful consideration of the needs of every particular ease. Each one of those under her care felt that she was specially his friend, and interesting and sometimes amusing were the confidences imparted to her, by the poor fellows. The one bright event of the day to all was the visit of "Mother" Husband to their ward. The apron, with its huge pockets, always bore some welcome gift for each, and however trifling it might be in itself, it was precious as coming from her hands. Her friends in Philadelphia, by their constant supplies, enabled her to dispense many articles of comfort and luxury to the sick and wounded, which could not otherwise have been furnished.

On the 6th of May, 1865, Mrs. Husband was gratified by the sight of our gallant army marching through Richmond. As they passed, in long array, they recognized her, and from hundreds of the soldiers of the Second, Third, and Sixth Corps, rang out the loud and hearty "Hurrah for Mother Husband!" while their looks expressed their gratitude to one who had been their firm and faithful friend in the hour of suffering and danger.

Mrs. Husband felt that she must do something more for her "boys" before they separated and returned to their distant homes; she therefore left Richmond immediately, and traveling with her accustomed celerity, soon reached Philadelphia, and gathering up from her liberal friends and her own moderate means, a sufficient sum to procure the necessary stores, she returned with an ample supply, met the soldiers of the corps to which she had been attached at Bailey's Cross Roads, and there spent six or seven days in distributing to them the clothing and comforts which they needed. Her last opportunity of seeing them was a few days later at the grand review in Washington.

There was one class of services which Mrs. Husband rendered to the soldiers, which we have not mentioned, and in which we believe she had no competitor. In the autumn of 1863, her attention was called to the injustice of the finding and sentence of[297] a court martial, which had tried a private soldier for some alleged offence and sentenced him to be shot. She investigated the case and, with some difficulty, succeeded in procuring his pardon from the President.

She began from this time to take an interest in these cases of trial by summary court martial, and having a turn for legal investigation, to which her early training and her husband's profession had inclined her, and a clear judicial mind, she made each one her study, and though she found that there were some cases in which summary punishment was merited, yet the majority were deserving of the interposition of executive clemency, and she became their advocate with the patient and kind-hearted Lincoln. In scores of instances she secured, not without much difficulty, and some abuse from officials "dressed in a little brief authority," who disliked her keen and thorough investigation of their proceedings, the pardon or the commutation of punishment of those sentenced to death. Rarely, if ever, did the President turn a deaf ear to her pleadings; for he knew that they were prompted by no sinister motive, or simple humane impulse. Every case which she presented had been thoroughly and carefully examined, and her knowledge of it was so complete, that he felt he might safely trust her.

Through all these multifarious labors and toils, Mrs. Husband has received no compensation from the Government or the Sanitary Commission. She entered the service as a volunteer, and her necessities have been met from her own means, and she has also given freely to the soldiers and to their families from her not over-full purse. Her reward is in the sublime consciousness of having been able to accomplish an amount of good which few could equal. All over the land, in hundreds of homes, in thousands of hearts, her name is a household word, and as the mother looks upon her son, the wife upon her husband, the child upon its father, blessings are breathed forth upon her through whose skilful care and watchful nursing these loved ones are spared to[298] be a joy and support. The contributions and mementoes presented by her soldier boys form a large and very interesting museum in her home. There are rings almost numberless, carved from animal bones, shells, stone, vulcanite, etc., miniature tablets, books, harps, etc., inlaid from trees or houses of historic memory, minie bullets, which have traversed bone and flesh of patient sufferers, and shot and shell which have done their part in destroying the fortresses of the rebellion. Each memento has its history, and all are precious in the eyes of the recipient, as a token of the love of those whom she has watched and nursed.

Her home is the Mecca of the soldiers of the Army of the Potomac, and if any of them are sick or in distress in Philadelphia, Mother Husband hastens at once to their relief. Late may she return to the skies; and when at last in the glory of a ripe and beautiful old age, she lies down to rest, a grateful people shall inscribe on her monument, "Here lies all that was mortal of one whom all delighted to honor."
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
I saw your flowers there, Donna, very nice! Maybe I should have found a way to edit this long, long story on her, since I know I can't always take the time to read such long posts. I kept looking at it, could not figure out what to cut and still do her the proper justice her work deserves, you know? One thing I find so admirable through the war are women on both sides who did not HAVE to, leaving everything to just, plain help.
 

Similar threads

Top