Phenominal Women

samgrant

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#61
How Bickerdyke 'outranked' Sherman

The oft told tale of Sherman saying Bickerdyke ‘outranked’ him comes in several different versions, the ‘punch line‘ also varying in the telling:

“She outranks me.”
“She ranks me.”
"She outranks me. I can't do a thing in the world."
"She outranks me. You'll have to see President Lincoln about that."
"Well, I can do nothing for you; she outranks me."
"I can't help you. She has more power than I - she ranks me."
“Oh well then, if it was she, I can’t help you. She has more power than I … she ranks me!”
"Well, if it was her, I can do nothing for you. She ranks me."
"Oh, well, if it was her, I can do nothing for you. She ranks me."
"I couldn't. She ranks me."
“If it was Bickerdyke, I can’t do anything for you. She ranks me.”
“Oh, I can do nothing for you, she ranks me.”
"O, well, she ranks me; you must apply to President Lincoln."
“Ah well, then, my man, if it was she, I'm afraid I can't help you. She ranks me.”
"Oh, well, if it was she, I can do nothing for you. She ranks me. "

With all these various ‘quotes’ I became dubious, and none were sourced. Did someone just make this up, and then it spread and was taken a fact? If so why the different versions? Well, there were no tape recorders in those days, so it would be reasonable that a true initial account may be modified in the telling.

I did finally find an early creditable (to me) source. Mary Ashton Livermore was a co-worker and friend of Bickerdyke, and she wrote a book My Story of the War (1888), in which the story appears.

“A week after, I was in her hospital [Bickerdyke’s] about noon, when the wardmaster of the fourth story came to the kitchen, to tell her that the surgeon of that ward had not made his appearance, the special diet list for the ward had not yet been made out, and the men were suffering for their breakfasts.
"Haven't had their breakfasts! Why did'nt you tell me of this sooner? Here, stop! The poor fellows must be fed immediately." And filling enormous tin pails and trays with coffee, soup, gruel, toast, and other like food, she sent half a dozen men ahead with them. Extending to me a six-gallon pail of hot soup, she bade me follow her, being freighted herself with a pail of similar size in each hand. I stood looking on at the distribution, when her clarion voice rang out to me in tones of authority; "Come, make yourself alive, Mary Livermore! Try to be useful! Help these men!" I never knew any one who deliberately disregarded her orders---I had no thought but to obey---and so I sat down to feed a man who was too weak to help himself.
While we were all busy, the surgeon of the ward came in, looking as if he had just risen from sleeping off a night's debauch. Instantly there was a change in the tones of Mother Bickerdyke's voice, and in the expression of her face. She was no longer a tender, pitying, sympathizing mother, but Alecto herself.
"You miserable, drunken, heartless scalawag!" shaking her finger and head at him threateningly, "What do you mean by leaving these fainting, suffering men to go until noon with nothing to eat, and no attention? Not a word, sir!" as he undertook to make an explanation. "Off with your shoulderstraps, and get out of this hospital! I'll have them off in three days, sir! This is your fourth spree in a month, and you shall go where you belong. Off with your shoulder-straps, I tell you, for they've got to go." She was as good as her threat, for in less than a week she had made such charges against him that he was dismissed the service, and that by the very medical director with whom she had had weeks' wrangling. The dismissed surgeon went to General Sherman to complain of the injustice done him. "He had been grossly belied, and foul charges had been made against him, which he could prove false," was his declaration. "Who was your accuser?" asked General Sherman; "who made the charges?" "Why---why---I suppose," said the surgeon reluctantly, "it was that spiteful old woman, Mrs. Bickerdyke." "Oh, well, then," said Sherman, "if it was she, I can't help you. She has more power than I ---she ranks me." “

This link should take you to the online book, (you can click most anywhere in the table of contents (go to the bottom) to go where you wish):

http://www.ourstory.info/library/1-roots/Livermore/story09.html
 

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ole

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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#63
I enjoy visualizing the Sherman/Bikerdyke standoffs. She must have been a formidable woman. When one has a Sherman hiding from her, she must have made powerful men tremble.
 

larry_cockerham

Southern Gentleman, Lest We Forget, 2011
Honored Fallen Comrade
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Nashville
#65
There are two confederate ladies who richly deserve to be in this thread. I don't have their stories handy and would appreciate a post from somone who does. They are:

1. Mrs. James Knox Polk , former first lady who helped tremendously with the spy effort while Nashville was occupied.
2. Mary Kate Patterson, instrumental in the workings of the Coleman Scouts, confederate spy ring under Joe Wheeler. She became Sam
Davis's sister-in-law after his death.
 

Nathanb1

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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#66
Was Mrs. Polk actually involved? I wondered after I reread the Crabb books. It makes perfect sense--who would bother the wife of a former president? And who more likely to have Confederate sympathies than Sarah Polk?
 
Joined
Jun 22, 2010
Messages
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In the wrong time.
#67
Mrs. Rose O'Neal Greenhow, Confederate spy, during her imprisonment in the Old Capitol, her daughter standing beside her.

Belle Boyd
I have a book about Belle Boyd (haven't read it yet), and I'd like to get one bout Rose Greenhow, from what I gather, they were two most notable spies of the south.
 

larry_cockerham

Southern Gentleman, Lest We Forget, 2011
Honored Fallen Comrade
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Messages
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Nashville
#68
I was personally recently impressed to see her photo. One fine looking lady, of any era. I believe she was involved, but a little research is needed. She retained a home in Nashville during the occupation and would have had at least a communication link to the highest Union circles.
 



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