Brev. Brig. Gen'l
- Feb 14, 2012
- Central Pennsylvania
From an illustration of a French vivandiere, Crimea War era. This image, while wonderful, unhelpfully ' Googled ', confuses ' our ' war, and women from who they were and what they did. Many of our women of the war suffer from a kind of simplistic mythology, helped along by the internet. We can fix that.
Thread is intended as a repository for a kind of myth-busting, or better, Pin-busting? ' We ', meaning an increasingly information gluttonous public, have a tendency to feast on History's white meat, leaving the carcass to fossilize. What to I mean? We've ' Pinterest'ed ' time, allotting each person a kind of carry-on bag only, one sentence sufficing as biography, epitaph and summation.
Remember ' Civil War Nurse Barbie '? That. Well, thread began because it has always bothered me, this " Civil War Nurse " thing. There was no, single definition- Army, Sanitary Commission, Christian Commission, countless civic and church and state organization nurses and happenstance nurses. Wounded men carried into your house? Nurse, better believe, for weeks. Or months.
Gettysburg women alone have been Pinterested by the dozens. It's a hazard, honest.
Carrie Sheads, 'pinned' for that few moments during the Battle of Gettysburg, hiding an officer's sword. Carrie's story includes her famous school being turned into a blood drenched hospital, having charge of a school full of young girls while two, massive armies violently collided, losing nearly her entire family in the war, fated to never marry, she also dies very young but not before watching a beloved sister die the slow, ugly death suffered by so many Gettysburg civilians. No one has tracked it down to this day- thought at the time to be some kind of poisoning, from embalming fluid. Mother, father, sisters and brothers- all perished as a result of the battle or war.
1849 newspaper ad, Oak Ridge Seminary far predating Carrie as principal, but Gettysburg did not change much until July 1, 1863
Jennie Wade, pinned under a name never hers, and famous for dying, the facts are even wrong. She'd been baking, yes- but not taking care of a sister whose baby was just born. Mary Virginia and her mother took their boarder, young Isaac Trimble, a disabled boy they were paid to care for, to the duplex home of Georgiana Wade McClennan. Waiting out the battle with her sister and 2 week old son, Ginnie was dubbed ' Jennie ' by a reporter and has spent over 150 years, famously dead, famously anonymous. Her coffin? Originally one hastily built for a Confederate officer, abandoned when the tide of battle turned.
Baby Lewis was handed over to his grandmother as soon as the shooting stopped, while Georgiana walked to the hospitals, one, more civilian nurse.
Mrs. John Burns, Cecelia Barbara, lost her brother during the invasion. Famously standing, a seemingly placid, relieved Gettysburg housewife, in the LoC photograph we know so well, her house had also been flooded with wounded. Not only had her husband been returned wounded- he'd been captured and released, previous to taking pot shots at Confederates.The old vet just would not stay home. Confederate officers had visited her home, awfully interested to hear how, exactly, her husband had been wounded. Word then reached Cecelia that her husband was not the only male member of her family to stubbornly resist the invasion. Brother Andrew Hagerman, in Hagerstown, Maryland, had gotten killed, taking up civilian arms.
Here she is, Cecelia Barbara Hagerman Burns, having buried her brother Andrew
Dr. Mary Walker, so famously pilloried, mocked and detested, no one notes this professional, dedicated healer came to Gettysburg, to heal wounded men. ' Pinned ' mostly for being an oddity who refused to give up her MoH. Dr. Mary's war time career included deliberately putting herself in harm's way, to aid wounded.
It'll go on for awhile. Like the thread compiling those we lost, nursing in the war, will continue- there are a great deal of women whose roles have been singularized, condensed and in that way mythologized. Little knowledge is a dangerous thing.