1864: “The Fair For The Sanitary Commission Is A Good Excuse…”

March 17, 1864

I went today to the Knickerbocker Kitchen Committee for the benefit of the Sanitary Fair. Mrs. Judge Roosevelt is chairman. she wants us to wear the old Dutch costume. Hers is already being made, she said. It is too far from the Fair, being in Union Square, and too few, I thought were interested. Having a sore throat and being afraid of too much work and exposure, I backed out and promised to get Mother to send all that she could. I do not think I have any vocation for public life. I am too knickerbocker to be sufficiently democratic and did not particularly fancy the idea of being seated in cap, short gown, and petticoats, pouring tea for all the rabble that (in such a great city) would come to give their mite to the Sanitary Commission. They would be gratifying their curiosity, and I would be part of the show. My name, too, being so public a one, would be sure of being in the papers. Continue reading

1863: “Next Day We Went…To Look At The Camps”

Sanitary Store Boat, “Dunleith”, on the Mississippi, above Memphis;

April 1st 1863

Dear Father,

…The day after our arrival [on the 22nd] Gen’l Grant sent an aid on board out boat to take us near to Vicksburg as it would be safe to go. It was near enough to set our watches by the town-clock and to see negroes shoveling earth upon the breast-works. Bissell was building a case-mate battery for two 30 lb. Parrotts, concealed from the enemy by the levee, at the point nearest the town; from which it was intended to open fire upon their R.R. station and Commissary storehouse, the morning after we left. Continue reading

1861: “Extremely Ornamental”

Gazette665 Blog Series 1861: In Their WordsNovember 1861

Hanging Pincushion and Needle-book

Godey's MagazineThis little article is extremely ornamental when completed, and possesses the advantage of being also useful. A little case, like a book-cover, is cut out in cardboard; a similar shaped piece of velvet or silk, a little larger, is also required, on which is worked the sprig given in the illustration. This may be done in white beads, or embroidered in colored silks, or worked in gold thread. This is then stretched over the cardboard, brought over the edge, and gummed [glued] down. Continue reading

A Big, Long List of Supplies

Box of supplies (from a Civil War Re-enactment)

Box of supplies (from a Civil War Re-enactment)

The last few weeks I’ve been sharing details about the United States Sanitary Commission and the United States Christian Commission and their work during the American Civil War. So the natural question is: what did they bring to Gettysburg?

I Have In My Hands A List

Well, here’s a list of supplies received by 1 corps hospital during a 10 day period. Keep in mind that there were about 10 corps hospitals at Gettysburg…and smaller field hospitals too. All irreverent comments in (parenthesis) are mine and certainly not in the original list.

Dried fruit – 3,500 lbs.

Lemons – 116 boxes (time to make lemonade? No, seriously, that’s what they were for)

Preserved fish (probably dried) – 3,600 lbs.

Catsup – 43 jars (that’ll go well with hot dogs – sorry, re-enactor joke)

Pickles – 400 gallons (I’ll pass, thanks…)

Canned oysters – 72 cans

Fresh eggs – 8,500 dozen (so that’s 102,000 eggs, if I understand correctly)

Concentrated milk – 12,500 lbs.

Ice – 20,000 lbs.

Fresh bread – 10,300 loaves

Crates of medicines, such as: aloe, alum, ammonia water, calomel, camphor, laudanum, & quinine

Shirts, drawers, and other clothing – 40,000 pieces (the ladies have been busy sewing!)

Sheets, blankets, mosquito nets – 11,700

Towels and napkins – 10,000

Sponges – 2,399 (love the precise counting!)

Bandages – 110 barrels (how many in a barrel is a mysterious question)

soap – 250 lbs.

crutches – 1,200 pairs

fans – 3,500 (this is the air-conditioning, guys)

bay rum – 100 bottles

candles – 350 lbs.

(This list is from “A Vast Sea of Misery” by G.A. Coco, page xvi)

So what do you think? Was the USSC and USCC successful? My mind is spinning trying to imagine collecting, transporting and distributing all that stuff to just 1 field hospital!

Maybe the better question is what didn’t they bring to Gettysburg?

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. What’s your favorite item on the list?

Georgeanna Woolsey: Battlefield Nurse

Miss Woolsey responded, “We women cannot fight, but we can do our best to support our soldiers. I was a hospital nurse last year, and, oh, how desperately our brave soldiers need good care and supplies.” She looked sadly at the open tents where the suffering men lay, then glanced back to the work at hand. “You must excuse me. I’ve work to finish…”  ~ Blue, Gray & Crimson

Ladies – like Eliza Thorn – residing in or near Gettysburg were not the only women involved in the battle drama and aftermath. (Indeed, we could argue that any woman in America with beloved soldier had Gettysburg was potentially effected by those three days in July. But we shall not build such an extensive platform today.)

Today, we will discuss a lady who came to the battle area to assist with the care of wounded: Miss Georgeanna Woolsey.

Arriving at Gettysburg

Georgeanna Woolsey and her mother arrived in Gettysburg believing their brother / son who served on General Meade’s staff was wounded. Happily, they discovered this was not the case and then Mr. Frederick Olmstead found them.

Frederick Olmstead was in charge of the United State Sanitary Commission – an organization dedicated to providing medical assistance, good supplies, and camp and hospital cleanliness for the Union soldiers. Stockpiling supplies at strategic locations, the commission raced to battlefields to bring aid.

Olmstead asked Mrs. Woolsey and Miss Georgeanna if they would establish and oversee a Sanitary Commission camp near the railroad station in Gettysburg. The ladies quickly agreed.

What prompted Olmstead to request these ladies’ assistance so readily?

civil_war_nurseExperienced Nurse and Organizer

The Woolsey family was dedicated to the Union cause and staunchly supported the abolition movement. Georgeanna, a few of her seven sisters, and her mother volunteered as hospital nurses or took other roles with the Sanitary Commission.

Although it was shocking to society, Georgeanna walked from her beautiful home, went to a base hospital, and trained to serve as a nurse. Her descriptions of her early hospital experiences are forthright and she described her inexperience, fear, and shock. But she learned and was sent to Virginia in time for the first battle of the war. The Woolsey family  supported Georgeanna’s decision, but decreed that at least two Woolsey ladies would serve together – mother and daughter team or sister teams stepped out and entered the war zone hospitals.

Georgeanna became a competent, compassionate, and skilled nurse; she was also good at overseeing the management of a chaotic hospital. Thus, when Frederick Olmstead asked Georgeanna to establish an aid station, he knew he was asking one of the best qualified women.

Busy at Gettysburg

Georgeanna oversaw the pitching of tents, the cooking of food, distribution of medicine, and provided skilled medical nursing for the weary men who staggered or endured a bumpy ambulance ride to the train station. The trains ran on a tight schedule and often these wounded soldiers missed the trains which would take them from Gettysburg (Learn more about the Union medical system HERE.)

The soldiers then came to the Sanitary Commission camp and surrendered to the care and compassion of the Woolsey ladies and their assistants. According to her account, Georgeanna estimated that nearly every soldier who left Gettysburg stopped for at least a meal at her tents. Impressive!

After Gettysburg

Georgeanna and Mrs. Woolsey were at Gettysburg for three weeks. Afterward, Georgeanna wrote a pamphlet about their experiences, hoping to inspire other ladies to redouble their efforts to aid the soldiers.

Mrs. Woolsey and her daughter served as nurses until the end of the war and visited Richmond shortly after the conclusion of the conflict.

Georgeanna married a doctor she had met during the war and together they founded a nursing school. She wrote a nursing handbook and spent the rest of her life actively advocating aid for children and the poor.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah