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I first heard of Mary Bickerdyke via the excellent Civil War by Ken Burns. The story that ends with Sherman's comment, 'She ranks me,' is one of those highlights that has stayed with me, to this day. But, I did not realize that Mrs. Bickerdyke had a connection with the Battle of Shiloh; (I thought she first made her appearance during the Vicksburg Campaign.)

 

Cyclone in Calico: the story of Mary Ann Bickerdyke, by Nina Brown Baker; published by Little, Brown & Co. at Boston in 1952, attempts to introduce the life of this remarkable woman in an engaging, often entertaining way.

 

After gravitating to 'work in the field' at Fort Donelson, she continued to serve, 'where she was most needed,' --- Shiloh, Corinth, Memphis, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Atlanta. Along the way, she was amazed at the conflict that erupted between U.S. Government agencies, and the civilian-established Sanitary Commissions. Even more disturbing: the open conflict between and among the U.S. Sanitary Commission, the Western Sanitary Commission, and the Christian Commission. (Not to mention, the resistance, bordering on hatred, of the U.S. Army to female nurses.) You are left wondering if anyone realized, they were all on the same side.

 

Mother Bickerdyke succeeded in spite of the petty grievances, as did some other notable, non-military personalities, discussed in the course of the book:  Mary Livermore, a socialite from 'Boston and Chicago,' whose organizational skills, and contacts among the Upper Echelon, allowed the U.S. Sanitary Commission (NW Branch) to thrive;

 

Eliza Porter, a slight, under-whelming lady, yet possessing remarkable abilities; her contributions mirrored those of her mentor, Mary Bickerdyke.

 

Mary Safford, remembered by many sick and wounded soldiers at Shiloh because of her 'angelic appearance;' she worked herself to exhaustion during the weeks following the battle, often going days without sleep. She suffered 'a collapse' in her health in May 1862, and was forced to retire. (She was replaced by Eliza Porter, who remained with Mother Bickerdyke til the end of the war.)

 

Annie Wittenmyer, known in the Midwest as founder of Homes for Soldiers' Orphans;

 

Dorothea Dix, working 'back East,' she organized the female Nurse Corps.

 

Mary Bickerdyke's favorite officers get more than a mention: Grant, Sherman, and Colonel John Logan. All of whom received her highest compliment: 'You'd never know they was officers.' (Also discussed are Mary's interactions with Benjamin Prentiss, Stephen Hurlbut, and 'those Army doctors.') Which leads me to the 'stories and anecdotes,' best described as folk tales from the Civil War. They add a poignancy, raw and uncensored, of what life during those times was really like. (My favorite is the story of the poisoned peaches.)

 

Thoroughly researched and referenced, with an extensive bibliography; the only real failing being '1952,' the date the book was written. So much information has become available since then, that the few 'errors' encountered could be easily corrected without any obvious impact on the overall story.

 

Cyclone in Calico. Worthwhile reading by anyone interested in how the Union Army operated, during the 90 percent of time it was not fighting. Available online (free)  <https://archive.org/stream/cycloneincalico001060mbp>

 

(The Library of Congress archives site.)

 

Ozzy

 

 

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Another is Cordelia Harvey, widow of Gov. Harvey of WI, who many, including me, consider the mother of the WI VA healthcare system. And we can't forget Kate Cumming of Corinth. If you want to really learn about her I would suggest you visit the Corinth Interpretive Center and talk to Ranger Rachel.

 

Jim

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Ranger Rachel Winters will be giving a talk "Caring for the Wounded" on Sunday, October 5 at 10 a.m. in Corinth. Mother Bickerdyke, Kate Cumming, the Sisters of Charity, will all be part of the program.

 

Don't forget all of the Corinth tours this weekend. They are all free!

 

Tom

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Thanks for the link to the book source as copies of the book are expensive.  I marvel at the courage and dedication of the women nurses or those who nursed their loved ones including fanny Gordon (wife of John Brown Gordon) and Arabella Griffith Barlow (wife of Francis Barlow).  Both Gordon and Barlow were wounded at Antietam, Gordon 5 times.  Both their wives were close by and both nursed their men back to health so they could fight again.  Here is a quote from Gordon re his wife:  "The doctors told Mrs. Gordon to paint my arm above the wound 3 or 4 times a day with iodine.  She obeyed the doctors by painting it 3 or 4 hundred times a day.  Under God's providence, I owe my life to her incessant watchfulness night and day, and to her tender nursing through weary weeks and anxious months."  Barlow's wife would join the US Sanitary Commission in 1862.  After nursing soldiers at wounded in the 1864 Overland Campaign she would die of typhoid fever on July 27, 1864.  In 1996 someone installed a bronze place over her grave in Somerville, New Jersey describing her role as a Civil war nurse.  Just 2 unsung heroes of the civil war.

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My pleasure, pointing the way to access to Cyclone in Calico...

 

One of the often-overlooked benefits of the internet: the exponential expansion in the capacity of the global library system, and access to it. No longer is a library patron limited by the size of their local library, or the connections within a State-run system, or the policy of 'expunging/sending to archives' old resource material. The Library of Congress, Project Gutenberg and Internet Archive, are world-leaders in making older, out-of-copyright materials accessible, online. (I would add 'for free,' except your tax dollars are at work, as regards Library of Congress; the other two operate on donations.)

 

Ozzy

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