During the tumultuous years of the Civil War, women who did not have a right to vote, own property and had few civic liberties of their own, unified in support of the war efforts and assumed an active part. The determination, grit and devotion with which these women served their country was astounding, yet often overlooked.
Women may not have had a voice in the political process or a part in the military actions of the day, but the Union ladies of Greenup, Greenup Co. KY did not hesitate to show their patriotism and voice their opinions to Hon. William C. Ireland, a local Kentucky state representative:
On behalf of Union loving women of Greenupsburg we beg of you to accept the accompaying banner as a slight token of their regard for you as a man and a pariot. Whilst the women of our Country are not permitted to engage in political or military strife, they can approve the acts of the true Statesman and applaud the deeds of the gallant general; excercising this right let us assure you that your course in the Legislative Halls of our noble State meets with our most cordial approbation, and we confidently trust that in the future, as in the past, your efforts may be directed against any measure which may tend to bring the horrors of civil war into Kentucky.
In conclusion let us hope that the present unhappy condition of our beloved country may soon end, and that "not one stripe may be erased nor one star obliterated from our glorious flag.
Women's patriotism was felt and much appreciated, even in Washington, DC. In January 1862, Congressman John Wadsworth from Mason Co. KY urged Mrs. Ireland and Kate Ross, both from Greenup Co. KY, to travel to the nation's capital, "to give our Presidential Court a little brilliancy." He further stated, "it is a Christian duty urges them them to come here Certainly if they are Union women."
Both Kate Ross, the wife of L. D. Ross, prominent lawyer and furnace owner, of Greenupsburg and Mrs. Parmelia D. Robb Ireland, wife of Hon. William C. Ireland, a state representative and later Provost Marshall from Greenup Co. KY, supported the Union cause with fervor throughout the war.
In September 1862, General George W. Morgan and his 10,000 men strong 7th Division marched from Cumberland Gap to the Ohio River in 16 days and arrived at Greenup on October 3, 1862, starved and half-naked. The soldiers soon found that, "the ladies were baking bread - not ordinary loaves, but nice fine cakes, such as KY ladies delight to spread before chosen guests. One lady, Mrs Ross, baked more than 200 pounds of fine flour, and then, as though regretted that it was not better, spread it out before the Twenty-sixth Brigade, anxious to do still more. The readers can not imagine how well that bread tasted."
Mrs. Ross and Mrs. Ireland also formed the Greenup Aid Society with the other Greenup Union ladies. In 1863, the following women were members:
Mrs. Kate Ross
Mrs. Parmelia D. Robb Ireland
Mrs. Elizabeth Vandyke, wife of Augustus C., Iron manufacturer
Mrs. M. W. Moss
Mrs. S. A. Ellis, wife of Dr. Samuel Ellis
Mrs. Hellen A. DeBard, wife of Dr. A. D Debard
Mrs. Carolina Smutz [Schmitz], wife of John Smutz, a saloon keeper in Greenupsburg. Both were natives of Baden, Germany
Mrs. L. H. C. Robb, wife of J. M. Robb, clerk
Mrs. M. A. Rye, wife of merchant H. M. Rye
During the organization of the 14th KY Infantry in the fall of 1861, women found ways to support the soldiers. Charlotte C. Culver, a well-to-do widow in Catlettsburg, made her house and property available to the regiment, perhaps as headquarters or as a hospital.
In October 1861, Elizabeth Pennington, wife of the local miller H. Pennington, was baking for the regiment for two weeks since the soldiers had "no means of baking bread."
Soon, the women were also involved in caring for the sick. An act passed by Congress on Aug. 3, 1861 made their participation, although limited, possible.
AN ACT providing for the better organization of the military establishment...
SEC. 6. And be it further enacted, That in general or permanent hospitals female nurses may be substituted for soldiers when, in the opinion of the Surgeon-General or medical officer in charge, it is expedient to do so, the number of female nurses to be indicated by the Surgeon. General or surgeon in charge of the hospital; the nurses so employed to receive forty cents a day and one ration in kind, or by commutation, in lieu of all emoluments except transportation in kind.
Among the women who cared for the sick in the 14th KY in 1861 were Mrs. Elizabeth Steele Frasher, wife of Captain Oliver M. Frasher, Co. C, 14th KY Infantry, as well as Mrs. Hughs, wife of a recruit from Morgan Co. KY, who, in the end, did not make it into the ranks of the regiment.
Many women also organized Soldiers Aid Societies, as in Greenup County. These organizations were instrumental in gathering and distributing items to the hospitals and battlefield.
Not only would the women knit socks and mittens, make uniforms, and distribute blankets and reading material but also took it upon themselves to raise money to support their organizations. Hospitals were supplied with necessities such as crutches, bandages and linens, as well as clothing, pillows, bedticks, even furniture. They also also provided fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs, condensed chicken and milk, pickles to aid the recovery of the sick.
During Garfield's Eastern KY Campaign, the Soldiers' Aid Society of Northern Ohio, founded by women in Cleveland, Ohio, as a first of such organization in the nation on April 20, 1861, sent much needed supplies to the 18th Brigade Hospital in Ashland, KY in early 1862, as well as to the regimental hospitals of the 42nd OVI in Paintsville and Louisa, KY.
In February 1862, the patriotic Ladies of Ironton and vicinity contributed two large boxes of goods to the relief of the destitute soldiers of the 14th Kentucky Regiment who were stationed at Paintsville. The boxes contained 27 comfortables, 17 quilts, 8 coverlids, 140 pairs of socks, and some nice mittens, soft flannel shirts, drawers, etc.- One soldier in the regiment remarked that, "the contributions from our Ohio sisters were received with great satisfaction."
The Ironton Soldiers Aid Society also cared for the sick soldiers at the 18th Brigade Hospital in Ashland.
In April 1862, Post Surgeon B. F. Elder acknowledged the receipt of supplies from the following ladies:
To Miss Trumbo, Miss Margaret Trumbo, Mrs. W. H. Kelley, Mrs. A. J. Trumbo, Mrs. J. Trumbo, Ms. C. Austin, Mrs. L. Austin, Mrs. W. Collins, Mrs. W. Kelley, Mrs. Joshua Kelley, Mrs. G. Dovel, Mrs. M. A. Adams -
Ladies: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of boxes and jars containing fruits, chickens, butter, etc. etc. for the use of the sick in this hospital, for all of which we are exceedingly grateful. Please accept our thanks, and those of the sick soldiers under our charge, for the delicacies received.
The ladies provided chickens, cold beef, veal, ham, and chipped beef. Other goods included eggs, butter, milk and rusk [a hard bread] as well as cornbread and mush.
The Brigade Hospital had been set up in the Aldine Hotel in Ashland, an imposing five story structure, built by the Kentucky Iron, Coal & Manufacturing Co. in 1857. Women were hired to do the washing and the sewing society bought 190 yards of muslin to make bedsheets and shirts, and volunteers stitched two afternoons a week.
The ladies of Ashland, Kentucky also took an active part in caring for the sick soldiers.
Mrs. Hannah Weis, wife of Dr. Weis
Mrs. Mahala Warner wife of Larkin Warner, farmer
Mrs. Harrietta Means, wife of John Means, industrialist
Mrs. Narcissa R. Martin, wife of E. W. Martin, cashier at Ashland Bank
Mrs. Mary A. Gore, wife of Thomas Gore, book keeper
Mrs. Mary I. Martin, wife of A. C. Martin, clerk
In 1864, Rebecca Moore Gallup, wife of Colonel George W. Gallup, 14th KY Infantry, commander of the Eastern KY Military District, visited the soldiers in the hospitals.
On April 15, 1864, she wrote, "Mrs Philips has been quite sick. Dr. Philips took me to see those woundid [sic] soldiers. poore [sic] unfortunate men I am sorry for them. I was introduced to him as Mrs Col. G. and he held his hand out and said he was glad to have us come to see him - it cheered him up."
Numerous other aid societies were active during the Civil War throughout the state of Kentucky. In April of 1862, when the 14th KY Infantry arrived in Lexington, the ladies from the city's Soldiers Aid Society, as one soldier noted, "came to our rescue and filled as near as strangers could, the places of mothers and sisters." They supplied food in abundance as well as cared for the sick in the hospital.
Mrs. Ella Dewees Cochran, wife of Col. John C. Cochran, commander of the 14th KY Infantry, who resided with her family near the hospital, "was among the foremost in kind attention to the sick soldiers of the 14th regiment," noted one soldier of the 14th KY.
Mrs. Cochran was a very patriotic woman and took a great interest in the events that were taking place. "She is a Heroic Woman", praised one of the officers in the 14th Ky Infantry, "and Says She does not want the Col to Resign as long as there is a Vestige of the Old Flag Remains."
Some of the women chose to share their husband's fate and accompanied them during their service in the field, even if it was sometimes just for short periods of time. Mrs. Rebecca Moore Gallup and Mrs. Anna Frederick Mims, wife of Captain David Mims, 14th KY Infantry, visited their husbands at Cumberland Gap during the summer of 1862. Clarissa Keeton, wife of James Keeton as well as John Kitchen's wife Mary were in camp visiting their husbands in the 14th KY Infantry while the regiment was stationed at Danville, KY during the winter months of 1862/1863. Mary Kitchen also accompanied the men on their march to Louisville, caring for James Poe, a wounded soldier.
At times, these women would become unwilling participants of important military events as was the case with Anna Meachum, wife of 14th KY Assistant Surgeon Dr. Franklin Meachum. When Morgan's Division evacuated Cumberland Gap in September 1862, attempting to march to the Ohio River, Dr. Meachum voluntarily remained behind, caring for the sick in the hospital. His wife, who was eight months pregnant and not able, for obvious reasons, to make the march with the soldiers, remained with her husband and was accordingly captured by the Confederates. She remained at Cumberland Gap where she gave birth to a healthy son on October 28, 1862.
Ten other women, however, accompanied Morgan's Division on their
march from Cumberland Gap and endured the same hardships as the men. One of them was Sarah Taylor.
In general, women were not allowed to serve in the army but Sarah Taylor, 18 year old step-daughter of Captain Dowden of the 1st Tennessee Infantry, was one of the few exceptions. When the Civil War began she was determined to follow her step-father into the service and served as daughter of the 1st Tennessee Infantry, sharing with the men all the dangers and hardships. According to a contemporary writer, Sarah Taylor became "quite the idol of the Tennessee boys". Mounted on a horse, she carried a highly finished regulation sword and two silver-mounted pistols in her belt, being a master of both type of weapons. Their uniforms were often very similar to the uniforms of the field music of the regiment. As the “daughter of the regiment”, these women commanded the respect of soldiers in ways that other types of camp followers could not.
Though non-essential to fighting regiments, they performed some important duties and gave a wounded or sick soldier immediate attention. In some known instances they carried the colors into battle for their regiment.
Also accompanying Morgan's Division were a group of women refugees who had fled their homes in Barboursville to escape the invading Confederate forces under Kirby Smith. Amelia Cain White Adams was the wife of Captain George Madison Adams and mother of Major Hugh W. Adams, both members of the 7th KY Infantry who served under Gen. George W. Morgan. She was accompanied by her daughters Kate White Adams, Jennie Ballinger, Sallie Letcher and Sue Joplin, with a year-old baby, George Joplin, as well as a nurse and the family’s faithful servant Hiram. After an all night ride, the group was finally able to join Morgan's column near Manchester, KY.
The identity of the remaining three women is at this point unknown which continued research may uncover.
Circumstances during the Civil War forced women to abandon their more traditional roles as wives and mothers, tending to their families. Now Women worked to manufacture arms, ammunition, uniforms, and other supplies for the soldiers. On the home front, they took the place of their husbands and tended to their farms, ploughing, planting crops and harvesting and took care of their live stock. Often left on their own without the protection of their husbands and sons, they were subjects to raids by contending armies as well as guerrilla bands.
America Marshall, wife of William "Doby Bill" Marshall's of Co. D, 14th KY lived with her family on Brushy Fork of Gun Creek in Magoffin Co. KY. The house had been searched a number of times for food, clothing and money. She finally augured a hole in the wall of their log house and put her money in it. Then she drove a peg into the wall and hung her washtub over the spot to keep the soldiers from finding the money.
Frances Elam, mother of Lt. Richard M. Elam of Co. I, 14th KY Infantry, lived on the family farm at Gordon Ford in Horse Shoe Bend of the Licking River in Morgan Co. KY. Due to the family's Union sympathies the farm was raided and Richard’s mother driven off. "they have taken all of our stock and has run Mother away from home and now she is at Portsmouth Ohio and is doing well ther[sic]," noted her son in December 1862.
The Civil War effected all the women in this country on some level and even more so in Kentucky. Regardless of what roles women assumed, their contributions made an enormous impact and proved invaluable to the war effort. Their patriotism, and sacrifices as well as their triumphs should never be forgotten.