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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Mary A. Livermore

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The United States Sanitary Commission was soon organized, for working in hospitals, looking after camps, and providing comforts for the soldiers. Branch associations were formed in ten large cities. The great Northwestern Branch was put under the leadership of Mrs. Livermore and Mrs. A.H. Hoge. Useful things began to pour in from all over the country,--fruits, clothing, bedding, and all needed comforts for the army. Then Mrs. Livermore, now a woman of forty, with great executive ability, warm heart, courage, and perseverance, with a few others, went to Washington to talk with President Lincoln.

"Can no women go to the front?" they asked.

"No civilian, either man or woman, is permitted by law," said Mr. Lincoln. But the great heart of the greatest man in America was superior to the law, and he placed not a straw in their way. He was in favor of anything which helped the men who fought and bled for their country.

Mrs. Livermore's first broad experience in the war was after the battle of Fort Donelson. There were no hospitals for the men, and the wounded were hauled down the hillside in rough-board Tennessee wagons, most of them dying before they reached St. Louis. Some poor fellows lay with the frozen earth around them, chopped out after lying in the mud from Saturday morning until Sunday evening.

One blue-eyed lad of nineteen, with both legs and both arms shattered, when asked, "How did it happen that you were left so long?" said, "Why, you see, they couldn't stop to bother with us, because they had to take the fort. When they took it, we forgot our sufferings, and all over the battle-field cheers went up from the wounded, and even from the dying."

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At the rear of the battle-fields the Sanitary Commission now began to keep its wagons with hot soup and hot coffee, women, fitly chosen, always joining in this work, in the midst of danger. After the first repulse at Vicksburg, there was great sickness and suffering. The Commission sent Mrs. Hoge, two gentlemen accompanying her, with a boat-load of supplies for the sick. One emaciated soldier, to whom she gave a little package of white sugar, with a lemon, some green tea, two herrings, two onions, and some pepper, said, "Is that all for me?" She bowed assent. She says: "He covered his pinched face with his thin hands and burst into a low, sobbing cry. I laid my hand upon his shoulder, and said, 'Why do you weep?' 'God bless the women!' he sobbed out. 'What should we do but for them? I came from father's farm, where all knew plenty; I've lain sick these three months; I've seen no woman's face, nor heard her voice, nor felt her warm hand till to-day, and it unmans me; but don't think I rue my bargain, for I don't. I've suffered much and long, but don't let them know at home. Maybe I'll never have a chance to tell them how much; but I'd go through it all for the old flag.'"

Shortly after, accompanied by an officer, she went into the rifle-pits. The heat was stifling, and the minie-balls were whizzing. "Why, madam, where did you come from? Did you drop from heaven into these rifle-pits? You are the first lady we have seen here;" and then the voice was choked with tears.

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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