Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April 17 - Tennessee Civil War Notes

17, Governor Isham G. Harris' reply to President Lincoln's request for Tennessee militia to support the defense of the Union
Executive Department
Nashville, Tennessee
April 17 1861
Hon. Simon Cameron

Secretary of War

Washington, D. C.
Your dispatch of [the] 15th Inst. informing me that Tennessee is called upon for two regiments of militia for immediate service, is received.
Tennessee will not furnish a single man for the purposes of coercion but 50,000* if necessary for the defence of our rights and those of our Southern brothers.
Isham G. Harris
Governor of Tennessee
Messages of the Governors of Tennessee, Vol. 5, facing p. 273.
*Ed. note - in the original hand written note, Harris began to use the figure 75,000, but must have thought better of it and used the figure 50,000. Whether he was hedging his bets or was aware that it would be very difficult to raise 75,000 as opposed to 50,000 troops is not known.



17, "The Women of the Revolution"
There is nothing more striking in the proceedings connected with the revolution now in progress, than the part taken in it by the women of the South. They are bearing their full share of the burden, and performing to supererogation, duties they have undertaken on the impulse of a devoted and self-sacrificing patriotism. In sharing the privations, and assuming a share of the labors essential to the final success of the cause in which the country is now engaged, the ladies of the South have not forsaken that gentleness of demeanor, nor those retires and modest habits that make them so engaging and so lovable. What they do is performed under impulses that are kept within the sway of propriety, with the calmness of well-regulated reason, and the circumspectness that flows from good sense.
The have all the warmth of patriotism, and the desire to render personal service in their country's cause, that distinguished that miracle of her sex, JOAN OF ARC. [sic] But they have no wild imaginings, no mystical dreams; they hear no strange voices calling them to their country's aid, as did the inspired maid of Orleans. For the women of the South of this day to know their country requires their aid is enough -- they need no other call. Neither with JOAN OF ARC [sic] do they step from that gentle and loving domain where their mild graces, their quiet dignity, and their modest attractions make them so powerful, and so irresistible. They assume not, with the martyred JOAN, [sic] habiliments unbecoming her sex; they put on no coat of mail, they wield no sword, they march not at the head of advancing armies, nor mix in the blood and carnage of the battle. The pattern they imitate is no JOAN OF ARC, [sic] issuing the work of command, amid the clangor of arms; no CHARLOTTE CORDAY, [sic] apostophyzing [sic] liberty at the guillotine; but FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE, [sic] the noble woman who has demonstrated that patriotism can be allied with benevolence, and active service in the cause of the country with the retiring characteristics of the female sex.
Since the war broke out, how many thousands of our gentle countrywomen, ladies raised in affluence who fingers were more familiar with the piano keys than the needle, have spent months in laboriously sewing at the coarsest material to make clothing for our young men in the field. We have seen them from "early morn to dewy eve," seated patiently in some school-room, church or vestry, toiling as faithfully as the unhappy heroine of "The Song of the Shirt"[1] at their laborious task. A rude, rough, harsh task it was, but "the boys" wanted clothing, and the country wanted the boys, and that was incentive enough and payment enough.
At the moment we are writing, hundreds of the gentlest ladies of the city are leaving their elegant homes where all the appliances and luxuries wealth procures surround them, to spend the day in hospitals, where sick and wounded soldiers are detained from their active duties in the field by wasting suffering. Overcoming the disgust that the least fastidious must feel at entering rooms crowded with beds, in which lie patients moaning with pain or wasting with disease, they seat themselves beside the sufferers couch; no, not crouch, but plain, prosy, hospital pallet, and look on and aid while the physician lays bare gaping wounds, while blood flows, and the lance pierces the torn flesh. They cool the brow with icy applications, smooth the pillow, administer the necessary potions, kindly coax the sufferer to partake of food offered with smiles, and reasoned with words of sympathy, and soft, womanly winningness, that is of itself the best of all medicine to the sick and suffering soldier, who can have no fond mother, no loving sister to watch, and soothe, and comfort in the pain, the lassitude, and the weary, weary hours of sleepless restlessness. Often we have watched delicately raised ladies performing kindnesses such as these, and more than it is necessary here to specify, until we have felt fully the sentiment experienced by a grateful Irishman, when he said of one who kindly nursed him in his sickness: "When I began to get better I used to lie for hours in my bed watching her, expecting every minute the wings would start from her shoulders, and she would fly back to heaven where she belonged."
But the Southern women do more than these things -- they give their sons to their country. Stifling the pleadings of their hearts, subduing their fears, conquering the anguish that is rending their souls, deliberately encountering the days of fearful expectancy, and nights of despondent sleeplessness that must be their portion during the absence of their children, they send their loved ones forth to the battle. These are the sacrifices which "the women of the revolution" are making.
An incident that occurred in this city yesterday, which is mentioned in another part of this paper, illustrates the spirit that prevails among the ladies of the South at this moment. A soldier arrives mortally wounded from the field; the lady to whom he is engaged -- one standing high on account of her attractive powers, amiable disposition, and unusual talent and acquirement -- in order that she may have a wife's sacred right to lavish upon him all her cares, all her wealth of love, all the treasures her heart has hoarded up with a miser's care, to pour upon him when he should be her own -- united her fate with his, and his few days will be gladdened, his sufferings lightened, his last moments soothed by the accomplishment of the great wish of his life.
When we contrast woman's' devotion, her cares, her toils, her self-immolation, her untiring labors, with what man does in the struggle of war, how striking is the difference! Man's path is strewed with carnage and deluged with blood; devastation, flame and death mark his desolating course; but woman's toils and efforts are all for good. They are glorified with the halo of charity; sympathy, gentleness and kindness immortalize her deeds. She seeks to shelter the houseless [sic], clothe the shivering, cure the sick, and assuage the sufferings of the wounded. With such attributes of affection and mercy about her, a sacred beauty, a holy purity environs her, and consecrates her works of mercy.
The history of the Southern revolution that will be read by future generations, will recount great deeds performed by brave and gallant men, heroes who died on the battle-field [sic] for their country's gain; but the story will be one of destruction and death. How bright will be the page in which "the women of the revolution" are mentioned -- with what reverence will their deeds be regarded -- what a solemn sanctity will enshroud their memories! Earnestly will the women of the future commend to the imitation of their daughters the lofty virtues of "the women of the revolution."
Memphis Daily Appeal, April 17, 1862.

[1] The Song of the Shirt is a poem written by Thomas Hood in 1843.

It was written in honour of a Mrs. Biddell, a Lambeth widow and seamstress living in wretched conditions. In what was, at that time, common practice, Mrs. Biddell sewed trousers and shirts in her home using materials given to her by her employer for which she was forced to give a£2 deposit. In a desperate attempt to feed her starving infants, Mrs. Biddell pawned the clothing she had made, thus accruing a debt she could not pay. Mrs. Biddell, whose first name has not been recorded, was sent to a workhouse, and her ultimate fate is unknown; however, her story became a catalyst for those who actively opposed the wretched conditions of England's working poor, who often spent seven days a week labouring under inhuman conditions, barely managing to survive and with no prospect for relief.

The poem was published anonymously in the Christmas edition of Punch in 1843 and quickly became a phenomenon, centering people's attention not only on Mrs. Biddell's case, but on the conditions of workers in general. Though Hood was not politically radical, his work, like that of Charles Dickens, contributed to the general awareness of the condition of the working class which fed the popularity of trade unionism and the push for stricter labour laws.

Following is the first stanza of the poem:

With fingers weary and worn,
With eyelids heavy and red,
A woman sat in unwomanly rags,
Plying her needle and thread –
Stitch! Stitch! Stitch!
In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
And still with a voice of dolorous pitch
She sang 'The Song of the Shirt!'


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