Friday, September 23, 2011

A Woman Determined to Follow Her Man

This entry is from My Story of the War by Mary Ashton Rice Livermore. Livermore was a journalist, and an advocate for woman's right.

Here she tells of an incident happening to the 19th Illinois Regiment.  This regiment left Camp Douglas for action on July 12, 1861, so the the episode that Livermore describes here would have happened around that time.

. .. . I remember another occurrence of that afternoon when we visited the camp of the Nineteenth Illinois. I was watching companies that were drilling, a good deal amused at their awkwardness and their slow comprehension of the orders given them. One of the captains came to me, with an apology for intrusion, and begged to know if I noticed anything peculiar in the appearance of one of the men, whom he indicated. It was evident at a glance that the "man" was a young woman in male attire, and I said so. "That is the rumor, and that is my suspicion," was his reply. The seeming soldier was called from the ranks and informed of the suspicions afloat, and asked the truth of them. There was a scene in an instant. Clutching the officer by the arm, and speaking in tones of passionate entreaty, she begged him not to expose her, but to allow her to retain her disguise. Her husband had enlisted in his company, she said, and it would kill her if he marched without her. "Let me go with you!'' I heard her plead. "Oh, sir, let me go with you!" She was quietly conducted outside the camp, when I took her in charge. I wished to take her to my home; but she leaped suddenly from the carriage before we were half way from the camp, and in a moment was lost amid the crowds hastening home from their day's work.

That night she leaped into the Chicago river, but was rescued by a policeman, who took her to the Home of the Friendless. Here I found her, a few days later, when I made an official visit to the institution. She was extremely dejected, and could not be comforted. It was impossible to turn her from her purpose to follow her husband. "I have only my husband in all the world," she said, "and when he enlisted he promised that I should go with him; and that was why I put on his clothes and enlisted in the same regiment. And go with him I will, in spite of everybody."  The regiment was ordered to Cairo, and the poor woman disappeared from the Home the same night. None of us doubted but she left to carry out her purpose.

An Illustration from Mary Livermore's book

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