With their men away at war, American women in the South did the farm work, raised children alone, and prayed their husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, and uncles would return home alive. Lincoln’s war upon the South cost the lives of some 260,000 Southern men.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Universal Mourning in the South
“Cornelia Phillips Spencer was married six years before becoming a widow at age thirty-six. Her journal read: “May, 1862, My hearing is going, and with it youth, hope, and love. There remains for me nothing but to sit at home and remember.” Commentating on Spencer’s diary, author Wright described the “universal mourning” in the South had made her own loss seem less burdensome because at least her husband had not died “horribly in battle, or lain lingering and mutilated in hospitals.”
Another diarist, Sarah E. Mercer, recorded that her brother Oliver (called Buddy), had to return to camp even though he was not well. She said, “Tears are such a solace . . .” In less than three weeks, he would be among the dead at Gettysburg.
“I cannot look to the future, it is too dark. All is dark, dark, dark. The fate of our country is in a thick mist, too dark and thick to see through.” Still grieving, Mercer three days later declared, “Pity that the politicians were not obliged to do all the fighting themselves. Me thinks there would be considerably less blood shed . . .” Major Brooks visited the family and gave them the contents of Buddy’s pockets. Mercer said, “We can have no hopes of ever getting is dear remains, as they were left on Yankee soil. We do not even know if he was buried.”
Elizabeth Robeson had several sons in service. A religious woman, she questioned her faith as did other women. Entries in her diary are as follows:
“May 18th – but all God does is right, though he moves in a mysterious way. He takes the young and leaves the aged for some wise purpose, but we shortsighted mortals cannot see it.”
“Jun 1, 1862 – Mr. W. Cain came in and said that he heard our boys (Bladen Guards) were in the battle and were cut to pieces. Many a better woman than I am has been bereaved of their only child, but I feel as if I could not bear up under it.”
Henry Fuller was wounded in June of 1862 at Seven Pines, Virginia. His wife Ann “went to Richmond in search of him but was unable to find even an ambulance driver, since it was almost impossible to keep up with the troops. She did find the man who placed him in the ambulance and was told that he was seriously wounded with a Minnie ball through his head. After several days of fruitless inquiry, she was forced to return home empty handed and the fate of her husband was never known.”
Fuller remained on the farm and raised her three children. Foraging Union troops took everything on the place at the close of the war. “
(Blood and War at My Doorstep, North Carolinians in the War Between the States, Volume II, Brenda McKean, Xlibris, pp. 640-641)