Personal Guidebook to Grief Recovery
The Civil War placed a terrible emotional burden on women on both sides of the conflict. Those who were left at home worried constantly about the safety and comfort of the husbands, fathers, and sons they had sent to battle. They followed reports of the war in the newspapers and waited anxiously for word about their loved ones. Throughout the war years, women often gathered at train stations across the country to hear the names of the dead called, and to comfort those who were grieving afterward. The endless fear and sadness took a heavy toll on them. As diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut (1823-1886) wrote, Does anybody wonder why so many women die Grief and constant anxiety kill nearly as many women as men die on the battlefield.
Lee died in October 1870, after suffering a stroke. News of Lee's death triggered a tremendous outpouring of grief all across the South. Ordinary citizens and thousands of devoted soldiers who had served under him offered testimonials (public statements declaring a person's merit) about his leadership and courage. Lee's funeral service in Lexington was attended by thousands of mourners, many of whom traveled for hundreds of miles to pay their respects. Today, more than a century after his death, Lee's status as a legend of the American South remains unchanged.
In 1882, Douglass published the third and final volume of his life story, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. In 1883, his wife of forty-four years passed away. Douglass took his wife's death very hard and seemed to have a nervous breakdown. But he managed to overcome his grief and dedicated himself once again to gaining equal rights for Americans. He wrote and spoke about the importance of helping freed slaves and the value of granting women the right to vote.
During her time in Cincinnati, Harriet Beecher became close friends with Eliza Stowe, the wife of her father's colleague Calvin Ellis Stowe. When her friend died in 1834, she and Calvin Stowe shared their grief. Eventually their friendship blossomed into love, and they were married on January 6, 1836. In the years following her marriage, Stowe's main responsibility was caring for her growing family. She ended up having seven children (only six survived to adulthood). But she still made time to write articles and stories,
President Abraham Lincoln's assassination by Southerner John Wilkes Booth on April 14,1865, and his death the next day shocked the citizenry. Outpourings of grief abounded, including several poems by Walt Whitman. Whitman, a great admirer of the president, first publicly mourned Lincoln with ''Hush'd Be the Camps To-Day,'' which he published on May 4,1865. He further mourned the slain president in 1865 and 1866 with his elegiac poem ''When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd,'' and ''O Captain My Captain '' both of which were published in Drum Taps. ''O Captain My Captain '' became one of Whitman's most popular poems.
Bereavement and grief were widespread. This was mitigated somewhat for Franco loyalists, whose dead and wounded were lauded as heroes. For Republicans, the despair experienced in defeat was exacerbated by the new regime's refusal ever to recognise that those who had died or been injured fighting against it were anything more than a rabble of crazed fanatics.
Hood survived the Battle of Nashville, but the destruction of his army depressed him terribly. Wracked with guilt and grief at his failures, he resigned his command on January 13, 1865. Four months later he surrendered to Union troops in Natchez, Mississippi, as the war drew to a close.
During this long day's march everything indicated our coming to be unexpected, and not a shadow of opposition appeared. The truth was that their cavalry were afraid to meet us and gladly availed themselves of the pretext of not being able to find us. Up to this time the cavalry of the enemy had no more confidence in themselves than the country had in them, and whenever we got a chance at them, which was rarely, they came to grief. within our reach, and whenever they did they invariably came to grief. But why a small party should not have followed us and given information can be attributed only to bad management, for they could have gotten the information in a friendly country without ever making an attack, by means of the citizens along the roads we passed. But so it was, as appears now from their official dispatches, that up to our reaching the river on our return, they had no exact intelligence of our movements. At one point, McClellan inferred we would attempt a crossing below him....
A little before seven, I went into the room where the dying President was rapidly drawing near the closing moments. His wife soon after made her last visit to him. The death-struggle had begun. Robert, his son, stood with several others at the head of the bed. He bore himself well, but on two occasions gave way to overpowering grief and sobbed aloud, turning his head and leaning on the shoulder of Senator Sumner. The respiration of the President became suspended at intervals, and at last entirely ceased at twenty-two minutes past seven. . . . I went after breakfast to the Executive Mansion. There was a cheerless cold rain and everything seemed gloomy. On the Avenue in front of the White House were several hundred colored people, mostly women and children, weeping and wailing their loss. This crowd did not appear to diminish through the whole of that cold, wet day they seemed not to know what was to be their fate since their great benefactor was dead, and their hopeless grief affected...
In fact, it was Warren's right flank that came under the greatest pressure. He lost most of two seasoned regiments as prisoners, and the situation seemed desperate for a brief interval. Reinforcements enabled Warren to hold fast on 19 August, and on 21 August he handily repulsed a series of Southern attacks. In one of them, a bullet tore through both of General John C. C. Sanders' thighs and he bled to death. He had reached his twenty-fourth birthday four months before. A few days later his sister back in Alabama wrote to a surviving brother of her wrenching loss. Fannie Sanders described dreaming of John every night, then awakening to the living nightmare of the truth. 'Why Oh why, was not my worthless life taken instead of that useful one ' Fannie cried. 'I have been blinded with tears.' Families on both sides of the Potomac had abundant cause for grief.
A few days after Lee's surrender, however, Northern celebrations came to an abrupt end as one final act of violence shook the entire nation. On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth (1838-1865) shot President Abraham Lincoln at a Washington theater, then escaped into the night. Lincoln died the next day. The assassination shocked the country and triggered an outpouring of grief and rage across the North.
During the years of the war, the Sanitary Commission developed a number of ways to raise the large sums of money it needed to support its work. The most successful strategy devised was holding large, regional fairs. The elaborate events included children's departments designed to get children to visit and to allow them to help in the Union war effort. Youngsters took part in recreations of folk tales, concerts, and recitations. Schools displayed examples of the children's work. Girls sent examples of their handcrafts and boys loaned their collections of ''oddities'' to help bring in pennies for the cause. Some of the children even offered their own dear pets to be sold to raise money for the soldiers. Fortunately for everyone, in most cases a philanthropic relative, neighbor, or charitable stranger would purchase the animal and return it to the grieving but determined child. The fairs also provided all sorts of treats to eat. At a great fair held in Chicago, a bevy of young girls...
While soldiers carrying arms under both flags faced death or maiming at the battle front, their families at home coped with a wide variety of fundamental changes and challenges. Some home-front Americans met with fabulous economic opportunities others with dire economic suffering. Millions of civilians struggled with numbing grief at the loss of loved ones, and millions more faced personal danger from scavengers -both 'friendly' troops and invaders. I cannot refrain from mingling my grief with yours It is dreadful to have our loved ones die We are utterly shaken by the uncontrollable outthrusting of our mere human grief at seeing
Banks, Nathaniel Prentice (1816-1894). One of the most prominent Union political generals, he served throughout the war without achieving any distinction on the battlefield. No match for Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley in 1862, he similarly came to grief during the 1864 Red River campaign.
Commenting that Confederate General Leonidas Polk had called on all the planters along the Mississippi River to send their slaves to assist in fortifying Fort Pillow some 40 miles (64km) north of Memphis. 'Separating the old family Negroes who have lived and worked together for so many years is a great grief to them and a distress to us,' she observed. After reading a January letter from her brother, she came to the realization that 'The manner in which the North is moving her forces, now that she thinks us surrounded and can give us the annihilating blow, reminds me of a party of hunters crouched around the covert of the deer, and when the lines are drawn and there is no escape, they close in and kill.'
Stonewall's death stunned his fellow rebel soldiers as well. A greater sense of loss and deeper grief never followed the death of mortal man, wrote one veteran of the Stonewall Brigade. Under him we had never suffered defeat. . . . We were the machine he needed to thresh process his grain, and the machine must be in order. We knew he would not needlessly risk our lives, and we knew that when needful to accomplish an object, our lives were as nothing, success was all that counted. We had a confidence in him that knew no bounds, and he knew and appreciated it. He was a soldier, and a great one, to our cause his loss was irreparable.
From the first moment, don Marcelino's greatest preoccupation was how to subdue the demand for vengeance felt by men whose hearts are lacerated by grief or by enormous indignation, or when they are simply blinded by political passions. I was present at a conversation between a major of the Civil Guard and don Marcelino at the village of La Ribera in Navarra
Truth was torn away from her family, too. When she was nine years old, her master separated her from her grieving parents by selling her to another planter (plantation owner). By 1810, when Truth was sold to John Dumont, she had been the property of several slaveowners. Her purchase by Dumont, though, brought a measure of stability to her life. She spent the next seventeen years as a slave on the Du-mont estate in New Paltz, New York. During this time she married a fellow slave named Thomas, with whom she had five children.
'The grief of the people of New York at the villainous assassination of the noble Ellsworth is universal,' ran an editorial about raising the regiment in the Albany Evening Journal. 'Eet the people of New York, his native state, mingle with their tears practical points for avenging bis death.'
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