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By Lantern's Light: A Civil War Saga Buried in the Footnotes of History

By Lantern's Light: A Civil War Saga Buried in the Footnotes of History

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By Lantern's Light: A Civil War Saga Buried in the Footnotes of History

336 pagine
4 ore
Feb 15, 2017


In 1861 a courageous band of women brave death and defy political
powers to render battlefield relief, launching the first MASH Unit on
American soil. By these deeds they write their page in history.

This dramatic, fact-based story is told through the eyes of
Havannah, a fiery but shallow debutante, who joins the first team of
women to work the battlefields during the Civil War. While blood flows
and Minie balls fly, Havannah squares off with head field hospital nurse
who vows to dismiss her from the corps. The heroines love affair with
a crusty army surgeon adds fuel to the fire.

Meanwhile, sisters at home battle enemies who pledge to squash their
efforts to establish the innovative relief plan. On the trail women,
board wagons hauled by cantankerous mules, strap soup pots to wagons,
forge mountain passes, dodge bullets, set up field hospitals alongside
battlefields and scour the land, seeking life among the dead. The
weapons they carried were not muskets but hot soup, whispered prayers
and compassion, bolstered by fierce determination.

Feb 15, 2017

Informazioni sull'autore

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Carol is a founding member of the Low Country Civil War Roundtable, one of the largest in the country, located in the Coastal South Carolina area and founding editor of the Minie Ball Gazette. She taught classes related to “Women and the Civil War” for ten years, five of those as an instructor at the University of South Carolina – Beaufort, in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute program. Her works have appeared in the South Carolina Historical Magazine, Dialogue (a periodical published in Braille), and numerous other publications. She is a novelist, short story writer, essayist, and columnist. Carol presently lives in Virginia, where she gives popular lectures related to the subject of “Women and the Civil War.” She is a member of the Society for Women and the Civil War. Carol has also written the screenplay, By Lantern’s Light.

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Anteprima del libro

By Lantern's Light - Carol J. Cutrona


2001, 2017 Carol J. Cutrona. All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author.

Published by AuthorHouse 02/15/2017

ISBN: 978-1-5882-0401-1 (sc)

ISBN: 978-0-7596-0485-8 (e)

Any people depicted in stock imagery provided by Thinkstock are models, and such images are being used for illustrative purposes only.

Certain stock imagery © Thinkstock.

Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.


Dedication … .

Author’s Notes… . .


Chapter 1 – Rendezvous With The Past

Chapter 2 – Hickory Hill Estate

Chapter 3 - Meet Luci

Chapter 4 - A Confrontation In Washington

Chapter 5 – Madam St. Clair

Chapter 6 – Nurse’s Recruitment

Chapter 7 – It’s Over

Chapter 8 - Nurse’s Training

Chapter 9 - On The Trail

Chapter 10 - Surgery In The Cemetery

Chapter 11 - The Swindle

Chapter 12 – Camp Inspection

Chapter 13 – How The U. S. Sanitary Commission Works

Chapter 14 – The Ambulance Corps

Chapter 15 - Disappointment

Chapter 16 – Jackal Strikes Again

Chapter 17 - Nurses On The Battlefield

Chapter 18 – Seeking Life Among The Dead

Chapter 19 - Luci Finds Love

Chapter 20 - Reunion

Chapter 21 – The Blizzard

Chapter 22 – A Mission Of Mercy

Chapter 23 – A Train To Heaven

Chapter 24 - Stranded In The Snow

Chapter 25 – Ambush

Chapter 26 – Goodby My Love

Chapter 27 - Home Again

Chapter 28 - The Beginning Of The End

Chapter 29 - Old Friends

Chapter 30 - The Grand Review

Chapter 31 – The End Of The Story

The photo, shown on front cover of the Mary Ann Bickerdyke statue by Theo Kitson, is provided by courtesy of Special Collections and Archives, Knox College Library, Galesburg, Illinois.

I have never studied the art of paying compliments to women. I must say that if all has been said by orators and poets since the creation of the world in praise of women was applied to the women of America, it would not do them justice for their conduct during this war. I will close by saying ‘God bless the women of America!’

Abraham Lincoln

Edited by Priscilla Sammet … …

. … . . My friend and fellow scribe from whose own pen flows exquisite prose


This work is dedicated to my beloved grandchildren, Will and Haley, who live in the Commonwealth of Virginia amidst the Confederate camps and American Civil War battle sites of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Mosby’s Rangers.

The children have patiently listened to my tales of this woeful period in history, and no doubt drift off to sleep some nights dreaming of cannon balls sizzling across the sky, and hearing the clattering hoof beats of the cavalry’s mounts thundering past their home.

Through the hazy, purple shadows of the Appalachians, long after mournful wails were silenced, and confused spirits had departed, her silhouette, cast in lantern’s light, moved among the fallen. Her gown trailed in crimson soil as she sought that one trooper who still drew breath . …

Carol J. Cutrona


While By Lantern’s Light is a work of historical fiction, I have remained true to the characteristics of real-life figures while paraphrasing their words. I’ve adhered to the actual time lines and locations of this period whenever possible.

This work tells the true story of a courageous group of women long-forgotten and buried between the footnotes in the pages of American history. The United States Sanitary Commission was formed in June 1861, by a group of dedicated citizens, mostly women, who gave over their lives to the cause of rendering battlefield relief during the American Civil War.

These fledging nurses and procurement agents carried no weapons. Creative and brave, they fought against death and despair with whispered prayers, hot soup and swatches of lint.

Mary Ann Bickerdyke, Civil War army nurse, is both a key character in the book and a real life figure. She was the first woman to receive a Congressional Citation, acknowledging the outstanding contributions she made in rendering battlefield relief.

Historians document her presence during a least nineteen key battles during the four-year war, more than any one general fought on either side. Had she been a man, she would have been appointed a Field General. Once or twice I have placed her in locales and time periods of my choosing in order to move the story forward. I don’t think she would have minded!

Mary Ann Livermore, another historical figure, revealed her story to me in her autobiographies and her other publications. Both of these ladies, and many others, were heroines of the day and deserve remembrance and honor.

As fiction writers do… I have taken a few literary liberties on occasion. I hope my readers will understand.

Carol J. Cutrona



APRIL 1861

The weeping willows of the James Estate stood as mighty titans guarding the entry of Hickory Hill. Their limbs lashed about in gale-like winds. Branches leapt into the air, snapping and twisting like tormented souls suffering the agonies of hell. Wind whistled eerie tunes through their delicate leaves, announcing the hellish day that was about to begin.

The streets of Acorn, Ohio, were empty. The tower clock in the town hall steeple watched benevolently over the town.

To the east, fingers of dawn reached across the dark sky, poking their way through heavy cumulus clouds. A drop of rain settled on an iron rooster’s weather-vane face. Then another. In seconds the sky cracked open, hurling heavy pellets of water to the earth. Rain pounded the wooden walk boards of Duncan Street, bowing the canvas awnings of the shop fronts.

While residents slept peacefully through the rain’s melodious tattoo, the men of the Virginia’s 11th Light Artillery Brigade maneuvered their heavy horse-drawn cannons into place south of the hamlet. Axels creaked. Rebel soldiers galloped their mounts along the dirt road. Metal tacking on saddles clicked and snapped. Men shouted, spurring their animals onward.

On the other side of Acorn, Union soldiers, garrisoned in the armory, stood guard and waited. They had been serving round-the-clock watches since Abraham Lincoln called for an additional seventy-five thousand volunteers.

Behind the Confederate line, sixty-five men broke off into columns, left and right in wheel fashion, and positioned their field pieces on a bluff. Colonel Jebenezer Jackal swept his field glasses to the right and settled on a lone sentry, squatting at the foot of a large elm.

Lt. Leroy Jackson snapped, The cannons are in place. We’re set with teams of four, Sir.

Jackson, descendent of an elite Virginia family, sat his horse well, epitomizing the persona of a gallant Southern soldier. The tow-headed junior officer and the commander were a study in contrast.

Jackal, his pock-marked face a mask of detachment, lowered the spy glass and stroked the dark stubble on his chin. A twitch in his left eye accentuated a vertical scar scoring that side of his face. Jackal brushed long strands of oily hair from his forehead. His eyes, black marbles, peered out from a chalky face.

Give the order, Lieutenant. Jackson snapped off a salute as he dug spurs into the sides of his mount. He galloped along the cannons manned by his artillerymen.

His yell echoed throughout the valley. Open fire!

Team after team discharged field pieces, their elevation calibrated to over-shoot the town and ignite silos and fields fertile with crops. Exploding iron balls, six inches in diameter, whistled over the roof tops. In minutes the region was ablaze.

Meanwhile, a thousand yards distant from Jackal’s men, Major Robert Lowry, leader of 28th Ohio Volunteers, studied the puffs of smoke belching from enemy field pieces. Through binoculars, he counted the cannon as each delivered a steady stream of shot and gutted a year’s crops in a single wall of flame.

Looks like a ragtag bunch of misfits, calling themselves Johnny Rebs! I can’t read their flag! Headquarters warned us about an attack like this! They’re looking to loot armories and carry off weapons and ammunition! I heard their army still carries single shot muskets! They want our Spencers!

Lieutenant Malcolm Forbes waited at Lowry’s side. Sir, if it pleases you, Captain Rawlings wants to know if you’ll give the order to rout them rebels!

We’re not going to attack, Lieutenant!

But, Sir, we outnumber them!

"No Forbes! My orders are to protect this position, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

Forbes returned to his field glasses. Sir, it looks like they’ve wheeled their artillery around and are aiming at the town now! We have to go out!

Major Lowry finally acted. He ordered Forbes and his platoon to defend the town. This delay in Lowry’s order exposed Acorn’s citizens to a full blown attack.

After a brief but fierce encounter, Jackal turned his troops eastward and hustled out of Ohio.

Their weapons were not muskets but consisted of swatches of lint, hot soup and whispered prayers.



JUNE 1883

From her carriage Havannah James gazed solemnly across the pastoral scene spread before her, recalling the day when cannon balls sizzled across the smoky sky, and the land became consecrated with the blood of native sons.

A U. S. Army Regimental flag fluttered proudly from the conveyance’s stanchion post. Two high-stepping Arabians drew the elegant vehicle, bright yellow spoke wheels spinning, through the rolling hills of southern Ohio, a land lush with emerald grass. The magnificent steeds pranced beneath an arbor of lacy willow trees swaying languidly in the summer breeze.

Jesse, the driver, held the reins with white gloves. He urged the spirited team toward Hickory Hill Hospital high on a rise, nestled amongst the trees.

Havannah pressed forward and sighed recalling what happened so long ago. Such a terrible day, so much horror and devastation. I was so frightened.

Determined to enjoy the moment, Havannah tossed aside the sad memories. Ahead, a metal sign reading RED ROBIN TAVERN swung in the breeze. Didn’t the Red Robin burn down? Must have been re-built. Oh, and there’s the butcher shop … That young bugle boy was badly injured. If it hadn’t been for Mornin, I would have run away.

Off in the distance, two uniformed horsemen bore down in full gallop, raising a cloud of dust.

Jesse broke into her revelry, Oh, Miz Havannah! Looks like da army’s up ahead! Now what you ’pose dey want?

Havannah leaned out the window. A hundred yards out, she saw the sun-bronzed officers, fine examples of military men, ramrod straight, uniforms meticulous. Highly-polished leather saddles creaked with each rider’s movement. Bold piping on the saddle blankets read the numbers of the 344th Regiment.

Jesse, stop! They’re from our unit!

Dust mushroomed into the sky as the coachman halted the horses. The men slowed their approach and urged their mounts to Havannah’s side of the coach.

Her eyes narrowed. Why, Major Armstrong. Lieutenant Dix. Is something wrong?

Broad grins creased their boyish faces. Armstrong doffed his hat in a grand, sweeping motion. Lieutenant Dix, never taking his eyes off the vivacious woman, snapped off a two finger salute, Afternoon, Miss Havannah. The entire regiment was hell-bent on greeting our Lady of the Corps, but …, well. We won the draw. The men chuckled.

Armstrong leaned closer, May we have the honor of escorting the most beautiful lady in Acorn County to the festivities?

You certainly may, Havannah beamed. Tilting her head and smiling, The most beautiful lady in Acorn County, you say? She blinked twice and added softly, Do you really think so?

Jesse smothered a laugh. Havannah turned her face toward the driver. Jesse, don’t think you’re too old for me to tan your hide!

Yes ’um. We best be on our way now.

Havannah directed the officers. We are running late. Major, lead on as if we were riding the tail of a cyclone. Jesse, give my Arabians their head! And don’t you dare eat any cavalry dust!

Yes ‘um!

Dix hooted, Your public awaits!

The men wheeled their horses around and led the way. The race was on.

Jesse, hunching forward, snapped the reins lightly across the muscled backs of his beloved team. They charged down the pathway, straining against their riggings. The brougham rumbled onward, rocking, leaf springs stretching, and wheels grinding over rocks in the road. Havannah laughed and clamped her hand to the hat perched recklessly on her head.

Approaching a farmer’s field wagon, she called out, Out of our way, or we’ll run you down!

Ahead, an officer shouted, Yahooo!

Now, four horses abreast, they roared down the long stone drive of the estate. The huge iron gates swung open, and Jesse guided Samson and Bartholomew through the entry. The coach creaked, groaned, heaved and sighed.

The verandah in sight, Jesse hauled back on the reins, his feet braced against the floor boards. Guests streamed out of the mansion onto the porch and into the yard to witness the activity, and to welcome their very own Havannah.

Jesse leaned into the wind, Whoa, Bartholomew! Samson! Stop! I tells ya! Wees got company! At the last moment he managed to slow the thundering horses to a halt.

A white banner stretched across the front of the building. Black bold letters read CONGRATULATIONS! HICKORY HILL HOSPITAL SCHOOL OF NURSING, CLASS OF 1883.

A footman hurried forward and opened the carriage door, offering his hand.

Miz Havannah!

The exquisite honoree appeared in the doorway.

Tommy! You still have the brightest smile around!

Lowering his eyes, he grinned still wider, Yess.

Havannah gathered a fold of her gown and stepped from the coach. One well-shaped ankle dangled enticingly on display.

Havannah’s lips slipped into her famous crooked smile, the one that belied her fourth decade of life. Her eyes searched the crowd of admirers, seeking a special face.

Guests surrounded her in seconds. Each vied for a moment with this special person.

Two women, gathered off to one side. Look at her! She still has no shame! She’s just as wild as ever! The second woman spoke, One would think she’d act her age! Tsk, tsk!

A young lady smoothed the skirt of her student nurse’s uniform and made her way through the admirers, her white pinafore apron a vivid contrast against her gray gown.

At the carriage, she embraced Havannah.

Mother, for shame! You were racing again!

On the way here my driver and I were challenged by two of the finest riders of the regiment! What else could we do but respond? Liberty shook her head in mock despair.

Who won, do you know?

It was a tie!

Havannah brushed a curl from daughter Liberty’s forehead and smiled into her child’s dark eyes flecked with gold.

Liberty fidgeted. Oh, I’m so excited, I could die! But Mother, he’s not here yet!

Darling, be patient. He will be! Havannah’s eyes twinkled, Besides, I will stall the ceremonies as long as possible!

A string ensemble seated on the side terrace played a few bars of Pomp and Circumstance, announcing the festivities about to begin.

Liberty slipped her arm into her mother’s as the two strolled through the audience. A rumble of excitement worked its way through the throng as Havannah moved toward the speaker’s platform. Some rose for a better look while others gathered about this special person and lined up, forming a corridor on both sides.

She barely heard their voices, I’m so excited to meet you! and Honored, Ma’am!

On stage, other speakers waited.

Liberty squeezed her mother’s hand, searched the faces in the audience one last time, and then hurried to join her fellow students. Havannah took her place on stage with other dignitaries.

Guests hurried to find seats. The crowd was a checkerboard of color: men in pinstriped suits and bowler hats, ladies in gowns, weaving every color of the spectrum into a pleasant pallet.

Stiff white tablecloths with bouquets of baby roses covered several long tables. A crystal punch bowl filled with raspberry punch awaited thirsty guests.

A dignified gentleman wearing pince-nez glasses stepped to the podium. The audience hushed.

Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen! I’m Dr. Rudolph Schwartz, President and Administrator of Hickory Hill Hospital. I’m happy to have you with us on this special day. He leaned forward as if to engage the audience in a conspiracy. We’ve successfully completed another year of nurses’ training without losing a single patient!

Parents and friends chuckled politely. Schwartz continued, May I present our guest of honor, Superintendent of Nursing and founder of Hickory Hill Hospital. Havannah James. This is the lady who convinced President Lincoln at the time that Acorn needed to open a federal hospital. I’m certain you’re familiar with her many humanitarian contributions. He gestured, Havannah! The audience rose as one in a standing ovation.

Havannah stepped to the podium, accepted the applause, then lifted her hand for silence. Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen, friends, guests and graduation candidates. Congratulations! She paused until the cheers subsided. We assemble today at Hickory Hill Hospital to celebrate the achievement of these fine ladies. In doing so, we honor the legacy and fruits gleaned from the dedication and determination of those special women who have come before us. Her eyes moved from face to face.

Today marks the 14th anniversary of Hickory Hill Hospital, one of the very early federal facilities established in our country. Our institution is also one of the earliest schools of nursing in America. She reflected upon the moment. To those who have dedicated their lives to the healing arts, we gratefully hail you. When I recall the unfailing vision and energy involved in creating this school, the women of the 1861 U. S. Sanitary Commission come to mind.

Many men and women have dedicated their lives to the advancement of medical science in America. The high standard of medical care and advanced technology we take for granted today are the fruits of their courage and sacrifice. America, as well as this hospital, owes a debt of gratitude to the women who bravely tackled the task of providing medical relief on and off the battlefield during that great struggle, the Civil War.

Looking back to that time of great challenge and the early days before the Commission was implemented and accepted by those in power, one marvels at the spirit of women. They not only endured but flourished in a wash of rejection, contempt and ignorance. Those pioneering women risked their lives when their country called. They encountered enemies as deadly as those our warriors faced on the battlefield; hunger, heat, freezing weather, gangrene, and perhaps, most deadly of all, unseen, unknown enemies at the time, microscopic germs.

Their weapons were not muskets but consisted of swatches of lint, hot soup and whispered prayers.

Her eyes focused on the student nurses seated before her. They were exceptional women, resilient, forward thinking, fiercely progressive, yet tempered with compassion. I dedicate this graduation day to the spirit and memory of those fine American women, the U. S. Sanitary Commission nurses!

The audience applauded. Havannah raised both hands, "It is fitting that we celebrate at Hickory Hill today, for twenty two years ago, the Civil War exploded at our town gates.

We’ve done all we can for the war. Let’s go home.



APRIL 1861

On most mornings, Henry, the spindly eighty year old groundskeeper of Hickory Hill Estate, would collect the post from the Robin’s Nest Tavern across the road. Seven year old Jesse, the grooms boy, would trot down the long driveway to deliver the mail to the entrance of the mansion to the waiting Louisa. But not today. They were too spooked.

As shells exploded outside of town, Henry scuttled about securing his tiny domain. He closed and locked the wide gate to the driveway.

I’ze not lettin’ nobody in here today! Thas’a fact! He gripped the iron fence at shoulder level and stared down the hill at a town in panic. Jesse hid behind the old man and peeked through his legs.

Early morning pedestrians hurried about. Carriages and carts skimmed down the roadway, attempting to escape from the shells and cannon balls falling upon the town.

A Union officer urged his mount forward and reined to a stop at the entry gate. Whoa!

Jesse brushed by the old man and climbed up on the crossbar of the fence. He stared at the huge animal. The trooper’s polished boots pressed down hard in the leather stirrups when he stretched across the steed’s neck to hand the boy an envelope.

Here! Take this on up to Miz Havannah and hurry!

Did the war come here? Henry asked.

Old man, it sure looks like it. You all should stay indoors until this is over. Jesse still clinging to the fence, his eyes round as cotton balls, looked from the envelope to the trooper, then back to the horse. Jesse slipped the envelope into a side pocket of his satin knickers, never taking his eyes off the beast. The stallion reared up in all its magnificence and bolted back toward the action.

Henry bent his tall frame, Jest a minute! Hand thet over here. The old man snatched

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