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Harriet M. Scott

Harriet M. ScottIn November, 1861, I left my home in Irasburg, Vt., going to Camp Griffin, Alexandria, Va. My husband, who enlisted in the 3d Vermont Infantry in the spring of 1861 and was transferred to Battery F, Fifth United States Heavy Artillery, was stationed in winter quarters at Camp Griffin. I secured board at a farm house nearby; going to the camp each day, caring for the sick boys as would a mother for her sons. On March 10, 1862, the Vermont Brigade and Battery F moved, as they then thought, for Richmond.

Calling on Mrs. James Glen of New York State, her husband also a member of Battery F, we went to Miss Dix. Telling her I was from the Green Mountain State, she said, "I know you are loyal, I want you." She engaged Mrs. Glen and myself, giving us our commissions as nurses, sending us to Fortress Monroe to report to General Dix. He said, "We are on the eve of a great battle, you must return to Washington." We reported to Miss Dix. She sent me to Union Hotel Hospital, Georgetown, which was filled with typhoid fever patients. I was detailed as night nurse; remained till June 1st, when at the request of Doctor Bliss was transferred to Armory Square General Hospital, when first opened, and assigned to Ward B.

My first hard work was for the wounded from the seven days' fight -- McClellan's retreat from Richmond.

I remained at Armory Square through the summer of 1862, where both heart and hands were more than full. Dr. Charles Bowen (ward surgeon) gave me especial charge of the worst cases on low diet, forbidding anyone else to give them a spoonful. Armory Square, being near the boat landing, was filled with the most severely wounded from all the battles of 1862.

During the sultry heat, when scarce a breath of air was stirring, not a friendly tree for shade, we worked all the day, and often through the night, caring for some boy who could not live till morning, who had begged me to stay with him till the end, that his last look on life might rest on my face. Many nights, at the surgeon's request, have I remained with those who had suffered amputations, giving them quinine, and occasionally a spoonful of brandy, bathing foreheads and chests with brandy to stimulate and strengthen the little vitality left, singing low sweet hymns, soothing them to sleep. Soon after commencing my work in Ward B, one of my boys, mortally wounded through the lungs, said inquiringly, "You are not a Catholic?" I answered by asking, "what do you want?" "A priest." It was very early in the morning. I went to Doctor Bliss for a pass. Doctor Bliss said, "go after breakfast." "No, he may die, please write the pass while I get ready." Doctor Bliss directed me to a young priest (at this late day have forgotten his name). He returned with me to Ward B. The attendant placed the screen around the cot, and the sacraments of the Catholic faith were administered to the dying boy. Nearly every day through the summer, the young father came to my ward to know if any one wished to see him. I state this that all may know that the Catholic boys enjoyed the consolations and ministrations of their faith.

One day President Lincoln visited the hospital bringing grapes (with two men to carry the backet), himself giving to all who were allowed to have fruit, -- shaking hands, speaking kind words to each one. Noticing the small red flag at the foot of some of the beds, he said, "May I ask, nurse, what those flags mean?" "They mean low diet, sir." "What is low diet?" "Wine whey, milk and water, rice gruel -- always something very light." Walking with President Lincoln through the ward to the door, he said, "Well, nurse, we often hear the remark that these are days that try men's souls; -- I think they try women's souls too. I shall remember you and all the noble women of the North when this land is at peace."

Peace to his ashes; all honor to his name!
Our beloved Lincoln, of glorious fame.

On Christmas, 1862, Miss Dix sent me on board the Government Transport Steamer, Rockland, Capt. Oris Ingraham commanding, to Aquia Creek, to care for the wounded en route to Washington hospitals. This first Christmas eve the boat had been loaded with wounded, when orders came to Captain Ingraham to anchor for the night in the middle of the river; on account of the sharp shooters it was unsafe to return. I fnound a young boy mortally wounded, and sat on the floor by his side. Looking up in my face, he said, "O! for just one hour with mother," and passed away still clasping my hand. I closed his eyes and folded his hands, knowning he was his mother's darling. I knew she wafted his name above, morning, noon, and night on the wings of prayer. I served during the winter of 1863, often leaving the transport, going in the ambulance to pick up the wounded, carrying food and drink to those who must wait longer. I passed one night in the ambulance on the battle field, very near the enemy. We dare not make a fire or even light a match. I drank water dipped from holes made by the horses' feet in the mud; it tasted good and sweet. After lying all night in the mud and water the infantry were detailed to cut logs and carry them on their backs to build a corduroy road; that the heavy guns and baggage wagons might be lifted out of the mud.

I have seen fourteen horses vainly trying to pull one gun from the mud, the wheels sunk to the hub. Seeing me, the famished boys came offering five dollars, or all the money they had, for something to eat -- this was the hardest time of all my experience. I said to them, "Boys, I have only a few supplies for the sick, and wounded; but if getting out of this ambulance into the mud on my knees would bring you food, I would most gladly do it. I cannot give this to you; do not ask me, it will kill me to refuse you." Those are the boys who, if living to-day, often have to take a back seat.

Tongue cannot describe, pen cannot write, what our boys suffered, always without complaint or murmur. God bless them every one; were I able, I would strew their paths with flowers and cry, "All hail ye noble of God."

In the spring of 1863 Miss Dix granted me two weeks of rest, with my friend Mrs. Glen; then detailed me to do what I could in the Washington hospitals, carrying suplies, helping the boys to get furloughs, and start them home. Miss Dix sent me to Gettysburg battlefield, where I worked unceasingly till the woulded were all cared for and carried away. I continuted my hospital work till the last of August when, completely tired and worn out, went home to Vermont to rest, intending to return and work for the boys till the close of the war; but alas! that time never came. I have not been rested from that day to this; yet never a feeling of regret for nearly two years of service; I cound the days spent in hospital work themost precious of my life. The suffering and untold agonies so heroically and patiently borne by the nation's heroes; my brothers; their calmness and serenity when the angel of death called to the camping ground beyond the river are all most blessed memories, and have lifted me up and above the suffering of sickness and weakness, for many years, and I can truly thank God that I have lived in those trying days, and was enabled to do my little for my country's brave defenders.

Harriet M. Scott.

Charlestown, Mass.

Source: Mary A. Gardner Holland, Our Army Nurses. Interesting Sketches, Addresses, and Photographs Of nearly One Hundred of the Noble Women who Served in Hospitals and on Battlefields during Out Civil War, B. Wilkins & Co., Publishers, Boston, MA, 1895, pp. 562-567.