Site Map
Photos of Winnie

I don't know if any of you are from Alabama or will be in the Mobile area on Saturday, 6 June but if you are you may be interested in this. There will be a memorial service honoring Kate Cumming. I know, I know, you're all scratching your heads and saying to yourselves, " Who the dickens is Kate Cumming."

Today's tidbit is taken from the following websites, which, unfortunately, are no longer available on the web.




Kate Cumming (1835-1909)

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1836, Kate Cumming moved to Montreal, Canada and then to Mobile, Alabama. Inspired by the Rev Benjamin M. Miller, early in the Civil War Kate volunteered in Confederate hospitals. In April, 1862 at the age of 27, she left against her family's wishes, with 40 other women, for Mississippi to begin her service as a nurse for the Confederacy. Her first experience with a major battle came at Shiloh where she found the work of a nurse to be harder than she had imagined. Even though most of the other volunteers left for home, Kate remained in Corinth and Okalona, Mississippi until June, 1862 when she went to Mobile, Alabama for two months. She then volunteered for duty at the Newsome Hospital in Chatanooga, Tennessee and spent a year there.

In the fall of 1862, Confederate laws changed to permit women to work in hospitals and Kate enlisted in the Confederate medical department. When Chatanooga was evacuated in 1863, Kate worked in the mobile hospitals that set up throughout Georgia to care for casualties in the wake of Gen. Sherman's devastating march through the south.

Kate never married and in 1874, she moved with her father to Birmingham, Alabama where she taught school and music until she died in 1909.

While Kate's work was not extraordinary, the journal she kept during the war is invaluable. Published after the war, the journal details the actual workings of a Civil War hospital. Kate not only helped the wounded but she left a permanent record of events, people and places during the Civil War.

These are some of Kate's observations:

Regarding the lack of volunteer nurses:

"....from my experiences since last writing on that subject, that a lady's respectability must be at a low ebb when it can be endangered by going into a hospital."

Her observations on the horror the Memphis, Tennessee boys saw in Corinth :

"May 6th, 1862-Mr. Jones died today; he was 18 years of age. He died the death of a Christian; he was a brave soldier; true to his God and his country. Miss H. sat up all night with him. She is endeavoring to procure a coffin for him. We have none now in which to bury the dead, as the Federals have destroyed the factory in which they were made. At one time, I thought it was dreadful to have the dead buried without them, but there is so much suffering among the living that I pay little attention to such things now. It matters little what becomes of the clay after the spirit has left it. Men who died as ours do, need no useless coffin to enshrine them."

Kate tells of treating the wounded in November of 1863:

...Near him is Mr. McVay, an Irishman, much emaciated. One of his legs has been amputated above the knee, and the bone is protruding about an inch, which is very painful. To the left is Mr. Groover, wounded in both knees. While marching, a cannon-ball took off the cap of one, and the under part of the other, and his back is one solid bed-sore. We have tried to relieve his suffering in every way. The very sight of his face is distressing, and makes me feel as if I would sacrifice almost anything to palliate his pain. The effluvia from his wounds is sickening.

Kate saw much more than some of us can even begin to imagine. It is befitting that a Confederate headstone has been placed on her grave in honor of her service to the Confederate soldiers.

© 2006 Winifred Ledoux