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Once again life got in the way and I haven't had a chance to send the tidbits but I hope to make up for it.

Yesterday Tom and I went to a book fair just south of Harrisonburg, Va. and I brought home lots of books. On the way home we stopped at Cedar Creek and as if I hadn't bought enough books, I had to have three more. Two are recipe books, one featuring Northern cooking and the other Southern. If anyone is interested, I will be more than happy to send some of them your way. The last one called "A Southern Woman's Story, Life in Confederate Richmond", is the story of Phoebe Yates Pember's life in the southern capital. What I'd like to do for the next several weeks is talk about this woman and her experiences. I've just started reading it but there is a lot to tell you all. Tom says I'm a rebel. I was born and raised in Maryland and always considered myself a northerner, but I'm beginning to think that maybe I am a rebel. Anyway, I'd like to tell you about this strong southern woman.

Phoebe Yates Pember was born in Charleston, South Carolina and was raised knowing prosperity and even though nothing is known of her education, her letters and reminiscences show that she was quite literate. Before the start of the Civil War Phoebe married Thomas Pember of Boston but in July, 1861, Thomas died of tuberculosis causing Phoebe to move back with her parents for a time. In November, 1862, the wife of the Confederate Secretary of War brought Phoebe an offer to serve as matron in Chimborazo Hospital, located in Richmond, Va. Despite doubts about the wisdom of accepting the offer, Phoebe did just that and moved to Richmond.

Chimborazo Hospital was an expansive building on a high hill near the western boundary of Richmond. Patients began arriving in 1862 and the hospital had to be expanded to accommodate the increasing number of sick and wounded flooding the capital. It eventually grew to 150 wards, each capable of holding 40 to 60 patients. A total of 76,000 patients were treated at the hospital over the course of the Civil War, reputedly making it the largest military hospital up to that time.

Phoebe entered man's domain when she began life as matron of Chimborazo but soon proved to her associates of both sexes that she was not to be pushed around. She attacked her job with determination and accomplished much. To help make conditions more tolerable, she attended social functions in the capital even though they didn't really appeal to her. Her main concern from December, 1862 through Appomattox was the care of the sick and wounded who flowed through Chimborazo. The fights for authority and recognition were won mainly for her patients who benefited greatly from her efforts.

Tonight's tidbits are just a background of this lady and the hospital where she spent so much time. In the coming weeks, I hope to pass on more from this lady's letters.

Wiley, Bell Irvin ed., "A Southern Woman's Story, Life in Confederate Richmond by Phoebe Yates Pember", Marietta, Georgia: R. Bemis Publishing, 1954.

(Part II)

© 2006 Winifred Ledoux