Civil War Women: Kate Cumming, Confederate Nurse and Diarist

In the 1840s, Kate Cumming’s family emigrated from Scotland when she was a child, eventually settling in Mobile, Alabama.

Her mother and two sisters went to England when the Civil War started. Kate stayed in Mobile with her father. Her younger brother enlisted in the 21st Alabama Infantry as part of Ketchum’s Battery. Kate gathered hospital supplies to support wounded soldiers.

In 1862, Reverend Benjamin M. Miller’s speech encouraging women to serve in the hospitals stirred Kate. Inspired by this speech and Florence Nightingale’s example, Kate joined forty other women in Corinth, Mississippi, to nurse Battle of Shiloh wounded—despite her family’s objections.

She briefly returned home that summer yet yearned to continue nursing the soldiers. She traveled to Chattanooga with two other women to volunteer at Newsome Hospital. Her nursing help was eventually accepted.

In September of 1862, the Confederate government began allowing nurses to be paid. Kate enlisted in the Confederate Army Medical Department. Despite her personal sadness at watching soldiers die and battling poor hospital conditions, she worked as matron with Dr. Samuel Stout, medical director for Army of Tennessee, in various locations in Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia.

As a matron, Kate managed hospital departments, nursed soldiers, foraged for supplies, cooked, sewed, wrote letters, and supervised other workers.

She also maintained a detailed diary. This honest account of day-to-day nursing tasks and the men she served also shows tragedies Southerners faced in increasing measure as the war progressed.

After the war, Kate published her diary, A Journal of Hospital Life in the Confederate Army of Tennessee from the Battle of Shiloh to the End of the War: With Sketches of Life and Character, and Brief Notices of Current Events During that Period.

The author’s introduction was written in 1865—before publication. Kate is bitter about treatment from the North after the war’s end and urges all to unite. Her hope in publishing her diaries is to show Northerners how all have suffered. She wants reconciliation.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Cumming, Kate. Edited by Harwell, Richard Barksdale. Kate: The Journal of a Confederate Nurse, Louisiana State University Press, 1959.

Hilde, Libra. “Kate Cumming,” Encyclopedia of Alabama, 2019/04/11

“Kate Cumming,” National Park Service, 2019/04/11 ttps://

“Kate Cumming,” Wikipedia, 2019/04/11 ttps://

Rohrer, Katherine E. “Kate Cumming (ca. 1830-1909).” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 08 June 2017. Web. 11 April 2019.



Powhatan Beaty, Civil War Medal of Honor

Born into slavery in Richmond, Virginia, on October 8, 1837, Powhatan Beaty achieved his freedom in 1849, and he moved with his family to Cincinnati. While in school, Powhatan developed an interest in acting. Though he made his living as a cabinetmaker, he continued to study acting with several coaches after leaving school.

Southern troops marched toward Cincinnati in late August, 1862, sending the city into panic. Its soldiers were off fighting the war around the country. Men left in Cincinnati either served as home guard soldiers or dug fortifications.

African American men were initially forced to serve. William Dickson was soon appointed to command the black troops and immediately improved their circumstances. He treated them fairly. Beaty served in Company 1, 3rd Regiment of this Black Brigade. Working near Kentucky’s Licking River, they dug trenches and built forts for 15 days. The Confederates left without attacking the city. The brigade disbanded on September 20, 1862.

The following June, Powhatan enlisted with a group of other black men who had been recruited for a Massachusetts regiment. Within two days, Private Beaty had been promoted to Sergeant Beaty. Expecting to be sent to Boston upon arriving in Columbus, Ohio, they learned that the Massachusetts regiment was full.

Ohio Governor David Tod requested and received permission from the Department of War to form an Ohio regiment of African Americans. The 127th Ohio Volunteer Infantry—later renamed the 5th United States Colored Troops (USCT)—had its first members when Beaty and his men joined on June 17, 1863. They trained at Camp Delaware.

On September 29, 1864, Beaty’s Company G black troops were ordered to charge Confederates at New Marker Heights in the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm. Intense fighting sent them in retreat and their color bearer fell. Facing Confederate bullets, Beaty ran back 600 yards to retrieve their flag.

Company G’s eight officers had all been killed or wounded. Beaty took command and led a second charge. This one succeeded in driving the Confederates from their position.

General Benjamin Butler commended Beaty’s heroic actions. On April 6, 1865, First Sergeant Powhatan Beaty was awarded the Medal of Honor “for extraordinary heroism on 29 September 1864.” He “took command of his company, all the officers having been killed or wounded, and gallantly led it.”

Beaty returned to Cincinnati as a cabinetmaker after the war. While raising a family, he became a well-known actor locally by the early 1870s. In 1884, a successful musical festival in Cincinnati’s Melodeon Hall led to Beaty touring with Henrietta Vinton Davis, the premier black Shakespearean actress of the time.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Geaslen, Chester F. Our Moment of Glory in the Civil War, The City of Fort Wright, Kentucky, 2007.

Momodu, Samuel. “Powhatan Beaty (1837-1916),” BlackPast, 2019/03/30

“Powhatan Beaty,” Ohio History Connection, 2019/03/29

“Powhatan Beaty,” Military Times Hall of Valor, 2019/03/29

“Powhatan Beaty,” Wikipedia, 2019/03/29



The Aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg

Ambulance outside Lutheran Seminary, Gettysburg.

On July 4, 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee began his retreat after the Battle of Gettysburg with an ambulance and wagon train that was about seventeen miles long. Nine Gettysburg men accused of spying or other suspicious activities went with them. Captured African Americans headed south along with thousands of military prisoners. Confederate sharpshooters continued to shoot at Union soldiers in town.

Confederates no longer controlled Gettysburg. The townspeople, who endured a nightmare during the battle, ventured outside their homes to a new ordeal. Their town didn’t look the same nor would it ever be the same.

Homes had been damaged by bullet holes and cannon balls. Soldiers’ discarded knapsacks, blankets, cartridge boxes, bayonets, ramrods, broken guns, food, and letters littered the streets and fields. Broken wagons, wheels, and unexploded shells remained after the battle.

Groans and shrieks from the wounded in churches, the courthouse, homes, and barns tugged at citizens’ hearts. Injured soldiers lay in tents in the fields and under blankets hung over cross-sticks.

Wounded from both sides lay on the battlefields, awaiting rescue. Some had waited since the first day of the battle.

Dead horses lay in the streets. Soldiers killed in battle needed to be buried. (Some 7,000-8,000 soldiers died—sources vary on exact numbers. See my article on Gettysburg’s numbers.) People, even in the stifling heat, closed their windows to block out the terrible odor. They treated the streets with chloride of lime. They cremated bodies of mules and horses with kerosene, adding to the smell.

The town mourned the loss of Jennie Wade, who was buried with dried dough on her hands. She’d been kneading dough when a Confederate bullet aimed at Union soldiers claimed her life.

General Lee left almost 7,000 men too wounded to travel. These soldiers ended up in area hospitals, and were transported to prisoner-of-war camps like Fort McHenry once they recovered.

Damaged rail lines were repaired about a week after the battle ended. About 800 men were then moved daily by train to larger city hospitals.

The Sanitary Commission gave food to several hospitals—10,000 loaves of bread, 11,000 pounds of poultry and mutton, 7,100 shirts, 8,500 dozen eggs, and more than 6,000 pounds of butter. The Christian Commission also gave out supplies.

Drinking water was in short supply.

The demand for food for so many extra people had local farmers charging steep prices. For example, a loaf of bread cost ten cents before the battle and seventy-five cents after it.

On July 7, 1863, Gettysburg resident Sarah Broadhead wrote, “I am becoming more used to sights of misery. We do not know until tried what we are capable of.”

-Sandra Merville Hart


Creighton, Margaret S. The Colors of Courage: Gettysburg’s Forgotten History, Basic Books, 2005.

McGaugh, Scott. Surgeon in Blue: Jonathan Letterman, the Civil War Doctor who Pioneered Battlefield Care, Arcade Publishing, 2013.

Sheldon, George. When the Smoke Cleared at Gettysburg: The Tragic Aftermath of the Bloodiest Battle of the Civil War, Cumberland House, 2003.

Slade, Jim & Alexander, John. Firestorm at Gettysburg, Schiffler Military/Aviation History, 1998.

Thomas, Sarah Sites. The Ties of the Past: The Gettysburg Diaries of Salome Myers Stewart 1854-1922, Thomas Publications, 1996.


Confederates Capture Gettysburg Before the Battle

View from Lutheran Seminary cupola, Gettysburg.

By mid-June of 1863, Gettysburg citizens had heard so many rumors of Confederates approaching their town since the war started that many wondered about the truth.

This time it was true. Multiple rumors over the war’s duration were about to become reality.

The Rebels were coming.

Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtain’s earlier warning about a possible attack prompted the formation of the 26th Pennsylvania Emergency Infantry Regiment, which some local men joined. They arrived in Gettysburg amidst cheers the morning of June 26, 1863. After townspeople fed them, they marched west toward Cashtown.

Soldiers from Confederate General Jubal Early’s Division captured forty of them. The rest of the 26th Pennsylvania troops fled. They reached Gettysburg with warnings of approaching Confederates and then left town.

Stores closed. Schools dismissed early. Local officials had already left town. Businesses had sent their merchandise away. The banks had sent its money out of Gettysburg.

The 35th Virginia Cavalry arrived about 3 pm. Shouting, cursing, and shooting their guns in the air, they galloped toward the town square. About a half hour later, Early marched in with about 3,000 Georgian troops from General John B. Gordon’s Brigade.

Early’s requisition for supplies to Gettysburg couldn’t be met. David Kendlehart, president of the borough council, told General Early that the stores were open for Confederates to take supplies.

His men, being ordered not to loot, paid Confederate currency and script, which was worthless to Northerners. They searched citizens’ homes for horses, clothes, food, and supplies.

Many black residents had left town. Some who didn’t leave were captured. A few escaped. Townspeople hid others until the soldiers left.

The first Union soldier killed in Gettysburg was George Sandoe, an Adams County resident. He was with a small group of soldiers near Gettysburg when the Southern soldiers approached. He tried to escape with the others and was shot and killed about 2 miles from his home.

With a Confederate flag now waving in the town square, known as town diamond, their regimental bands serenaded the Northerners with Southern tunes like “Dixie,” “Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag,” and “The Stars and Bars.” Some soldiers stayed in the courthouse that night.

The town was under Confederate control.

Sallie Myers Stewart wrote in her diary that she and her father had a conversation with some Confederate soldiers. They stood at their door on West High Street and talked of the war and Southern rights for two hours. She found the men reasonable and interesting.

CONFEDERATES PASS THROUGH GETTYSBURG was the heading on the June 27th edition of Star and Sentinel. They reported that, during the night, the Confederates moved 17 railroad cars about a mile from town and burned them. They cut telegraph wires and tore up tracks. They burned the Rock Creek bridge. They paroled 36 prisoners from the 26th Pennsylvania. By 8 am on June 27th, the Southerners had marched toward York.

That morning, Gettysburg citizens must have heaved a sigh of relief.

But the worst was still on the horizon.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Creighton, Margaret S. The Colors of Courage: Gettysburg’s Forgotten History, Basic Books, 2005.

“Jubal Early,”, 2019/06/14

Sheldon, George. When the Smoke Cleared at Gettysburg: The Tragic Aftermath of the Bloodiest Battle of the Civil War, Cumberland House, 2003.

Slade, Jim & Alexander, John. Firestorm at Gettysburg, Schiffler Military/Aviation History, 1998.

Thomas, Sarah Sites. The Ties of the Past: The Gettysburg Diaries of Salome Myers Stewart 1854-1922, Thomas Publications, 1996.



Before the Battle of Gettysburg-Rumors

View from Lutheran Seminary cupola, Gettysburg.

On June 12, 1863, Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtain warned citizens of his state to prepare for an attack. His warning fanned the fear of Confederates coming to Gettysburg.

Sallie Myers Stewart, who lived in Gettysburg, wrote that businesses stopped operating. Merchants sent their goods to cities like Philadelphia. Bankers sent money out of town. Folks stood on street corners in groups, talking about the danger. Any news attracted crowds.

Dread hung in the air as worry mounted among residents.

Sallie’s compassion went out to the town’s 300-400 black citizens. Many packed the possessions they could carry and fled to the north. They feared that staying meant risking capture by Confederate soldiers—and slavery in the South.

Townspeople hid their horses in the hills or near the Susquehanna River. A number of men left town, leaving their wives and daughters in Gettysburg. Fannie Buehler, whose husband was an editor and postmaster, packed a bag for him, believing him to be a marked man.

Some townsmen joined seminary and college students traveling to Harrisburg. They and others united to become the 26th Pennsylvania Emergency Infantry Regiment.

On June 20th, a Union officer came to town. He warned citizens to arm themselves.

The next day, groups of men carried axes toward South Mountain to chop down trees and block roads and passes.

Multiple rumors over the war’s duration were about to become reality.

The Rebels were coming.

-Sandra Merville Hart



Creighton, Margaret S. The Colors of Courage: Gettysburg’s Forgotten History, Basic Books, 2005.


Sheldon, George. When the Smoke Cleared at Gettysburg: The Tragic Aftermath of the Bloodiest Battle of the Civil War, Cumberland House, 2003.


Thomas, Sarah Sites. The Ties of the Past: The Gettysburg Diaries of Salome Myers Stewart 1854-1922, Thomas Publications, 1996.




Battle of Gettysburg-Railroad Station

The railroad station in Gettysburg had been completed in May of 1859. It had a covered platform for passengers to enter and exit the train. As was the custom of the time, women and children had their own waiting room and men had another. A large brass bell in the cupola rang when trains departed.

Soldiers used the train almost daily throughout the war. The 10th New York Cavalry used the second floor of the station while stationed in town during the winter of 1861-62.

Teenager Daniel Skelly remembered that the last train out of Gettysburg until after the Battle of Gettysburg reached Hanover about 5 pm on June 26, 1863. Residents had received advance warning that Confederate Jubal Early’s troops were headed to town. Revenue officers, clerks, and those holding government office jobs left on that last train.

Early’s troops burned freight cars and destroyed the Rock Creek railroad bridge.

The station was one of the first buildings to become a hospital as the battle raged on July 1, 1863. Wounded from the 6th Wisconsin, part of the famous “Iron Brigade,” were among those receiving care at the station.

Gettysburg women like Sarah Montford and her daughter, Mary, nursed those at the railroad station. Patients remained there during the Confederate occupation of the town. They were moved to other hospitals beginning July 4th.

Patients able to climb to the train cupola observed the fighting from there during the battle. Private James Sullivan, 6th Wisconsin, was among the ten to fifteen men on the station roof who watched the Union win after Pickett’s Charge.

Train service was restored on July 10th, but the government controlled the rail for six weeks. Inbound were medical supplies, folks coming to help with wounded, and family members searching for loved ones. Outbound trains held wounded traveling to large city hospitals. By the end of July, almost 15,000 injured soldiers had been transported away by train.

The U.S. Government controlled the station and railroad line almost exclusively for the rest of the summer as the aftermath of the battle continued.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Bennett, Gerald. The Gettysburg Railroad Station, Gettysburg Railroad Station Restoration Project, 2008.


Sheldon, George. When the Smoke Cleared at Gettysburg: The Tragic Aftermath of the Bloodiest Battle of the Civil War, Cumberland House, 2003.



Cincinnati Reds’ Palace of the Fans

When fire destroyed League Park’s main grandstand and pavilion in 1900, Red’s owner John T. Brush wanted a new and different ballpark to lure more fans to the games. Architect John G. Thurtle gave it to him.

Inspired by the Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, Thurtle designed the Palace of the Fans. It served as the Reds’ ballpark from 1902-1911.

The Palace’s hand-carved Corinthian columns—22 of them!—had intricate details on the top.

At the center of the covered grandstand was a triangular top containing the word “Cincinnati” and flanked by the American flag on either side. Nineteen opera-style “Fashion Boxes” lined the front, 3 rows deep, where wealthier fans sat. The boxes accommodated about 15 in each box.

Underneath the grandstand were carriage stalls, enabling the wealthy to leave their carriages only a short walk from their seats.

All this was quite fancy for ballparks of that day, unlike any before or after it.

Unfortunately, the detailed attention to the Greco-Roman ballpark didn’t extend to the players. There were no dugouts, no clubhouses, and no dressing rooms. Players sat on benches underneath the Fashion Boxes during the game.

Standing room for fans was also located below the Fashion Boxes. Those in “Rooter’s Row” stood near enough to players to hear and respond to their conversations. Waiters served beer to those in this section.

A weakness of League Park, the former baseball park, was that it faced the afternoon sun, so home plate had been moved to correct this problem.

The new ballpark was built on the same site as the old one that had burned, League Park, a former brickyard. It bordered 4 streets: Western Avenue (northeast), York Street (north), McLean Avenue (west) and Findlay Street (south).

Right-field seats were part of the League Park that had not been destroyed by fire. The stands held about 6,000 fans. Thousands more could stand in the outfield to observe the game.

Thursday, April 17, 1902, was Opening Day for the Season and for the Palace. About 10,000 fans attended the game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago Colts (later known as Chicago Cubs) that Chicago won, 6-1.

The grandstand required major repairs after a few short seasons. Damage from a fire sealed its fate. Palace of the Fans lasted only 10 years.

Interestingly enough, the last game the Reds played at the Palace was against the Chicago Cubs on October 12, 1911.

-Sandra Merville Hart


“Crosley Field,” The Online Book of Baseball, 2019/03/23

“Palace of the Fans,”, 2019/03/22

“Palace of the Fans,”, 2019/03/22 of the Fans.

“Palace of the Fans,”, 2019/03/22

“Palace of the Fans,” Wikipedia, 2019/03/23 of the Fans.

“Reds Ballparks,”, 2019/03/23

Suess, Jeff. “Red’s legendary Palace of the Fans symbol of baseball’s growth,”, 2019/3/22


Civil War Women: Sarah Morgan Dawson, Confederate Diarist

Sarah Morgan Dawson was twenty when she began writing in her diary on March 9, 1862. The Civil War raged near her family’s home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her family had already known hard times. In 1861, illness claimed her father’s life and a duel claimed a brother’s life.

War threatened to divide her family. Three brothers fought for the Confederacy and another, though he sided with the Union, refused to fight against his brothers.

Baton Rouge fell into Union hands. Most citizens ran for their lives, including Sarah’s family. She returned a few times to gather possessions from her home, but found that the Union soldiers who occupied the city had ransacked it. The home was unrecognizable on her last trip—the soldiers had plundered valuables and destroyed what they left behind. Sarah didn’t return to her childhood home until after the war.

Made homeless by the war, her family wandered from Baton Rouge, staying with friends and strangers.

Food supplies dwindled. Sarah had money to purchase food yet some places had none for sale.

They stayed near the Confederate army, making friends with many soldiers. Sarah did all she could to help them. Her family had escaped with few clothes … and everyone else was in the same predicament.

A serious buggy accident injured Sarah’s back. The injury prevented her from walking more than a few steps. She clung to her faith throughout the difficulties that mounted almost daily.

Her Union-sympathizer brother urged them to stay with him in New Orleans, which was now under Union control. They had little choice. A hard train ride and then a schooner took them to New Orleans.

Upon their arrival, they had to take an oath of allegiance to the Union. A Southerner at heart, taking the oath broke Sarah’s spirit. Even worse, Sarah’s mother complained so passionately to the Union soldiers of all she’d suffered at their hands that she was almost arrested. Sarah’s brother smoothed things over and took them into his home.

At the beginning of 1864, Sarah’s heart broke to discover that two of her brothers died. They’d lost so much to the war that she hated the Union.

General Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865. Sarah’s diary entries stopped on June 15, 1865.

It was published and inscribed: “To those who endured and forgave”.

Sarah read her diary many years later and wanted people to know that through it all, God never failed her. “Whatever the anguish, whatever the extremity, in His own good time He ever delivered me. So that I bless Him to-day for all of life’s joys and sorrows—for all He gave—for all He has taken—and I bear witness that it was all Very Good.” –Sarah Morgan Dawson, July 23rd, 1896, Charleston, South Carolina.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Dawson, Sarah Morgan. A Confederate Girl’s Diary: Civil War Centennial Series, Indiana University Press, 1960.


Cover Reveal for Upcoming “The Cowboys Collection” Release!


Revealing the book cover for the “Smitten Historical Romance Collection: The Cowboys” that releases in August!

All the authors in collection—Jennifer Uhlarik, Linda W. Yezak, Sandra Merville Hart, and Cindy Ervin Huff—have written stories with cowboy heroes and feisty heroines. Prepare to head to the Wild West!

I hope you love the book cover as much as we do!

Trail’s End, my novella in the collection, is set in the wild cowtown of Abilene, Kansas.

Back cover blurb:

Wade Chadwick has no money until his boss’s cattle sell, so he takes a kitchen job at Abby’s Home Cooking. The beautiful and prickly owner adds spice to his workday. Abby Cox hires the down-and-out cowboy even though the word cowboy leaves a bad taste in her mouth. Just as she’s ready to trust Wade with her heart, money starts to disappear…and so does her brother.

Future President Abraham Lincoln Visits Cincinnati

September 17, 1859 was a warm, sultry Saturday night in Cincinnati. Drummers played. Rockets glared reddish-yellow above Fifth Street residences. A Union flag waved above the Fifth Street Market House. Youngsters fed several bonfires to light the night for a crowd of over 4,000 who gazed at a man speaking from a 2nd floor balcony.

Abraham Lincoln of Illinois spoke from a building on the north side of the street where the Federal Courthouse stands. Earnest and, at time, humorous, Lincoln spoke against the expansion of slavery.

Reverend Moncure Conway was used to political gatherings. This one was a campaign specifically for Cincinnati attorney William Dennison who was running for Governor. Yet there was something compelling about Lincoln. He said that slavery was wrong. In that border city where slavery was legal across the Ohio River into Kentucky, a few folks in the crowd hissed their disapproval.

Lincoln waited for outbursts to subside a little. Then he replied that everyone was born with two hands and a mouth to be fed and he inferred it was the job of those two hands to feed that mouth.

The Republicans didn’t ask Lincoln to be their nominee until six months later on May 23, 1860. When someone in the Cincinnati crowd asked who Lincoln recommended they vote for, he didn’t have a choice for candidate. His advice was to vote for a man who’d fight slavery’s expansion.

Front-Porch Campaigns of the era preferred that presidential candidates allow the Republican Party to give their message to citizens.

Seventeen months later on February 18, 1861, President-elect Abraham Lincoln, on his way to Washington, was back in Cincinnati. City buildings were decorated in red, white, and blue bunting. Wearing black with a gray shawl over his shoulders, Lincoln smiled at the train station’s enthusiastic crowd. Cannons boomed in welcome on his procession to center of the city. Young girls sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Hail Columbia.” Officials made patriotic speeches. He went to Cincinnati’s Burnet House while there but it’s not clear where these speeches were made.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Tucker, Louis Leonard. Cincinnati during the Civil War, Ohio State University Press, 1962.

Wimberg, Robert J. Cincinnati and the Civil War: Off to Battle, Ohio Book Store, 1992.

“With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition,” Library of Congress Exhibitions, 2019/04/01