by Sandra Merville Hart
Euphemia Goldsborough learned of the terrible battle at Gettysburg that took place July 1-3, 1863, and wanted to help nurse the wounded.
She lived in Baltimore, Maryland, and it wasn’t an easy place for a Southern sympathizer to live in 1863. Citizens leaving the city were required to take an oath of allegiance to the Union before a pass would be issued.
General Robert E. Schenck, who commanded the Middle Department and VIII Corps in Baltimore, declared martial law in Baltimore on June 29, 1863. The next day he made it mandatory for anyone leaving the city to have a pass signed by the provost marshal.
Union and Confederate wounded were brought to Baltimore after the battle. Anyone visiting the hospitals had to be completely loyal to the Union. Another order, passed on July 10th, stated that no Confederate soldiers could be entertained in homes or any place other than his assigned hospital.
Under those circumstances, Euphemia’s devotion to the South didn’t allow her to nurse wounded soldiers in Baltimore. She decided to go to Gettysburg.
It’s unclear how she and dozens of other women accomplished leaving Baltimore because the railroads had suspended travel. She also needed a pass—after taking an oath of allegiance—to leave by boat on the Patuxent, Potomac, or West River. Perhaps she disguised herself or hid with the supply wagons headed to the battlefield.
Regardless of how she got there, she was a nurse at the temporary hospital at Pennsylvania College Hospital by July 18th. Wounded soldiers, some missing limbs, lay on bare floors without pillows.
Colonel Waller T. Patton, 7th Virginia, was one of the wounded there. An artillery shell ripped part of his jaw away during Pickett’s Charge on July 3rd. To aid his breathing, the unconscious man had to be propped up to have any chance to live. Unfortunately, there was no way to prop him.
Euphemia volunteered. She sat on the floor with her legs stretched out in front of her. Surgeons placed his back against hers. Fearing her slightest movement might cause the officer to suffocate, she fought the numbness that soon set in. All through the long night, she sat motionless in the candlelight.
Despite heroic efforts to save him, Colonel Waller T. Patton died on July 21st. His obituary in Richmond’s Daily Enquirer mentioned that he’d been tenderly nursed by a Baltimore woman. Perhaps the article was speaking of Euphemia. When she met the officer’s family in Richmond a few months later, they offered her the hospitality of their home while she was in their city. She thanked them but refused the gracious offer.
Civil War nurses made many sacrifices for their heroic patients. Gettysburg wounded were soon moved to Camp Letterman, a large tent hospital outside town where Euphemia had one hundred patients—fifty Union and fifty Confederate soldiers. She kept hospital books that were autographed by some of her patients. She also had letters and poems from them.
WWII General George S. Patton is a name many recognize. Colonel Waller T. Patton was his great-uncle.
Conklin, E.F. Exile to Sweet Dixie: The Story of Euphemia Goldsborough Confederate Nurse and Smuggler, Thomas Publications, 1998.
“Waller T. Patton,” Wikipedia, 2021/01/28 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waller_T._Patton.
Wilson, Laurel. “A Gun with a Story: Waller Patton’s Civil War Pistol,” Gettysburg Compiler, 2021/01/28 https://gettysburgcompiler.org/2017/05/10/a-gun-with-a-story-waller-pattons-civil-war-pistol/.