November 18, 2011

'What Women Undertake They Carry Through': Aid Efforts, Part I

Location: Patriot Daughters' Repository, Fulton Row, W. King St., Lancaster, PA
Illustration of Ladies' Sewing Circle
From Harper's Weekly, 6/29/1861
As soon as the Lancaster County Regiment settled into its Kentucky campground, a steady stream of boxes began to flow from Lancaster to Camp Nevin to help supply the soldiers of the 79th Pennsylvania with necessary clothing, minor luxuries, and the warm wishes of folks at home.  Shortly after the war began, the women of seemingly every Lancaster County village and town, spearheaded by the city's Patriot Daughters of Lancaster, formed aid circles to collect canned goods, clothing items, and medical supplies to send to Lancaster soldiers in Eastern and Western Theaters and army hospitals in need.  Aid efforts represented a very practical way in which wives and mothers kept in touch with soldiers in Kentucky and expressed their loyalty to the nation and the war effort.

In particular, Col. Hambright worked hard to get hundreds of pairs of stockings from sewing circles across Lancaster County to keep his soldiers' toes warm on cold November nights.  I don't know if the government had sock supply chain issues or they were of inferior quality, but newspapers of late 1861 contain appeal after appeal for stockings. (See the second half of the article in the post for a "A Suggestion to Patriotic Ladies" about knit goods.)  Women across the county responded, determined to produce not just socks but "heavy, well knit half hose that will challenge competition with any other...pair in the country."  (DEE, 11/29/1861)

A week after the regiment left Lancaster in early October 1861, the Patriot Daughters opened a repository in Fulton Row on West King St. (through the liberality of Christopher Hager) to collect "socks, blankets, and nourishing food."  They announced a goal of meeting Col. Hambright's request for 800 pairs of socks, and the editors of the Daily Evening Express added:
We appeal to every loyal, warm hearted woman to aid our Government in this emergency; let us add, by all in our power, to the comfort of our brave fellows, who have forsaken home and all that was dear to them, for a great and noble cause. (DEE 10/15/1861)
 On October 25, an announcement followed that they were still 500 pairs short of their goal, despite contributions of up to twenty-six pairs from some ladies. 

One practice associated with aid efforts, which continued a common practice related to benevolent societies of the 1850s, was to publish the name and amount of all donations in the newspaper (at least the daily newspaper).  The first such list associated with the Lancaster County Regiment appeared in the November 15, 1861, Daily Evening Express: (alternate link)

Other lists appeared in the November 30 and December 4, 1861, Daily Evening Express specifically for socks from East Earl Township, Carnarvon Township, Lancaster City, Enterprise (Bird in Hand?), and Binkley's Bridge (where Rt. 23 crosses the Conestoga).  (alternate link)  Among the names of cash and food donations, we see many prominent citizens--wives of judges, doctors, etc.--but I'd be curious to know if the sock donations came from a broader class of citizens.

Overall, the aid efforts are important for understanding the mobilization process, how women related to the nation and expressed loyalty, class antagonism, and new roles for women who for the first time had to practice production and supply chain management.  Future posts will highlight:
  • Responses to aid efforts by soldiers in the 79th Pennsylvania.
  • Antagonism between Lancaster City and Lancaster County, primarily in the form of antipathy toward (especially Amish and Mennonite) farmers who many felt were not contributing their fair share to the nation in need.
  • Special Christmas-related aid efforts (Hint: it involves lots of sauerkraut for Col. Hambright's regiment).

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