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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sophronia Bucklin Nurses the Wounded at Gettysburg

From: stevehblogdotcom.wordpress
“So you had a proposal of marriage did you Auntie? Well, it seems funny but I’m glad you had the grit to answer him as you did. Surely you do not need anyone else to take care of.”
“Auntie” is Sophronia E. Bucklin; the niece Grace N. Thorburn.
Bucklin died in 1902, in her 70s, never having married. Perhaps Thorburn was onto something; after her service as a Civil War nurse, Bucklin may just have had enough of men and their demands.
Though hardly as well-known as Clara Barton, Dorothea Dix and Louisa May Alcott, her sisters in the Civil War nursing sorority, Bucklin published “In Hospital and Camp,” an 1869 account of her “thrilling incidents among the wounded,” according to the memoir’s subtitle.
Beginning in 1862, she worked at hospitals and camps along the crowded corridor of war in Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, where she was one of first nurses to arrive after the Battle of Gettysburg.
Born in New York State, she was seamstress before the war, but put aside her knitting needles to serve the boys in blue.
“The same patriotism which took the young and brave from workshop and plow, from counting-rooms, and college hall…lent also to our hearts its thrilling measure, and sent us out to do and dare for those whose strong arms were to retrieve the honor of our insulted flag,” she wrote.
“Because we could not don the uniform of the soldier, and follow the beat of the stirring drums, we chose our silent journeys into hospitals and camps, and there waited for the wounded sufferer, who would escape from vital breath, from before the belching flames which burst forth amid lurid clouds of battle.”
The woman could sure sew words into a literary quilt.
Bucklin experienced some initial stage fright, but carried on.
“I had been eager to lend myself to the glorious cause of Freedom, and now, on the threshold of the hospital in which gaping wounds, and fevered, thirsty lips awaited me, telling their ghastly tales of the bloody battle, my cheek flushed, and my hand grew hot and trembling,” she recalled.
“Weak flesh and timid heart would have counseled flight, but a strong will held them in abeyance, and the doors opened to receive me.”
Her strong will came into play when dealing with doctors, too many of whom, she believed, took out their frustrations and fatigue on the nearest targets, nurses such as her.
She learned not to back down, even at one point succeeding in having a doctor dismissed for sexual harassment.
Neither was she very impressed with the Confederate wounded. She arrived at Gettysburg soon after the battle had ended and found suffering Rebels in abundance.
“More than half the wounded men in the hospital were rebel soldiers, grim, gaunt, ragged men – long-haired, hollow-eyed and sallow-cheeked,” she remember.
“It was universally shown here, as elsewhere, that these bore their sufferings with far less fortitude than our brave soldiers who had been taught, in sober quiet homes in the North, that while consciousness remained, their manliness should suppress every groan, and that tears were for woman and babes.”
What she saw at Gettysburg, she would never forget. Nor the soldiers who died.
“Every grave has its history, and thousands were there,” she wrote.
When the war ended, Bucklin returned to New York State and resumed work as a seamstress. She was a proud member of a national organization that honored her sisters in war, the Woman’s Relief Corps of the Grand Army of the Republic.

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