Emelda Junkin Donaldson’s Speech to First Steubenville D.A.R. Meeting


Monument in Steubenville’s Union Cemetery in acknowledgment of the role of women in the American Civil War

This memoir has been reproduced in its entirety from a hand-written account of the speech which is preserved by the JCHA.     Mrs. Donaldson (obituary link) was 81 at the time she gave the speech in 1922, and she died within a month of presenting it.  She was the wife of William B. Donaldson who founded the Steubenville Pottery, and she was the mother of Mary Donaldson Sinclair who was the wife of Steubenville industrialist Dohrman Sinclair. 

The speech by Mrs. Donaldson is a recollection of the efforts of local women in the Civil War.  She begins with an eyewitness account of Lincoln’s visit (she was 21 at the time) and the subsequent call to arms.  Then she tells of the efforts of the Soldiers’ Aid Society during the war, and describes how after the war the Woman’s Relief Corp raised $3,000 to help build the Soldiers’ and Sailors Monument in Steubenville’s Union Cemetery.

At the George Washington banquet at the Fort Steuben on the first celebration of the D.A.R. in response to the Local Women of the Civil War, Mrs. Donaldson said.

Sixty-one years ago last Tuesday – February 14, 1861 – a most remarkable family appeared in Steubenville.  They did not come unheralded, for a committee of our best citizens had been selected to meet the distinguished guests Abraham Lincoln and his family at Cadiz Junction where they dined, reaching Steubenville at 2:30 in the afternoon.  The entire countryside – an immense crowd of citizens, also many Virginians – came across to greet the President-elect – the wonderful man who became the outstanding figure, the greatest man that the nineteenth century produced.

Mr. Lincoln came out from the car and was greeted with the wildest enthusiasm.  After the applause had subsided, Col. William R. Lloyd made a fine address of welcome.  To which Mr. Lincoln responded briefly and met some of our leading citizens, who surely gave him the glad hand.  Rev. Dr. Beatty had about two hundred of the Seminary girls lined up and we sang an original song composed for the occasion which was very much enjoyed.  Mrs. Lincoln with their three sons Robert, Willie, and Tad and nurse sat inside the car looking out of the window much interested in the crowds that were surging about the train.   The train came from Columbus on the Steubenville and Indiana R.R. (now the P.C. & St. L.) and at Steubenville was transferred to the Cleveland and Pittsburgh and ran into Pittsburgh over that line.  The C. and P. station at that time was located at the foot of South Street and down there was where the reception was held.  A committee from Pittsburgh had arrived in the early morning.  They came down to escort the distinguished guests to their city.  These now took charge.  All boarded the trains and amid deafening applause they sped away.

Our citizens felt highly honored in being allowed to look into the kind and sympathetic face and hear the gentle voice of our President elect.  So when the announcement of the fall of Fort Sumpter was flashed across the land and the call for 75,000 volunteers, the appeal was promptly met.  We are always more deeply interested in a book if we have seen, or met, or know something of the author.

When Lincoln’s call for volunteers was received there was the wildest excitement, there being no telephones, everybody seemed to be out on the streets.  (The old court house bell which now hangs in the belfry of the Cemetery Office) was rung and the people assembled.  Every loyal citizen wanted to show his patriotism.  Informal meetings were held and there was a great excitement.  Meeting places were thrown open, and volunteers began to sign the roll and enlist.  Of course the women wanted to do their part and in the midst of intense interest, the Womans’ Soldiers Aid Society came into being.  Our first meetings were held in an office building which stood on Market Street just below Munker’s Store.  It had formerly been the private residence of Mr. James Means, but at this time was being used as an office building, and the occupants placed it at our disposal and we promptly took possession and went to work with absolutely no idea of what was expected of us.  The boys and men were volunteering rapidly, and our first effort was the arranging for the presentation of a flag to the first company that would leave.  There were several delays in the soldiers starting, but finally everything was in readiness and Mrs. Mary K. Means in a few well chosen words on behalf of the ladies presented the flag – which contained 35 stars.  It was received and her address responded to by Capt. Anson G. McCook, Mother Beatty having previously presented each one with a copy of the New Testament on behalf of the Bible Society.

The soldier boys volunteered for the limit of the call which was for one hundred days, and there were people who told them they would not be gone three weeks.

With manufacturing plants in our midst for the making of jeans – and all sorts of woolen goods, as well as a cotton factory for the making of cotton cloth, muslins, etc of different grades, there need be no delay for we had much of the needed material right at hand.

There was an utter absence of red tape in our women’s meetings and we worked with a confidence and courage which would have been a credit to more experienced hands.  But it was not long until we felt the necessity for an organization, and an election was held resulting in the election of Mrs. Thomas L. Jewett, President; Miss Jennie Davidson, Secretary; Miss Mattie Sterling and Miss Lizzie Turnbull (afterwards Mrs. Major Sarratt) Treasurers; and an Executive Committee composed of the above officials and Mrs. Fred Fry, Mrs. Mary Jane Beall, Mrs. Barr, Miss Alice McDonald, Mrs. Dr. Semple, Mother Oliver and Mary Jane (Poll) Hull.  The school girls came in between sessions to help along.  Ella Allison, afterwards Mrs. Torrence; Ellen Spaulding, afterwards Mrs. Benn Hawkins; Sallie Collier, Sue Barr who married Mr. Warnock; Emma Elliot now Mrs. Hayes of Chicago; Allie Oliver now Mrs. Hutchins of California and many others.  Some of our number (Mrs. Rebecca Hammond, Miss Ellen Mary Junkin) accompanied by Mr. Hammond in response to an appeal from General Kelly, went to Grafton Virginia and did good service in the hospital in caring for the sick and wounded, remaining several months.

Considering that almost everything, even the uniforms had to be made by hand, and our cupboards and closets were ransacked for linens and muslin which we scraped into lint.  It’s true some of the girls who thought they could make buttonholes produced something that looked more like pigs eyes, but they soon became discouraged and more skillful buttonhole makers developed.  One young lady, who said she would rather make buttonholes than eat, was Miss Rebecca Spencer, and she got the job.  The trousers and blouses were cut by tailors, and it seems a wonder that there were any records, and yet Mrs. Cap. O’Neal; Frannie’s mother – Mrs Dunbar; and Aunt Cindy Hartford, Mrs. Ralph Huscroft and other had records for shirt making of which anyone might be proud.  As time wore on, it became necessary for us to have a permanent meeting place where we could store our sewing material as well as fruit closets where we could gather in our jams, jellies and fruits as the would be brought in and packed ready for the hospitals.  This commissary department was most helpful and most liberally contributed to, so we met for years in the Draper building – next to Grant School.  As the days for which the soldiers enlisted had passed, and there was great rejoicing that the one hundred days were over and the boys were to pass through Steubenville on their way to Columbus to be mustered out.  Crowds gathered at the station carrying hot coffee and eatables for their supper.  Everybody was in a happy mood and they all had a jolly time, but the stay was short, and the boys waved their goodbyes, expecting very soon to come home.  The night was a very warm one and two of the boys climbed to the top of the cars to escape the heat, not realizing that they were in any danger.  But in passing under a bridge there were struck and both killed.  And the sad news came back that Jim Oliver and John Brown were dead.  Some of the boys re-enlisted, for the war was still on.  And the “old ship of state” was still in great danger, and the Great Commander called for more men.

Aside from the knitting and sewing the conserving of jellies and fruits during these years of conflict, “there were lonely hearts to cherish as the days were going by”.   It was necessary for the city to be districted and visitors appointed to look after the comfort of families where the bread winner had gone into the army.  Thirteen dollars per month soldier’s pay in those days did not always “keep the wolf from the door”.  These visitors were expected to give advice, secure employment for those able to work; letters were to be written and many perplexing questions to solve.  But be it recorded that these women who had given their husbands, sons, brothers and dear ones to fight for these United States in most cases manifested a spirit of resignation and courage which was hardly to be expected in those trying times.  The homes of the soldiers’ families were visited systematically and regularly, and corresponded to the department in World’s War known as Civilian Relief.  The Christian Commission, a national organization did most efficient and helpful work all during the Civil War.  A memorial tablet was dedicated in our cemetery in 1918 to the women whose lives have been immortalized by their service to the soldiers of the Union whose memory can never die.  It is a tribute to the loyal, patriotic women of Steubenville and upon its marble base is inscribed this sentiment:  “the world is better because they sojourned here”, working in Aid Societies.

In making up the roll of honor of course we give unstinting praise to the noble sons, brothers, husband and others who marched away to the inspiring strains of the fife and drum.  I believe it was Fred Grant, in response to a toast , expressed this eloquent sentiment:  “To the mothers who gave their sons; to the sisters who gave their brothers; to the women who became nurses; to the  those who in the privacy of their homes gave their earnings and the work of their hands to one and all, let us erect a noble memorial of national character, and in payment of a long delayed debt, let our memorial be more beautiful than any memorial known to man.  Let it stand for all that woman has done in American History.”

Bob Burdette used to quote a verse of a song he had herd his mother sing the very day Fort Sumpter was fired on.  It was something like this.  “If I were king of France or still better Pope of Rome, I’d have no fighting men abroad, no weeping maids at home.  All the world would be at peace and if kings would show their might, I’d have them that make the quarrels be the only ones to fight.”

Mrs. Mendenhall and her assistants at Cincinnati are entitled to the credit of carrying into execution the true plan upon which the wonderful fairs held throughout the country to raise money so badly needed in the Civil War.  In order that the affair should be a complete success, the effort must be general and all classes appealed to call the farmer from his golden harvest field to come and bring with him the first fruits of the earth, as a free will offering on the altar of his country; appealing to the artisan to give from his workshop his most cunning and elaborate handicraft;  the soldier could also send from the battlefields that are now famous in history his trophies and his flags, his relics and his mementos; and, the women could all contribute their bit, enlarging upon this comprehensive plan in Chicago.  The Executive Committee of Cincinnati proposed to raise $250,000, just ten times the sum proposed at Chicago and the result showed that the liberality of the people had not been over estimated.  The Cincinnati fair was in all its features a magnificent success, and afterwards astonished Europe and by whose operation over 5 millions of dollars were in a little more than a twelve month, contributed to promote the sanitary condition of the armies in the field.  Funds were needed to carry on our Soldiers Aid Society and from time to time every honest scheme known or that could be devised to extract money from our citizens was resorted to in order that our treasury might be replenished.  Our most profitable undertaking was a fair and festival held in the old Kilgore Hall (now the Rex Theater).  It was given for the benefit of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument Association.  The people in the county were included in the workers and besides having everything to amuse and entertain and on sale in such money-making affairs.  A handsome dressing gown was made and prepared to be voted on for the most popular minister in the city.  Major Sarratt had charge of the blackboard upon which the votes (at 25 cents each) were registered.  There was great excitement until the time was up and the polls closed.  Rev. T.N. Boyle – then pastor at Hamline Church- was a ready speaker, with a fine flow of language and a clear voice, and was in much demand when anyone was needed to make an impromptu speech.  In presenting the dressing gown to the successful candidate, Rev. Boyle uses the names of those ministers who had been defeated in the contest.  He said the U.P.’s wanted to make a cloak (Cloaky) of it.  Kramer Chapel wanted it for their Hingeley.  Hamline thought they could get it from the rest and put it in a kettle and “Boyle” it.  The Methodist Protestants “Ogled” it out of the kettle.  When along came the Second Presbyterians and won it to wear on their “Campbell”.  The gown was perhaps the most costly one ever worn by a minister of the Gospel, bringing in over $3,000.  The entire proceeds of the fair were about $4,000, which was contributed to help pay for the erection of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument- a memorial to the soldiers who had died or been killed in the Civil War.

Many, many women won national fame.  Mother Holiday of Wheeling spent much time in the tented field and in hospitals ministering to the sick and suffering, and her pathetic reports would move the stoutest heart to tears.  Mrs. Anna Wittenmyer had the special system of diet kitchens under her special superintendence and in the latter part of the war was extended to reach every corps, every division, and every brigade in the whole army and was especially the product of the organized benevolence of the Christian Commission.  This proposed to supply to the sickest in each hospital food as nearly as possible resembling that which his mother or sister would have furnished him at home.  It was a gospel of suitable and delicate food administered with Christian kindness and “in the name of a disciple,” the effect of which in relieving suffering and saving life is alike beyond estimation and above praise.  Memorable services were rendered by Mrs. Hoge and Mrs. Livermore in the extreme northwest.  At Cleveland, the magnificent results were almost wholly the work of women.  Mrs. Rouse, a descendant of Oliver Cromwell was president of the Cleveland branch, and her Christian services proved she was not unworthy of the splendid old Puritans.  For more than forty years she was at the head of every philanthropic enterprise in that city.  And she had a most noble part in service in the Civil War and that most magnificent of all modern charities.  Two noble hearted hospital nurses deserve special praise, did time permit.  They went from Peoria, Illinois and were known as Aunt Lizzie and Mother.  Their service in the Memphis hospitals is most affectionately remembered.  One of the outstanding figures in the Civil War was Mother Bickerdyke, who specially ministered to the private soldiers – for she said the officers always had plenty to look after them, but the poor fellows with but a private’s pay, a private’s fare, and a private’s dangers.  And it should be said to the honor of the private soldier of the northern army that they returned her kindness with gratitude and affection.  If they were her boys, she was Mother Bickerdyke to the whole army.  For them she would undergo peril or danger and violate military rule without the least hesitation.  For herself she cared nothing, so the boys in the hospital were comfortable.  The commanding generals, Grant, Hurlburt and Sherman, were always ready to listen to her appeals and grant her requests.  Recognizing her judgment and its value, she only had to ask, and if it was in their power, she received it.  One of the surgeons in charge of the hospital in Memphis had been out on a drunken spree the night before and came in very late in the morning.  Mother Bickerdyke denounced him in the strongest terms.

With an attempt to be jolly, he said, “ Hoighty toity, what’s the matter?”

“Matter enough you miserable scoundrel!  Here these men – any one of them worth a thousand of you – are left to starve and die because you want to be off on a drunk.  Pull off your shoulder straps”, she continued as he tried to laugh off her reproaches.  “Pull off your shoulder strap for you shall not stay in the army a week longer.”  The surgeon turned pale, for he knew her power.  She was a good as her word.  Within three days, she had procured his discharge.  He went to headquarters to be reinstated.  Major General Sherman then enquired who had procured his discharge.  “I was discharged on account of misrepresentation”.  But who caused your discharge?” persisted the General.  Why said the surgeon with hesitation.  I suppose it was that woman, Mrs. Bickerdyke.  Oh said General Sherman.  If it was her, I can do nothing for you.  She ranks me.  You must apply to President Lincoln.  At one time the hospitals were becoming depleted in their stores.  She appealed to the farmers of central Illinois and begged two hundred cows and a thousand hens, returning in triumph with her flock of hens and her drove of cows.

But my time is more than up, and I cannot tell you of Mrs. Mary Brady, in Ireland, wife and an English lawyer, an American by adoption.  She left her family of five children and gave up the comforts of her home in Philadelphia and spent herself in hospitals belong to McClellan’s peninsular army.  On the approach of Thanksgiving Day 1863, Mrs. Brady and her assistant Lydia C. Price determined that the sixteen hundred soldiers in the hospital should not lack a good dinner.  She requested that the men detained in the guard house might be allowed to enjoy their Thanksgiving with the comrades.  Through her efforts the menu consisted of 75 turkeys, one hundred chickens, 20 geese, sixty ducks, 850 pies, 85 rice puddings and 15 barrels of eating apples.

I would love to tell you about Kady Brownell, heroine of Newbern.  Or Miss Anna Maria Ross who with other Philadelphia ladies opened what was known as the Cooper Shop Saloon where every soldier who passed through the city was welcome and could receive wholesome food, medical advice, and if necessary clothing, all the free gift of Philadelphians.

The story of the Civil War will never be fairly told if the work of women is untold.  Their experiences are varied, including sufferings and adventure.

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