23. July 2023 · 2 comments · Categories: Domestic

Well, naturally, in Texas, one starts to look forward to autumn after a month of near to 100° high temps and not a hint of rain, save for a mere trace which splattered all the dust in the atmosphere onto cars … when I was stationed in Greece, they called that a mud rain, when a storm washed all the free dust blowing over from Africa down over streets, car windows and other surfaces with a dirty brown slip. It was the same last night – just a splatter of dirt on the cars. Anyway, we’re looking ahead to fall, to the craft market in Bulverde, especially. My daughter has taken it into her head that we should do home-made soaps again, this year, since they were such a hit last year. And it’s not all that difficult, really – no different from following many another exacting recipe, and we had all the equipment to do it; thermometer, digital scale, crock-pot and stick blender. The lye solution is the only tricky bit, fenced around with so many dire warnings and precautions that I can readily see why many hopeful crafters shy away from anything but the melt-and-pour version. But there would be no profit in that … so it’s olive oil and coconut oil, and all sorts of natural scents and the dreaded lye solution and an assortment of silicone molds got from Temu and Amazon. The castile soap recipe that we are using calls for an aging and drying out period of at least six months – so that is why we are doing this now.

We use the less-than-successful product ourselves, of course. But at present I have two shelves full of home-made castile soap curing and aging in my bathroom vanity closet. We are trying to do a couple of batches on weekends while Wee Jamie, the Wonder Grandson is down for his afternoon nap. He is very cooperative about his afternoon naps, to the astonishment of our friends and the various therapists working on his developmental issues. (Down at noon sharp, up at 2:30. No fuss, no protest, no crying. Just curls up in the crib and fast asleep within ten minutes.) No – the development is nothing really serious, he is just a boy, and lazy and stubborn. He was slow to roll over, slow to crawl, is on the verge of walking and talking … his way of things seems to be to delay and delay and delay … and then surprise everyone by suddenly leaping ahead to where he should have been. He cut four teeth all at once, for example – after not having them appear for months after they should have. He has a full set at present, although the last three are just now appearing. He is otherwise a friendly, fearless and charming child, fluent in baby-babble, although we think that his English vocabulary is limited to “mama” and “up” – and sign-language for “more.” I really expect that he will not really talk until four or so, and then come out with complete, coherent, and grammatically correct sentences. “No, Mama, I do not want any more green beans at this time, thank you.” He can and will take three or four steps without support, so I expect he will be walking on his own any day now.

21. July 2023 · Comments Off on Sorting Things Out · Categories: Domestic

Automobile things, mostly; to do with the Montero Sport SUV which has been the Daughter Unit’s chief mode of transportation since 2007. It has increasingly become a money pit, and the final straw was reached when the garage told us that the head gasket had not much longer to live, and the cost of replacing it would be more than the Montero was worth. Rather than wait for the Montero to die at an inconvenient time, my daughter decided to explore alternative, rather than pour any more money into it.  This after replacing the transmission gaskets two years ago, the brakes last year, and just last month – reviving the air conditioning system. The Montero had become unaffordable.

It was a bit of a wrench, admitting this. I felt the same way about giving up on the Very Elderly Volvo in 2009 for similar reasons, the car which I had driven across Europe and several Western states for almost thirty years. (I sold it to a young Volvo motorhead from Shertz, who likely is still working on it.) My parents had funded the Montero and my daughter paid them back over several years. We had the science down pat, for packing everything into it for market events, including stock, tables and the 10×10 canopy … but the news about the head gasket was the final straw. We explored several options, and Wee Jamie’s godfather put us in touch with his favorite car salesman at the dealership that he favors… and what with one thing and another – and me co-signing … we now own a new car. An entirely new car, which was almost against my parents’ deepest and most fundamental beliefs. Well, the car warranty and dealer service will take care of a lot of basic maintenance things for the next few years, and the new car gets amazing mileage, which the Montero didn’t. And if there is one thing that a working real estate agent does, it is put a hell of a lot of mileage on a car. The decision to buy the new was made a bit easier when my daughter realized how very much she had been paying every month to keep the Montero in gas … it took some of the sting out of the car payment.

We thought we might keep the Montero for the occasional trip hauling something heavy or awkward from Lowe’s, or to a market event … but the other day, I had to take Wee Jamie to a dental appointment – and the Montero wouldn’t start. And that was a kind of final straw for us. Even with Triple A membership in case of auto trouble, and only occasional use perhaps prolonging the life of the head gasket … the risk of either one of us and Wee Jamie getting stranded by a breakdown at an inconvenient or even dangerous time was just too great to accept. I went through all that too many times with the Volvo. The most hassle-free means of letting the Montero go was to donate it to the local public radio station. I honestly doubt we would have gotten much for it, due to age and the head gasket issue, and why go on paying the basic insurance on a car that we hardly dare drive anywhere? At least, I can get a credit for tax purposes, this way.

Still, a bit of a wrench – it’s almost my daughter’s last tangible link to her grandfather. But she hopes it is an omen for the future; that having a new car and commencing work for another and much larger real estate brokerage will put us a little more ahead on the economic staircase.

08. July 2023 · Comments Off on From the Current WIP – Chapter 14: The Watchfires of a Thousand Circling Camps · Categories: Chapters From the Latest Book

With a feeling of intense anticipation and relief, Minnie packed her small traveling trunk, left instructions to Mrs. Norris and her daughters to close up the main part of the Beacon Street mansion, bid Sophie and Richie a fond, but abstracted goodbye. and set off for Chicago and the west. At last, amid the tumult of events, she had a purpose and a goal, once more, would be of use in the grand crusade against the cruelty and evil that informed the slave system. The journey was no more or less comfortable than so many others she had made over the last fifteen years. The discomfort of this excursion was a little alleviated by a night spent in a very comfortable little compartment in a special car set up as a sleeping coach. It was, Minnie thought to herself, very much like a miniature stateroom on one of the more luxurious steamboats, all polished wood with pretty curtains to be drawn against the twilight, and a little bed set with clean sheets and a feather comforter. The conductor on that train informed her that this sleeping car was a special one, an experiment of sorts, and if it proved popular enough, soon most railway lines would offer such cars for the convenience of those traveling long distances.

She arrived at the Galena & Chicago Union Station at mid-morning, refreshed from a good rest in the sleeping coach, and to her joy, Mary Livermore met her on the platform.

“My dear Minnie, it seems an age!” Mary embraced her as if they had been apart for years. “There is so much going on these days, I hardly have time to think … when were you last in Chicago? I think you had gave a lecture at the …. Was it three years ago, or longer?”

“Two years, only two years,” Minnie replied, returning the embrace. It was always startling to her to see Mary in her current incarnation, a stout middle-aged body, prim and earnest, afire with good works. She had been Mary Ashton Rice, back then; Minnie always thought of her as she was when first she and Annabelle met her at dame school in Boston, so many years ago.  Mary was always in Minnie’s memory as the earnest schoolgirl with her hair tightly woven into plaits on either side of her round face, solemn and serious, when the light-hearted Annabelle teased her mercilessly.

“In any case, you are welcome as always,” Mary took her arm, and they walked out to the street. “And the train to Galesburg departs first thing in the morning, so of course you will spend the night with us … are you wearied, Minnie dear? Are you up to a diversion, before I take you home; you must be exhausted…”

“Not a bit of it,” Minnie replied, stoutly. “I had a good rest on the train, and nothing but time until tomorrow morning and the Galesburg train.”

“Oh, good,” Mary replied. “You see, we have a simply enormous bazaar today in Tremont House ballroom, to benefit the Sanitary Commission – so many of our good patriotic ladies have volunteered to make things, and to work in the booths, and I had such a large part in organizing it all that I simply have to make an appearance, even if Mrs. Armstrong does have all the volunteers so very well organized … I must introduce you to her, in any case. Feenie Armstrong is my good right hand, in Mr. Livermore’s congregation. Her husband, Mr. Armstrong, is in finance, and both are such strong supporters of our efforts. A lovely young couple, they have three very charming and well-mannered children. You would like her, I think.”

Minnie groaned. “All the dear sweet ladies, selling bits of embroidery and fancywork to each other, and to the patriotic souls… Mary, I volunteered to go with your friend Mrs. Bickerdyke, just to escape this kind of feminine flummery. Embroidery. Sweet little paintings on china. Berlin wool-work slippers, and fancy samplers. Tatting … did I ever tell you how much I despise tatting and other useless handiwork considered suitable for ladies?”

“No, you didn’t,” Mary patted Minnie’s hand. “Not above a hundred times, beginning when you pricked your fingers and bled on your sampler, and said some very rude words in Latin which your brothers had taught you. So very helpful that Madame Dubois didn’t understand Latin…”

“But all the girls who did, were shocked to their souls,” Mary smiled, impishly. “Ne’er mind, Minnie – we will not expect you to donate any goods for sale or expect you to mind a booth. I just want to introduce you around – this is a grand undertaking, and you should at least make yourself known to those dear ladies who will remain by their hearths and send up their prayers for you … and all our dear boys.”

“Very well, I shall do my best to be cordial,” Minnie relented, and Mary embraced her again, and took the small travel trunk from her.

“You will not regret it, Minnie dear,” she promised. “It will do your heart good to know that Chicago is all for Union. I am certain that there are more for Abolition here in Chicago than there are in our old dear Boston!”

“I’ll not argue that,” Minnie said, as Mary showed her to a hansom cab, waiting among a crowd of other conveyances in the street outside the station, the single horse in harness pawing the dirt at his feet with weary interest, as if he had hoped to find a grain or two of corn in the filth, but wasn’t really expecting such.

The Tremont House was the grandest of such in Chicago, Minnie knew – the cynosure of all eyes, especially of the wealthy. And the ballroom did not disappoint, especially not today, all hung with patriotic colors, and filled from pillar to pillar with tables and small booths ornamented with swags of bunting and fresh flowers, ribbon bows – and women, women everywhere, young,  old and in between. Their pleasant voices, and the rustle of their skirts filled the room, at least as much as their energy and good cheer, as well as the undernote of rustling paper money and the clink of coins, as all manner of home-made pretty things changed hands.

“We had a remarkable turnout for this fair,” Mary remarked as they entered the ballroom. “Our dear Colonel Ellsworth was of this city, you will remember… our folk have taken his bloody murder at the hands of that vile Secessionist very hard. He and his Zouave company were much beloved, in Chicago.”

“I know,” Minnie replied – for the handsome Colonel of volunteers was much admired throughout the North and had been a firm friend to President Lincoln – indeed, Colonel Ellsworth had lain in state in the White House, his body lapped in bouquets of white lilies, or so Minnie had read in the newspapers. He had been shot by an innkeeper in Alexandria, across the Potomac from Washington – on a mission of taking down a taunting Confederate banner posted by the owner of the inn. A rash response to a taunt – but Minnie knew very well that men were like that. Was this war a schoolyard taunt grown to continental proportions? She wondered about that, now and again. The blood of a new martyr had focused all serious attention to the matter of war just this spring, electrifying the North after the Sumter surrender. It would not be over soon, or bloodlessly. First reckless words, then the surrender of Fort Sumter and the Federal garrison in Texas. No, words and threats had been exchanged in broadsides in print and speeches … but the death of Colonel Ellsworth, even more than Fort Sumter meant that there would be bloodshed, and blood in quantity.  Likely every woman in the Tremont ballroom on this morning knew it in her heart, even if she might not admit it publicly.

Now a younger woman at the nearest booth looked up, catching Mary Livermore’s attention. She was pretty, still in the bloom of youth, clad in the most tasteful and subtly expensive of recent fashion; her brown hair, threaded with auburn highlights, was combed smoothly back from a widow’s peak in her forehead and tidied away under a modish small bonnet. Minnie thought the woman looked familiar – perhaps they had met before, when she herself was on the lecture circuit. One met so many others, and lamentably, only a handful of the most notable or eccentric really stood out in memory, sufficient to instantly attach a name. Three children stood at the woman’s side; the eldest a pretty miss of twelve or so with curls of a brighter auburn shade, offering a basket of small nosegays tied with silk ribbons for sale. The younger lads – presumably her brothers – solemnly collected payment for the flowers and made change.

“I see you are putting the children to good work, Feenie,” Mary Livermore remarked.

“My husband says that children are never too young to learn the meaning of work – or charity,” Feenie Armstrong replied with a fond smile, and Mary Livermore chuckled.

“So very correct Mr. Armstrong is in that! Never too young to be of good use in the world! Feenie, I would like to make you known to one of my oldest friends in the word; Miss Minnie Vining, this is Feenie – Mrs. Josephine Armstrong.”

“So very pleased to make your acquaintance, Mrs. Armstrong,” Minnie was still certain that she had met Mrs. Armstrong before. She knew her face; that distinct heart-shape and grey eyes were familiar. Not from Boston, though – not the daughter of old friends or a distant relative. And did she imagine the fleeting expression of … fear, fear and apprehension that crossed Mrs. Armstrong’s countenance.

“I have heard so very much about your work in the Cause,” the younger woman replied, with every evidence of pleasure, after that first brief and inexplicable moment of dread. “I had often wished to attend one of your lectures, but never had the opportunity – for which I am very sorry.”

“I share that regret,” Minnie replied, “But I am certain that we have met before – you seem very familiar to me. Might we have encountered each other through friends and kin in Boston? Were you at school there? Are your parents someone that I knew?”

“No,” Feenie Armstrong shook her head. “I don’t believe so. I was an orphan from the age of ten, but I was blessed with an attentive guardian, who sent me to school in Philadelphia and supported me until I married Mr. Armstrong.”

“Perhaps I recall someone who resembled your person,” Minnie replied, and at that moment glanced at Mrs. Armstrong’s daughter … and at that moment she realized, with a feeling like being struck by lightning where she had first encountered Feenie. Where she had first met Feenie Armstrong, or the woman who went by that name now; in Richmond, the nearly-white child named Josephine that she and Elizabeth Van Lew had purchased at the slave auction, so many years ago. A poor tearful child, frantic at being tossed in among the brutal slave system, rescued at the last minute, restored to freedom and the chance of happiness. It was all dreadfully clear in that one moment to Minnie. Josephine was a woman now grown, settled in a prosperous life, and a happy marriage, content with happy and well-mannered children. But she must still live in dread, knowing that an unthoughtful or vicious word about how she had been bought in a slave auction in Richmond at the age of eleven years, just because her father died in debt and her mother had an ancestor of the Negro race and born in bondage… did anyone know of this, save Minnie herself, and the kindly Van Lew family, who had seen to Feenie’s education and subsequent freedom into another life… Did Feenie Armstrong’s husband, even know of her past, although nothing of it was her fault in the least …

No, she wouldn’t say anything about what she knew of Mrs. Armstrong’s past.

29. June 2023 · Comments Off on The Murder of a Very Modern Major General · Categories: Old West, Random Book and Media Musings

This post was inspired by a terse note next to a picture of the gentleman in question, on a page in one of my reference books – a note that the Confederate commander, one Major General Earl Van Dorn was murdered in mid-campaign, in his HQ in Spring Hill, Tennessee by an outraged husband. A personal thing, not an arranged assassination … or was it? Intrigued, for such is my butterfly interest in such matters, I went snorkeling around in the various sources, searching for more details.

Like the character in Gilbert and Sullivan’s musical Pinafore, Earl Van Dorn was a very modern major general for the 19th century; a handsome cavalryman, the very beau ideal of a certain breed of Victorian male. He was accounted to be very handsome, by the standards of the time, although my personal reaction is meh; the enormous bushy soup-strainer mustache in contemporary photographs is off-putting to me, but photographic portraiture of the time really doesn’t do much in establishing the raw sexual appeal of anyone. But Van Dorn was also a charismatic and flamboyant personality, so that may account for it. He was a gallant officer in service to the Noble Cause, cutting a splendid figure in the gray and gold-hung uniform of the Confederacy … he wrote poetry, painted, was a consummate horseman … and notoriously, loved the ladies, who loved him right back. He loved them so much that he had long been known as the terror of ugly husbands and nervous papas everywhere.

He was a Regular Army officer, a heroic veteran of the war with Mexico, who had thereafter served a somewhat rewarding and satisfactory career on the Texas frontier. He was accounted to be a master of cavalry command; fearless, able, competent. He was also a great grandnephew of Andrew Jackson, being born to one of Jackson’s nieces; a place at West Point was thereby assured, although he successfully graduated 52 out of 68 places, due to use of tobacco, failure to salute superiors and extravagant use of profanity. He had several sisters who adored him, a wife whom he married after graduating from West Point – and sired two children with her, although never quite being able to establish a permanent home for his family. Whether this was due to disinclination and lack of enthusiasm on either part, or the brutal requirements of service in the military in those decades is a matter of speculation. He had mixed success as a commander in the first few years of the Civil War – a loss at Pea Ridge in a Confederate attempt to take St. Louis, another in the Second Battle of Corinth, but slashing success as a cavalry commander in fights at Holly Springs, Thompson’s Station, and the first battle at Franklin.

In the spring of 1863, Van Dorn was stationed in Spring Hill, Tennessee, thirty miles south of Nashville and almost in the dead center of the state. According to some accounts, Van Dorn and his staff were first billeted in home of local magnate Aaron White and his wife and family, but that didn’t last long. Accounts vary – some have it that Mrs. White was unhappy at having most of her home taken over as a military HQ, leaving her family with a just couple of bedrooms and access to the kitchen. She was even more unhappy – scandalized, even – when rumors began to fly about General Van Dorn’s romance with a married woman in Spring Hill. Jessie Peters was the very pretty, flirtatious, and much younger third wife of Dr. George Peters, who very openly came to visit the General at the White residence – a considerable breach of Victorian etiquette. Mr. and Mrs. White were not pleased at this scandalous turn of events. At about this time, Van Dorn moved his headquarters to another residence in Spring Hill, the mansion owned by one Martin Cheairs, about half a mile distant. (Both houses still stand, apparently.)

George Peters was a wealthy landowner and politician, a doctor, and often gone on business for long periods of time, leaving his young wife to find her own amusements, domestic and otherwise. It was also rumored that he was of Union sympathies, but nevertheless, upon his return to Spring Hill in early April, 1863 Dr. Peters became aware of the rumors concerning his wife and General Van Dorn, the long unchaperoned carriage rides they went on together, and the General’s many visits to the Peters home. To say the very least, Dr. Peters was not pleased, especially after he caught his wife and the General in a passionate embrace. Angry words were exchanged; George Peters threatened to shoot Van Dorn then and there. Supposedly Van Dorn asked for forgiveness and took the blame for the affair all to himself … and the matter seemed to be smoothed over.

But two or three weeks later, Dr. Peters appeared at the Cheairs house, asking to speak to General Van Dorn. Assuming that he wanted another permit allowing him to pass through the Confederate lines, he was directed into the study where Van Dorn sat at his writing desk, hard at work. Dr. Peters pulled out a pistol and shot Van Dorn in the back of the head. No one among the general’s staff took notice of Dr. Peters’ swift departure – not until the young daughter of the Cheairs family ran out of the house, exclaiming that the General had been shot. Of course, everyone rushed into the study, where they found Van Dorn unconscious, but still breathing. He died hours later, much mourned across the South, although there seemed to have been many who considered that he had brought it upon himself with his reckless pursuit of women captivated by his personal appeal.
Eventually, Dr. Peters was apprehended and arrested for the murder, but curiously, never tried. He insisted that Van Dorn had, in his words, “violated the sanctity of his home.” Most everyone then and since assumed that it meant Van Dorn’s affair with Jessie Peters. But was it? A novel by another indy author, also fascinated by the conundrum and possessed of certain local-specific resources, suggests that the motive for murder was not simply Van Dorn’s affair with Jessie Peters but his seduction of Clara Peters, Dr. Peter’s unmarried teenage daughter from an earlier marriage … a doubly scandalous matter which resulted in Clara Peters being pregnant.

Just another rabbit-hole in the pursuit of writing engaging historical fiction – additional evidence that our 19th century forbearers were at least as horny as humans anywhere else. They just … didn’t do it in the road and frighten the horses. Comment as you wish.

28. June 2023 · Comments Off on Minnie’s New Mission – Another Excerpt From the Current W-I-P · Categories: Chapters From the Latest Book

It was a strained summer, those hectic months after the surrender of Fort Sumter; there was feeling in the air as if a powerful thunderstorm was building, lending the very air a sullen greenish cast, while the skies hazed with heavy grey clouds. The sounds of marching feet filled the streets, as militia companies drilled on the Common, and newly recruited volunteers assembled and marched away, clad in civilian motley, but proudly led by the banner of their company.

To Sophie’s barely concealed horror, in mid-summer of that restless, unsettling year, Richard was offered a commission as captain, for a Massachusetts regiment composed entirely of Irishmen, recruited in Boston and vicinity, a commission which he accepted with lively interest, since he had done as he said he would – volunteer in response to President Lincoln’s call after settling all his business obligations and tendering his resignation to his partners in the practice of law.

“The company will be interesting, the music delightful and the need for calm and resourceful leadership for these poor working fellows is most necessary, if we are to win this war,” he repeated, on the day when he appeared in a blue uniform, shining brass buttons marching in a double row across his chest. Minnie and Sophie had spent several days sewing fine gold fringe to a scarlet silk sash, for him to wear under his sword belt. “Oh, my … really, Aunt Minnie? I cannot imagine a more useless bit of chivalric flummery, but I thank you in any case. The fellows will expect that I make a show … it’s a bit like being an actor, I suppose. Like Edwin Booth, the Fiery Star … striding the boards and declaiming to the footlights…” Sophie burst into tears and Richard took her into his arms and kissed her soundly, several times. “My darling Sophie, do not disfigure your face with tears. I am going no farther than Cambridge and Camp Day for the nonce. We may celebrate Christmas at home, I assure you. The chaps in the regiment will not be cleared for active service until they have been thoroughly trained – and most of them are no more soldiers than I am, being laborers, farmers or ordinary working men, so I may assure you that we will be months about training them to be proper soldiers.”

This did not comfort Sophie in the least, while Minnie regarded Richard with a pang of mixed pride and dread. While the men of the Irish regiment might not be the stuff of which soldiers were made, at least, not at first – Richard himself looked every inch a handsome and heroic martial figure.Restless, and unsettled, Minnie confided her feelings to Lolly Bard, over tea in the front parlor. The summer breeze teased the light muslin curtains in the window overlooking the Common and brought to them the faint sound of marching feet – a sound which had become all too familiar for them both.

“I hardly have any interest now, in continuing my lecture tours,” Minnie lamented. “Since now the whole of the North is ablaze with zeal to preserve the Union and freedom for all those enslaved, there seems not to be any real purpose in it. I feel useless, useless – Lolly, when I have been a crusader for so many years. And now that Jerusalem has been conquered, then what is there for me to do now? Lay down my weapons and … what?”

Lolly nodded, looking as wise as one of the goddess Minerva’s owls. “Dear Mr. Bard used to say ‘What was the future for a soldier after the war is won? Or for a worker, once the track is laid and completed,’ – he was so very wise, my husband. I suppose that once a campaign is done, one should search around for another, to engage one’s sense of purpose … had I told you, dear Minnie – that I have been accepted as one of the Boston agents for the Sanitary Commission? To see to the needs and welfare of our soldiers. There are so many of them now, I am told that the Army Department is quite overwhelmed.”

“As they would be,” Minnie replied, crisply. “For our own federal Army was very small, and so many of them departed service to take up arms for their states, when those states withdrew…”

“But the reality remains,” Lolly blinked apologetically, “How are we to care for our soldiers, when they are wounded, sick or hungry. I believe that we must do our part for them, Minnie. Our sons and brothers …”

“You mean, that we organize bazaars to sell needlecrafts and similar flummery to the patriotic public!” Minnie snorted in disgust. She looked at the tea tray; the fragile China-import porcelain cups and the silver Paul Revere-fashioned service all laid out so lovingly by Mrs. Norris. This very week, Jeremiah Daley had served his notice to Minnie, saying that he was volunteering to be a soldier, although he was not young. He was patriotic to a fault, and still quite fit, through having been a man of active work. His wife, and her sister and mother had seen him away with the other volunteers, with a bag packed full of comforts.

“You are quite right, Minnie dear,” Lolly replied. “As it concerns yourself. Indeed, you have no patience with tedious details, and I confess that many of our lady acquaintances are exasperating … it is not their fault, of course – it all lies in how most of us were raised with limited expectations as to our role in life.”

“Oh, that I were born a man,” Minnie quoted, “For I would eat his heart – that is, the traitor Jeff Davis’ – in the marketplace!”

“Indeed,” Lolly’s sweet, pretty face, framed in those fair and girlish curls which had been the fashion of two decades previous, took on a thoughtful expression. “I do believe that you could … tho’ it would be a teeny bit barbaric, considering … I think, dear – that some means of participating in the Great Cause will come to you. An opportunity, a new means of being of use to the Cause. You will know it when you see it, Minnie Dear.

”Minnie snorted again, but just as Lolly had said – the opportunity presented itself within the week through the medium of a letter from her old school-fellow intimate, Mary Ashton Rice. Mary Rice had married a minister among the Congregationalists named Livermore and moved with him to take up a congregation in the western city of Chicago.

My dear Minnie, Mary Livermore wrote, I have a very dear friend here in Galesburg, Illinois, a respectable widow who has supported her family with a practice in botanic medicine since the death of her husband a year or two ago. Mrs. Bickerdyke is a most noble and public-spirited woman, who has undertaken to convey a sizable quantity of donations from this congregation and others to the aid of a field hospital established at Cairo on the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. She writes to me in much agitation, as the hospital is ill-organized, and the deprivation and suffering of those poor soldiers there is unspeakable. She asks for aid and assistance in this most holy of missions. My heart is torn, but I cannot leave my family, my duties here to the congregation and to the Sanitary Commission, and my dearest Mr. Livermore. Mrs. Bickerdyke is a most determined and forceful woman, a tower of strength amongst our sex. But she is in dire need of assistance in her quest to bring comfort to the sick and wounded, and I fear that many might find fault with her blunt manner of address. She is not known outside the small circle of her friends in Galesburg, and it occurs to me that you, with your long experience of nursing your father and brothers, your fame outside of a small circle, and your notable powers of earnest persuasion – that you may be perfectly situated to be of assistance to her in this time of dreadful need …” 

Minnie sent a telegram in reply. “On my way to Cairo. Fond regards to Mrs. Bickerdyce and yourself.”