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Civil War Nurse, Civil War Nursing: Rebecca Usher of Maine Elizabeth D. Leonard On March 31, 1866, historian Frank Moore penned the following letter to Rebecca Usher of Hollis, Maine: [Mrs. Preble] of Portland . . . mentions your name as one of the ladies who went from Maine, and who were devoted and persistent in their labors for the soldiers. Two of the ladies . . . have favored me with an account in brief of what was done, and of the hospital scenes and incidents that fell under their observation. . . . ... I should like very much to receive from you . . . such incidents as fell under your observation while out, as well as a brief statement of your own history, in that connexion, the time of going out, the hospitals where you were the most of the time engaged, and some account of your daily round of occupations. . . . No more prominence will be given to your name than you may indicate as desireable; my object being as much to give a view of the general labor of women in this great field, as to eulogize particular heroines.1 Moore's letter to Usher was one ofmany he sent out shortly after the Civil War to women whose responses he hoped would serve as the basis for his bulky commemorative, Women of the War: Their Heroism and Self-Sacrifice, published late in 1866. Rebecca Usher responded readily to Moore's request. On April 13, two weeks after his first letter, Moore dispatched a note thanking Usher for the "extracts" that he assured her would be of "great assistance in gathering the facts for my history ofthe noble women ofMaine" in the war and promising to send her a copy of the completed book. Women ofthe War included a twelvepage chapter on Usher, who, Moore wrote, "was among the first to . . . devote 1 Frank Moore to Rebecca Usher, Mar. 31, 1866, Rebecca Usher Papers, Collection 9, Maine Historical Society, Portland Unless noted otherwise, all of Rebecca Usher's correspondence is found in these Papers. I hereby acknowledge with much gratitude the assistance I received from various librarians at the Maine Historical Society during my time of research there. I particularly would like to recognize Nicholas Noyes for his help. Civil War History, Vol. xu. No. 3 © 1995 by The Kent State University Press CIVIL WAR NURSE REBECCA USHERICI herselfto the alleviation of the untold and unmeasured sufferings produced by the great war." He told ofher months in Chester, Pennsylvania, as a nurse at the Union army's General Hospital. He told also of her time as a soldier-relief worker at the Maine State Agency in City Point, Virginia (near Petersburg). These activities, and the devotion to the Union soldier that they implied, had earned Usher an honored place in Moore's commemorative of Northern women's participation in the Civil War.2 Later in her life Usher considered composing her own memoir of her wartime experiences but did not pursue the project—hindered, undoubtedly, by her lack of a substantial personal journal from the period as a reference. "We were doing what we could to make history," Usher later recalled, "and had no time or inclination to write it."3 Happily, Usher did leave a collection of her private papers (primarily from the war years) for future scholars to discover. If the material Usher left us is incomplete (she left little material from her childhood, for example, and nothing to indicate the direction her postwar life took), it is nonetheless rich in its relevance for the study of Northern women in the Civil War. Rebecca Usher was born in 1821 to Hannah Lane and Ellis Baker Usher. Ellis Usher was a wealthy mill owner and lumberman who also served at different times as a delegate to Maine's state constitutional convention, as town clerk for Hollis, and as state senator for his district. Rebecca seems to have received a good basic education as a young girl, probably at a local girls' seminary. By sixteen she had left Hollis for an Ursuline Convent at Three Rivers in Canada, where she remained for four years studying and then teaching French. At age twenty she returned to Maine and her...


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