Delivered Before the Soldiers Aid Association at the Methodist Episcopal Church in Danby in the Winter of 1864.
Delivered Before the Soldiers Aid Association at the Methodist Episcopal Church in Danby in the Winter of 1864.

Delivered Before the Soldiers Aid Association at the Methodist Episcopal Church in Danby in the Winter of 1864.

Danby, New York, Winter 1864. 8vo (24 x 20 cm), self-wrappers. 25 pp. of manuscript. 4 blank pp. Various manuscript annotations and corrections made throughout the text. Three different oratory notations on back-cover indicate “firm” (./) “soft” (o) and “very soft” (oo); all three appear throughout the manuscript.

A manuscript draft for a speech by an anonymous orator given before the Soldiers’ Aid Association in Danby, New York during the Civil War, appealing to female relief workers to continue their crucial support of the Union Army.

In both the North and South during the War, Ladies’ Aid Societies (also known as Soldiers’ Aid Societies) were formed by women dedicated to providing food and medical supplies to soldiers, as well as providing nursing and religious services for the sick and wounded. Thousands of these societies sprang up, and their work in sending sanitary supplies, blankets, etc. to soldiers helped to mitigate the spread of diseases. In the North, these organizations were supported by the U.S. Sanitary Commission, the U.S. Christian Commission, and other private organizations.

This fascinating speech was delivered in Danby, New York, located just south of Ithaca. A clarion call to continue the prosecution of the War, the speech opens with an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence, followed by an invocation of the historical struggle for equality and liberty, constituting approximately half of the text. In the second half the author addresses the women of the Society more specifically, extolling their efforts and confirming the importance of their contribution: “The ladies have their part to perform in this great drama now being acted—your part is as important—has as great an influence on the weal of the country as those called your lords.” Throughout the speech many notable figures are quoted and mentioned, including Molly Pitcher, Florence Nightingale, Daniel Webster (on the question of slavery), James M. Mason, Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans, Brig. Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore, and others.

Neither Google nor Worldcat yield any references to the Ladies’ Aid Society of Danby. The present manuscript would seem one of the few surviving documents of its activities.

SOME REPRESENTATIVE PASSAGES:

"This is peculiarly, above all others a woman’s country—In no nation upon the earth has woman such rights as our government secures to her—She is the pet of the nation—The revered of the countryman—The gold of our hearts […] In the language of another blessed, pure, Angelic woman! If she lost us Eden she wins for us the more glorious paradise of God."

"The ladies have their part to perform in this great drama now being acted—your part is as important—has as great an influence on the weal of the country as those called your lords. You need not shoulder the musket—nor like Molly Pitcher work the artillery—you may not be needed like Florence Nightingale in the hospital at the seat of War—you may not be called to dress the wounds or allay the thirst of the dying soldier—you may not be called to his side to administer words of sympathy & love—or point him above to that better country where battles, and blood shed, and strife are never known. But here at home quietly & silently, you can sacrifice upon your countries alter […] That little slipper—that cost but a few pennies, and a few hours labor—a little tiny gift—raised the spirits of a desponding dying man—it brought his dim vision to his boyhood land […] In his fevered brain he was home—sweet home to him. The little gift saved the noble soldiers life."

"For whom are we asked to labor? To whom are we to send these comfortable looking garments made & fashioned by your hands? […] To Columbia’s youngest sons—the spring flowers of our nation—the best blood of our land—The Saviors of our country […] To men whom God inspired with courage & patriotism to fight for us cowards that dare not fight for ourselves […] For us frail daughters that our eyes might not weep nor our hearts bleed at the carnage of Battle. These are the men whose lips we are to cool."

"The missiles of death that human ingenuity can invent are about to meet in deadly conflict for mastery—Stone River—Antietam—Corinth—Fredericksburg—assure us of the desolation & death that will follow. Are you ready ladies for your work? The din of battle will soon reach your ears—the result—the agony—the horrors will soon be borne by the wings of the telegraph to your homes."

"Your work is everywhere. Go with me to that tent standing apart; it is the dead house tent. Four boys in their brown blankets, four whitewood coffins, four labels with four names on four still breast […] Verily, the soldier aid societies should be named “Mary” for are they not like her of old, “last at the cross and earliest at the grave?” Are there any women in Danby, whose heart is not with and who do not belong, nor feel interested, nor work in a soldiers aid society? If there is—ye Gods—forgive them for they know not what they do! They have forgotten they are women—they have scared their hearts—their faces have lost their loveliness—they are women but in form their hands are hard—their visage is sharp—their ways are crooked and their feet run to evil!"

"This Heaven born country is now distracted—sorrowing—tossed to & fro like a ship amidst the storm—struggling like a dying man for breath & existence! Who can save her? How shall it be done? By an earnest, determined, iron-willed, unflinching, untiring prosecution of the war!!"

"The traitor Lee with his confederate hosts have been beaten—His army wasted and finally surrendered to our own noble hero United States Grant—Yet the hellish traitorous spirit still lives and the fiends may still hold out, if not as an organized army, yet, as guerillas and assassins that shall shall seek under the cover of night to steal with dagger or pistol the lives of Union men."

"I believe fully & unreservedly, that the materials you [?] from Danby reaches their destination and perform the office designed as punctually as the letters we write to our friends in the army—and we have just as good proof of it—the evidence of those that receive them."

A stirring speech vividly representing the contribution of women to the War effort.

CONDITION: Good, modest stains to first and last leaves.

Item #5141

Price: $1,750.00

See all items in Autographs & Manuscripts