The Women of Raymond

by Rebecca Blackwell Drake

(Hinds County Gazette, November 30, 2000)


Sarah Dabney Eggleston, wife of Confederate Naval hero, John Randolph Eggleston, was one of the women of Raymond who worked for the cause of the Confederate soldiers. During the war years, she knitted a pair of socks a day for the soldiers.
                                   Photograph taken in 1918

In the months and days prior to the war, the women of Raymond devoted themselves to the Confederate cause. Ignoring George Harper's secession warning, they totally gave their time and energy to fundraising. Strains of The Bonnie Blue Flag could be heard all over town... "Hurrah! Hurrah! For Southern Rights Hurrah! Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a, single star!"

On the day of the Battle of Raymond, the same element of patriotism prevailed. Since most of the men in town were off serving in the Confederate army, it was the women who stood on the streets, cheering the soldiers on to victory. They waved their flags and threw bouquets of flowers.

Hours later, the women were shocked when the wounded and dying soldiers began to appear in town. Some of the wounded had walked from the battlefield. Others, near death, had been placed on wagons and hauled into town. As the women saw the frightful condition of the men, blue and gray, they were filled with compassion. Compassion quickly turned into action.

Hastily, they helped to arrange for their care. The wounded Union soldiers were placed in various churches around town while the distributed between the Courthouse and the Oak Tree Hotel.

For days, weeks, and in some cases, months, the women nursed the wounded. Their devotion to the cause was one that would never be forgotten, by families of the men in blue or the families of the men in gray.

Sumner Cunningham, 41st Tennessee, credited the women of Raymond for their attention to the soldiers as they were brought in from the battlefield: "On our retreat through Raymond we saw ladies with quilts and bandages for the wounded, who were being cared for by their tender hands. They would not be persuaded to leave the streets, even after the enemy's shells were flying and crashing through houses."

Estelle Trichell wrote of the wounded soldiers: "At the very first the Confederate wounded were housed in the courthouse and in the ballroom of the Oak Tree Hotel; but soon they were all put in the courthouse, and the ladies of the town helped to nurse and care for our heroes.

"The Yankees put their wounded in four places - Odd Fellows Hall and the Methodist, Episcopal, and Baptist churches. A few? dangerously wounded soldiers occupied a private residence. Two of them died and were buried in the yard.

"Every morning my mother and a servant went to the hospital with delicacies for the soldiers. I was always with my mother, and nothing passed me unnoticed For instance, there was a Dr. Dysart in our hospital who had become the owner of a Yankee overcoat. I was a curly headed girl, and received much notice; but Dr. Dysart could not get me to make friends with him, so my mother asked me the reason, and it was understood when I explained that I thought he was a Yankee on account of his overcoat."

Letitia Dabney, the youngest of Augustine and Elizabeth Smith Dabney's children, recalled the Courthouse being used as a hospital and how the men died from lack of medication: "My sisters were all there behind the lines, receiving the wounded and helping are for them. Raymond was now in the Federal lines. The big Courthouse was turned into a Confederate hospital and all the churches were filled with wounded Union soldiers. Antiseptic surgery had not been dreamed of and flies abounded, nay, literally swarmed! And they died, how those men died - pitiful boys of sixteen or seventeen. Just a little wound in the hand or foot set up gangrene followed by death.

"All my sisters (except Martha) nursed the wounded all day long. So did the other women in town. All food that had any claims to nicety was carried to the hospital. Nearly all our china found its way there, never to be returned Every book they could read went the same way. I went barefoot because I had no shoes and ran among the beds with a white puppy at my heels."

Sgt. Morgan Allen Greer, 20th Illinois, recalled the compassion shown by the women of Raymond: "Our building was comfortably arranged today with bunks and mattresses for the patients. Surgeons seem very scarce and there is none here except a few minutes each day to see the most dangerous cases. The ladies came in and offered their services to us in any way they could aid. They took good care of the rebel wounded. "

Frank Herron, 3rd Tennessee, wounded in the fight, also gave generous praise to the women of Raymond for their efforts: "In a short time I was moved to the hospital in the Court House at Raymond. This little girl (Myra McDonald) visited the hospital daily, brought me something nice to eat, and a bouquet of flowers.

"Among the mass of suffering humanity at the hospital could be seen the grand and noble daughters of the South, the majority of them raised in luxury, inexperienced in every sense for hospital work, with their sleeves rolled up to the elbows, hastening here and there, tenderly nursing the wounded and dying. Never was there more heroism and self?sacrifice shown by the nurses in any part of the South than was shown to the wounded and dying soldiers at Raymond by these noble women, and it is a source of pleasure to me in my declining years to live my life over, in thought, especially that part of it which was spent at Raymond."

Capt. S.O. Woods, 41st Tennessee, commented on the energy and speed and compassion of the women of Raymond: "Raymond on that eventful afternoon illustrated the magic speed and energy of Southern women in an emergency. Homes were opened, and wounded Confederate soldiers were being cared for just as if they had been sons and brothers. That eventful day in the history of Raymond, from early morning - when, among other kindnesses, little plugs of tobacco were carried along the lines and graciously given the soldiers - until the welcome sunset and the darkness that followed enabled the little brigade to escape capture by a large army, will ever remain a vivid memory to those who shared in its anxiety and suffering. The people of Raymond have always held in admiration and gratitude the deeds of our soldiers on that memorable day in May, 1863.

Anita Harper, wife of George Harper, editor of the Hinds County Gazette, helped nurse the wounded and dying in the family home, Phoenix Hall, located near the battlefield. Many a soldier found a safe haven on the Harper's front porch.

The vigilance of the women of Raymond never ceased until the last wounded soldier was tended.

In 1909, a Confederate Monument was placed on the grounds of the Hinds County Courthouse paying tribute not only to the Confederate soldiers but to all of the women who helped to care for the wounded and dying. The monument reads: "In Grateful Memory to the Women Whose Devotion to Our Cause in its Darkest Hour Sustained the Strong and Strengthened the Weak."

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