Saturday, November 25, 2017

Gettysburg: The Last Moments of Frank Gould; Part 4, Martha Ehler's Memoir


This is the concluding part of 4 parts.  If you haven't read the other parts you can find them at the links provided.

Read Part 1 Here.

Read Part 2 Here.

Read Part 3 Here.


PART 4.

My immediate concern after deciding to use Capt. E. D. Roath’s letter of September 9, 1863, on my website, was to find appropriate pictures to accompany his long text. Searching for information on the Patriot Daughters of Lancaster County brought me to Vince Slaugh’s blog; “Lancaster At War.”

Vince collects primary source material on the 79th PA Vols. of Lancaster County and secondary subjects that support that topic. A post of July, 2013, titled “Donations Collected From Drumore For Patriot Daughters” provided me what I wanted; pictures and biographies of some real members of the Patriot Daughters, and a short description of their work.

Another link on Vince’s site led to a digitized edition of the 1863 memoir titled “Hospital Scenes After The Battle of Gettysburg.” The short booklet was authored by Patriot Daughter Martha Ehler. It was published in August, 1863, as a fund-raiser for the Daughters. In the book, Martha relates some of her experiences as volunteer nurse for 5 weeks, at a Gettysburg Field Hospital.

I was in no hurry to read the booklet, as Captain Roath’s letter caused me to believe the Patriot Daughters serviced several of the many hospital complexes around Gettysburg. Chaplain F. D. Ward, 104th NY, was posted at White Church Hospital in Mount Joy Township. And, it was Ward’s hospital that received supplies from the Patriot Daughters, as mentioned in Capt. Roath’s letter. But I was mistaken. It turned out that the Daughters shared their supplies with all who applied for assistance, but Martha did her 5 week stint as a nurse at Christ Church hospital on Chambersburg Street, where several wounded soldiers of the 13th Mass were sheltered.

In her memoirs Martha wrote:

“We had until now, no systematic plan of action. All of us agreed that it would be better, if possible, to take the entire charge of one Hospital, and as all the Church Hospitals were sadly in want of care, our only difficulty was to decide which should fall to our lot. — Providence decided the point for us, for the only rooms we could obtain, were directly opposite Christ Church, the College Church, which had been occupied since the first day’s battle, by the 1st corps, 2nd division, (Gen. Reynolds’ men) designated by the white lozenge on a red flag.”

“…We had by tacit agreement arranged that some of us should cook, and prepare delicacies for the sick, while the rest should undertake the nursing. I was one of those upon whom the latter duty devolved. With what trepidation I crossed the street, for the first time, to enter the scene of so much sorrow and anguish, may be more easily imagined than described. Had I stopped one moment to think, my courage would have failed, I would have turned back, but I did not. I walked up to the Hospital steward and told him that it was probable that we should be associated together in our duties for some weeks, and asked him what his patients most needed; his reply, was “everything.” “These men are now lying with the exception of having their wounds dressed, as they were brought in from the battle-field.” Some were on a little straw, while most of them had nothing between them and the hard boards, but their old thin, war-worn blankets; the more fortunate ones with their knapsacks under their heads. And when you think that they were almost without exception, serious amputation cases, what must have been their sufferings. I went back to the rooms, and we all commenced assorting the pillows, shirts, sheets, &c. sending at the same time to the Commissary for some bed sacks, which the men attendants filled with straw.

When our patients were washed and dressed, and placed in their new beds, with a fresh white pillow under their heads, and a sheet thrown over them, they looked their gratitude, which was more eloquent than words. One of us handed them each a handkerchief wet with cologne, and we left them to make arrangements for their supper. Already was it in progress; the tea was already made, and the butter toast making on the stove, and with some nice jelly, kindly sent by those at home, the supper was complete; we took it over and gave it to each. Many having lost their right arm, had to be fed; while some, tempting though the meal was, were too sick to partake of it; all however, even those suffering worst, thanked us over and over again, and could scarcely be made to believe that we were to remain some weeks here, and that they were to be our special care. They all said that they had never met with such kindness, and that that meal had been the first glimpse of home life they had enjoyed since they entered the service two years ago. Thus ended our first day’s experience in our new and trying vocation; it was, however simply a beginning; we had only cared for those in the basement of the Church, (forty in number) while above, were a hundred more waiting for our services on the morrow.”

I have in my library a booklet published by Christ Lutheran Church titled “A Sanctuary For The Wounded.” The church is very active in remembering its history. On weekends the church presents a program titled “Songs and Stories of a Civil War Hospital, Candlelight at Christ Church”

Nurse Martha Ehler is quoted heavily in both the booklet of remembrance and the musical program. Reading Martha’s memoirs of August, 1863, I suddenly made the connection, between the Patriot Daughters of Lancaster County, and the nurses narrative I had read about in the Church booklet.  I also have a recording of the Candlelight at Christ program.  But I had never been able to place a name to any “specific” soldiers in these accounts. The stories were usually generalized. But in her memoirs, Martha does get around to mentioning a few specific cases. Something struck me in particular in one of these passages.

Martha mentions the date July 16. That is the muster in date of the 13th Mass. Vols. at Fort Independence, in 1861.

Keep in mind, when reading the following narrative, that Frank A. Gould, Co. K, 13th Mass. was wounded in the hip and back. His mother lived in Southboro, Mass. and family lore claims it was she who brought her son’s body home to be buried there.

Also, that George E. Sprague, of the same regiment and company, was wounded in the chest, or lungs. Sprague had a wife and son back home.

And, that the two comrades died one day after the other, Frank going first.

Martha wrote:

“I recollect particularly being called about this time to minister to the wants of a young New England soldier; I had taken care of him in a general way with the others, but did not know of his dangerous condition until one of his friends called my attention to him. I saw that he was very low, and he must have noticed by the expression of my face, that I regarded his case as hopeless. As soon as I came to him he said, “write your name on this piece of paper for me, and if I live I want it, if I die, send it to my mother, and tell her that though far away in Pennsylvania, I have found those who have been as kind to me as sister or mother.” “And, now,” said he, in the most solemn and searching manner, “must I die?”

I told him I feared it must be so. “Do not fear,” he exclaimed, ‘ ‘ to tell me the truth, for when I entered the army, I made up my mind that a man was not worthy to live, who for fear of death, shuns his country’s cause. I am willing to die, and join the ranks of those who have already gone, for it is glorious to die for one’s country.” He said he knew in whom he trusted; that religion was no new thing to him; he had a good, praying mother, and though the temptations were great in the army, yet for her sake, he had tried to do right. He then uttered a prayer for the loved ones at home, for his comrades, who stood around, and invoked God’s blessing on those who ministered to him. For some time he was quiet, and after having taken some nourishment, he asked me what day of the month it was? I told him the 16th of July. “Then,” said he, “it is two years since I enlisted, and one year from to-day my term of service will expire;” adding in the most submissive manner, “and sooner, if it the Lord’s will.” After a short interval he said, “see that I am decently buried, and may God for Christ’s sake have mercy on us all.” The light fled from his eye, the color from his cheeks, and then his parched lips only uttered confused sounds.

Around him, bathed in tears, stood the companions of many long marches, and hard fought battles, and by his side his nearest friend, who had shared his test since the commencement of the war. He was shot through the lungs, and lay but a short distance from him; he had scarcely been able to move since he was brought in from the battle-field, yet hearing his friend was dying, he insisted on going to him. I remonstrated, but to no purpose, and I was not surprised, when, after performing the last sad offices for his friend, I was sent for to attend to him. On returning to his bed he had immediately had a hemorrhage, and in about two hours he too was a corpse. Calmly he fell asleep, leaving kind messages for his wife and children at home.

Thus in life, these two noble men had been devoted friends, and in death they were not divided. I kept my promise, and saw them properly buried. Hitherto those who died, had been wrapped in their war-worn blankets, but their companions made them each rude coffins, and a sad and serious gathering followed them to their last home. The relentless grave has closed over them, and the grass waves silently over their resting place; and when in after days we visited the spot, we placed on each a few summer flowers.” *

Francis A. Gould is reported to have died, July 14. George E. Sprague, is reported to have died on July 15. Both are listed as having been buried, in the Presbyterian Church Graveyard on their records of death.

Although the recorded dates of death are off a bit, I believe Martha was describing the last moments of these two comrades, (both mustered into service July 16, 1861),  who died a day apart.  In checking a list of known soldiers who died at Christ Church, provided to me by one of the participants in the Candlelight service, I find only Frank, and George, who belong to the same Regiment and Company, who died a day apart, during the time nurse Ehler was working at the church.

The significance of July 16, to the story, re-enforces this idea, but it is by no means conclusive. This list of soldier who died at the church is incomplete at best. But the coincidental evidence is strong. And, so far, I have not found another unit known to have been at the hospital with a July 16, 1861 muster in date.

For the record, here is a list of other 13th Mass soldiers known to have died at the Church Hospital. Records are from the 13th Mass roster, with notes from Christ Church.

Edward Church; age, 28; born, Derby, Conn.; carpenter; mustered in as private, Company E, July 16, 1861; killed July 3, 1863. Wounded in the left shoulder and chest. Died at Christ Church, (roster says July 3rd) 28 years old.

Horatio A. Cutting; age 44; born, Attleboro, Mass.; bootmaker; muster in as private, Company K, August 1, 1862; died of wounds received at Gettysburg, July 22, 1863. Shot in head, Died at Fort Schuyler, NY July 22d.

Prince A. Dunton; age 20, born, Hope, Maine; farmer; mustered in as private, Company H, July 16, 1861; died of wounds received July 1, 1863. Shot in the right hip and foot. Died July 1st or July 8.

Edwin Field; age, 20; born, Chelsea, Mass. clerk; mustered in as private, Company B, July 16, 1861; killed, July 1, 1863. Shot in left lung on July 1st Died at Christ Church July 2nd or 3.

John Flye; age, 29; born, New Portland, Maine; blacksmith; mustered in as private, Company K, July 16, 1861; died of wounds received at Gettysburg, July 26, 1863. Wounded severely in the leg and captured. The Confederate who captured him exchanged his own worn out gray pants for Flye’s blue pair.

Frank A. Gould; age, 20; born, Clinton, Mass; mechanic; mustered in as private, Company K, July 16, 1861; died of wounds received at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863. Wounded in hip. Died at Christ Church July 14th.

Michael O’laughlin; age, 21; born, Ireland; shoemaker; mustered in as private, Company K, July 16, 1861; died of wounds received at Gettysburg, October 8, 1863. Left leg fractured. Pleaded not to have the leg amputated because of his aged mother who was dependent upon him. The leg was removed but he died Nov. 8, at camp Letterman. Single, shoemaker.

George E. Sprague; age 27; born, Grafton, Mass.; shoemaker; mustered in as private, Company K, July 16, 1861; died of wounds received at Gettysburg, July 15, 1863. Shot in the right lung and forearm.

Martha Ehler recorded the dying moments of several brave soldiers in her memoirs. I believe this particular case is that of 13th Mass soldier Francis A. Gould, and his comrade in arms, George E. Sprague.


*This passage begins on page 20 of Martha's book.



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