The case of a young woman in Willoughby Street, Brooklyn, brings to mind the story of the unfortunate Maid of Orleans, who was “burnt by wicked Bedford for a witch.” It well illustrates the Solomonic proverb that “there is nothing new under the sun.” The superstitions of the days of Joan of Arc still flourish.
Early in 1863, when disaster everywhere overtook the Union arms, and our gallant sons were falling fast under that marvellous sword of rebellion, a young lady, scarce nineteen, just from school, conceived the idea that she was destined by Providence to lend our arms to victory, and our nation through successful war. It was at first thought by her parents that her mind was weakened simply by reading accounts of continued reverses to our arms, and they treated her as they would a sick child. This only had the effect of making her more demonstrative, and her enthusiastic declarations and apparent sincerity gave the family great anxiety. Dr. B—- was consulted, the minister was spoken to, friends advised, family meetings held, interviews with the young lady by her former companions in the academy were frequent, but nothing could shake the feeling which had possessed her.
It was finally resolved to take her to Michigan. A maiden aunt accompanied the fair enthusiast, and for a few weeks Ann Arbor became their home. The stern command of her aunt alone prevented her from making her way to Washington to solicit an interview with the President for the purpose of getting command of the United States army. Finally it was found necessary to restrain her from seeing any but her own family, and her private parlor became her prison. To a high-spirited girl, this would be unendurable at any time, but to a young lady filled with such a hallucination, it was worse than death. She resolved to elude her friends, and succeeded, leaving them clandestinely; and although the most distinguished detectives of the East and the West were employed to find her whereabouts, it was unavailing. None could even conjecture the hiding-place. This was in April, 1863. She was mourned as lost. The habiliments of mourning were donned by her grief-stricken parents, and a suicide’s grave was assumed to be hers. But it was not so. The infatuated girl, finding no sympathy with her friends, resolved to enter the army disguised as a drummer boy, dreaming, poor girl, that her destiny would be worked out by such a mode. She joined the drum corps of a Michigan regiment at Detroit, her sex known only to herself, and succeeded in getting with her regiment to the army of the Cumberland. How the poor girl survived the hardships of the Kentucky campaign, where strong men fell in numbers, must forever remain a mystery. The regiment to which she was attached had a place in the division of the gallant Van Cleve, and during the bloody battle of Sunday, the fair girl fell, pierced in the left side by a minie ball; and when borne to the surgeon’s tent, her sex was discovered. She was told by the surgeon that her wound was mortal, and advised to give her name, that her family might be informed of her fate. This she finally, though reluctantly, consented to do, and the Colonel of the regiment, although suffering himself from a painful wound, became interested in her behalf, and prevailed upon her to let him send a despatch to her father. This she directed in the following manner:
“Mr. —– , No—-Willoughby Street, Brooklyn: Forgive your dying daughter. I have but a few moments to live. My native soil drinks my blood. I expected to deliver my country, but the Fates would not have it so. I am content to die. Pray, pa, forgive me. Tell ma to kiss my daguerreotype. EMILY.
“P. S. Give my old watch to little Eph.” (The youngest brother of the dying girl.)
The poor girl was buried on the field on which she fell in the service of her country, which she fondly hoped to save.
Originally posted 2008-11-25 12:53:54.