After the battle of Antietam in 1862, Harriet Eaton traveled to Virginia from her home in Portland, Maine, to care for soldiers in the Army of the Potomac. Portland's Free Street Baptist Church, with liberal ties to abolition, established the Maine Camp Hospital Association and made the widowed Eaton its relief agent in the field. One of many Christians who believed that patriotic activism could redeem the nation, Eaton quickly learned that war was no respecter of religious principles.
Doing the work of nurse and provisioner, Eaton tended wounded men and those with smallpox and diphtheria during two tours of duty. She preferred the first tour, which ended after the battle of Chancellorsville in 1863, to the second, more sedentary, assignment at City Point, Virginia, in 1864. There the impositions of federal bureaucracy standardized patient care at the expense of more direct communication with soldiers. Eaton deplored the arrogance of U.S. Sanitary Commissioners whom she believed saw state benevolent groups as competitors for supplies.
Eaton struggled with the disruptions of transience, scarcely sleeping in the same place twice, but found the politics of daily toil even more challenging. Conflict between Eaton and co-worker Isabella Fogg erupted almost immediately over issues of propriety; the souring working conditions leading to Fogg's ouster from Maine state relief efforts by late 1863. Though Eaton praised some of the surgeons with whom she worked, she labeled others charlatans whose neglect had deadly implications for the rank and file. If she saw villainy, she also saw opportunities to convert soldiers and developed an intense spiritual connection with a private, which appears to have led to a postwar liaison.
Published here for the first time, this uncensored nursing diary is a rarity among medical accounts of the war, showing Eaton to be an astute observer of human nature. It includes an extensive introduction from the editor, transcriptions of relevant letters and newspaper articles, and a comprehensive biographical dictionary of the people mentioned in the diary.
"Jane Schultz is arguably the nation's leading expert on Civil War nursing, whose articles and book, Women at the Front, have had a profound effect on how scholars--including literary critics and historians--have viewed women's contributions to the [American] Civil War. First-person accounts of northern women nurses (and of northern women in general) during the Civil War remain rare--and so it is a pleasure to see that Schultz has produced this
carefully edited and beautifully written volume documenting Harriet Eaton's nursing. This is a great discovery and a significant contribution to Civil War literature."--Alice Fahs, UC Irvine
"Jane E. Schultz's meticulous editing of Harriet Eaton's diary and newspaper correspondence provides detailed insights into the backbreaking day-to-day hospital work of a 'roving' Civil War nurse. Eaton's 'sanitary labor' immersed the pious Christian into the world of rickety ambulance wagons and filthy field hospital tents as she cared for Maine's sick and wounded volunteers. Schultz's thorough introductory essay, annotations, and biographical appendix
contextualize Eaton's humanitarian/missionary efforts within contemporary New England attitudes towards gender and race. Eaton's determination and diplomatic skills enabled her to navigate the male-dominated
military-medical world of her day and minister to the physical and spiritual needs of innumerable suffering soldiers. A major documentary edition and a significant contribution to Civil War medical history."--John David Smith, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
"Harriet Eaton's diary vividly brings to life the inner-workings of Civil War field and general hospitals, where army regulars, civilian relief workers, and freed slaves often came to blows about how best to care for the wounded. For eleven months and through two rigorous tours of duty Eaton made nightly journal entries that allow readers to experience the immediacy of triage work in the aftermath of Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. In This
Birth Place of Souls, Jane Schultz thoroughly and ably places Eaton in the context in which she lived and worked, offering us a fascinating snapshot of one nurse's experience and a group portrait of
caregivers of all stripes."--Judith Giesberg, Villanova University
"A beautifully conceived book."--H-Net Reviews
"Until now there has not been a work where both topics are explored together in depth and detailEL Schultz's ability to examine and discuss all these character traits and personal issues makes this one of the best works of this genre currently on the market. The content reflects a painstaking level of research to gather, analyze, organize and present the diary in a meaningful manner."--Civil War News
1862: 6 October to 31 December
1863: 1 January to 12 May
1864: 12 October to 24 December
Transcriptions of Letters and Newspaper Items
Number Of Pages: 352
Published: 30th December 2010
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 24.2 x 16.6
Weight (kg): 0.63