Today, we are pleased to welcome back guest author Sarah Kay Bierle
Conclusion of a series
While Maryland soldiers – like Henry K. Douglas – fought battles and worried about their families, Southern sympathizing civilians in Maryland were under fire for their actions. One twenty-seven-year old was threatened at gunpoint for her role to relieve suffering. Undoubtedly, the Goldsborough Family of Baltimore was pro-Confederate in their political views, but rather than sending men to the battlefields, their war effort took a more charitable direction. Miss Euphemia Goldsborough worried about the Confederate wounded and prisoners and did what she could to make their situation better. She traveled to Sharpsburg (Antietam) to help care for the wounded left behind by General Lee’s retreating army.
1863 was the year when Miss Euphemia’s actions came under closest scrutiny by her pro-Union neighbors and the military. She traveled to Gettysburg with the intention of bring supplies and medical assistance to Confederate prisoners. Battling into the field hospital, replacing stolen supplies, smuggling needed items passed wary guards, and refusing the take an oath of allegiance, Miss Euphemia and a few other daring ladies from Baltimore won a victory against the Union sentries and surgeons.
A wounded Confederate prisoner described the scene and situation: “Thus for the first two weeks there were no nurses, no medicines, no kinds of food proper for men in our condition… Each day we became weaker and thinner… Yet we were not wholly forsaken. One day as I lay waiting, I heard a lady’s voice, it was sweet music to my ears. A few minutes afterwards, two ladies from Baltimore came into our room… …Next day, more came and then more, until every hospital had two or more of ‘our angels,’ as we used to call them, doing their works of mercy. And what they did, and what they told us, and what they passed through for us, what tongue can tell?”[i]
Miss Euphemia was careful to tend both Union and Confederate soldiers, but the Southern men had no doubt of which side claimed her loyalties. One evening she gained the admiration of all present by her self-less action. “[Confederate] Colonel Patton…being shot through the lungs, and unconscious, it was impossible to save his life unless he could be propped up, and there was absolutely nothing to be had to prop him with… Miss Goldsborough…seated herself on the bare floor…[and] the surgeons tenderly placed the dying officer against her back. She sat there, still as a wooden image, never daring to move lest the slightest motion should bring on a hemorrhage and death ensue…It was said by a veteran afterwards, that off all the touching sights in his memory, the recollection of that picture would stand before him.”[ii] Despite Miss Euphemia’s efforts through the night, Colonel Patton died.
For nine weeks, Miss Euphemia cared for the wounded at Gettysburg. When she returned home, she was exhausted and her mother hardly recognized her. But though she had saved many lives, comforted the dying, and brought the basic necessities for survival, Miss Euphemia was not given a heroic welcome by her neighbors or any local soldiers’ relief committee. She was a Southern supporter. She had saved enemy lives.
Wounded soldiers were not the only Southerners receiving Miss Euphemia’s compassion. The Goldsborough family and home were at the center of “rescuing” prisoners – either by food baskets and supplies or by escape. “[She] was one of the central and most active figures in the war, so far as Maryland was interested. She devoted her youth to the Southern Cause, was almost unequaled in her successful efforts in sending supplies, and sometimes arms, to the officers and men of the Maryland line.”[iii]
Brave and daring actions caught the attention of Union soldiers. On November 23, 1863, the Goldsborough Family received unwanted visitors. By quick thinking and rapid efforts, the family managed to hide the supply baskets they were preparing to smuggling into Fort McHenry that night. Miss Euphemia was arrested and separated from her family. The house was searched by detectives. In the morning, she was taken to the Provost Marshall’s office; her father accompanied her. Her sentence was banishment from Maryland and from the United States for the duration of the war. She would be allowed to take two trunks and exactly $225 dollars for her journey to the Confederacy. If she returned during the war, she would be shot as a spy.[iv]
Miss Euphemia’s diary details her humiliating journey, including squalid rooms and searches of her possessions and herself. When a Union general harshly enquired her crime, she replied, “For feeding the hungry and clothing the naked.”[v]
In Richmond, she was received with warmth and kindness. President Jefferson Davis insisted Miss Euphemia should be given a position in the Treasury Department. (Ladies worked there, often signing the bills or doing other secretarial work; it was considered a respectable wartime job for a woman.) Families of soldiers or soldiers Miss Euphemia had assisted extended friendship to the exiled young lady. Miss Euphemia stayed in the Confederacy until it ceased to exist; in June 1865, her father came and took her home to Maryland.
Sometimes it is difficult to imagine the personal conflicts of war. The traditional blue versus gray interpretation presents enough challenges; the endless question “what were they really fighting for?” is one example.
The situation in the Border States – particularly Maryland – begs for clearer interpretation. Civil War within a Civil War. Upon closer look, it becomes evident that the citizens of Maryland chose their sides; neutrality was a nice word, but not effective. Motivations differed, outcomes varied.
Ideals are admittedly complicated to fully grasp, especially when clouded by the passage of time. Slavery and its abolition certainly played a role in sparking the Civil War and motivated some soldiers to the battlefield, but it seems to have been a mote point in the lives and thought process of Douglas and Goldsborough. States’ rights and a belief that secession was an unspoken right guaranteed in the Constitution seems to have been a more important factor to them. Looking back, it may be challenging to understand with the ideas upheld in the past, but undoubtedly Henry K. Douglas and Euphemia Goldsborough leave unforgettable stories.
Henry Douglas looked across the Potomac River and saw his home occupied by the enemy. The very actions in camp or on the battlefield which won him honor and rank put his family in increasing danger. Euphemia Goldsborough smuggled food baskets into prisons and battled her way into field hospitals to care for the men fighting for a cause she believed in. Her actions brought her exile, and yet also won her the admiration of her adopted country. Surrounded by the storm of war in their own state, neighborhood, and city, these two young people decided what they supported and never looked back.
[i] Eileen F. Conklin, Women At Gettysburg, Revisited (2013), page 409.
[ii] Eileen F. Conklin, Women At Gettysburg, Revisited (2013), page 411.
[iii] Eileen F. Conklin, Women At Gettysburg, Revisited (2013), page 418.
[iv] Eileen F. Conklin, Women At Gettysburg, Revisited (2013), page 419-422.
[v] Eileen F. Conklin, Women At Gettysburg, Revisited (2013), page 422.