Thursday, May 12, 2011
Civil War Quilt, Block 3, Flock of Geese
The Civil War Chronicles for this quilt is Arabella Griffith Barlow. She was born Feb 1824. She knew tragedy at a young age. Her parents divorced when she was 2 years old and her father died the following year. She was sent to live with an aunt. She developed into a gracious, educated young woman.
At age 20, she travelled to New York to work as a governess. While there she met Francis Barlow and the two were married on April 20, 1861. Though she was twleve years older than her husband, the two had a secure and happy relationship.
With the threat of war looming, Francis volunteered as a soldier for the state of New York. Since Arabella believed the war would last a while, she joined the United States Sanitary Commission as a nurse, knowing that would allow her to remain near Francis as the conflict increased.
She was working in Baltimore when she received word that a major battle had been fought near Sharpsburg, Maryland. Referred to in the north as Antietam, the battle was brutal, resulting in many casualties. Arabella traveled to the battlefield, arriving just in time to see her husband being carried into a tent, gravely wounded. She spent months nursing Francis back to health.
Eventally Francis rejoined his troops and fought in the battle of Gettysburg where he was again seriously wounded. A Confederate messenger brought news of his condition to Arabella and she sought permission to cross enemy lines and retrieve her husband. Union commanders denied her request. So she travelled to the battlefield alone and snuck into Confederate territory. While there, southern officials took pity on her and helped locate her husband, allowing her to bring him back to Union territory. Once again she spent months nursing him back to health.
Once Francis returned to the battlefied, she continued her work as a nurse, laboring long hours with little regard for own welfare. In time the workload took its toll and Arabella contracted a serious infecton. After weeks of illness, she died of typhoid fever on July 27, 1864.
In remembering Arabella one of the doctors that worked with her commented: "Here in the open field, she toiled under the scorching sun, with no shelter from the pouring rains, with no thought but for those who were suffering and dying all around her. On the battle field of Petersburg, hardly out of range of the enemy, among the wounded, with her sympathies and powers of both mind and body strained to the last degree, neither conscious that she was working beyond her strength, nor realizing the extreme exhaustion of her system, she fainted at her work, and found that the raging fever was wasting her life away. So many memories of her rich and glowing sympathies, her warm and loving nature come back to me, that I feel how inadequate would be any tribute I could pay to her worth."
News of his wife's death devastated Francis Barlow and he took an extended leave from the Army. He returned to service just three days before the surrender at Appomattox.
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