Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Civil War Chronicles, Month 10

This Civil War lady is Lucy Webb Hayes. She was born August 28, 1831. She was the daughter of a doctor from Lexington, KY. Contrary to his southern roots, Lucy's father opposed slavery. He devoted much of his medical practice to caring for former slaves and died of cholera contracted from son of his patients when Lucy was 2.
Lucy's mother believed in education for her children and even moved the family to be near Wesleyan College in Ohio so all her children could receive an education. Hoping to avoid any forced marriage for Lucy, she even enrolled her in Wesleyan's program for women which was unusual as few women received college degrees at the time.
Rutherford Hayes was a Cincinnati lawyer when he began courting Lucy. Her mother approved of the match and the couple married in 1852. Lucy was deeply religious and adamantly opposed to slavery. Soon, her husband shared her beliefs on both topics.
In part fueled by Lucy's devotion to the anti-slavery cause, Rutherford joined the military in 1861 when he was almost forty years old. Lucy's brother joined the same Ohio regiment as a surgeon. Lucy often packed up her family and mother and traveled to join them on the battlefield, helping her brother care for wounded soldiers. Her concern for her husband's troops led them to nickname her "Mother Lucy." She could be found mending uniforms, helping when they were sick or listening to their troubles.
When Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Lucy rejoiced with others in the North. Then, when Lincoln was assassinated five days later, she expressed her sorrow: "From such great joy how soon we are filled with sorrow of the endless talk of forgiveness and taking them back as brothers. Justice and Mercy should go together."
Joining her husband to review Union troops in 1865, she again mourned the loss of soldiers she had considered friends: "While my heart is filled with joy at the thought of our might country...the sad thought of thousands who would never gladden home with their presence made the joyful scene mingled with so much sadness...that I could not shake it off."
Hayes' performance in the war made him a popular figure in Ohio and he was elected to both congress and the state's Governor. Then, in 1876, he was elected President of the United States. Lucy served as an elegant and charming presidential wife, garnering the name "First Lady" from a Washington reporter, a term which has continued in popular use. She was the first presidential wife to hold a college degree.
From the Homestead Hearth, Mexico, MO.

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