150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War

(Passage from the Civil War Annals used with permission of the Provincial Archives)

On April 9, 1865, the surrender of the Confederate Army at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, marked the end of the Civil War. Daughters of Charity served in many locations both North and South over the course of the war, including the Confederate capital of Richmond. The account below was written by an unidentified Sister who was serving there when the city was evacuated, and at the time of the Confederate surrender. It is preserved in Notes of the Sisters’ Services in Military Hospitals, 1861-1865, also known as the Civil War Annals.

We may, perhaps, make some remarks on our condition at the time the City was evacuated, and the surrendering of the Army took place. Notwithstanding the foresight of the Authorities on the coming defeat, still its arrival was of most appalling excitement. Medical stores, commissary departments and houses of merchandise were thrown open. Liquors flowed down the streets, that by preventing its dangerous effects. Some confusion might be spared. Stores became public property. Our poor City was trembling from the closing up of the Gun-boats in the river that bounded the City on the east. —- Toward morning we thought it better to secure the Holy Mass early, for fear of what a few hours more might show forth … We were preparing for it, when suddenly a terrific explosion stunned, as it were, the power of thought. The noise of the breaking of windows in our hospital and neighboring dwellings added greatly to the alarm, as it seemed, for the moment, as an entire destruction. Fearing it might be the bursting of the first shells, the good Chaplain thought it better to give the Holy Communion to the Sister and then consume the blessed hosts. Presently, however we learned that the Confederates had blown up their own supplies of powder, which were very near us. These followed the explosion of all the Government buildings … We passed that eventful day with as much composure as our trust in our good Lord enabled us to do, tho’ from time to time, we were in evident danger of having our House, with its helpless inmates all destroyed …

After the surrender, a Federal Officer rode up to the door, told us we were perfectly safe, that property should be respected, that he would send a guard to protect the house & etc. His visit was fortunate, for presently a band of Negroes came and ordered our doors to be opened. The Srs. pretending not to understand them, were slow to obey, and this caused one to say out very imperatively, open dem gates, whose property dis? Oh! said Sister, this belongs to the Srs. of Charity. Col. D – has been here, everything has been attended to, all is right. He immediately passed the words to his comrades, and they rode off.

Our Sisters from the various Hospitals took Home-ward directions, with hearts & minds still more weary than their bodies …

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