New England Women’s Auxiliary Association Meeting, 1864

This document calls on the women of the New England Women’s Auxiliary Association to do their part in supporting the Union during the Civil War by providing supplies for the troops. It is written by the New England Women’s Auxiliary Association’s chairman Abigail William May, who was significantly involved in social reform in the Boston area.

The Hannah Rantoul Collection is part of a larger collection of items belonging to the Rantoul family of Beverly, Massachusetts. Hannah Rantoul served as a liaison for the New England Sanitary Commission in the Beverly area and received many letters from servicemen and their families, thanking her for her efforts to procure donations of provisions, clothing, blankets, and other badly needed supplies for various Massachusetts infantries during the Civil War.

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New England Women’s Auxiliary Association.

Monthly Report.

Perhaps there has never been a moment, since the outbreak of the rebellion, when steadiness of purpose and calmness in action were so much needed as now, by all who would serve their country effectively.  Perplexed by the wildest rumors and most contradictory statements, we know not what to believe, what to say or to think, hardly how to feel.  In this uncertainty there is one sure thing left.  We know how to act.  The time has passed for any doubts in that direction.  Today there is plain work for every man, woman and child to do.  Everly loyal, christian citizen of the United States is interested in having the war ended as soon as it can be brought to a righteous conclusion; and every loyal, christian citizen, is, in a measure, responsible for doing the work required to end it.  Of course the men of the country have a wider field for exertion than the women.  They must govern – they must fight.  We are not called upon to do either.

But our sphere is very large.  When we have filled it utterly, it will widen.  There is no need for us to fear any limitation.  Are we filling it now?  Are we, first of all, trusting God to do His part of the work, and are we trying to inspire others to recognize and trust Him as they ought? If so, we have laid a right foundation.  Next, are we using what power of intellect we have in an endeavor to understand the great questions of the time, thus strengthening ourselves and those who look to us for counsel?  For this is not a war of revenge or retaliation. If it were, mere blows would settle it. It is a war solely for principles, and they must be studied and understood.  And are we lending our unwavering moral support to the Government and to those who are willing to fight; and discountenancing, with all our might, the lukewarm, the lazy, and those too much bent on personal satisfactions to do their duty to their country?  And are our sympathies keenly alive to the sufferings and sacrifices with which our land rings from end to end?  If we have been true in all these ways, we have indeed been helping on the war, no matter how insignificant we may be.  Last of all, has the work of our hands kept pace with that of our minds and hearts?

In a three years’ war these questions must have been often and deeply pondered by the women of our country, and we should be inexcusable in putting them again, at this late day, were it not that events seem now to be culminating and there is need a new survey of the field, and of our power to work therein.  Already we feel the beginning of an end which, as yet, is however undefined, waiting for us to give it shape, for good or ill.  Everything says, in words not to be mistaken, the time has come, the fields are fast whitening with the harvest; three months may settle the question, if we choose to settle it.  There is nothing to hinder.  On the brink of those three months we stand.  And we dare to say the war must end then.  We mean to do our part towards it.  We believe our brothers mean to do their part. We know that God only waits with infinite patience, till we are ready to follow him to victory.  He will not force us, but He will lead.  Now for once all hands shall be joined for thorough work.  Friends, are we so determined?  By our fruits we shall be known. 

The receipts of the past month show that the women of New England are not unaware of the great need of their labors.  They are:

1335 flannel drawers, 2017 new cotton drawers, 2188 flannel shirts, 2576 new cotton shirts, 960 old cotton shirts, 1385 woollen socks, 125 cotton socks, 7471 handkerchiefs, 1293 bed sacks, 420 pillows, 1818 pillow cases, 5955 towels, 1005 quilts, 1869 sheets, 1299 pairs slippers, 480 brogans, 328 wrappers, 350 caps, 796 arm slings, 114 cotton flannel shirts, 57 cases old cotton and linen, 34 cases bandages, 9 cases lint, 3 cases compresses, 800 blankets, 1 case and 1759 cushions and ring pillows, 74 body bandages, 329 hop cushions, 700 linen gaiters, 7 head rests, 338 fans, 139 canes and crutches, 41 bottles and 148 quarts and 1 pint domestic wine, 12 bottles California brandy, 120 bottles bay rum, 8 quarts shrub, 10 quarts 1 pint boiled cider, 42 lbs. coffee, 248 lbs. tea, 67 lbs. chocolate, 35 barrels dried apples, 678 lbs. maple sugar, 384 lbs. farinacea, 1 bbl. and 42 gallons pickled potatoes, 20 gallons pickled cucumbers, 5 cases spirit, 276 bottles cherry cordial, 327 bottles foreign wine, 20 boxes farina, 35 cases canned tomatoes, 121 lbs. beef stock, 18 lbs. dried beef, 1 bbl. potatoes, 48 cans and 12 lbs. condensed milk, 100 lbs. Indian meal, 1 bbl. and 39 lbs. sugar, 1 box and 83 lbs. jelly, 1 ½ bushels cranberries, ½ bbl. 1 firkin, and 24 quarts pickles, 20 lbs. hops, 16 qts. and 1 pt. cologne, 1 box dried herbs, 1 case groceries, 58 lbs. soap, 1032 lbs. dried fruit, 40 lbs. tallow, 25 lbs. sponge, 25 lbs. medicine and ointment, 1 camp bed with bedding, 16 cases books and pamphlets, 7 cases varieties, and 3 special cases.  Of these, 4699 garments have been cut at our rooms in the Savings Bank, and made gratuitously

A few words of the present needs in detail:

The demand for old cotton and linen and bandages is still and must continue to be very great.  We are steadily receiving them, and would ask a continuance, if possible an increase, of them all. Of all our friends who are disposed to aid us in this way, we would ask that the old cloth to be contributed should be examined piece by piece, and all that is strong enough for bandages should be taken for that purpose.  This is of first importance.  And next, that all pieces suitable for towels and handkerchiefs should be hemmed for those uses.  Every man accustomed to American habits of life needs his own towel and handkerchief.  The cloth may be old, or not of the description he is accustomed to, but the neat hem makes of it an article worthy of a name, that shall be a real comfort to some poor soldier.  Last of all will remain the pieces too small and worn for either of these uses.  Let these be rolled together, pinned strongly, and marked “old cotton and linen unfit for bandages, towels and handkerchiefs.”  In this way a second examination is saved, and other things are sped more quickly on their way.  For the benefit of some who have never seen our directions for bandages, we add them, trusting that our friends who are already familiar with them will pardon the repetition:

Bandages should be of old cloth, strong enough to bear a firm, steady pull. All selvages and seams should be torn off.  In piecing, lap one edge over the other without turnings, and sew firmly, close to each edge.  Roll tight and even, (bandage-rolling machines are inexpensive and very desirable,) mark the length on the outer end and fasten with two pins.  The most useful are from 2 1-2 to 3 1-2 inches wide, 5 to 8 yards long.  The roll should never be too large to be held easily in one hand.

We trust all friends of the soldier will remember in the right season the great need of dried fruits of all descriptions.  They are vastly better than jellies or preserves.

There is very great need, now, of fresh vegetables and other anti-scorbutics for Grant’s armies.  Some of our friends have sent us generous gifts in money to procure them.  An investigation of our market proving that it would be unsafe to buy largely for transportation at this distance from the field, we have ordered a supply to be bought in New York.  The bills have not as yet been received, and though the vegetables have gone to the soldiers, the money is yet in our treasury; but ready to meet the bills as soon as they are rendered.  A few vegetables have been sent in from the country, which were forwarded without an hour’s delay.

Let the soldiers dying of scurvy be remembered as the crops of vegetables are gathered. Surely our fair fields should send generous offerings to the men who are keeping the tide of war from overwhelming and devastating them.

If new needs occur they shall be promptly made known.  Meanwhile, the old ones are waiting, earnestly asking to be met.

Respectfully submitted by the Executive Committee.

Abby W. May, Chairman.

18 West Street, July 12, 1864


Abby W. May, New England Women’s Auxiliary Association Monthly Meeting (July 12, 1864). Endicott Collection: Rantoul Family Papers, 1773-1915. Historic Beverly, Beverly, MA.