Today was a very momentous day in the life of Duxbury’s own Civil War Nurse, Charlotte Bradford. It marked the end of her tenure as a matron aboard the United States Sanitary Commission’s Transport Ships and the beginning of her life as a U.S. Army nurse under Dorothea Dix. Her journal entry to mark the occassion is quite simple, “Thursday 4th. Taken leave of Fortress Monroe and at 5 1/2 started in the port for Baltimore. Most beautiful evening.” It belies the anxiety she felt just a few days earlier when she wondered what would become of her.
Although the battles during the Civil War raged in the South, the thoughts of every Northerner were never far from the front. Any first-hand account of the war was eagerly repeated to family and friends through visits and correspondence. During the late summer of 1861 Duxbury native Charlotte Bradford shared information she had gathered about the recent battle at Bull Run with her sister, Maria, then living in Yellow Springs, Ohio with her husband, Claudius. Charlotte wrote her sister of Dr. Josiah Bartlett’s experience assisting the wounded (Bartlett was a doctor and the husband of the Bradford’s cousin Martha). She also described the travails of a family friend, Frank Frothingham, who had fought in the battle with the 5th Massachusetts. Interspersed with the gruesome details of the war, were more homely accounts of day to day activities in Duxbury, such as “working for the soldiers” in the Methodist Vestry and entertaining house guests.
In future blog entries we will learn more of Charlotte Bradford as she heads off for Washington, DC to begin her career as a Civil War nurse. The following, however, is a letter written months before she considered leaving for the South.
Duxbury, Aug. 18, 
I intended to have written you long before now but we have had so much company and so much to do, and I have been so tired, that I had no chance to do it. The middle of July Lizzie Ripley and Sarah E[llison] came down. Lizzie spent a week. Her mother [Sarah Alden Ripley] was coming the next week, but I had a lame knee and had to put off their visit. The most of that week and the next we went to the Methodist vestry to work for the soldiers. The 1st of August E[lizabeth] and I went to Abington. There was very fine speaking there, but the seats in the ground were so wet that we came home most awfully tired…Ezra Ripley[i] has gone to Fortress Monroe. He is lieutenant of one of the companies. How unfortunate our troops should have been beaten twice. I am afraid it will not be quite so easy for the North to conquer as they have boasted. Josiah [Bartlett] took a trip to Washington and was present at the Bull Run fight and assisted in dressing the wounds at the hospital at Centreville. Frank Frothingham[ii] is here. He was in the battle in the Mass. 5th Regiment. They had nothing to eat from Saturday night till Monday noon. They marched 8 miles in the morning into the battle, then 45 miles or more Sunday night and Monday morning, arrived in Washington wet through in a drenching rain, and Monday night 45 of them slept in a kitchen with a brick floor and only 2 windows which had to be kept shut on account of their being so wet with no change of clothing. It must have been dreadful. In the morning an acquaintance found Frank in a high fever and took him to a friend’s house where he was cared for.
Mother sends her love to you and Claudius and says she wants to see you very much. Give my love to Claudius.
[i] Ezra Ripley was the son of the noted Transcendentalist and Bradford cousin, Sarah Alden Bradford Ripley. The Ripleys lived in the Old Manse in Concord, MA. Ezra Ripley enlisted as a 1st Lieutenant on 24 July 1861 at the age of 35 in Company B, 29th Massachusetts Infantry. He died of disease on July 28, 1863 in Vicksburg, MS.
[ii] Frank Frothingham was from Charlestown, MA. He enlisted, at the age of 23, in the 5th Massachusetts, Company K for 30 days from May 1, 1861 until July 31, 1861. He then served with Company A, 33rd Infantry Regiment as a Lieutenant and with Company I, 3rd Massachusetts Calvalry as a Captain. He was mustered out of the Army on June 5, 1865.