American History Stories—Volume IV - Mara L. Pratt

The Home Side of the War Picture

It would not be fair at all to the women and children of these times, neither do I think it would be a true story of the war if I were to tell you of nothing but the battles. Battles are terrible enough; or if you think so, grand enough, and brave enough. But you must not think that the whole of war is carried on in the battle-field.

Suppose, little boy and little girl, there were a war going on in our country to-day. Suppose your father were to go as a soldier to this war. He might look very fine as he marched away in his blue coat, with its gilt braid and its brass buttons. You might be very proud of him, as no doubt you would be; but do you think that would be all, just your seeing him look handsome and brave, and your feeling proud of him?

I am afraid after he had gone and the house was so quiet, and mamma looked so pale and white, and every day when the newspaper came you hardly dared read it for fear you would learn that your papa had been shot dead, or that he had been put into the black prisons—I am afraid you would come to think that there was something more to war than plumes and brass buttons.

And suppose, by and by, you should hear that your papa was starving, that his shoes and stockings were all worn out, and that his feet were lame and sore from marching the hot, rough roads, and that he was sick and dying!

Suppose as the long weeks went on, mamma should have to go out to find some work to earn money to feed you and your little brothers and sisters—would war seem then a beautiful thing, do you think?

But this is what always does come into the homes when the papas and the big brothers go to the battle field. Mamma's heart grows very heavy, I fear; and the little children, too, begin to learn that war is a sad, sad thing.

But in this civil war of ours, I must tell you how brave these mothers and children were. How generous they were and how willing to work.

The rich sent money and food for the soldiers most freely; but the clothes, the stockings,—these things came usually from the poor who had no money to give. Everywhere societies were formed, called "Soldiers' Relief Societies." The rich would bring to these societies money and cloth and yarn, and the poor people who had nothing to give, would take the cloth and the yarn home to make up into clothes and stockings for the soldiers. In among these wretched battles, I must tell you a story now and then about these good women and children.