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Lowell Stories: Women's History

Abba Goddard (1819-1873)


Nurse writing a Letter for a Union Soldier, National Park Service. 


Abba Goddard (1819-1873), born in Mansfield, Connecticut, daughter of Samuel Brigham Goddard and Hannah Skiff. Samuel Goddard moved his family to Lowell in 1834 to work as a machinist and Superintendent of the Lowell Machine Shop.
As a young woman in the 1840s, Abba Goddard wrote for the “Lowell Offering” under the pen names A.G.A and A.A.G. In the 1850s, she moved to Portland, Maine. In October 1861 she left Portland with five other women to accompany the Tenth Maine Infantry and serve as nurse. “Miss Goddard will receive the blessings of our sick boys to the end of life,” stated John M. Gould, a veteran of the Tenth Maine."

“Taking Care of Those in Need” from National Park Service
“In 1862, a stately brick mansion overlooking the picturesque water gap at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, was converted into "Clayton General Hospital." Long tents were pitched in the yard, and by the third week of July, this former armory paymaster's quarters housed 285 patients.

"I noticed a heap of amputated feet, legs, arms, hands, etc. -- about a load for a one-horse cart. Several dead bodies lie near, each covered with its brown woolen blanket" --- Walt Whitman

“Mrs. Abba A. Goddard [ed correction: Miss Abba A. Goddard] traveled over 600 miles from Portland, Maine to care or the soldiers of her hometown's 10th Maine Infantry at Clayton. She was named "Matron of the General Hospital." Despite the limited medical services and comforts provided by the government, Goddard worked to make the hospital as comfortable as possible. Within two weeks of her arrival, she solicited donations from civilians and received seventeen boxes filled with slippers, socks, fans, pin cushions, towels, handkerchiefs and checkerboards.

Lockwood House, Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, converted into a hospital, known as the Clayton General Hospital, Library of Congress.
“In 1862, Harpers Ferry came under heavy fire from the Confederate army in the mountains around the town. Goddard rode out the bombardment in the hospital. After the town fell to the Confederates, Goddard personally hid seven African American hospital cooks and laundresses in the basement of the hospital to prevent their capture by the Confederates. After days of enemy occupation Goddard wrote, “I am almost tired of night watching and my revolver begins to grow weary.
“In early September, the hospital was closed and the patients moved to nearby Frederick, Maryland. "The cause of this sudden removal is a mystery," Goddard reported. "I am informed that some important events are about to transpire." She did not know that approximately 28,000 Confederates were marching on Harpers Ferry and that many more wounded would soon be in need of assistance.
“Nearly 10,000 soldiers passed through the Frederick hospitals alone in the aftermath of the Maryland Campaign. Many of the patients who could be safely moved were quickly transferred by railroad to the large hospitals in Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia. Many others were treated in Frederick until they recovered enough to be transferred, discharged or returned to their units.
“The patients were treated by a combination of Army and civilian surgeons, volunteer female nurses, enlisted male nurses, medical cadets, cooks, and laundresses. In addition to the medical staff and employees, many private citizens helped out as they could. Supplemental food, clothing, medical supplies and various personal items were donated to the hospital and the patients by the Frederick Ladies Relief Association and other private groups.”

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From National Park Service “Taking Care of Those in Need”