Civilians at War: The Relief Association of Rankin County, Mississippi

The Confederate armies in the field would never have lasted as long as they did if it had not been for the support they received from friends and loved ones at home. Civilians directly supported the war effort by sewing uniforms, sending packages of food to the front, and by taking care of sick and wounded soldiers. During the course of the war a number of volunteer organizations were started in Mississippi specifically to provide support for the soldiers from the Magnolia State. The following newspaper articles illustrate the work done by one of these organizations – the Relief Association of Rankin County. These articles, clipped from the Mississippian, are from the J.L. Power Scrapbook, Z/o742.000, at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

John Logan Power was born in Ireland in 1843, and immigrated to the United States when he was 16 years old. He settled in Jackson, Mississippi in 1855. When the Civil War started he quickly went to the aid of his adopted state and joined the Confederate army, serving as an officer in Company A, 1st Mississippi Light Artillery. In 1864 he was appointed superintendent of army records for the state of Mississippi, and in that capacity he began keeping a scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings of casualty lists from Mississippi regiments, lists of the sick and wounded, and lists of those who died in hospitals in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Virginia. It also contains the obituaries of individual soldiers and reports of battles in which Mississippi units were engaged.

The following are just three of the many clippings in the Power scrapbook, illustrating the work of just one relief organization from the state that sought to aid the Mississippi soldiers that were fighting in the Atlanta Campaign:

Brandon, June 24, 1864

Editor Mississippian Extra:

Dear Sir – The enclosed letter from Dr. W.R. Chew, the agent of the Relief Association of Rankin County was received yesterday too late for publication in the Brandon Republican of this week; and although it is a private letter and was not intended for publication by the Doctor, the Executive Committee here determined to publish it as the best mode of addressing the public on the important subject to which it relates; and as no time should be lost in collecting and forwarding money and supplies for the benefit of the sick and wounded soldiers at Atlanta, we hope you will give the letter a place in your paper.

Our Association was formed here about one month ago. It is independent of any State aid or other relief association and is designed especially to relieve the wants of Mississippians. Our agent at Atlanta is an estimable Christian gentleman and a good physician. He gives his personal attention to the wants and necessities of Mississippi soldiers, receives and distributes in person the supplies we forward, and thus we are assured that those for whom the supplies are intended do actually get them.

We have thus far contributed about $2000 in money and 10 boxes of supplies of provisions and clothing, rags, etc.

Through the Brandon Republican we did several weeks ago invite the people of other counties in this State to organize similar associations, and we now again urge the prompt and zealous c0-operation of all _____ people in this charitable and patriotic enterprise.

Respectfully,

Richard Cooper

J.H.D. Bowmar

Geo. WM. Shelton

Executive Committee

P.S. – Any supplies sent to us at Brandon will be forwarded by us to Dr. Chew

Mississippi Depot, Atlanta, Ga.,

June 18, 1864

Messrs. Cooper, Shelton and Bowmar:

GENTS. – I have received one box of the sundries forwarded about the 9th inst. The other box mentioned in Judge Shelton’s letter, has not yet reached me, but have no doubt it will be on in a few days.

The labors of the various relief committees are daily increasing. Besides the wounded who are coming in by every train, the constant rains have increased the amount of sickness to a fearful extent. Pneumonia and diarrhea are the prevailing diseases. I am sorry to say, the mortality from sickness is much greater than from wounds. I witnessed the death of two Mississippians on yesterday: Capt. Henry Fawle, of Natchez, and Lieut. Nelson, of Canton, both young men in the prime of life. Capt. Hargrove is doing well. I think he will be able to get a furlough and go home by the last of the present month.

It is impossible to estimate the amount of good accomplished by the various relief committees here. I am sorry to inform you I am the only one from Mississippi giving personal attention to the wounded. It is difficult for me to decide where I ought to be. – Messages are constantly coming to me to go to the front, and at the same time hundreds of cases here claim my attention. Every county in Mississippi ought to have at least one here engaged in giving relief. If nothing more than merely visiting the sufferers is done, that amounts to much. I am satisfied I have saved the life of one by my visits. He says he feels like he will now get well since my presence has given him so much comfort. To give you some idea of what we are doing in the way of refreshments to the sick and wounded as they are brought down from the front. Let me inform you, we distribute to them before they are taken to the various hospitals, from fifty to one hundred and fifty loaves of bread, besides biscuit and crackers, three to five gallons of pure coffee, and other things that we can get. The relief is given in the car shed and is attended to upon the arrival of every train. Many of the sufferers are so exhausted from the pain and the loss of blood, were it not for the untiring vigilance of our committees, many would sink before they could reach the hospital. If you could hear the expressions of gratitude and thankfulness of the poor fellows, you would realize the necessity and duty of bringing every means together to increase our facilities to assist them.

We have to buy all the bread and coffee and sugar. The prices are very high here and much money is needed. Urge the different counties to go into this matter. The butter you sent is a most valuable item. It is worth here eight dollars per pound.

I suppose the telegraph keeps you posted in army matters. A general engagement is expected daily. In all probability, a decisive battle will be fought before this reaches you. The death of Gen. Polk is universally lamented. The army was never more confident, and every train from the south carries additions to the force in front. It is singular what anxiety is expressed by the wounded to get well in order to join their comrades in the field. No regrets – no despondency is expressed by any.

I hope to hear from you often. Send on everything you can get. Nothing comes amiss. Many of the poor fellows are out of money and cannot draw any. I have to purchase them many little comforts. Some have lost all their clothes. The old clothing sent comes into immediate use.

Very truly, your friend

W.R. Chew

The final article related a list of items and money donated to the Relief Association:

We acknowledge the receipt of the following supplies and money since our last report: From Mrs. Dr. Farrar, box of sundries and twenty dollars. From Master Ben Sherrod, ten dollars. From Thomas N. Norrell and Miss Norrell, bundles of old clothes, bandages and $20. From Mrs. Quinn, 14 pounds of butter. From Mr. Lewis Myers and others, butter, eggs, clothes, etc. Cash, twenty dollars. From Mr. Ferguson and others, one box, delivered at Pelahatchie Depot. From the young ladies of Mr. Cameron’s School, one hundred and five dollars. We forwarded, in charge of Thomas H. Johnson, on Monday last, nine hundred and seventy eight dollars, par funds, and six boxes sundries, weighing 570 pounds.

Butter, eggs and hams are solicited as the most desirable contributions, and such vegetables as will bear transportation – onions, potatoes, etc.

J.H.D. Bowmar, Treas’r.

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