Soon after this, I was made glad by the sight of my friend, Mrs. Judge Ingersol. People say her daughter, Mrs. Gov. Chamberlain, is a beauty, but she is not old enough ever to have been as beautiful as her mother, that day, in her plain widow’s dress, walking among the wounded, with her calm face so full of strength and gentleness.
She and Mrs. Barlow had hatched a rebellion. In the city was a barn containing straw, for want of which our men were dying. It was guarded by one of Gen. Barlow’s men. Mrs. Barlow took two others, went with them, placed herself in front of the guard, told them to break open the barn and carry out the straw, and him to fire, if he thought it is duty; but he must reach them through her. The man’s orders were to guard the barn; with the straw out of it he had nothing to do. The men moved side and side, going in and out, and she kept in range to cover them until the last armful had been removed. It was taken away and was to be distributed; but there was still so little compared to the need, that there must be consultation about the manner of using it. Mrs. Ingersol thought it should be made into small pillows, and volunteered to undertake that work; as the Commission could furnish muslin, I thought this best. She found a loft, and engaged several Fredericksburg women to work for pay. They worked one day, but did not return on the second. There were a good many Union women there by this time, who should have helped, but few could confine themselves to obscure work in a loft, when there was so much excitement on the streets. There was no authority to hold any one to steady employment; and so about two-thirds the helpers who reached Fredericksburg, spent a large part of their time in an aimless wandering and wondering, and finding so much to be done, could do nothing.
So, most of the time Mrs. Ingersol was in her loft alone, except the orderlies who stuffed her slips, sewed up the ends and carried them off to the places she designated; but she had nimble fingers, and sleight-of-hand, and turned out a surprising number of small straw pillows.
As my allowance came, the question was what to do with them. They were too precious for use. What should I do with those scraps of white on that field of grime? Our gaunt horror became grotesque, in view of such unwonted luxuries. What! A whole dozen or two little straw pillows among one hundred and sixty men! Who should elect the aristocrats to be cradled in such luxury amid that world of want?