19 February 1864: “We are rather hard up at the Hospital, as the $1.25 cents barely feeds the men. Congress had doubled the allowance but the law does not take effect for a month.”

Item Description: Letter, 19 February 1864, from Phoebe Yates Pember, a nurse at Chimborazo Hospital originally from Savannah, Georgia. In it, she describes life in the hospital and in Baltimore, sentiment about the war, and economic problems. Phoebe would survive the war and travel much of Europe, dying in 1913.

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Item Citation: Folder 1 of the Phoebe Yates Pember Collection #02232-z, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item Transcription:

Chimborazo Hosp. 19th Feb 1864

Dearest Lin,

You were so good answering my letter so soon that I cannot help replying immediately to yours received yesterday without however having anything very special to say. I hope that I may be bale to hold my pen, for the thermometer is only ten degrees below zero, the river hard frozen, and my early walk from Franklin St. over that bridge (not of Sighs) of [?] is anything but thawing. My hands feel stiff even now as for being either useful or ornamental this space I give up the attempt, it is even hard to keep clean, see the water being ice.

I saw Lucy and the baby both very pretty, though the style of bringing up already would make your hair stand on end. It has half a dozen regular nurses and any number of irregular ones. I flatter myself that I rescued it from suffocation from the warmth and height of the blankets and other comfortable things one mild evening. It is very pretty and has a very healthy way of crying. I have seen Major Alexander very often lately in the subject of a pair of cavalry tents, having a new pet in the Maryland cavalry who has none. He is only eighteen but unfortunately requires as much leather as thirty would. You see I can afford to be generous now as I am the healthy profession of three thousand a year, Dr. McCaw having announced that important fact to me yesterday. Are you not happy to hear that my country thus requires my important services. 

We are rather hard up at the Hospital, as the $1.25 cents barely feeds the men. Congress had doubled the allowance but the law does not take effect for a month. In the meantime we do our  best to prevent dissatisfaction. We are now a Maryland hospital at my particular request. The Virginians are not kind in feeling and act, to their sister state ([?] the Georgians to S. Ca.) and so my [?] of equity and justice was [arinsed?] and  I have taken them all. I suppose I must not say to my cousin under my protecting win. For the first time I feel the sweets of gratitude, and Mr. Henry Lansfeld of Baltimore who came to negotiate the exchange of Gen. Trumble for White, told me that my name was a household word in Baltimore, which is very agreeable. 

I pass the house every morning, sometimes see Peter and the Generals house, which looks very well, and one day Mr. Baylor and I (who has joined company to walk out in morning) drove Thaddeus all the way home from a security? very near the Market. He saw him safely home before he left him.  Lt Col and Mrs. Herens I do not see much, they were very kind in professions and offers, but to speak plainly as I always do to you, there is more talk than anything else. Her transactions are too clever for me and I am not quite up to her management. Mr. Crewshaw I have seen getting into his buggy in [?] and very lame from severe rheumatism and there is no Church Hill news at all. When the Yankee prisoners escaped there was a guard placed around the Van Lev’s house and grounds. The Confederate government here to debate minded to search the premises. 

In spite of all your disbelief Mrs. Skinner is as good as gold, which is very good in these days, and the house is more like a home than any I could have found. If through [wrong?] judgement or any other reason she charged me too much she certainly makes up for it in other ways, and I make over to her as much again as I pay to equalize matters. I could not be more pleasantly situated. Sallie Lauten’s house is about three squares from Mrs. Skinner’s, the first long the corner of 8th and Marshall, the latter of 6th and Franklin, so that she is quite accessible. I took her a package of marrow, prepared in a cake to send you; it was not as much as I would have liked to collect, but being Lent, Stephen finds that is does not comport with his Christianity to eat anything but Hospital cornbread and marrow. By the by he is getting more pains and meaness and religion seem in his case to go hand in hand. He says he has grew up tobcco to be enabled to save what he spent in that article to give to the widows and orphans. I don’t know what they get but I do know that he loves black mail upon every man he comes across for smoking and chewing purposes, and there has been a general improvement in this hospital , every man by his own account having “no tobacco”. Between the necessity of doing his duty and his fear of his superior officers he is generally in a pitiable state. I have an idea that he will remain in a state proper to central a hospital three months longer, but no wonder that when the stomach is kept so heavy the hair gets light. He is the smallest of [?]

Of the gaity I am not complaint to write having here a part in only one of the entertainments and then feeling out of place, so much so that I retired for the season If Spartan austerity is to run our independence, we are a lost nation. I do not like the signs and fear the uniting on the wall might in time come to us. Now the community are also on their as yet mischevious finance bill. Her two days we have been unable to purchase anything; no one understanding the technicalities and fearful under the circumstances of losing some advantage. Even when willing to see the difficulty of change presents itself, small bills long at a premium. I read the hill, commencing carefully, feeling the responsibility clenching in me as the holder of five one hundred dollar bills and before I get to the second clause I gave up as quietly as Martin Scott can, and “came down”.

Can I get a piece of black and white plaid gingham in Savannah. If I can at seven or eight dollars a yard like your boy the whole piece for me, and write me to that effect. I want the plant equal, it washes so well, and cannot get any in Richmond. Perhaps they have it in the wholesale store there, as they are apt to buy that description of goods for the southern market. I have not received any straw that was promised but will make another effort. I did try a couple of months after you left, and then gave it up, but will stir Dr. Van on the subject. 

My best love to the general and remembrance to Mrs. Puler and the girls_ Most affectionately yours P. Y. P. 

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