Up among the mountains, in a farming district, lived a mother and her daughters. They were very poor—too poor by far to buy anything to send the soldiers.
Twelve miles away, over the mountain, was a town in which was one of these "Soldiers' Relief Societies."
"Let us go over the mountain, daughters," said the old mother, "and bring home some work to do for the soldiers. We have no money to give, but, we can find a little time, I am sure, to work for them."
"Yes, indeed," said the daughters; "we can get up earlier and milk the cows, and feed the chickens and the pigs; we can hurry a little with our planting and all the rest of the farm-work, and so make time to sew and knit for the soldiers."
Now, when you think that these three women had all the work to do both in the house and on the farm, and that their farm was all the means of gaining food that they had, you can see that they had quite as much to do as they had time or strength for without taking work home. Nevertheless every two weeks one of these three women used to ride into the village for work. Poorly clad, looking always as if very little of the good things of life had ever come to them, dusty and tired from their long ride, back and forth they came with their little offerings of work.
"I presume you have some dear one in the army," said one of the officers to these women one day.
"No," said they; "none now; our only brother was killed at the Battle of Ball's Bluff. But for his sake, and for our country's sake, we do all we can for the soldiers."
In another little village, lived a widow and her one little girl. Papa had left them to join the army. Mamma worked and the little girl worked for food and clothes till papa should come back to them. But one day the news came that he could never come to them again—he had fallen in the battle of Fair Oaks. They worked on still; and although they earned so little, they saved enough money, and found enough time, to make a quilt for the hospital, a pair of socks and a shirt. All winter long, these two, mother and child, worked through the long evenings to make these. "Papa died in the hospital," the little girl used to say; "and perhaps he needed these things. Perhaps some other little girl made the quilt that kept him warm, so we will make this one to keep some other good soldier warm."
Many a little girl went without candy in these days, many a little boy went without toys, that they might save their money for the soldiers.
One, little girl, only five years old, knit a pair of stockings to send to the soldiers. Such a little girl! I suspect her mamma had now and then to take a stitch for her on them. But nevertheless the little girl's love was in them from top to toe. On them she pinned a little note, saying, "These socks was nit by a little gurl fiv yers old and she is going to nit lots more for the dere soljers."
I hope the soldier who got these stockings was one who had a little girl at home himself. Then I am sure he would understand what hours and hours of hard work this baby girl had put into this pair of socks.
Another little girl, Emma Andrews, only ten years old, used to come to the rooms of the Society in her town every Saturday and fill her basket with pieces of linen which had been sent in for bandages for the wounded soldiers. These she would take home, and cut up into nice towels or handkerchiefs, or roll them into neat bandages, and bring them back the next week. Her busy little fingers made over three hundred towels, all neatly hemmed and folded.
It is said that counting up all the money the children saved, together with the value of their work, they as good as sent over a hundred thousand dollars to aid the Union soldiers during this war.
The very old women, too, some of them so old that they could remember the days of the Revolution even, did their part. Thousands of stockings these half blind old grandmammas would knit, while their thoughts, I fancy, ran back over those years so long ago, when they had seen their fathers go away to fight for this same country in 1812, and in 1775.
One old lady, ninety-seven years old, spun a woollen blanket, and carried it a mile and a half to the Society to send to these soldiers. "It is all I could do," said she; "and I had to bring it myself."
Another old lady, Mrs. Bartlett of Medford, Mass., knit over a hundred and ninety pairs of socks for the Union soldiers.