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Gentle Annie: A Daughter Of The Regiment
by [?]

FORT SUMTER had been fired on!

The whole country was in a state of flaming excitement. Up to that time there had been a division of sentiment in the North, and many thought that by patient effort the seceding States could be brought back into the Union–that there would never be any serious fighting–but now all that was changed.

In a measure the Northerners were unprepared for war, and the regular army was then very small, but one month after the inauguration of President Lincoln he issued a call for seventy-five thousand volunteers for three months’ service only, and the war between North and South began in earnest.

In every part of the country there was one absorbing topic of conversation, while men were being hastily gathered into companies, officers were forming their regiments to march to the scene of conflict, women were hurriedly joining hospital brigades, and the government was rushing the purchase and manufacture of ammunition and weapons, and collecting an adequate supply of horses and army-wagons, camp equipments and provisions and uniforms for the soldiers.

In every State there was an individual flurry of preparation while men and women made ready to leave homes and families, for the sake of their country. When the first enlistment took place, Annie Etheredge, a young woman whose childhood and early girlhood had been passed in Wisconsin, was in Detroit visiting some friends, and the set of young women with whom she associated became so filled with the enthusiasm of war that nineteen of them offered themselves to go as nurses with the Second Michigan volunteers under Colonel Richardson. This offer was accepted and all bade brave farewells to their families and friends, and set out with the regiment, to help and to heal wherever opportunity offered. But theirs were hands and hearts not accustomed to such work, and at the end of a few months, eighteen of them returned to their homes, having been unable to bear the sights and service of the battlefield. But it was not so with Annie Etheredge. Her brave spirit and heroic character never gave way under the most severe strain, and as we follow her through those sombre days, we give thanks for such a pure, strong example of what a woman, however young, may be. To Tennessee went Annie with her regiment, and was transferred to Michigan, where she had many friends and was with that regiment in every battle in which they took part.

It took very little time to discover the value of her services and General Berry, who for a long time commanded the brigade to which Annie’s regiment was attached, soon declared that the young woman was as self-possessed under a hot fire of shot and shell as he was himself–and that was a good deal for the gallant commander to acknowledge of one of the opposite sex!

Annie was provided with a fine horse, a side-saddle, and saddle bags, as well as two pistols which she carried in her holster, but never used, and so fitted out she rode fearlessly to the front in the skirmish of Blackburn’s Ford and in the first battle of Bull Run. Her keen eye was always quick to discover where there was need of assistance, and she would gallop to a wounded soldier who was too severely hurt to go to the rear, dismount, and regardless of the fire of shot and shell often whizzing around her, would skilfully bind up his wounds, give him water or a necessary stimulant, say a cheery word,–then gallop on to her next patient. So tender and soothing a nurse was she that the soldiers called her “Gentle Annie,” and many an eye watched with eager affection as the horse carrying her girlish figure came in sight following the troops.

In the second battle of Bull Run, on the 29th of August, 1861, Annie was standing on a part of the battle-field where there was a rocky ledge, under the protection of which some wounded soldiers had crawled. Seeing this, Annie lingered behind the troops, helped several other injured men to the same retreat, and was soon busy dressing their wounds. One of the fellows was a fine looking boy whose lips were parched and his eyes brilliant with fever. She gave him a refreshing drink, then bound up his wounds, receiving in return a bright glance of gratitude and a faint “God’s blessing on you,” just as the rebel battery literally tore him to pieces under her very hands, while at the same moment she saw the enemy, almost within touch, and she was obliged to make a hasty flight or she too would have been killed.