Louise M. Davidson
April 27, 1861
Before any Maine soldier fired a weapon in the Civil War, people from throughout the state contributed what they thought would be needed to help the cause.
For Louise Davidson, a prominent member of Augusta society and the daughter of a former Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, Nathan B. Weston, Jr., that meant money.
She sent Governor Israel Washburn $20.
Some Maine men who were far wealthier than Davidson also donated money, sometimes thousands of dollars.
But her generous impulse was shared by women of all social and economic conditions in communities across the nation. Throughout the War ladies everywhere pitched in with monetary contributions, organized bazaars, bake sales and raffles; sewed shirts, put up jams and jellies, knitted socks and mittens, rolled bandages, and sought to provide necessities and delicacies not issued by the army and which were desperately needed by hospitals.
According to James North in his "History of Augusta," when the 3rd Maine Regiment left the state, ladies organizations produced 1,513 sheets, 1920 towels, and 1480 Havelock caps..."and a dressing case containing needles, thread, scissors, and other small articles, and a white handkerchief and a testament for each member of the Augusta companies." (James North, "The History of Augusta," page 724)
A favorite means of accomplishing these objectives was to hold a "bee" at someone's house – a "quilting bee" or a "sewing bee" for example – and spend the day chatting, enjoying refreshments and helping the troops at the same time.
The "Light Brigade" announced in the newspaper clipping Davidson sent to the Governor was never organized. Her $20 was most likely transferred to one of the regiments then being mustered in Augusta.
Davidson's stationery featured a black border, indicating that she was in mourning. At this early date in the war, it was not for a soldier, but for the death of a relative or close friend. It was customary then to mark the loss of loved ones in this way, and by wearing black clothing and sometimes hanging black crepe at the front door or in the windows of one's home. As the War dragged on and casualties mounted, more and more people would be seen wearing black clothes or black armbands.
Questions and further research:
- What would Louisa’s $20 be worth in today’s money?
- Have you ever participated in a "bee" of any kind?