A Woman Doctor's Civil War
A Woman Doctor's Civil War is the edited diary of Esther Hill Hawks, a physician and wife of a physician, written from 1862 to 1866 while she lived in South Carolina and Florida. She went south to be near her husband, and to serve as a teacher for the Freedmen's Aid Society. During the war years she lived in and around Beaufort and Charleston, South Carolina, and Jacksonville, Florida.
Although her diary has been edited somewhat, her personality is still clearly seen. A woman of incredible energy, I see her as very much a do-er. Spelling was not something she worried about, and her writing must have been more for her own memories, rather than to inform or edify an audience. She takes note of certain people and events that pleased her or were important because of the people involved. Her love was clearly for those she served, whether in hospitals, schools/classes, or the orphanage she helped establish in Charleston at the end of the war. She spent a lot of time apart from her husband, as he was serving the wounded and sick in the regiment - not a place for a woman. But by living in South Carolina and Florida she was able to see him more often than she could have had she remained at home in New Hampshire.
Esther Hill Hawks and her husband were never blessed with children, and she grieved the loss of motherhood. I think that may have been why she loved her students and patients so much - it gave her an outlet for her compassionate and nurturing tendencies.
Seeing the war and the South through the eyes of Esther Hill Hawks, a northern woman, was an educational experience for me. I hope that the rest of her diaries will someday be found and published, as I'd like to read about her post-war life (which was busy as a doctor and educator) through her own words as well.