At Daily Observations from The Civil War, I publish daily writings from letters and diaries of 150 years ago, scheduling posts well in advance to keep from getting overwhelmed or behind.
While working with War Letters of William Thompson Lusk, I came across some familiar names. On August 11, 1861, Lt. Lusk writes to his mother, “I have been fortunate in meeting several friends most unexpectedly during the last few days. Miss Woolsey was at our encampment on some errand of mercy yesterday evening. I saw her for a few moments, and promised to call upon her and Mrs. Howland soon, which I shall do if allowed to leave the camp. The laws are very strict though now, and I doubt whether I shall be able to leave the camp for some time to come.”
Miss Woolsey was Georgeanna Muirson Woolsey and Mrs. Howland was her sister, Eliza Woolsey Howland. Many of their civil war letters – and those of other family members – are preserved in Letters of a Family During the War for the Union, another book I have been working with. There, Eliza Howland writes to her husband on October 1, 1861, “Very little to tell you about except a few calls, including one from Mrs. General Franklin to ask us to take tea with her to-night. Lieutenant Lusk of the 79th, whom we used to know as “Willy” Lusk, also came. He seems to have grown up into a very fine young fellow, handsome and gentlemanly, and with the same sweet expression he had as a child. He was studying medicine in Europe when the war broke out, but came home at once and enlisted as Lieutenant in the 79th, where he is now Acting Captain—so many of the regiment were either killed or taken prisoners at Bull Run.”
Georgeanna and Eliza lived together in Washington, D.C., while Eliza’s husband, Joseph served in the Union Army of the Potomac. When the Army of the Potomac left the Washington area, they tried to get permission to travel with it. However, they were unsuccessful until the Sanitary Commission gave them positions on the hospital ship Daniel Webster.
All three survived the war.
Eliza and her husband returned to their home in New York after he was wounded in 1862 at the Battle of Gaines’ Mill, effectively ending his military career.
Georgeanna became very prominent in nursing during the war and after, including being one of the principle founders of the Connecticut Training School for Nurses.
William took part in engagements at Blackburn’s Ford, First Bull Run, Port Royal, James Island, Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and many other minor battles. He was also a staff officer of Isaac I. Stevens until Stevens’ death, and he commanded two companies during the Draft Riots of 1863. When his command was sent to Delaware and designated as inactive, he resigned and returned to medical school.