The Women’s Relief Corps and the Grand Army of the Republic
Marshall’s legacy as an important dinosaur excavator is a story that we can tell because of the paleontology work he did for Othniel Marsh also for Charles Gilmore who took Marshall’s work and elevated an appreciation of it. Amanda’s story is different. It may have never been told at all if it were not for a series of rather remarkable and timely coincidences that are the focus of this chapter.
If we could single out one thing that enabled recognition of Amanda’s Civil War service was development of the Women’s Relief Corps (WRC). This background is about the WRC and it’s parent organization, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). In addition to recognition of Amanda’s story by the WRC, the work of both GAR and WRC enabled an expanded appreciation of Amanda’s work beyond those organizations. On a more practical level it enabled Marshall and Amanda receive relatively small but highly significant pensions near the end of their lives and with some of that money will visit their Vermont homes, family, and friends late in life.
The Grand Army of the Republic image above is modified from an image courtesy of the Library of Congress.
The Grand Army of the Republic
The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was the fraternal organization composed of Union soldiers who had served honorably during the Civil war. It was founded by Dr. Benjamin F. Stephenson in Springfield, Illinois on April 6, 1866 based on the principles of “Fraternity, Charity and Loyalty,” Initially GAR provided a path for Union veterans to maintain connection and camaraderie with their fellow soldiers while recognizing the common cause they all still believed in. Early on they began to encourage a broader respect by the public for the cause many union veterans died for. On May 5, 1868 the head of GAR General John A. Logan declared May 30 to be Memorial Day. GAR felt it was a way to recognize war casualties, missing-in-action, and deceased veterans. The organization evolved over time to become more of an overall advocacy group supporting aging Union veterans and one of their chief causes was obtaining pensions for disabled veterans in need.
By 1880 there were local GAR posts in almost every community across the country and about 250,000 members in 1880 growing to 490,000 dedicated and committed members by 1890. In 1888 GAR was at the peak of its political influence when it helped elect presidential candidate Benjamin Harrison (a Civil War veteran and advocate of pensions for veterans) to the presidency over Grover Cleveland who had vetoed pension benefits in 1887.
On June 27, 1890, the Dependent and Disability Pension Act was signed into law after Harrison’s victory. There had been some limited existing pension legislation for disabled veterans as early as 1866 but it was something Marshall along with many other veterans never pursued. Within three years of passage of this legislation several hundred thousand aging and disabled veterans sought and received assistance through this much more comprehensive legislation.
The Women’s Relief Corps
Before GAR took off in the 1880’s, it was struggling financially and therefore having difficulty providing aid to many veterans in need. In 1878 and 1879 women’s organizations also interested in Civil War veterans began to develop in Massachusetts and Ohio and over the next couple of years more local women’s groups began coming together. Simultaneously J.F. Lovering, the GAR “Chaplain-in-Chief” began traveling to various GAR posts and including their 1881, 14th annual encampment. Lovering understood that it was women that could help GAR more than anything else achieve its goals so he took the opportunity to call attention to the importance of an officially recognized women’s auxiliary and GAR responded passing a resolution to encourage formation of a National Women’s Relief Corps (WRC). Women from several states came together in Denver Colorado on July 25 and 26 1883 and formally adopted GAR’s resolution. A national organization was formed and GAR warmly welcomed the WRC as an official auxiliary organization. The National Convention in Denver also signified that Colorado had a strong contingent of women who supported the cause.
The mission of the WRC became two-fold. First, it was there to assist GAR by aiding needy veterans. Secondly, the WRC was aware that there was a few thousand women who valiantly served in nursing type rolls during the Civil War but many were now indigent and in need of assistance and talk began about WRC supporting pension legislation. When word spread that WRC was pushing for pensions for nurses, they were inundated with hundreds of letters from army nurses requesting support. At the time the WRC had less than a hundred dollars for this type of need and as expected were no such position to do so. (Metheny 2013)
The WRC began pushing forward the idea of a federal Army Nurse Pension Act to assist nurses in need. They also recognized that it would take time to achieve this goal and they also understood that the first priority of GAR was the hundreds of thousands of disabled male veterans. In the meantime, there were women in need and the WRC was looking to establish legislative precedents and “special act pensions” came into fashion. (Metheny 2013)
The Women’s Relief Corps (WRC) informally began looking for women who were deserving based on their service records, paragons of Victorian womanhood, and ministering angels. Claimants would need to prove their case to a Congressional Pension Committee which would in turn present the case before Congress if they felt the nurse had provided valuable and faithful service, and had an inability to provide for herself due to disability or old age.
These special acts of Congress for Civil War nurses proved to be a crucial stepping stone for the Army Nurses Pension Act which ultimately passed on August 5, 1892. Attention to duty, good behavior and manners, modest demeanor, and what was termed “Christian character” along with an inability to provide for oneself due to disability or old age were the key ingredients and it all counted toward the nurse’s ability to receive a special pension. (Metheny 2013)
Over the next four years a relatively small number of women veterans applied for a pension using this process. Ultimately it would be determined that about 6,000 nurses were eligible for a pension but only about 2,500 would apply for a pension under either a special act or later on the Army Nurse Pension Act. (Schultz, Jane E. 2004)
The image of the medal to the right is courtesy of the Women’s Relief Corps. FCL refers to fraternity, charity, and loyalty as it also does on GAR medals. 1883 signifies the year the organization was formed.
A Broader Mission
The Women’s Relief Corps (WRC) had an initial focus was to improve the lives of both Union veterans and their families and army nurses but like their parent organization GAR, the scope of their mission grew to include preservation and protection of the cause the Civil War veterans fought for. The WRC members were devoted to the principles and values the Civil War was fought for and believed in patriotism and loyalty, obedience to law and order, responsibility and discipline of self, honesty, sobriety, and industry, elevating character and morals. They fought for civics education in our schools so students would understand and support the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and our system of government. They didn’t just focus on young students they also helped new immigrants assimilate into our country. They worked to honor the Union soldiers and nurses who served the nation in the Civil War and memorialize their victory. They instilled a reverence for symbols of the American nation such as the U.S. flag and Constitution. Memorial Day is just one example of this, something started by GAR but carried forward by WRC. Over time they even fought for child labor legislation, mandatory education for children, pensions for mothers, policies to improve maternal and infant health, and even humane policies for animals. (Kennedy, 2017)
The WRC became a powerful and far reaching women’s activist organization but they were hamstrung because they did not have the right to vote. Their ability to effectuate positive legislative changes was severely hampered because of it. They were therefore strongly supportive of the suffrage movement which became a particularly powerful movement in Colorado in the late 1880’s and early 1890’s about the time Amanda will file a pension application.
Is About Petered Out
In early 1887 Marshall was as ready as possible to begin excavating dinosaur bones but question marks about availability of funding were once again prevalent. Marsh was still wanting missing parts and was convinced they were hidden somewhere in the quarry walls so he would find some funding one way or another. Marshall needed to know if Marsh wanted just certain parts such as a particular skull or if he wanted the more careful approach and much slower approach Marshall had become accustomed to. On April 10, 1887 Marshall wrote; “I wish to know is – whether I shall continue on as we have for the past two seasons….in this way is terribly slow and tedious… or push on ‘till we find some continuous skeleton like No. 4 or 11 – throwing all else aside and working out that of most value?”
Marsh wrote back encouraging the slow and tedious methodology but, as always, he would be pushing hard for key parts; in other words he wanted it both ways. Marshall went back to work that spring and found a number of foot bones of a sauropod, well defined claws of a theropod, a number of other bones, but no Stegosaurus. Marshall wrote on June 19, 1887; “There were 14 (boxes) in all – three wagon loads – between 4 and 5 thousand pounds – somewhat more than I expected before packing”
On September 14,1887 Marshall wrote that they had found; “bones here belonging to the carnivorous beast and to some of the larger sauropod”. Earlier on September 4, he wrote; “some remains of an animal of immense size” referring to the same larger sauropod.
Marshall had seen a lot of dinosaur bones by now and although there was some promise he could tell that the old quarry by the end of September was at the end of its life. His honesty and integrity would not allow him to deceive Professor Marsh and on October 16 he wrote; “appearances indicate and work proves that in one direction at least the good bones are worked out – and that we are off from the “pay streak”. Earlier on the 1st of October he wrote that he had; “come to the conclusion that our old quarry, that has produced so many of good – bad & indifferent specimens – is about ‘petered out’”.
Quarry Number Two
By the end of 1887 it was clear that the old quarry had produced as much as could be done unless some extensive removal of overlying rock took place in the northwest corner of the quarry. It was so deeply buried that Marshall didn’t have the capability to do it but he also believed that it wouldn’t be successful because he felt that they were working outside of the stream channel which contained the main bone bed.
Marshall wanted to continue though and thought back and remembered that in 1883 Fred Brown had worked across the gully at a completely different site. What Marshall also noticed was that if he projected the line of the river channel he had been excavating, it seemed to connect with where Brown had been working. He took a close look and observed that there was only about 6 or 7 feet of overlying rock from where the bones would be buried and so it might be possible to open up a new quarry with limited removal of overlying rock. He also felt that with the experience he had gathered over the last few years he would be able to more effectively work the quarry.
On June 17, 1888 Marshall wrote; “if you wish I will start in there and make one more trial… My plan would be however as stated in my last – to put in force enough for two months or so in Quarry No. 2 to make a thorough development there – and see if better results could not be obtained than for last year’s work – and should it not turn out to our expectations – go back on to the old quarry – or elsewhere, or throw it up altogether.”
Marsh somewhat reluctantly agreed and once work began, Marshall worked it for about 2 months. The overall results were disappointing though. The bones were both more scattered and highly fractured. Marsh was also coming to the realization that the old quarry had provided most all it was going to and he was not feeling as compelled to push Marshall hard for results.
Marshall was not making any outstanding discoveries at the new quarry and so Marshal did not send in these bones right away to Marsh. These bones would in fact never arrive at Yale because of an incident Marshall confessed to Marsh two and a half years later.
Sadie’s Trip to New England
Sadie came away from the military academy with a quality education and a natural curiosity about the world around her. In 1888 she made a trip to New England to visit her parents families and touch the place she had only heard about. On December 5, 1888 Marshall wrote to Professor Marsh; “She left home on the last of May last – has visited in Prov. Boston – Lowell – Manchester– Montreal – and some dozen other places including the White Mtns. and other localities in N. H. & Vr with her relatives – and with the exception of some 30 or 40 dollars has paid the entire expenses of the trip herself – from moneys she had earned and saved at one time and another – a fact that I am somewhat proud of myself – when so few young people can be found that are self-reliant.” Marshall continued; “my daughter is still east – and may stay through the winter – with a married daughter of mine and her half sister.” Marshall’s daughter from his first marriage was Carrie and therefore Sadie’s half sister. Carrie was seven years older than Sadie and was married now to John Colby and they had one little girl of their own.
On Christmas day 1888 Marshall wrote to Professor Marsh asking Marsh to provide money somewhat on an emergency basis get Sadie home as quickly as possible; “I write to ask if you can let my daughter have some money on my act. to come home with – as I am growing steadily worse and with little if any prospect of getting around again. I wrote to her some little time since telling her that I was having one of my attacks = heart failure = and she then wanted to come home but I told her to stay and complete her visit – and then enter a training school if she wished to – but as I am getting worse all the time – I would like to have her come back and see me once more. We got a letter from her yesterday saying that she was going to New Haven as soon as you returned – about the 10” of Jan. and I thought if she had to wait from that time until you could send the money to me – and then to have it sent back again it would make it too late – and that the best way if you were willing to do so would be to send her a check for 100 dollars on my account…I only take this method to hasten up matters = as it will make from 10 days to 2 weeks difference about getting home.”
Professor Marsh responded on January 10,1889; Your daughter arrived here today from Providence, in good health, and will remain till Saturday when she will start, [the next day from] New York for Chicago, where she expects to arrive Monday morning.
Sadie did safely arrive back home and on February 3, 1889 Sadie, not Marshall, wrote to Marsh; “Since I came home, we have been unable to do any work in the “Bone Yard”, owing to the snowy and stormy weather we have had. Papa is not able to do any work at present, but is better than when I came home. What work remains to be done I think that Ned and I can easily finish, as soon as the weather will allow.”
A Painful Confession
Marshall wrote to Marsh on February 3, 1891 that he had not sent in the specimens from Quarry 2 right away because they didn’t seem to amount to much compared to past work; “it seemed to me that compared with the work of some former years the lot was of but little account – there being nothing new or of much interest, although we had gone over a good deal of ground and worked hard to get it. Marshall continued that over the winter of 1889; “I had not been able to do anything – and the bones still on hand = all snug and safe as we supposed – nothing ever having been meddled with up to that time – the packages all inside a tent made of new wagon sheet – pegged down tight –and fastened securely.”
Marshall then shared that when he and Amanda made a trip to Denver in the late fall of 1890 that all the bones had been vandalized; “our tent, some picks and other tools were stolen – the packages cut open – scattered – mixed and strewn around so that everything was ruined.” Marshall wrote that the vandalism was committed by; “a fellow named Geo. Bronson – a roving – wood and tie chopper and hunter – at work here at the time for a company that were boring for oil. I never had a dozen words with the scamp but he and Ned had some trifling dispute and he took that way to get even – and also to steal a good tent to take with him” Marshall described a young fellow’s knowledge of Bronson; “After he had left here for parts unknown a young fellow that came with Bronson from the mountains in the fall … told us who done and why it was done … that Bronson was a desperate character – and he feared him – and that if we had attempted to prosecute him –he would have tried to do us still worse damage – but if I had of known it at the time – I would have got after him and took all the chances.”
Marshall then confessed to Marsh why he had not said anything; “Taking this in connection with my long sickness and the expenses attending it – debts accumulating – poor crops on the farm – no chance to sell anything at any price – completely disheartened me – and I gave up and didn’t care much how things went –knew I should write you and tell the truth about matters – but I didn’t have the nerve and courage to do it…Now that I have made a full statement and confession – I wish to know what I can do for you to make up for my neglect and omission of duty in the past.”
Marshall then expressed sincere appreciation to Marsh for all he has done: “our family are well and desired to be remembered to you – though Sadie is at present attending a school out in Kansas. Thanking you again for your great kindness and consideration in the past… I am… Very Respectfully Yours”.
Marshall shared his misgivings about the potential for new discoveries at the old quarry but he was willing to continue work because they were struggling financially as a family during 1887 and 1888.
On May 12, 1887 Marshall wrote; “have about run out of money – though I had some 150 dollars come in for hay and other produce sold – besides what you sent.”
Professor Marsh was notoriously late in paying everyone and on September 14, 1887 Marshall wrote; “It seems you have forgotten what I wrote in regard to the vouchers and back accounts”. In the same letter Marshall wrote; “cloud bursts – hail storms were almost of daily occurrence – our crops suffered more than ever before – our lands were many times overflowed – and in come cases entirely carried away along the creek – I having during one night lost nearly an acre of my best bottom land”
On November 7,1887 Marshall wrote that he thought Marsh’s check was so late that he thought it had been lost. He was relieved it arrived but it was insufficient to cover Marshall’s duty to pay off a quarry worker who was getting ready to leave. Marshall then shared with Marsh that he was deeply in debt sharing; “I have got so far behind in some of my payments”.
Marshall wrote on the 7th of September, 1888; “I was compelled for the first time since you made me a loan to borrow money from the bank”
On the November 11, 1888 Marshal wrote; “it has been a bad year for me, for besides the bad luck on the quarry – our crops have been a partial failure, a total loss of 5 acres of potatoes, and only about half a hay crop, owing to the lack of water for irrigation – as the summer has been with us the driest we ever had.”
I.C. Russel: The Photographs
About the time Marshall was getting ready to start work at Quarry 2 and Sadie was in New England, a geologist and photographer with the U.S. Geological Survey named Israel C. Russel spent time in the area collecting invertebrate fossils and photographing geological sites, including the old quarry.
On July 9, 1888 Marshall wrote; “Mr. Russel has been here and gone – I spent the most of two days with him – showing everything of interest and in making measures of the different stratas in the Jurassic. He expresses himself as highly pleased and well satisfied with his visit here – and astonished at finding such a great variety of fossils – especially the mollusks – a box of which we packed up to send to the National Museum. He had his photographic apparatus along and took several views of the strata along the creek – and some of our quarry – which he will finish up on his return to Washington –and will send you some copies.”
Russel took two photographs of the old quarry with Marshall in both pictures. They represent the moment in time when, according to Marshal, the old quarry was “petered out”.
I.C. Russel took the photo above looking north across the gully at the quarry. Marshall Felch is visible on the left side of the picture. The new quarry (no. 2) that Marshall was planning to work was to the left (west) of where I.C. Russel was standing when he took this photo. Courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey and the Yale Peabody Museum.
The left image above looks west toward the Old Quarry and Marshall Felch can be seen in the foreground overlooking the gully. The image above right is an enhanced close up version of Marshall. Photograph courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey and the Yale Peabody Museum.
Russel also photographed Marshall and Amanda when he was here in front of their their farm house above left. The photo above right is a close up and enhanced version of the photograph. It is probable that from left to right; Ned (standing), possibly William Shepherd (sitting), Marshall (standing), and Amanda (sitting). Photo is courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey and the Yale Peabody Museum.
Loretta Bailey began a research effort to figure out who the man sitting was and came to the conclusion that it was William Shepherd.
Shepherd was a minister who arrived early to the area, preaching at an early shared church located in an abandoned army barracks in Cañon City. He was also a blacksmith in those early days in the late 1860’s when Marshall and Amanda established a foothold in Garden Park when there were only a couple of hundred residents in the whole area so it seems unlikely they would have not met. The Felch family and his family also had a number of mutual acquaintances. In fact, one of William daughters married one of the Lucas’s. Two factors that point to the man being William Shepherd are: 1) Loretta found a picture of Williams son (William Jr) that almost identical to the man sitting in the chair and 2) William Shepherd attended the first meeting of a Territorial Women’s Suffrage Society at Unity Church in Denver on January 10, 1876 with a Ms. Sheetz as representatives from Canon City. (Loretta Bailey, personal communication, 6/27/2019)
In 1888 Amanda was in the process of making her application for a pension application and that process was conducted in conjunction with work underway by the Women’s Relief Corps. It would be likely William was up at the ranch that day on a visit with Amanda if he had both an interest in the women’s suffrage issue and he already knew the Felch’s. The connection between Amanda and the suffrage movement will be explained in detail in this chapter.
Amanda’s Pension Application
About the time I.C. Russel was taking pictures of Amanda and Marshall in front of their ranch house, an active Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) post along with a supporting Women’s Relief Corps (WRC) organization in Canon City were in place. Across the country, the Women’s Relief Corps (WRC) was was very active and one of their missions was looking for “ministering angels”, that is nurses who served in the Civil War with exceptional moral standards. A nurse who had worked for the Sanitary Commission or even better worked for Dorothy Dix would only have been selected if they had extremely high moral standards so by the fact that Amanda worked for Dorothea Dix answered any question related to moral standards.
The second question was more difficult. Amanda had served on the front lines as a regimental nurse with her own medical wagon beginning in 1862 but she was not paid that year nor the next. Nothing could be more difficult for anyone to do than tend dead, dying and severely injured soldiers crying out for help but many of the relatively few women who served in these roles were not paid and therefore they were not in the official regimental records. Twenty years later many of these aging women were in need of assistance but in order to get it they would have to work much harder to establish their record of service.
Although Amanda considered work away from the battle front as less significant and less noble, it was fortunate in early 1864 that General Grant ordered all woman off the front lines in anticipation of the battlefield carnage that was about to happen. When Amanda arrived in Washington D.C. she met with and went to work for Dorothea Dix. Other than about two weeks in Fredericksburg following the Battle of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Amanda went to work at the White House on the Pamunkey River, City Point near the Petersburg siege lines, and a short stint in the Shenandoah Valley campaign where she was on official duty for the remainder of the war. The advantage of this work was that in 1887 and 1888 when she was getting ready to apply for a pension, she could provide official documentation of her service in 1864 and 1865.
The wheels of congress were as slow then as they are today and pension legislation for nurses was still on the horizon. In the meantime, the WRC began pushing forward hand picked pension applications, or test cases, in order to shed light on what worked and what didn’t in order to ultimately pass pension legislation on behalf of Civil War Nurses.
It didn’t take much of a leap of faith for local WRC and GAR members to recognize that Amanda had exceptional battle front experience and that she was also someone who had served under Dorothea Dix. Amanda was a natural fit and so she was encouraged to make an application realizing that she would need to document her service record in 1862 and 1863 through the testimony of Army soldiers who knew her. .
My Dear Comrade
Marshall and Amanda did the work and on December 19, 1888 Marshall Felch wrote to a Capt. M.M. Montgomery on behalf of Amanda’s nine page pension application;
My dear Comrade,
Please find enclosed my wife’s statement of her service while in the army—drawn up at the insistence of Judge Symes, M.C. from Colo. As a first step toward preparing a special bill in regard to her pension which he will try to get in at the present session if possible.
Judge Symes is very enthusiastic in the matter, is well acquainted with Gen. Grout and says that between them both there will be no trouble he thinks in prosecuting the claim to a successful termination.
He would like to hear as many as can who knew my wife in the army to sign it—stating their rank—and any of them who feel like adding anything over their respective names if ever so brief—as Maj. And Pro. Mar. A.W. Brazee has already done it will be gratefully appreciated.
We send the document to you first—thinking you may have authority – from the action taken in the matter at your re-union in Oct – to sign it in their behalf—and then have it presented to others to sign individually.
Judge Symes spoke of Col. S. E. Pingree as one well known to him by reputation—and one whose endorsement would be a great help.
We know that we are asking you to take a great deal of trouble—but know of no one “ (end of page one, page two is missing)
The Missing Second Page
Page two of this letter has never been located but from it we can deduce that Marshall and Amanda prepared a statement of her service under the guidance and direction of the WRC and GAR. Once it was ready it could be shepherded through congress under the direction of Colorado Congressman Symes and Vermont Congressman Grout, a congressman in the second district in Vermont who grew up in the St. Johnsbury area, attended the Orleans Liberal Institute in Glover for several years, became a brigadier general in the Civil War, and was a congressman at the time of Amanda’s application.
The letter implies that Marshall and Amanda knew Capt. Montgomery and that he was present in October of 1888 when a commitment was made to pursue a special pension request for Amanda. It also seems that Marshall was asking Capt. Montgomery to obtain signatures on Amanda’s pension application which would entail either hand delivering them or sending the same letter around to each person while ensuring the signature page was not lost. Captain Montgomery was successful in gaining eight signatures of army soldiers who served in the War documenting her service.
The Signers of Amanda’s Application
Sometime in early 1889 eight former members of the sixth Army Corps signed Amanda’s application stating;
“We hereby certify that we personally knew Mrs. Farnham, now Mrs. M.P. Felch of Canon City, Colorado and believe the foregoing statement she has made in regard to her services while in the army are true and further that she should have some reward for her arduous and faithful duties with the sick and wounded, for whom she devoted nearly four years of her life with but little compensation.”
The eight men who signed Amanda’s application included;
Andrew W. Brazee: Initially a Major in the 49th New York Volunteers and later on the Provost Marshall where he was in charge of the second Division of the 6th Corps military police.
George W. Bonnett: Bonnet was an enlisted soldier with the Vermont 3rd Regiment. On the morning of April 2, 1865 Bonnet was awarded a medal for gallantry during the Vermont troops breakthrough of Confederate lines paving the way for the collapse of Confederate lines that had held firm for nine months. One week after the breakthrough, General Lee surrendered at Appomattox.
Carlton Felch: A Sergeant with company G of the 3rd Vermont Regiment. Felch had longest record of service for a Vermont volunteer. No known relationship to Marshall Felch.
William Hubbard: Enlisted as a private at the beginning of the war with the Vermont 3rd infantry. At the end of the war he was a major.
Marshall Montgomery: Began as an soldier in the Vermont 3rd infantry. Promoted to captain during the war and led company D of the 10th Colored Infantry.
Samuel Everett Pingree: Enlisted as a private at the beginning of the war and was quickly promoted to Captain and later to Major for meritorious conduct. He was severely wounded at the Battle of Lee’s Mills but returned with 2 1/2 months. By 1864 he was a lieutenant colonel and helped repulse General Early’s attack on Washington. He went on to become Lieutenant Governor and later Governor of Vermont.
Nathaniel G. Reed: An infantry solider who honorably served with the Vermont 3rd.
Thomas Orville Seaver; Was chosen to be Captain of Company F of the Vermont Third by the other soldiers at the beginning of the war. Over time he was promoted to Major, then Lieutenant Colonel and later Colonel. He received the Medal of Honor for leadership during the Battle of Spotsylvania where; “Colonel Seaver advanced, and under a most galling fire, occupied the rebel works while the other regiments of the attacking column fell back and some of the regiment that didn’t hear the order to retreat remained in the works obstinately holding them against all attacks of the enemy until late in the evening, refusing to fall back until they received positive orders to do so.” (Welch 2019)
A Pension for a War Nurse
On June 3rd 1890 the Congressional Committee on Invalid Persons stated; “There is no question that the service was rendered as stated and that the claimant is entitled to a pension….” This was recorded as US Congressional Serial Set Issue 2813 to accompany HR 8388.
This positive recommendation was picked up the Colorado Chieftain who reported on June 15, 1890; “A Pension for a War Nurse: The house committee on invalid pensions has ordered a favorable report on the bill granting a pension to Mrs. Amanda P. Felch of Canon City, Colo., who was a nurse during the war. but amends the bill so as to give her $12 a month instead of S25.”
Lowering the amount to $12 a month was not a personal slight to Amanda, a decision had been made that in order to eventually pass the Army Nurse Pension Act, all nurses would receive $12 a month for their service.
On March 3, 1891 a special act pension was given to Amanda Felch; “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of American in Congress assembled, That the Secretary of the Interior be, and he hereby is, authorized and directed to place upon the pension-rolls the name of Mrs. M.P. Felch, at the rate of twelve dollars per month, for services rendered during the late war as a hospital nurse, subject to the provisions and limitations of pension laws.” The law was then signed by President Benjamin Harrison.
Local and regional GAR/WRC representatives along with close friends must have been ecstatic that Amanda had been thanked by the federal government for her service as a Civil War Nurse, twenty six years after the war was over. It is through the process and completion of Amanda’s pension that constitutes the first official recognition of her work in the Civil War.
It would be impossible to talk about Army nurses receiving a pension without recognition of Annie Wittenmyer. About the time Amanda’s application was being considered by congress, Annie was pushing legislation forward. In December, 1889, the Army Nurse Pension Act (ANPA) had made it through the Senate, and was now waiting to come before the House. Wittenmyer issued a Circular Letter asking for WRC Corps and Departments to sign petitions supporting the bill, and to return them in two weeks’ time. Annies plea to the WRC members to use any and all political connections to bring pressure to bear on Congress had not gone unheard as in two weeks, the WRC collected over 160,000 signatures.(Metheny 2013)
The bill still languished in the halls of congress for another two years so in 1892 Wittenmyer spent five weeks in Washington, living in a third-story backroom in order to economize so she could spend her days lobbying congress. Just days before the summer recess, the Senate agreed to a compromise bill, and the ANPA finally passed on July 27, 1892. The only sign of celebration was the relieved headline in the GAR’s and WRC’s newspaper, the National Tribune, “The Bill Which Finally Passed.”(Metheny 2013)
Memorializing Amanda’s Service
Mary Gardner Holland became a nurse for the Union Cause in 1864 when she served fourteen months in hospitals around the Washington, D.C., area. Later in life she decided to write a book about nurses who served in the Civil War. Her reasoning for telling this story is made clear in the introduction of her book;
“… only desiring to serve where duty called, without pay or hope of reward. Many died of exposure and disease contracted in the service. Many returned with health impaired; and some, be it said with shame and sorrow, died in poverty. Until within a few years no official recognition has ever been given them by the Government which they served so well. Some three years since a pension bill was passed, giving them twelve dollars a month, but the record of their service is so imperfect that it is almost impossible to prove a claim, and a large proportion go to their graves unrecognized and unrewarded; yet while their names are written on no army roll, and but few books have been published telling the story of their services, their memory will ever live in the hearts of the veterans they nursed with such tender care, and they will never grow weary of telling to their children and children’s children the story of the loving, tender, and Christian ministrations of those “angels of mercy.” (Holland, 1895)
The Select Few
The Women’s Relief Corps (WRC) and the Army Nurses Association (ANA) were bringing the pension issue for Civil War Nurses to the forefront and by 1890 the war department went through countless war records and documented over 22,000 women had served as nurses, hospital matrons, laundresses, or cooks and of these 6,284 were nurses. Over time, both before and after the Army Nurse Pension Act passed, 2,448 veteran nurses applied for pensions. One of them was Amanda.
These pension applications, particularly those applications written for special act legislation, had already been screened by the WRC and therefore would have been a gold mine of information for Mary Holland. Of these, she would select approximately 100 women to write about and, as we might expect it included Amanda.
‘Once Holland decided who among these women were so special that they were going to be included in her book she; “undertook the arduous work of securing the addresses of all I could locate, and have received letters and photographs of more than can be contained in this book.” (Holland, 1895)
Mary Holland logically would have contacted selected nurses by letter well before the book was published in 1895, so probably in the 1890 to 1894 time period. The story of each nurse in Holland’s Book is typically signed at the end by the nurse themselves, but in a few cases, including Amanda’s, someone wrote on behalf of the nurse and signed the letter. Amanda’s Letter is signed; “M.P. Felch – (For his wife Amanda, deceased)”. This almost certainly confirms that that the letter was submitted in 1894 and in another light that Marshall deeply appreciated Amanda.
Its the string of coincidences that makes Hollands discovery of Amanda interesting. If a pension application had not been submitted for Amanda and then Hollands discovery of it, followed by Marshall’s letter outlining many more details of Amanda’s service, it’s extremely unlikely that Amanda’s story would have been memorialized. Holland’s book is actually just the stepping off point of readily accessible information about Amanda although subsequent books and website information all seem to be based almost exclusively upon her book.
It is this shared knowledge and appreciation of her bravery, fortitude, and compassion during the Civil War that is considered her second recognition.
A Disability Pension for Marshall
One of the major achievements of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) organization was passage of the Dependent and Disability Pension Act on the 27th of June, 1890. This legislation was designed to assist aging, disabled, and sometimes indigent Union veterans. This pension act was signed into law almost entirely because of GAR’s strong support of Benjamin Harrison and his election as President in 1889. By 1893 about 400,000 Union Civil War veterans applied for assistance after passage of the pension law.
Marshall learned about passage of the act from a friend in Denver. With his friends assistance, he and Amanda began the application process. The process began the fall of 1890 after the act was passed and Amanda provided the testimony; “On this 6 day of November, 1890, at Canon City, County of Fremont, State of Colorado, before me, Rodney Chipp, a Special Examiner of the Pension Office, personally appeared Amanda M. Felch, who, being by me first duly sworn to answer truly all interrogatories propounded to her during this Special Examination of aforesaid pension claim, deposes and says: ‘I am 57 years of age, am the wife of this claimant’…”
Marshall was present at this testimony but too ill to speak. At the end of the testimony Marshall acknowledged that everything Amanda had said was true. This testimony is a primary source of information used throughout this book about Marshall’s health.
Marshall wrote to Professor Marsh on February 10, 1891 stating; “the result of our trip to Denver last winter began to crop out – Gov. Cooper through Proctor got my claim made special – and the result was last week I got my first money – with back pay enough to pay up the debts, and then have three or four hundred dollars for my wife and I to go back and make our old home and relatives in New England a good visit.” Proctor is most likely Redfield Proctor, the well known governor and senator from Vermont who had served with the Vermont 3rd regiment in the Civil War.
On March 3, 1891 a special act pension was finally presented to Amanda Felch and therefore her money would have arrived probably in the late spring of 1891. Marshall received his pension money around the first of February of 1891 even though his application was submitted two full years after Amanda’s. Either way, early 1891 was a time when some very needed funding assistance arrived for both of these worthy Civil War veterans.
Marshall and maybe Amanda Visit New England
It is assumed that Amanda came with Marshall on this trip but there is no specific confirmation of it. From what is reported here, it would not make a significant difference one way or another so for argument sake we will assume that she was there.
On February 10,1891 Marshall wrote to Marsh; “I got my first money – with back pay enough to pay up the debts, and then have three or four hundred dollars for my wife and I to go back and make our old home and relatives in New England a good visit…and I did say once that I would never return to New England unless I could go in some kind of shape – but am getting over that and think it my duty to visit my old father and mother in any kind of style I can get there in… If I go back home I want to visit you at New Haven – and feel free and all right to do so –for next to making a visit to the old homestead I think I should enjoy that as much or more than anywhere else.” The old homestead was the hill farm east of Piermont New Hampshire.
Professor Marsh wrote on the 18th of February; “If you come East, I hope you will visit New Haven and see all my fossil treasures, both those you have sent me and the later monsters from the Cretaceous. I shall be glad to see you at any time, but, as I am away from home a great deal, please let me know beforehand about when you expect to come”.
On June 9,1891 Marshall and Amanda had indeed arrived in New England and Marshall wrote; “I arrived here some three weeks since – am enjoying my visit first rate – and feeling better in health every day of my stay. I go from here to Post Mills, Vermont tomorrow where I shall make a visit of a week or ten days and then to Providence R. I. unless the weather gets too warm – in which case I may go up to Montreal until the extreme hot weather is over. Before returning from Providence or before going there I thought if you were to be at home for a few days that I would go to New Haven – go there direct from Post Mills in ten days or so – or go to Providence first and from there to New Haven and then home to this place. If nothing happens to prevent may stay here until October or later.”
Professor Marsh responded the moment the letter from Marshall arrived; “Your note of yesterday reached me this morning, and I am very glad indeed to know that you are in the East and in such good health. I hope you will certainly visit New Haven, and I trust that we can arrange it so that I shall be here when you come. I think, on the whole, it would be better for you to come after your Providence visit, as I should have more time to show you around the museum after our commencement racket is over. Please let me know whether you decide to go to Montreal, before going to Providence, and we can arrange a date for your visit here. When you do come, you will find the Tontine Hotel a quiet place near the museum, and I shall expect you to be my guest during your stay there.”
Unfortunately, Marshall did not receive this warm and welcoming letter until some time in October because Marsh had mistakenly mailed it to Marshall in Canon City. Marshall responded to Marsh on October 27; “I have just received a letter from home and they tell me there has been a letter waiting for me from you for some little time. I had intended to go home before this – but it has been so pleasant and I have been feeling so well here that I have prolonged my stay”
On December 31, 1891 Marshall wrote to Marsh; “If not asking too much I wish you would let some of your young men that I saw there show him [a friend of Marshall’s] over the museum and any little attentions I will greatly appreciate.” This last letter confirms that Marshall did see the results of his work at the Yale Peabody Museum although because Marsh was not there when he arrived most likely it was not as interesting or full-filling an experience as Marshall probably hoped for.
Visiting Family and Friends
With pension money arriving for both of these Civil War veterans in early 1891, a trip back home to visit friends and family was plausible. In mid May 1891 they went east by train all the way; the first time going west in 1866 they traveled by wagon from St. Joseph to Denver. Very little is written by Marshall and nothing by Amanda on what they did or who they saw.
Genealogy records show that Marshall’s mother Hannah, his father Parker, and his sister Ida were still alive and living in Piermont New Hampshire near the old homestead. His strongest connection may have been to his daughter Carrie who was from his first marriage. Carrie was all grown up now and married to John Colby. They had an eight year old daughter Grace Ethyl and were living in the Post Mills area of Vermont. Marshall’s brother Charles who helped discover dinosaur bones was now living in Montreal and his younger brother William and his family were in Michigan. Marshall wrote to Marsh that he planned to visit both locations.
Amanda’s father Ira was still alive but two of her sisters had passed away but Eliza was still alive and may have been in the Barton area. Her half-sisters Eliza, Elizabeth, Lovila, Emma, Lydia and Clara were alive and Amanda may have had the chance to see them and their families.
Based on the letters between Marshall and Professor Marsh it appears that they stayed in New England until mid-November.
Emma Ghent Curtis
The suffrage movement officially began nationally in Seneca New York in 1848. After the Civil war, women were continuing to make small strides toward equal citizenship but the right to vote for all women would not happen until 1919 with the passage of the 19th amendment. Women first pushed for the right to vote in Colorado in 1877, a year after Colorado became the Centennial State in 1876. They didn’t get the vote that year but they didn’t give up because whether or not it was easy for men to admit that they were doing poorly in many aspects of governance and they needed the help. By the late 1880’s the right to vote was growing in greater intensity under the leadership of Albina L. Washington from Fort Collins.
The spark plug encouraging equal suffrage in Canon City was Mrs. Emma Ghent Curtis, an author who wrote short stories and poems for different periodicals, and two insightful books dealing with issues including suffrage and other issues that women were dealing with in those times. These books were; “The Fate of a Fool” (Curtis, 1888) and “The Administratrix” (Curtis, 1889). Emma was strongly supportive of the suffrage movement and together with Albina Washington helped start the populist reform-oriented Peoples Party in Colorado.
Emma’s husband Jim was sympathetic to the cause and together they helped start up the Royal Gorge Review. This was a weekly populist publication that ran for four years in the early 1890’s. It was published during the time when the right to vote for women was heading to the ballot box. Emma was very persuasive and went into mining camps in the area with miners who didn’t speak English but it wasn’t long before they agreed to vote for women’s rights to vote. Nationally suffrage was being pushed forward across the country and Emma also acted as a delegate for the populists who were advocating for equal suffrage in other states.
Women across Colorado were pushing hard for the right to vote and that right was on the November 7, 1893 ballot. Colorado women won the right to vote on that day, the first state in our nation to do so. This is really amazing considering not a single woman was allowed to vote in that election. It was a testament to women fighting for the right to vote and achieve full citizenship.
Emma and Amanda
There is no evidence that they knew each other and its likely that they didn’t, after all Emma was busy locally, regionally, and nationally while Amanda was a wife and mother living on a ranch north of the city. On the other hand it would have been difficult for Emma not to be aware of Amanda’s Civil War legacy especially considering Congress had just awarded her a pension through a special act about the same time she was pushing forward populist causes and women’s issues in the Royal Gorge Review.
Amanda fought an uphill battle throughout the Civil War trying to do nothing other than help her boys in the Vermont Third Regiment. Her greatest obstacle in getting things done were a few men in key positions of authority that apparently didn’t care for women operating independently of a husband or other male figure. On the other hand Amanda and Emma both encountered men who were sympathetic to their cause and they recognized and appreciated their support. They understood it was not an “us against them” situation but rather “us working together” position that made things work.
Emma is symbolic for helping lead the way for the women’s movement in the Canon City area while gaining traction from a broad range of groups including the Women’s Relief Corps. Amanda is symbolic as beacon of light in the Civil War, demonstrating what a determined woman can get done against all odds. Both women become symbolic in future generations for their work.
Amanda passed away on New Years Day, the last day of the year 1893.
Her Obituary read; Mrs. Amanda Felch, an aged Army Nurse, was taken suddenly ill of pneumonia while passing through Denver, Colo., and died Sunday, Dec. 31. 1893.
Knowing “Fitz Mac,” she applied to him for aid, and the warm-hearted man kindly gave up his room. Then the Department Relief Committee, W.R.C., through Annie Winn Phillips, of Denver, provided her a nurse, and otherwise assisted and visited her. Many Relief Corps members visited her also, and extended to her their sympathy, which was much appreciated by the old lady and her son and daughter, who were with her to the last. Meade, Washington, and Veteran Corps, of Denver, donated beautiful everlasting and cut flowers to adorn the casket, the breast so full of patriotism, and the hands whoso beauty was duty done. The remains were taken to Canyon City for burial.
Mrs. Felch served through the war as a Nurse, most of the time in the field hospitals of the Army of the Potomac, and since the passage of the law granting pension to Nurses has been in receipt of a pension.
- Why was she traveling through Denver in the winter of 1893?
- Who was “Fitz Mac”?
- Who were Annie Winn Phillips, Meade, and Washington?
The easiest question pertains Fitz Mac? Fitz Mac is a pen name for James Phillip McCarthy a relatively well-known writer and publisher in Denver. He had a colorful career with an extensive bibliography who also happened to publish a very popular ghost story in the 1880’s entitled “Dead Man’s Canyon” featuring Captain Marshall P. Felch. The story is clearly based on Marshall and Amanda and it will be touched on in the next chapter.
The next question is why was Amanda traveling with Ned and Sadie “through” Denver in the winter of 1893? Initial thoughts might lead to speculation that something was going terribly wrong. The answer comes from the final question; Who were Annie Winn Phillips, Meade, and Washington? The answer will be explained in the next section entitled “The Women’s Jubilate”.
One additional question without any possibility of an answer is; “why did Amanda die before Marshall did considering he was almost perpetually ill?” Everything feels as though he was ready and she wasn’t.
Fort Collins Courier, December 21, 1893
The Women Jubilate
The equal suffrage ratification, last Wednesday evening, at the opera house, was a grand success. The speakers, singers and orchestra were at their best, and the large audience evidently appreciated their efforts.
After the opening anthem and prayer Rev. Coffman expressed the congratulations of the clergy and spoke of woman’s work in the churches and missions. He was followed by Mr. Working, who gave the only franchise speech of the campaign in Timnath, where on Election Day equal suffrage was approved more than 12 to 1.
A song by a double quartet, composed of Misses Currie Moore, Guertha Lown, Lena Wills , Miss Slockett and Messrs. Abbott, Handy, Cameron and Golding-Dwyre , with Miss Slockett at the piano, followed.
Mrs. Kenyon read a short paper or memorial on “Our Promoted Comrades”, Lucy Stone, Mrs. Wallace and Mrs. C. H. D. Thomson, who were intensely interested in the work and did so much toward the victory we celebrate. They were called to their reward before the final triumph to which they had so largely contributed. Mrs. Thompson’s funeral being one week and Mrs. Stone’s three weeks before.
Mrs. Mclntyre expressed the thanks of the association to their campaign speakers and to all who in any way contributed to the success of the meetings, especially the seven young men of the college whose time is so precious and so closely occupied.
Mr. Bailey spoke of the campaigns of 77 and 93 and the intelligence and progressiveness of the people in the counties where equal suffrage was approved and their lack where defeated.
After a selection by the orchestra, Dr. Brown spoke of the status of women forty years ago; of the ridicule and persecution of the pioneers in the reform which the voters of Colorado have now so decidedly approved.
After giving the congratulations of the public school teachers, Miss Meade spoke of the present status of women, showing their great progress since given the same opportunities for education as their brothers; of the recent franchise victories in England and New Zealand, and of the interest and pleasure expressed in telegrams and letters from all over the country and beyond the seas in our Colorado triumph.
After giving the congratulations of the literary society of the college, Miss Southworth spoke of the condition and needs of the masses and of women’s new responsibilities and opportunities in connection therewith.
After the singing of the Equal Eights Banner, Mr. C. C. Emigh spoke of women in the teacher’s profession, and Carrie Moore gave a recitation in her own inimitable style which brought down the house.
Mr. Seckner, commander of the GAR , spoke for his organization and the relief corps [Women’s Relief Corps] and told of women’s work for the soldiers in a feeling , appreciative manner.
Harlan Thomas did the honors for the Sons and Daughters of Veterans, and also for the Colombian literary society of the college.
The singing of “Giving the Ballot to the Mothers” was greeted with the Chautauqua salute by the ladies. Mr. Walsh gave a humorous speech and Prof. Carpenter a brief, interesting one.
Judge McAnelly commended the manner of conducting the campaign and said the next thing is to register. Notwithstanding the proverbial reluctance of women to tell their ages it must be done.
The orchestra closed the exercises with a fine selection.
All the exercises were brief and appropriate and most of them spicy and humorous, each having its own distinctive line of thought and different from the others, making a delightful variety.
Amanda, Will you stand and be recognized?
The Women’s Relief Corps was involved in every aspect of Amanda’s life after she caught pneumonia. They helped her in every way they could while she was still alive and when she was lost; “Meade, Washington, and the WRC donated beautiful everlasting and cut flowers to adorn the casket, the breast so full of patriotism, and the hands whoso beauty was duty done.“ Ms. Meade was one of the speakers at the Women’s Jubilation.
The Women’s Jubilation was a celebration of the election victory of November 7, 1893 in Fort Collins located about 60 miles north of Denver. One of the main speakers at the event held on the 20th of December, 1893 was Mr. Seckner, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) who spoke for both GAR and the Women’s Relief Corps (WRC) and he told of women’s work for the soldiers in a feeling, appreciative manner.
Amanda was memorialized in Mary Hollands book; “Our Army Nurses. Interesting sketches, addresses, and photographs of nearly one hundred of the noble women who served in hospitals and on battlefields during our civil war” but Amanda never lived to see this book.
Why were Amanda, Sadie, and Ned traveling through Denver when it is typically very cold and often snowy near the end of December? Its difficult to imagine that Mr. Seckner, commander of GAR and representing the WRC, would not have invited the one woman in Colorado well known to both the organizations he was representing and the woman most representative of the topic of his talk; “women’s work for the soldiers”
A formal recognition of Amanda is the only logical reason Ned, Amanda, and Sadie would have traveled through Denver this time of year. What if the newspaper account of Mr. Seckner’s talk ended this way?
Following Mr. Seckner’s talk on women working in the war for the soldiers, he talked about Civil War career and some of the stories about a nurse from Vermont who served on the battlefield throughout the Civil War, taking care of her boys, the Vermont 3rd regiment. He then asked Amanda Felch who was that nurse being talked about to stand up and be recognized. A roomful of kind and caring men and women celebrating the recent election stood and applauded Mrs. Felch whose work was inspirational to everyone present and her two grown children, Ned and Sadie, were there to witness it.
And… what if Marshall was too ill to attend but was aware in advance of what was planned and took it upon himself to make sure that Amanda went with her two children at her side?
I believe that it happened this way. I like to think about everything that happened to her in her life and visualize this moment.
Curtis, Emma Ghent. 1888. The Fate of a Fool. New York: J.A. Berry.
———. 1889. The Administratrix,. New York: J.B. Alden.
Holland, Mary A. Gardner. 1895. Our Army Nurses. Interesting Sketches, Addresses, and Photographs of Nearly One Hundred of the Noble Women Who Served in Hospitals and on Battlefields during Our Civil War. Boston, Mass., B. Wilkins & co.
Kennedy, John C. 2017. “A PERFECT UNION: THE WOMAN’S RELIEF CORPS AND WOMEN’S ORGANIZATIONAL ACTIVISM, 1861-1930.” PhD dissertation, Department of History West Lafayette, Indiana: Pudue.
Metheny, Hannah. 2013. “‘For A Woman’: The Fight for Pensions for Civil War Army Nurses.” College of William and Mary.
Schultz, Jane E. 2004. Women at the Front: Hospital Workers in Civil War America. Vol. 110. Chapel Hill; University of North Carolina.
Welch, Linda M. 2019. “Thomas O. Seaver, Colonel, 3rd Vermont Infantry.” Nonprofit, noncommercial. Vermont Civil War, Lest We Forget. June 3, 2019.
Next Chapter: Sarah
After the death of her mother Amanda, Sadie marries a Swede named Charles Zimmerman who is working in the mines at the goldfield of Cripple Creek. They marry and move to the lower Arkansas Valley to start a life farming.
They have four children who will come to know their mothers name as Sarah.
In early 1902, Sarah comes home when she learns that her father Marshall has taken his own life.