Gettysburg's Forgotten Angel, Our Unwitting Peace Monger, Lydia Smith

JPK Huson 1863

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gatehouse wagon 4 people crop.jpg

Not Lydia, this wagon at Evergreen's gatehouse could have been hers. . It was probably bringing yet another dead man to the cemetery. Opinion only. We know citizens did this- went out in their own wagons to bring in wounded. And the fallen. And carried aid, too.

Act of kindness? Not a tough call. Angel of mercy? Also not arguable.

" I thank the good Lord that put it in my heart to try to do something for these poor creatures..." Someone reported this in what was then black dialect, supposedly. Corrected it, since we do not know how Lydia spoke.

b sc 14.jpg

After a battle raged across this now familiar road, Lydia's old horse traversed it, begging and buying for wounded, Union and Confederate. It simply did not matter. I adore Lydia Smith of Gettysburg. Husband and soldier Boreas already vanished into the shambles - she reached out to humankind. All of us. Gives me hope, these snippets of 150 years ago. We can do this.


Someone will probably remember Lydia from another thread, most will not. I'm just not done ' finding ' Lydia, will never be done highlighting her acts of kindness. For every nurse, relief worker and Gettysburg house wife who rose so tremendously to the human crisis in their midst, post battle must be dozens whose names History never knew, or forgot.

Gettysburg's black community was never the same, post battle. We sure do not hear of them, barring poor Basil Biggs and his heroic, awful job. The Bryan farm should clue us in, that this community, if not thriving, was here- and more worried than anyone else, one eye on Lee's army.

gettysbur hosp 3 weeks post close2.JPG

Before Letterman's tidy rows, 3 weeks post battle, one of 2nd Corps hospital tents shows how needful was ' help ', and Lydia Smith brought wagonsful in response.

Lydia Smith's name and story would have been forgotten too, were it not for J. Howard Wert's presence. Tough to get a read on J. Howard, seems to have been a Harrisburg based reporter, recording for us an awful lot of History we'd have missed, otherwise.

Gettysburg's black community is a difficult topic. Quickly contentious due to so many of this community being swiped out of their shoes and herded South, during the invasion, conversations become bogged down over how many, and who did it, and weirdly, how to describe these missing citizens. It's silly. It happened. Some escaped capture, mistrusting their state's ability to protect them, fleeing. Others were hidden by community members, some hid themselves. Some? No idea because History does not know.

Those who stayed crept from hiding places. One man describes nearly suffocating during 3 days under a hay pile.No idea where Lydia was during the battle- she sure was visible post battle. J. Howard Wert found her.

' She belonged to a downtrodden race, for she was a colored woman… She was poor, yet she had a little money saved up, a trifle at a time, by years of labor. From a white neighbor she hired a ramshackle wagon with which she did hauling, and a horse (who) was a pile of bones, else probably he would not have been in Adams County at all but mounted by a Confederate cavalryman. Lydia circled widely through the farm section around Bendersville and York Springs. Eloquently she told of the tens of thousands of suffering men: “ I thank de good Lawd that put it in my heart to try to do something for these poor creatures.” When she could get donations of delicacies and suitable clothing, she accepted them. When donations failed, she bought till she had spend the very last penny of her little hoard… But now the wagon was heaped high to its full capacity, and she turned toward the hospital miles away… And then Lydia, feeling no the weariness from many miles of travel, began to distribute the articles she had brought-to Union soldiers, of course? No! Union and Confederate lay side by side, and that noble colored woman saw not in the latter the warriors who were striving to perpetuate the slavery of he race. She saw only suffering humanity.'

Not a peep elsewhere although with so much chaos, that may be unsurprising. Two Lydia Smiths in town, in 1860. Gettysburg interestingly does not state race, on the census.

A Lydia and husband Borasmus ( sp? ) farmed, in 1860. Post war, this Lydia received a pension. She is a war widow.
lydia smith census.JPG

Hunterstown, 1860

lydia smith pension.JPG

If it is the right Lydia, a husband was away at war, another Lydia Smith is a domestic, in 1860, living in a household somewhere close to Herbst.

Not sure the other ' Lydia ''s entry, a domestic, age 16, living with the Pickerings says ' Smith ', although Ancestry thinks it does.

Lydia and Boresmus/Borea's's household in 1960
lydia smith census 2.JPG



We all know where this angel is now.
angel 4 crop for Lydia.jpg

Remembering Lydia Smith, with thanks.
 

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War Horse

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#5
View attachment 193854
Not Lydia, this wagon at Evergreen's gatehouse could have been hers. . It was probably bringing yet another dead man to the cemetery. Opinion only. We know citizens did this- went out in their own wagons to bring in wounded. And the fallen. And carried aid, too.

Act of kindness? Not a tough call. Angel of mercy? Also not arguable.

" I thank the good Lord that put it in my heart to try to do something for these poor creatures..." Someone reported this in what was then black dialect, supposedly. Corrected it, since we do not know how Lydia spoke.

View attachment 193855
After a battle raged across this now familiar road, Lydia's old horse traversed it, begging and buying for wounded, Union and Confederate. It simply did not matter. I adore Lydia Smith of Gettysburg. Husband and soldier Boreas already vanished into the shambles - she reached out to humankind. All of us. Gives me hope, these snippets of 150 years ago. We can do this.


Someone will probably remember Lydia from another thread, most will not. I'm just not done ' finding ' Lydia, will never be done highlighting her acts of kindness. For every nurse, relief worker and Gettysburg house wife who rose so tremendously to the human crisis in their midst, post battle must be dozens whose names History never knew, or forgot.

Gettysburg's black community was never the same, post battle. We sure do not hear of them, barring poor Basil Biggs and his heroic, awful job. The Bryan farm should clue us in, that this community, if not thriving, was here- and more worried than anyone else, one eye on Lee's army.

View attachment 193857
Before Letterman's tidy rows, 3 weeks post battle, one of 2nd Corps hospital tents shows how needful was ' help ', and Lydia Smith brought wagonsful in response.

Lydia Smith's name and story would have been forgotten too, were it not for J. Howard Wert's presence. Tough to get a read on J. Howard, seems to have been a Harrisburg based reporter, recording for us an awful lot of History we'd have missed, otherwise.

Gettysburg's black community is a difficult topic. Quickly contentious due to so many of this community being swiped out of their shoes and herded South, during the invasion, conversations become bogged down over how many, and who did it, and weirdly, how to describe these missing citizens. It's silly. It happened. Some escaped capture, mistrusting their state's ability to protect them, fleeing. Others were hidden by community members, some hid themselves. Some? No idea because History does not know.

Those who stayed crept from hiding places. One man describes nearly suffocating during 3 days under a hay pile.No idea where Lydia was during the battle- she sure was visible post battle. J. Howard Wert found her.

' She belonged to a downtrodden race, for she was a colored woman… She was poor, yet she had a little money saved up, a trifle at a time, by years of labor. From a white neighbor she hired a ramshackle wagon with which she did hauling, and a horse (who) was a pile of bones, else probably he would not have been in Adams County at all but mounted by a Confederate cavalryman. Lydia circled widely through the farm section around Bendersville and York Springs. Eloquently she told of the tens of thousands of suffering men: “ I thank de good Lawd that put it in my heart to try to do something for these poor creatures.” When she could get donations of delicacies and suitable clothing, she accepted them. When donations failed, she bought till she had spend the very last penny of her little hoard… But now the wagon was heaped high to its full capacity, and she turned toward the hospital miles away… And then Lydia, feeling no the weariness from many miles of travel, began to distribute the articles she had brought-to Union soldiers, of course? No! Union and Confederate lay side by side, and that noble colored woman saw not in the latter the warriors who were striving to perpetuate the slavery of he race. She saw only suffering humanity.'

Not a peep elsewhere although with so much chaos, that may be unsurprising. Two Lydia Smiths in town, in 1860. Gettysburg interestingly does not state race, on the census.

A Lydia and husband Borasmus ( sp? ) farmed, in 1860. Post war, this Lydia received a pension. She is a war widow.
View attachment 193849
Hunterstown, 1860

View attachment 193852
If it is the right Lydia, a husband was away at war, another Lydia Smith is a domestic, in 1860, living in a household somewhere close to Herbst.

Not sure the other ' Lydia ''s entry, a domestic, age 16, living with the Pickerings says ' Smith ', although Ancestry thinks it does.

Lydia and Boresmus/Borea's's household in 1960
View attachment 193850


We all know where this angel is now.
View attachment 193863
Remembering Lydia Smith, with thanks.
Where do you find this stuff? Excellent work JPK!
 

Jimklag

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#6
View attachment 193854
Not Lydia, this wagon at Evergreen's gatehouse could have been hers. . It was probably bringing yet another dead man to the cemetery. Opinion only. We know citizens did this- went out in their own wagons to bring in wounded. And the fallen. And carried aid, too.

Act of kindness? Not a tough call. Angel of mercy? Also not arguable.

" I thank the good Lord that put it in my heart to try to do something for these poor creatures..." Someone reported this in what was then black dialect, supposedly. Corrected it, since we do not know how Lydia spoke.

View attachment 193855
After a battle raged across this now familiar road, Lydia's old horse traversed it, begging and buying for wounded, Union and Confederate. It simply did not matter. I adore Lydia Smith of Gettysburg. Husband and soldier Boreas already vanished into the shambles - she reached out to humankind. All of us. Gives me hope, these snippets of 150 years ago. We can do this.


Someone will probably remember Lydia from another thread, most will not. I'm just not done ' finding ' Lydia, will never be done highlighting her acts of kindness. For every nurse, relief worker and Gettysburg house wife who rose so tremendously to the human crisis in their midst, post battle must be dozens whose names History never knew, or forgot.

Gettysburg's black community was never the same, post battle. We sure do not hear of them, barring poor Basil Biggs and his heroic, awful job. The Bryan farm should clue us in, that this community, if not thriving, was here- and more worried than anyone else, one eye on Lee's army.

View attachment 193857
Before Letterman's tidy rows, 3 weeks post battle, one of 2nd Corps hospital tents shows how needful was ' help ', and Lydia Smith brought wagonsful in response.

Lydia Smith's name and story would have been forgotten too, were it not for J. Howard Wert's presence. Tough to get a read on J. Howard, seems to have been a Harrisburg based reporter, recording for us an awful lot of History we'd have missed, otherwise.

Gettysburg's black community is a difficult topic. Quickly contentious due to so many of this community being swiped out of their shoes and herded South, during the invasion, conversations become bogged down over how many, and who did it, and weirdly, how to describe these missing citizens. It's silly. It happened. Some escaped capture, mistrusting their state's ability to protect them, fleeing. Others were hidden by community members, some hid themselves. Some? No idea because History does not know.

Those who stayed crept from hiding places. One man describes nearly suffocating during 3 days under a hay pile.No idea where Lydia was during the battle- she sure was visible post battle. J. Howard Wert found her.

' She belonged to a downtrodden race, for she was a colored woman… She was poor, yet she had a little money saved up, a trifle at a time, by years of labor. From a white neighbor she hired a ramshackle wagon with which she did hauling, and a horse (who) was a pile of bones, else probably he would not have been in Adams County at all but mounted by a Confederate cavalryman. Lydia circled widely through the farm section around Bendersville and York Springs. Eloquently she told of the tens of thousands of suffering men: “ I thank de good Lawd that put it in my heart to try to do something for these poor creatures.” When she could get donations of delicacies and suitable clothing, she accepted them. When donations failed, she bought till she had spend the very last penny of her little hoard… But now the wagon was heaped high to its full capacity, and she turned toward the hospital miles away… And then Lydia, feeling no the weariness from many miles of travel, began to distribute the articles she had brought-to Union soldiers, of course? No! Union and Confederate lay side by side, and that noble colored woman saw not in the latter the warriors who were striving to perpetuate the slavery of he race. She saw only suffering humanity.'

Not a peep elsewhere although with so much chaos, that may be unsurprising. Two Lydia Smiths in town, in 1860. Gettysburg interestingly does not state race, on the census.

A Lydia and husband Borasmus ( sp? ) farmed, in 1860. Post war, this Lydia received a pension. She is a war widow.
View attachment 193849
Hunterstown, 1860

View attachment 193852
If it is the right Lydia, a husband was away at war, another Lydia Smith is a domestic, in 1860, living in a household somewhere close to Herbst.

Not sure the other ' Lydia ''s entry, a domestic, age 16, living with the Pickerings says ' Smith ', although Ancestry thinks it does.

Lydia and Boresmus/Borea's's household in 1960
View attachment 193850


We all know where this angel is now.
View attachment 193863
Remembering Lydia Smith, with thanks.
Annie, you've done it again. What a great story and great research on your part. Thanks for sharing.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Where do you find this stuff? Excellent work JPK!

Kind but undeserved. I'm beginning to suspect sheer nosiness is the culprit, just a big buttinski here, peering in History's windows.

There does seem to be a bewildering lack of information on Gettysburg's black community, understandably awfully jumpy during those years. One web site has excellent information with simply hair raising stories of some of their battle. Apart from that, you have to poke around in reports and era newspapers. Part of the problem is this baffling focus on whether or not it was ok to swipe citizens out of their shoes? ' We ' seem embattled on the point, which is just so odd. There's a letter somewhere ( which is code for I can't find it in this mess called ' files ) written home by a Confederate officer- he'd been offered this chance to partake in the er, booty, and declined based on how repulsive he found it. Indeed.

Still looking for citizens who may have made it back- found none so far although may have found the grave of someone who died decades later, in Virginia.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Poking around, found an article where this Lydia is mistaken for Thaddeus's widow- story attached to research on her says this is she. Not convinced? There's a lot of evidence showing the Gettysburg civilian in this story was here, on the spot, different family than Lydia Smith, housekeeper for Stevens. Did someone discover reports and assume, because the couple had roots here, it's she OR did Smith #2 leave some record? If that's the case of course my research is wrong, love to know.
 

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