The Serpent around the Capitol of Washington

In one way or another Rome pushes her way to seats of power and influence. Is it because Protestants are too modest, or too indifferent, to resist? The Romish Priest is in the workhouse caring for paupers because Protestant ministers neglect to do it. He gets a chaplaincy in the prison and jail for the same reason. It is come to be believed that Roman Catholics are adapted to care for our eleemosynary institutions; such as hospitals, houses of refuge, orphan asylums and institutions of kindred character, as are not Protestants. Let us not find fault with Romanists for doing what Protestants neglect to do. Nothing could be more unfair or unwise. Let us not give over to Romanists work that we ought to do ourselves. It is a surprising fact, that every hospital in Washington is in the hands of Roman Catholics with one exception, and that has the treasurer and three members of the Board, Roman Catholics; that Sisters of Charity are the nurses; and that American citizens are compelled to see these representatives of a faith utterly distasteful to the majority enthroned in power.

As a rule, American citizens do not like the head gear of the “Sisters.” “Why can t they take off those white-winged sun-bonnets in the ward?”asked one poor fellow, reared in a Protestant home, and yet sick in a hospital. “Sun-bonnets! “sneered another of the irreverent critics; “they re a cross between a white sun-bonnet and a broken down umbrella; and there’s no name that describes them.”{Mary A. Livermore, in “The Story of the War,”pp. 219}

This language describes the feeling of very many in the hospitals in Washington. They do not like the head-gear or the manners of the so-called Sisters of Mercy.”It is theory that there are no nobler and no more heroic women than those found in the Catholic sisterhoods. The fact explodes the theory. They are like other women: some are good, some are bad. Some kind, some cruel.

Rev. J. W. Parker, D.D., pastor, at one time, of the E-Street Baptist Church, of Washington, D.C., related, that his own brother was in a Washington hospital, and that nuns were the nurses. He desired a drink of water in the night, and asked for it, and overheard them say, “He is a heretic; let him choke.”

A friend in such a hospital, with nuns as nurses, found herself in a constant worry, because she would keep her New Testament by her side, and would have her pastor visit her. The nuns did every disagreeable thing possible, until the minister told them that if such conduct did not cease, it would be reported at headquarters, and punishment would be demanded.

Another woman, who had been at one time a Roman Catholic, and who had been converted to Christianity, found herself in the hospital ministered unto by the Sisters of Mercy. They brought to her bedside a priest. She declined to see him. He persisted in coming. Her Protestant friends and the minister were told that she had gone back to the Church of Rome and that she did not wish them more. They believed the story, and stayed away for the time. They insisted on administering “extreme unction,”daubed her with oil and drenched her with holy water, leaving her to die. The minister forced his way by the guards and got into the room.

“Why have you left me to the pitiless persecutions of these enemies of Christ?”

“They told me you wished it; that you had gone back to the idols of Rome, and turned your back on Christ.” “It is a lie, a Popish lie; I have asked for you daily, I turned with loathing from their mummeries, but was compelled by weakness to endure this oil and holy water. Take me out of here.”

The woman was removed to a home of love, where she was cared for. Why is such cruelty tolerated?

Clarence was the brother of the architect who supervised the construction of a large addition to the most important public building in Washington. Clarence had won the heart of a daughter of a member of Lincoln’s Cabinet. Her sister was married to an eminent lawyer, who was afterward a member of Garfield’s Cabinet. The lady insisted upon a reformation of life, and his taking up and following some honest occupation. He accepted a position under his brother, but soon fell into his former ways. Worn out with a debauch which lasted several weeks, he entered the Providence Hospital, which deserves to be styled “The Drunkard’s Retreat.”Then he professed the Roman Catholic religion, without a reformation of life, and without giving up his cups even for a brief period, and in that faith lived and died a drunkard, and was buried in consecrated ground.

Another and a sadder scene. A lady, beautiful in face and form, was upon her death-bed. The priest came to administer extreme unction. He had, of course, the room to himself, and while with the lady alone, attempted an assault. She shrieked for help. The daughter, despite the rules of the church, burst into the room. “Turn the wretch out, “exclaimed the mother, “and promise me, that come what will, you will never allow a priest to approach you, nor have more to do with the Church of Rome. “The promise was made. Years passed. The daughter grew sick. Her friends were Roman Catholics. Her money was gone. She was compelled to be ministered unto by a Roman Catholic nurse, and because she would not suffer a priest to come and administer extreme unction, and die in the faith of Rome, they drew the bed from beneath her dying form, and left her upon the bare slats to lie, until a Protestant friend, now living in Washington, brought pillows and placed beneath her and took her to her own house, where she died. Then they would not let her rest, but dug up her body, carried it to consecrated ground, and boasted that she died in the Church of Rome.

Because such conduct is possible, Roman Catholic surgeons oppose the employment of Protestant nurses and declare they will not have them in the service, and that only the Sisters of the Catholic Church shall receive appointments. “I sought,”said Mrs. M. A. Livermore, “for the cause of this decision.” “Your Protestant nurses are always finding some mare’s nest or other, “said one of the surgeons, “that they can t let alone. They all write for the papers, and the story finds its way into print, and directly we are in hot water. Now, these sisters never see anything they ought not to see, nor hear anything, and they never write for the papers, and the result is, we get along very comfortably with them. It was futile to combat their prejudices, or to attempt to show them that they lacked the power to enforce their decisions.”

Does not this explain why the * Sisters of Mercy “are preferred in Washington? “There is not a hospital in Washington where a Christian can go and feel that he or she is not confronted by Roman Catholics. Columbia Hospital for women, supported by Congress, has a drunken, brutal, Roman Catholic surgeon in charge. Priests are banqueted, and given full sway in the house; all the illegitimate children are christened by them, and the influence of Rome pervades “every department. The hospital erected in memory of the sainted Garfield is infested by them, because of the idea, so prevalent, that Romanists are the only people who can do charity work. Alas for humanity, when such ideas prevail!”

Miss Mary A. Livermore, in her “Story of the War,”speaks of the persistent effort to fill hospitals with “Sisters of Mercy,”and exclude good, trained, excellent Protestant nurses. They would not be daunted or turned back. “Our husbands, sons and brothers need us and want us. If the surgeons are determined to employ Roman Catholic nurses, to the exclusion of Protestant, we shall contend for our rights, and appeal to the Secretary of War.”They carried the day, and filled the land with their forces. Had the Protestant ladies of Washington manifested equal courage and persistency, they could have held control. The United States Hospitals got clear of the head-gear of the nuns, and filled their places with trained Protestant nurses.

On the tenth of June, 1861, Secretary Cameron vested Dorothea Dix with sole power to appoint women nurses in the hospitals. Secretary Stanton succeeding him, ratified their appointment. Miss Dix desired women over thirty years of age, plain almost to repulsion in dress, and devoid of personal attractions. Many of the women whom she rejected, because they were too young and too beautiful, entered the service under other auspices and became eminently with her work of relief. To their honor, be it said, the “boys”reciprocated her affection most heartily. “That homely figure, clad in calico, wrapped in a shawl, and surmounted with a * shaker bonnet, is more to this army than the Madonna to a Catholic,” said an officer, pointing to her as she emerged from the Sanitary Commission headquarters, laden with supplies.”

Mary A. Bickerdyke was born in Knox County, Ohio, July 19, 1817. She came of Revolutionary ancestors, and was never happier than when recounting the stories told her when a child by the grandfather who served with Washington during the seven years struggle. Her husband died two years before the breaking out of the war. She was living in Galesburgh, 111., and was a member of the Congregational Church when the war broke out. Hardly had the the troops reached Cairo, when, from the sudden change in their habits, sickness broke out, and the ladies sent down Mother Bickerdyke. After the battle of Belmont she was appointed matron of the large post hospital at Cairo. The surgeon was given to drunkenness; he had filled all the positions in the hospitals with surgeons and officers of his sort, and bacchanalial carousals in the “doctor’s room “were of frequent occurrence. “Sisters of Mercy”in that hospital would have been quiet. Soldiers might suffer. Officers and surgeons might drink to drunkenness, especially if they were Roman Catholics; but they would be mute and observing. They are this way in the hospitals in Washington, where drunken surgeons revel, priests christen their illegitimate children, while Government supports the concern, and all goes merry as a marriage bell.

Not so with Mother Bickerdyke. In twenty-four hours surgeon and matron were at swords points. She denounced him to his face; and when the garments and delicacies sent her for the use of the sick and wounded disappeared mysteriously, she charged their theft upon him and his subordinates.

He ordered her out of the hospital, and threatened to put her out, if she did not hasten her departure. She replied that she would stay as long as the men needed her, that if he put her out of one door she should come in at another. When anybody left, it would be he, and not she. She told him she had lodged complaints against him at headquarters. Finding a ward- master dressed in the shirt, slippers and socks that had been sent her for the sick, she seized him by the collar in his own ward, and disrobed him “saws ceremonie”before the patients. Leaving him nude, save his pantaloons, she uttered the parting injunction, Now, you rascal, let’s see what you ll steal next.”

To ascertain who were the thieves of the food she prepared, she put tartar emetic in the peaches left on the table to cool. Then she went to her own room to await results. She did not have to wait long. Soon the sounds from the terribly sick thieves reached her ears, when, like a Nemesis, she stalked in among them. There they were, cooks, table-waiters, stewards, ward-masters, all, save some of the surgeons suffering terribly from the emetic; but more from the apprehension that they were poisoned.

“Peaches don t seem to agree with you, eh?”she said, looking at the pale, retching, groaning fellows, with a sardonic smile. “Well, let me tell you, that you will have a worse time than this, if you keep on stealing. You may eat something seasoned with rat-bane one of these nights.”Colonel Grant was then in command. The thieves were returned to the regiments, honest men were substituted in their places, the drunken surgeon was removed, and one of the noblest of men was put in charge. That is the value of having an honest Christian woman.”

“I never saw anybody like her,”said a volunteer surgeon who came on the boat with her after the battle of Fort Donelson; “there was really nothing for us surgeons to do but dress wounds and administer medicines. She drew out clean shirts or drawers from some corner whenever they were needed. Nourishment was ready for any man, as soon as he was brought on board. Every one was sponged from blood and the frozen mire of the battle-field, as far as his condition allowed. His blood-stiffened, and sometimes horribly filthy uniform, was exchanged for soft, clean, hospital garments. Incessant cries of Mother! Mother! Mother! rang through the boat in every note of beseeching and anguish. And to every man she turned with a heavenly tenderness, as if he were indeed her son.”(pp. 484). Next we see her at Savannah, Tenn., among the sick and perishing. One of the surgeons went to the rear with a wounded man, and found her wrapped in the gray overcoat of a rebel officer; for she had disposed of her blanket shawl to some poor fellow who needed it. She was wearing a soft, slouch hat, having lost her inevitable Shaker bonnet.

“Madam, you seem to combine in yourself a sick- diet kitchen and a medical staff. May I enquire under whose authority you are working?”

Without pausing in her work, she answered him, “I have received my authority from the Lord God Almighty; have you anything that ranks higher than that? “and went on with her work without looking up.

Later on, at Memphis, she found a medical director who was a Catholic, who nationally gave preference to the Sisters of Mercy as nurses. He disapproved of nearly everything Mother Bickerdyke did, and tried to get rid of her. He abused her, thwarted her, and sought to dismiss her attendants and assistants. Through the storm she went to the General, got an order in her favor, and then told the director : “Its no use, for you to try and tie me up with your red tape. There’s too much to be done down here to stop for that. And doctor, I guess you hadn t better get into a row with me; for whenever anybody does, one of us always goes to the wall, and taint never me!”They became the best of friends, and Protestant nurses came to be rated in accordance with their value. A drunken surgeon hindered her work; she got him discharged. Officers of the highest rank believed in her, and cheerfully granted her request. The surgeon went to General Sherman and asked to be reinstated. “Who put you out?”An old meddlesome woman by the name of Bickerdyke.” “Ah! Mother Bickerdyke! If she put you out, you must stay out; for she ranks me.”

At Chattanooga her life reads like a romance. We cannot describe her versatility of talent and genius displayed in saving life. General Sherman had issued orders forbidding agents of sanitary stores, or agents of any description, to go over the road from Nashville to Chattanooga. Mother Bickerdyke was their only hope. She could influence Gen. Sherman as could no other person. Her pass from Gen. Grant would take her to Chattanooga, despite Gen. Sherman’s prohibition.

“Halloa! How did you get down here?”asked one of the General’s staff officers, as he saw her enter Sherman’s headquarters.

“Came clown in the cars, of course; there’s no other way of getting down here, that I know of,”replied the matter-of-fact woman; “1 want to see General Sherman.”

“He is in there, writing,”said the officer, pointing to an inner room; “but I guess he won’t see you.”

“Guess he will; “and she pushed into the apartment.

“Good morning General; I want to speak to you a moment. May I come in?” “I should think you had got in,”answered the General, barely looking up, in great annoyance. “What’s up, now?”

“Why, General,”said the earnest matron, in a perfect torrent of words, “we can t stand that last order of yours, nohow. You ll have to change it, sure.”

“Well, I m busy to-day, and cannot attend to you. I will see you some other time. “She saw the smile in the corner of his mouth, and replied : “General! don t send me away until you fix this.”He fixed it, and for weeks all the sanitary stores sent from Nashville to Chattanooga, and the forts of that road, were sent, directly or indirectly, through this mediation of Mother Bickerdyke.

This woman, distinguished for common sense, for devotion to the soldiers, is left without employment, and nuns that never saw a battle-field, and Sisters of Charity that never had any sympathy with the soldiers, are placed in charge of Government hospitals, because Protestants are dumb when they ought to speak, and blind when they ought to see.

This wonderful woman was for years without recognition from the Government, and is now in the pension office of San Francisco, when she belongs to the best hospital position in the gift of the Government. As when Moses and Aaron appeared before Pharaoh and used their wonder-working rod the magicians imitated them, so when the white wings of hospital tents were brightening the vision in various portions of the land Rome saw her opportunity and began her work in Washington.

The Providence General Hospital, corner of 2d and D streets, is famed in Washington. It was erected in the midst of the war.

Enter this hospital. Nuns have charge. The patients, be they Protestant or Roman Catholic, are expected to attend service in accordance with the forms of Rome. Proselyting is a business, and when this is impossible, the patient suffers.

Capt. Amos Cliff was in the Pension Bureau. He was sick. He carried to the hospital a watch and money, and after paying his board for a week, died. All his effects disappeared, as is the custom. The Grand Army Relief Committee, at the head of which is Capt. Frank A. Beuter, having learned of his death, went with Capt, D. A. Denison to inquire for him. No intelligence was furnished. He was a dead soldier. They knew where to look for his remains. His body was found in the Medical College, being cut- up by the surgeons. The Grand Army boys took the mutilated remnants of a brave soldier, and, purchasing a coffin, sent what was left of an honored father to his friends. They who are so particular about giving a Roman Catholic burial, surrendered the body of a Grand Army soldier to the surgeon, not caring what was done with it or where it went, to a pauper’s grave or a surgeon’s table.

Imagine Mother Bickerdyke in such a position, and how different would be the treatment received!

It is fashionable to bow down to Rome. All seem aware that there are seven millions of Roman Catholics in this country. The many forget that there are fifty millions who are not Roman Catholics, who have some rights in this free land, which all are under some obligation to respect. The Protestant element waits for a leadership. American citizens should be jealous of their rights. They should be, not only self-respecting, but self-asserting. God has planted, preserved and grown this nation, not to bow down to the worst despotism the world ever saw ; but to lift up the enslaved, and cause them to read their possible destiny in the lines of promise written by God’s providence in the marvellous possibilities placed within their reach. The Republic of the United States is to be the educator of the world. American citizens must keep this thought in mind, and so develop a higher type of humanity, better hospital service, a broader Christianity, and a nobler living than has hitherto blessed the world.

Continue to chapter 8

Contents of Washington in the Lap of Rome



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