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The Story of Alice Whiting Waterman

Alice Whiting was born in Baton Rouge, LA on Oct 18, 1820. When she was 8 years old her father passed away. At this time, she was sent to live in New York City. Alice was taught by private tutors.

In June of 1835 she married Charles Waterman, a very prominent lawyer from North Carolina. They remained in New York where he continued to practice law. Alice gave birth to three children during this union, but sadly, all three died in childhood. Charles passed in 1853. After his passing, Alice Whiting Waterman moved to Chicago, IL, where she became the Matron of the Briggs house. 

The Battle of Island 10

The Battle of Island 10 began as the Union pushed past Nashville. TN General P.G.T Beauregard ordered the withdrawal of men to Island 10. On Feb 28th, Brigadier General John P McCown started building the defenses of the island. Island 10 was the perfect spot to control the Mississippi River. Due to it’s location at a 180 degree bend in the river. Within weeks, six batteries on the Tennessee side had been built. Forty-three guns and a nine gun floating battery called New Orleans were on the western side of the river. At Fort Thompson there were fourteen guns west of town at Fort Bank Head. 7 guns over looked the mouth of the Bayou and 6 gun boats as well.

Union Major General Henry Halleck arrived on march 3rd but did not have the heavy artillery  to take on the island defenses. General Pope arrived on March 12th bring the weapons the union needed to attack. Pope captured New Madrid easily. Taking on the island seemed to be much harder with the batteries flanked by impassable swamps. For two weeks the island was under consist mortar fire.

On April 7th the union ships Carondelet and the Pittsburg eliminated batteries at Wilson’s Landin. As union feet landed on Island No 10 our men though tired and worn were ordered to Tiptonville TN. Being trapped  by union forces Brigadier general William Mackall surrendered his command. Loses were 23 killed and 50 wounded from the north. Ours were much greater 30 killed and wounded, 4500 captured.

If you haven’t heard of this battle your not alone Island No 10 was over looked due to the battle of Shiloh which was fought April 6th and 7th.

Camp Randall

After the Battle Camp Randall received word that they were to receive 1300 of the confederate soldiers caught at Island NO 10. Camp Randall was a training camp for the 19th Wisconsin and the militia. April 20th 881 men arrived in  24 train cars on 2 trains.

One woman accompanied the men her husband and brother were on the train. She had her 2 small children with her. Her husband and children died outside of Cairo Illinois. They were buried in Prairie Du Chein Wisconsin. She tended her brother even though she herself had lung fever.

Most in good health. Citizens of Madison Wisconsin came to see the prisoners. Most stating that they were dirty and wearing ragged remnants of grey and butternut uniforms. They arrived in good spirits and marched to the camp while the band of the 19th Wisconsin played Dixie. Most citizens were sharing kind words and gestures to these men. However one man yelled out to them this is what you get for your treason. One of the confederates responded very poignantly I reckon your one of the stay at home types left to do all the windy work. You’d do better service to join your folks down south. One of the last to come of the train was a little fair faced black eyed boy who looked barely 14 carrying baggage just like his elders.

April 24th 275 more men were brought in by train. These men however were severely ill. When the natives of Madison seen their condition they were out raged the brought food such as jellies, custard, brandy, shirts, postage stamps, tobacco, and reading material.

Medical care for these men was provided by a union confederate and civilian surgeon who worked tirelessly to save these men. But 145 of our men were to far gone to save.  The hospital was a drafty building and despite needing the medicinal alcohol the unions soldiers drank it all.

On may 6th 2 prisoners had bribed a guard and they escaped. Very soon caught after. This lead to the camp being locked down making the citizens of Madison very upset. So the true number of dead is unknown.

May 26th a prisoner named Alexander Franklin Spears was just leaving the hospital compound with dysentery needing to use the bathroom not being able to make it used it where he stood. A 17 year old guard named Clarence Wicks threw a stone and knocked Private Spears over. His brother Corp George Washington Spears approached the guard calling him a Bull Run son of a bitch. The guard raised his rifle and shot Corp spears dead on the spot. The guard was cleared of any wrong doing and was eventually wounded at Petersburg VA He died shortly after that.

Thus ended the very short run of Camp Randall. The remaining prisoners were moved to Vicksburg for exchange or paroled out swearing never to take up arms against the united states again. Many returned to their beloved South and continued to fight the yanks.

Alice and her boys

Now 1864 Alice relocated to Milwaukee Wisconsin to become Matron of the Newhall House. In 1868 she was given an offer to become silent partner and matron of the Villas House So she again moved this time to Madison. Soon after her arrival there she learned of the piece of Forest Hill cemetery where Confederates had been laid to rest. She had went to this this and seen that these men so far from home had no one taking care of them. So she made the decision that day to take care of her southern brethren. She placed a wood fence around where they laid She planted hedges along the east and south part of the rest stating that she wanted to keep the wind off her boys. And opening up to where the sun would shine and warm their faces. She planted white lilacs among the graves because they will blossom even if she is not there to watch them. She also planted 2 butternut trees so that the laughter of children collecting the nuts would bring pleasure to her boys. She replaced all the wooden crosses with headstones that were labeled with their names units and states. She also had to replace the fence and used her life savings to have a small granite wall in its place. In 1883 the Villas house closed thus ending her employment. She found a job with major Frank Oakley and his wife.

Alice Whiting Waterman passed away in 1897. her last wish was to be buried with her boys.

Alice is the true embodiment of this Program. She was a southern born woman raised in the north. Not knowing anything of these men names or stories took selfless care of men she had never met. She took pride in all these brave soldiers. She never met any of their families. And stepped up in a time where the wounds were still healing between north and south. She spent her last penny taking care of her boys. She will be remember by me and I’m sure all of you as well for her selfless act. Her last wish to be buried next to her boys was granted and she is forever tied with the confederate rest and these men.

Alice’s story really touched me knowing the sacrifices that she made to take care of 140 graves and 5 unknown men.

Alice Whiting Waterman is a true hero in many eyes