History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century/4/Annie T. Wittenmyer
ANNIE TURNER WITTENMYER, an Iowa woman who won the enduring gratitude of hundreds of soldiers during the Civil War, was born at Sandy Springs, Adams County, Ohio, on the 26th of August, 1827. She developed remarkable gifts for writing, before she was thirteen years of age. Her poetry at that time attracted attention and she became a regular contributor some years later to various publications. She was married in 1847, and three years later came with her husband to Iowa, locating in Keokuk. There were no public schools in the village at that time and Mrs. Wittenmyer opened a free school for children of the poor. With the help of other women this school was maintained for many years, accomplishing great good. When the War of the Rebellion began, she was one of the first to assist in organizing Soldiers' Aid Societies which did so much in relieving the wants of soldiers in the field and hospitals. She visited the army in the field early in 1861 and began to collect and distribute supplies for camps and hospitals. She wrote letters from the army to the newspapers telling the needs of the soldiers and soon had her entire time occupied in receiving and distributing the contributions of the generous people of the State. A record of her work during the war would fill a volume. She was appointed one of the State Sanitary Agents for Iowa and during her administration collected and distributed more than $160,000 worth of sanitary supplies. She was active in securing furloughs for sick soldiers in hospitals, thus saving many lives. When she found armies camped in unhealthy localities she managed in numerous cases to exert influence to get the camp removed to a healthier location. She was one of the originators of the Soldiers' Orphans' Home established in Iowa at Davenport for the care and education of dependent children. She projected the Special Diet Kitchens which were established at hospitals, where such special food was prepared for the sick as was recommended by the surgeons in charge. This was the beginning of a great and much needed reform in providing suitable food for sick and wounded soldiers, in the hospitals. The entire supervision of these kitchens was placed under the control of Mrs. Wittenmyer. The reform was warmly indorsed by General Grant and there is no doubt that hundreds, perhaps thousands of lives of suffering soldiers were saved by this salutary change in food. When this reform was fully organized, more than a million of rations were issued through it each month. In 1892 Mrs. Wittenmyer spent a large portion of the winter in Washington working with Congress to secure pensions for army nurses. For more than twenty years these worthy workers for the relief of suffering soldiers had applied in vain for any recognition by the Government for their invaluable services. But Mrs. Wittenmyer knew so much of their unselfish devotion in war times and told it so earnestly that a pension of twelve dollars a month was granted the nurses. Mrs. Wittenmyer was largely instrumental in securing the purchase and preservation of the grounds embraced in the Andersonville prison pen. Eighty-five acres have been secured under the control of the Woman's Relief Corps, including the "Providential Spring," and the grounds enclosed in the deadly stockade. After a long life almost entirely devoted to good works of a public nature, this noble woman died at her home on the 2d of February, 1900.