Chapter 3

Faith in Her Star

Pray for me, dear Annie, that my life may not be entirely in vain, that I may be of some use in this sinful world.

~ Ellen Swallow

The Civil War was now full-blown. Everywhere people made sacrifices and did what they could to help their soldiers. Once Ellen graduated from the Academy, she had more opportunity to give support to the cause. In the little town of Westford alone, more than 200 men and boys went off to fight. Thirty-six of them were killed. The soldiers’ desperate need for supplies was constant. There was a women’s sewing group that made shirts and drawers and knit socks for the soldiers. The women and girls worked feverishly to fill and mail supply packages that, in addition to clothing, contained food, medicine, and bandages.

Cousin Annie supported the cause too. She added an extra touch, however, by tucking her name and address into the toes of a few socks in hopes of gaining a young male pen-pal. She got one, and if his letters were occasionally graphic, such as when he described the execution by firing squad of two Yankee comrades who had attempted to desert, Annie must not have minded, for they continued their correspondence until 1871.

In April of 1863, a year after Ellen’s graduation from Westford Academy, Peter made the decision to sell the small general store. With so many men away fighting, and the loss of southern trade, business had slowed in Westford. Hoping that they’d do better with a larger store, the family packed up their ...

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