"It was a nervous place for a woman; but I endured it, rahter feeling a kind of enthusiasm in the nearness to danger and death." - Sarah Palmer, Ninth Corps Hospital Nurse
Women decided to come to City Point for as many different reasons as men enlisted in the army. Some came for the excitement of a military encampment. Some came to accompany or assist family members in some way. And some came because they truly believed that their presence at City Point would advance the Union cause.
Women's greatest contribution to life at City Point was their care of the sick and wounded soldiers. Even on quiet days, when no fighting occurred, daily chores occupied caregivers from morning until night. There were always patients in the wards, men who had to be fed, washed and provided with clean dressings, clothing, and linens several times a day. Nurses also spent time comforting the dying and reading and writing letters home for soldiers unable to do so for themselves. African American women performed much of the hard physical labor in the hospitals - cooking, cleaning, and laundry - for far less pay and recognition than white women received.
Not all women at City Point toiled in the wards or endured the hardships of camp life. Officers' wives maintained the social routines they had at home, even employing servants to maintain their residences and mind their children. A large part of City Point's wartime social scene was entertaining the many dignitaries who traveled to City Point, including President Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln.
Mary Todd Lincoln accompanied the President to City Point in March, 1864. Two days after they arrived the First Family attended a grand review. The President rode on horseback, but Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Grant followed in a half-open carriage. Having sustained a blow on her head from a sudden jolt caused by poor road conditions, she suffered from a severe headache. The review had already started when Mrs. Lincoln's party arrived and the President's wife learned that Mrs. Ord, wife of the Major general and a young, attractive woman, had ridden beside Mr. Lincoln during the troop review. Jealousy and her injury conspired to make Mrs. Lincoln go berserk and with difficulty she was restrained from jumping out of the carriage. When Mrs. Ord approached the carriage to pay her respects to Mrs. Lincoln, a flood of insulting language was loosened on her. Throughout the day, Mrs. Lincoln berated her husband and Lincoln, his eyes filled with pain, tried to quiet her, calling her "Mother" and speaking gently.