Merklees in the Civil War: Amanda L. Merklee


Amanda Merklee was born in probably Philadelphia, PA in August 1832. She was the fifth child of Conrad and Catherine (Knowsland) Merklee. As far as can be determined, she never married. She seems to have been a very independent woman, having run her own dry goods store in Philadelphia for most of her life. Her date of death is unknown. The 1900 U.S. Census lists her as unmarried and living with her sisters Anna, Adeline and Clara, and their niece Amanda Beitler, in Philadelphia.

Amanda, along with her sisters, volunteered at the Cherry Street hospital in Philadelphia during the Civil War, nursing wounded Union and Confederate soldiers alike. She kept diaries through most of the 1860s, in which she detailed local life, news of the Civil War, and the work being done at home to support the Union cause. These diaries are now held by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The following is a description of the collection, taken from the HSP web site Guide to Women During the Civil War:

Merklee, Amanda.
Diaries and Record Book for the Ladies Spring Garden Aid Association

Call No. Am .1375

This collection consists of the volumes of Amanda Merklee's diary, spanning 1860 to 1866. In the first volume (1860-1863), Merklee lived in the city of Philadelphia and was very active in the 10th Street Baptist Church. She recorded much of daily life and concerns, including the weather, Sunday school, and spirituality.

Merklee did not write for approximately 18 months, during which time the war had broken out. Because of this, when she started writing again she detailed what had happened in the intervening months. She noted Lincoln's election and the South's reactions, and commented on how slavery had "long been agitating our land." Merklee mentioned how the war threw "brother against brother" and explained what the Confederacy hoped to gain. Certain battles were recorded, including Manassas Junction (July 21, 1861). She went on to note that the Federal side was that of "justice and right." Her rendition of the outbreak of the Civil War seems to express her opinion of certain topics of the time, not just reiterate the opinions voiced in the local papers.

In this journal she wrote of the role of women in the war effort and what they did at home. "Thousands of women found employment" and "all did what they could." Merklee noted that some became nurses and helped the wounded and sick while others sewed and mailed items to soldiers.

For the remainder of this diary, Merklee devoted one page to war news for each page of personal happenings. She wrote about news from the papers including various battles, the drafts, and the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.
  
Volume 3 is dated from 1863 to 1866. There are newspaper clippings of war news secured to the front several pages of the diary, including one regarding McClellan's farewell. She noted much news about the Confederate surrender in 1865 as well as the thousands of soldiers in the hospitals during that same year. The assassination of Lincoln in Ford's Theatre at the hands of John Wilkes Booth was recorded as well.

The notes of the Ladies Spring Garden Aid Association, of which Merklee was president during the war years, are located in Volume 2. This Association was organized February 19, 1862, in order to assist the Union side. There are lists of the members enclosed as well as reports of women who traveled to Federal hospitals and the conditions they found there. Included are the minutes of the meetings and what appears to be a speech, presumably given by Merklee, in which she said the women needed to help "with the burdens of life" because as "the men fight, it is our responsibility to provide their comforts."