Scotland and the South: A Nurse’s Perspective

Kate Cumming’s Thoughts on Scotland and the South

There is so much that could be said about Kate Cumming, nurse with the Army of Tennessee during the War Between the States,  but this will be my last post on her for a while.  Her thoughts on Scotland and the South are particular relevant to this blog.  I believe s he expresses some of the real issues of the War Between the States. If you enjoy researching the Civil War, you should find a copy of her journal somewhere. In Kate: A Journal of A Confederate Nurse (LSU Press), she says, beginning on p. 4ff:

About the trial of Wirz and Andersonville, she says, “We begged, time and again, for an [prisoner] exchange, but none was granted.  We starved their prisoners! But who laid waste our corn and wheat fields? And did not we all starve?  Have the southern men who were in northern prisons no tales to tell–of being frozen in their beds, and seeing their comrades freeze to death for want of proper clothing? Is there no Wirz for us to bring to trial? But I must stop; the old feeling comes back; these things are hard to bear. People of the North, the southerners have their faults. Cruelty is not one of them. If your prisoners suffered, it was from force of circumstances, and not with design.

About the cause of the war and the comparison of the South to Scotland, she says,  “When the war broke out, I looked around for a parallel, and naturally my native country and her struggle came up first.  Since I have been mingling with the southern people, I have found that I was far from being the only one who was claiming that land of romance and chivalry.  It was impossible to go any place without meeting her descendants; and thanks to Walter Scott and Burns, they had any other wish but that of disclaiming her.

“I have never seen Scotland to remember her, but have read much about her mountains, glens, and lakes, and I can not see how they can surpass in grandeur and beauty those we have here; and had we only the writers, gifted from the fire to sing, as none but Scotia’s bards have done, in her praise, they would find beauties here as boundless as our empire.

“Many will say that it is impossible that the South can ever prosper in union with the North. For centuries, not four years, England and Scotland, on the same island, a small rivulet dividing them, fought against each other with a ferocity such as no two nations ever exhibited.  In 1603 the throne of England became vacant by the death of Queen Elizabeth.  the next and nearest heir was James VI of Scotland. He ascended the English throne.  The two nations from that time were united in all save the name.  In 1707 the Act of Union was passed, and the two nations formed what is now Great Britain.

“Many years have elapsed since that union. Is a Scotchman today an Englishman? or, vice-versa, an Englishman a Scotchman? All know they are as distinct in nationality as the first day they were united . . .

“Scotland has lost nothing in grandeur or might since then. Her seats of learning can compete with any in the world.  Where is there a nation that can boast of more brilliant lights, both civil and military? Is not her literature spread broadcast over the whole earth . . .

“Many a man, whose name is now a shining light, never would have been heard of had not misfortune come upon him . . . If the southern people ever were a great people they will show it now.  In the whole world there is not such a favored spot as the South . . . That is why the North fought so hard to keep us with her.  We have every climate necessary for the well-being of man . . . Is this fair heritage to become a howling wilderness, because a people we dislike will have us unite with them whether we will or no?