A Voice for Veterans

I spent part of Veterans Day upset. Upset about the headlines of the past week regarding Dover and the mishandling of the remains of our fallen soldiers. That made me recall the 2010 scandal at Arlington National Cemetery and further led to the myriad frustrations facing today’s vets in regard to well-deserved benefits such as quality medical care, employment and education.
Then, Danbury’s own Almira Ambler came to mind. I decided to feature Mrs. Ambler, a Civil War era ‘whistle-blower’, in my post today to honor her in some small way for being someone who, 147 years ago, was compelled to speak the truth and bring injustices to light.

Almira Ambler, Civil War Nurse

Almira Ambler, wife of the anti-slavery Baptist minister Edward C. Ambler. Reverend Ambler served with the 67th Pennsylvania regiment as chaplain. Mrs. Ambler was one of the first women to volunteer her services as a nurse and one of the first women to receive a pension from the Federal government for her service as an army nurse. The Amblers both rest in Wooster Cemetery, along with thousands of other veterans; the sons and daughters of Danbury.
Her obituary in The Danbury Evening News printed June 29, 1891 stated, “Mrs. Ambler was always expected to say something.” That remark was made in regard to her role as one of the first members of the Relief Corps. of the G.A.R. Apparently Almira’s need to speak up on behalf of our wounded soldiers began much earlier; proven by a certain ‘Letter to the Editor’ recently uncovered in archives of the Danbury Museum & Historical Society, published in The Jeffersonian on July 20, 1864.
Thank you Almira….for your service, your courage and, most especially, for providing a voice for our veterans so very long ago.
The Jeffersonian, Wednesday, July 20, 1864
Mr. Editor – Will you or some of your correspondents please tell why a wounded man cannot be admitted into a sleeping car?
I was procuring my ticket at the depot in Washington, on the 28th of June, when a gentleman stepped up and procured two tickets for, I think, New York. After paying for them he said he also wished to secure two berths in the sleeping car, – one for himself, and the other for his son, who was badly wounded. The agent immediately said: “He cannot be admitted. They do not allow any wounded men in the sleeping car.” The father said, “he must have it.” The agent replied, “You cannot, for I have no authority to give it to you.” “But,” said the father, “my son is badly wounded and I must have a car where he can lie down.” “Well,” said the agent, “you had better see the conductor.” The grieved father turned away, probably to see if he could have the privilege of taking a noble, self-denying son home on the sleeping car of one of our public railroads – I turned in sadness from the office to ask myself this question. Is it true or am I dreaming?

When I was in Philadelphia in May last I saw, and helped dress, the wounds of hundreds on their way from Washington to New York who had traveled all that distance
sitting on benches, without even backs to lean against. Is there no remedy for this? Are the resources of our once rich country departed?
If not, I hope some way will soon be devised to make the homeward journey of the defenders of our firesides more comfortable. It can, and should be done.
Mr. Editor, I know that by thus writing I shall incur the displeasure of those that control these things, but if I can make the journey home of our wounded soldiers a
little easier, I can well afford to bear it all.

With many wishes for your success in your noble work, I am respected sir, your co-laborer in the Hospital.
Almira Ambler
Annapolis, July 4, 1864