Thursday, December 18, 2014
Jessie Hainning Rupert (detail from program for the 43rd reunion of the 34th Massachusetts Regiment), 1908. Courtesy of Schlesinger LibraryJessie Hainning Rupert (detail from program for the 43rd reunion of the 34th Massachusetts Regiment), 1908. Courtesy of Schlesinger Library

Monument erected at Winchester, Virginia, on September 16, 1907, by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in memory of those who gave their lives in the Shenandoah Valley, 1861-1865. Courtesy of Schlesinger LibraryMonument erected at Winchester, Virginia, on September 16, 1907, by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in memory of those who gave their lives in the Shenandoah Valley, 1861-1865. Courtesy of Schlesinger Library

A new collection of papers of a Civil War heroine has arrived just in time to coincide with the opening of the Schlesinger Library’s exhibit, What They Wrote, What They Saved: The Personal Civil War. Known as the "Angel of the Shenandoah," Jessie Hainning Rupert (1831–1909) was born in Scotland and moved with her family to Ohio in the 1830s. Educated at Oakland Female Institute in Norristown, Pennsylvania, she became principal of the Ann Smith Academy in Lexington, Virginia, before moving to New Market, Virginia, where she directed the New Market Female Seminary.

As an opponent of slavery and a Union sympathizer, she was ostracized by her fellow townspeople who suspected her of spying (she did, in fact, relay messages to Union troops); nevertheless she married Solomon P. Rupert (1823–1867) and throughout the war provided food, shelter, and medical care to soldiers and civilians on both sides of the conflict. “My religion teaches me to know no enemy among wounded and suffering men,” claimed Rupert.

She was later adopted as the daughter of the 34th Massachusetts Regiment, some of whose members she had nursed at her home after the battle of New Market in 1864. After the war she established the Cottage Institute, a boarding and day school for white children, and Woodworth Cottage Institute, a night school for black students. She later supported herself and her two sons by lecturing in the North on her life as a Yankee in a southern town. For a more complete description of the collection, see http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:RAD.SCHL:sch01486.

Program and menu for the 43rd reunion of the 34th Massachusetts Regiment 1908. Courtesy of Schlesinger LibraryProgram and menu for the 43rd reunion of the 34th Massachusetts Regiment 1908. Courtesy of Schlesinger Library