22 July 2016

Helping Georgia's Blind and Serving the Confederate Soldier

solidarity-blindFrom it's inception in 1851 to his death thirty years later, Dr. James Mercer Green was attached to the Georgia Academy for the Blind.  He co-founded the project and was on the board of trustees as president and medical director.  The following article, which was one of many to come, kicked off the idea and fund raising for the cause.  (Full article transcribed by Margie A. Daniels for USGenNet.org.)

5 April 1851, Georgia Citizen


We are happy to learn that an effort is now making for the commencement of an Institution for the education of the blind youth of our State, and that a meeting for the purpose of encouraging and sustaining this effort, will be held on Monday evening next, at half-past seven o'clock, at the Methodist Church.  An address will be delivered on this occasion by Walter S. Fortescue, a graduate of the Pennsylvania Institution for the Blind, and more recently a graduate of the University of that State, at the close of which, preparatory measures for the establishment of an institution of this character will doubtless be taken by the citizens.  When it is remembered that the Legislatures of more than two-thirds of the States have already made ample arrangements for the education of their blind, it is to us a matter of surprise that Georgia, occupying so prominent a position in the Union as she does, should have so long remained indifferent to the to the [sic] educational interests of this class of her youth…

When Dr. Green's life and commitment to the academy was complete upon his death in 1881, a lengthy obituary (of which a portion I shared yesterday) was printed in the local newspaper.  Regarding the work of Dr. Green and the Georgia Academy for the Blind, this is what was said (in part):

He was the first to suggest the idea of establishing the Georgia Academy for the Blind, located at Macon, and of whose board of directors he was the first and only president.  One of the officers of the institution, entirely familiar with its history, thus writes:  "Dr. Green was a man whose benevolent instincts were largely developed.  He ever regarded human suffering and infirmity with compassionate feeling.  Institutions designed for the amelioration of the sufferings of these classes of our fellow creatures, received a large measure of his study and interest.  He kept himself informed as to their specail [sic] work, and was a zealous advocate of their cause.  This was notably the case as to the Georgia Academy for the Blind…Although at that time actively engaged in the prosecution of his profession, and encumbered with a large practice, he found time to exert all the influence he had, enlisting his numerous friends by personal appeals and solicitations in behalf of the enterprise…He was made a member of the board of temporary trustees, and when the enterprise culminated in a chartered State charity, he was named with N. C. Munroe, A. H. Chappell, John B. Lamar, E. B. Weed, R. A. Smith and E. Graves as corporators, and when the board was organized on June 23, 1852, he was selected as the president, which office he held continuously until his death, a period of nearly thirty years.  In his office as trustee and president of the board he ever held a just appreciation of the proposed design of the institution, and gave his earnest support to all measures designed specifically to promote the same, and finding his highest gratification in its advancement and success in this particular respect.

"During this period he was from his universally acknowledged fitness for the position by a unanimous vote of his associates appointed attending physician of the academy, and in that position fully merited and retained, throughout this long period, the entire confidence of the trustees and officers charged with the internal management of the establishment.  To the duties of this office, always varied and often perplexing, he gave the most unremitting and assiduous attention, and they were discharged not only with scrupulous fidelity, but with the highest skill.  He had the highest regard for his responsibilities in the offices he held; and in the discharge of the various duties they imposed, he displayed eminent qualifications and fitness, great zeal, activity and talent.  His connection with the Academy for the Blind will be long and gratefully remembered by its friends and the people of the State, and the loss they have sustained in the death of one of their earliest, most constant and devoted friends, will be keenly felt and sincerely deplored."

The remembrance continues by speaking of the next useful contribution to his community made by Dr. Green:

…When the tocsin of war sounded and his fellow-citizens were summoned to the field in defense of right and country, although in feeble health and over age, he cheerfully abandoned the comforts of home and repaired to the scene of conflict, ministering to the wants of the sick and wounded, and continued faithful in this work to the end of the strife, at all times regardless of his own interest…

 Field hospital via Flickr Commons.Dr. Green was much involved in the promotion of Georgia's secession from the Union.  And it seems, that from the very start of the war, he desired to be involved with the Confederate hospitals and helping the sick, wounded, and dying.  He wrote the following to Howell Cobb early in the war:  [Civil War Macon by Richard W. Iobst.  Pub. 1999, Mercer University Press.  Pg. 107.]

"I feel convinced that it is in my power to [be] of great service to hundreds of our poor sick & dying soldiers who are too often treated as if they were paupers instead of the owners of the medicines & supplies so munificently sent from Georgia for their relief."

Dr. Green was in control of the Macon hospitals by 1863.  Specifically, at least at some point, he was Chief Surgeon of the Floyd House Hospital.

The Georgia Academy for the Blind was even converted to a hospital at the persuasion of Dr. Green after Macon was inundated with hundreds more soldier patients after the Battle of Chickamauga.  By the close of 1863, Dr. Green was very pleased with how the Macon hospitals were being run.

There were challenges, tough ones, of course.  But even a year more into the war, when trying desperately to find more beds for needy soldiers, Dr. Green retains his passion and writes this:

"What shall be done with these men shall our brave sick & wounded lie on the floor or be turned into the streets – every one almost will answer no."

And later this:

"It is disgusting…to see the contemptuous indifference & even hatred that many of these wealthy foreigners & yankees & some disloyal men of Southern birth have to everything concerning the soldiers, hospitals &c.  I desire most sincerely to be able to learn some of these men their duties to the Govt. that protects them."

Through all this, the hospitals of Macon were still given high marks.

[Note:  If you have any interest in the history of Macon, or the Civil War and how it may have effected a city such, I encourage you to read the aforementioned Civil War Macon: The History of a Confederate City by Richard W. Iobst.  From inside front flap:  "Richard W. Iobst has produced an encyclopedic account of Macon, Georgia, during the years 1859-1865." – I personally find it to be an invaluable resource.]

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