THE CIVIL WAR
Susannah Van Valkenberg

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Record 160/294
Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
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Collection Van Valkenberg
Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
Description 9th plate colodian emulsion on glass of Susannah Van Valkenberg, with stamped brass ornate mat and oval opening, stamped brass preserver, glass, and wood with embossed paper case with pin wheel; embossed red velvet lining on lid; single brass latch closure (case not original to image, added 01/20/2000).
Year Range from 1858
Event Civil War
Film Size 4" x 5"
Year range to 1862
Medium Glass/Photographic Emulsion/Brass/Wood/Paper
Neg # 21663
Notes Bust view of Susannah Van Valkenberg, wearing dark dresswith white lace collar and brooch. She wears her hair parted in center with ringletts on the sides. Possibly taken at the time of her marriage in 1860.
Susannah A. Richards lived at Plainfield, Waushara County. Henry Van Valkenburg married there on Sept. 25, 1860 to Susannah Richards. She was born on Feb. 1, 1836/8 near Miamisburg, Tioga County, Pennsylvania and she was a daughter of Solomon and Susannah (Alden) Richards. Solomon was born on Oct. 12, 1799 and his wife was born at Plainfield, Massachusetts on Feb. 11, 1800. Solomon died on Mar. 3, 1885 and his wife died on Dec. 19, 1878. Both are buried in Oshkosh, Winnebago County at Riverside Cemetery, Block 15. Susannah came to Wisconsin with her parents about 1854. She taught in the rural schools of Marquette County. Henry farmed at Plainfield until 1861 and then moved to Westfield, Marquette County. He enlisted at Springfield on Aug. 15, 1862 and was assigned as above. Henry was mustered out on June 26, 1865. He had been ill while in the service and was a patient in the company hospital. He came to Oshkosh, Winnebago County with his family in 1871. Henry and Susannah had only one daughter, Nettie R. VanValkenburg. She was born on Aug. 30, 1866 and died at Oshkosh on Dec. 19, 1878/9. Susannah (Alden) Richards died in the same house on that same day. Susannah, wife of Henry, was elected President of the Women's Relief Corps at Oshkosh when it was first formed in 1887. She was a nurse during the Civil War and served as a civilian in several hospitals at Virginia. Henry was listed in 1888 as a member of GAR Post #10 at Oshkosh. He was listed in the 1890 federal census as residing in the city of Oshkosh. Henry died at Oshkosh on Jan. 25, 1901. Susannah A. was listed as his widow in 1905. She was then residing at 94 Franklin Avenue in Oshkosh. The published biography of Susannah is available at the Oshkosh Public Museum. She died on May 17, 1930 at the Wisconsin Veterans' Home at King. Henry and Susannah are buried with her parents at Riverside Cemetery.

In "Wisconsin Women in the War", pp. 113-115, it states:
Among the few Wisconsin nurses now living, is Mrs. Susannah Van Valkenburg of Oshkosh; she is a type of the independent nurse, who did such effective work in Southern hospitals. In 1863 she went with her husband to Alexandria, Virginia, where she remained for seven months. Be-ing a woman of warm impulses and strong sympathies, and withal physically and temperamentally fitted for the task, she accomplished much during her short stay at the front. Her first experience was at the Wolf Street hospital, where the pitiful scenes affected her very much a~ first, but she wiped away her tears and walked over to a cot where a boy lay, seemingly unconscious. Touching his forehead she said: "Do you know that I have come all the way from Wisconsin to care for sick and wounded soldiers like your-self? Will you not look up and speak to me? I will try to fill a mother's or a sister's place, if you will allow me to."
He looked up, saying slowly as if dazed. "Will you?" "Try me and see. Your nurse tells me, that you have not tasted food for three days. Think of what you would have asked your mother or sister for, and, if possible, I will get it for you." With an indescribable look of joy on his face the boy answered, "Can you make biscuits, like my mother used to make?" She assured him that she could, if the surgeon consented. That official looked at her in amazement, but answered': "Give him what he wants; he cannot live," whereupon the biscuits were made. On the nurse's way back to the hospital, she passed one of Alexandria's beautiful residences; to its owner she applied for a jar of jelly. "Sparkling eyes and an eager smile" wreathed the suffering face, as she appeared with the wished-for dainties; the memory of the satisfaction she had afforded the sick boy never left her. From that very day the boy began to improve, and as he grew stronger, he used to creep to the window to watch for the pleasant-faced woman, as she was called by the inmates of the hospital.
After Mrs. Van Valkenburg had been at Wolf Street hospital a short time, the superintendent of the United States Christian Commission learned of her gratuitous la-bors; he offered to place the supplies in the custody of that organization at her disposal; this privilege she availed her-self of very often. In January 1864, she was transferred to King Street hospital, where she remained until illness forced her to give up her work. At the latter hospital she was allowed to enter the wards at all hours of the day and night; a privilege she often made use of, for in May, 1864, a number of wounded soldiers were brought in, who sadly needed her constant care. At one time she solicited from Battery A a sum of money, which she expended in buying lemons and sugar, with which she made lemonade in two large camp-kettles. Nearly every hospital in Alexandria received its share, and the gratitude of the soldiers for the cooling drink was touching. Through the generosity of a wealthy woman who had seen her trudging back and forth to the hospital, laden with supplies, she was enabled to serve the boys with soup; on the days designated Mrs. Van Valkenburg and four boys in blue who helped her, received two large camp-boilers of soup for the sick soldiers.
But the activities of this helpful woman were not con-fined to hospitals alone; she made the small cottage her husband had built in Battery B, a social center for the soldier boys, who ran in and out as though it was their home, and she their mother. So comfortable was the little cottage, that the captain of the Commission brought a Mas-sachusetts officer to see "what a home a Wisconsin woman could make in a soldier's camp." Yet it was only a room twelve feet square and built of the plainest materials. At entertainments and in the various churches she took an active part in the singing. She used also to write letters for the soldiers, conveying the last message of the dying, or inquiring if the keepsakes of the dead soldier had reached their proper destination; if they had been kept back for any reason, Mrs. Van Valkenburg made it her duty to re-port the matter, and force the guilty person to give up the articles.
As a type of strong, sane womanhood, and of vigorous, unselfish service, Mrs. Van Valkenburg should be regarded as one of the first in the list of Wisconsin women of the Civil War period.
Object ID P1930.3.1
Object Name Ambrotype
People Van Valkenburg, Susannah Alden Richards
Print size 2 1/2" x 3"
Subjects Portrait photographs
Female
Civil War
Nurses
Title Susannah Van Valkenberg
COPYRIGHT INFORMATION ~ For access to this image, contact scross@ci.oshkosh.wi.us

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Last modified on: December 12, 2009