Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mary Ann Berry

Mary Ann Berry from Lewiston, Maine was 21 years old when she met Ivory Brown from Parsonsfield, Maine. They married in 1861, the year the Civil War began.

He enlisted with the 31st Maine Infantry Regiment in 1864 and Mary decided she would go with him. Not surprisingly, she was rejected by the Army. She persisted, however, and took on clerical jobs for the regiment. Eventually, she went south with the regiment as a field nurse.

Records of her service cannot be found, but in 1930 she was interviewed by a reporter to whom she told her story. Besides nursing and caring for soldiers, she told the reporter that she also fought beside them. When asked, "Did you carry a musket and fight with the Union Men?", she replied, "Yes, sir. I carried a musket ... a 16-shooter [possibly a Henry Repeater rifle], a sword and a dirk, too, to fight my way through like the rest of them."

Mary was standing next to her brother-in-law at the siege of Petersburg when he was killed. It's possible that she was disguised as a soldier, since General Grant had issued orders that no women be allowed at the front. Ivory was also injured at Petersburg and Mary was there to care for him. He was discharged in June 1865 after which the couple went home to Brownfield, Maine. Ivory died in 1902. Mary outlived him by 34 years, dying in 1936 at age 96.

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