Bugle Call

Mother's Day, Then and Now

May 2, 2018

National Park Service Antietam Washington County Newcomer House Women's History

Mother's Day, Then and Now

You are invited to take in the peace that now characterizes Antietam battlefield while enjoying an outing with your mother on Mother’s Day Weekend. In fact, the experience of women and families in the American Civil War helped give rise to the holiday.

Julia Ward Howe

Anna Jarvis (1864-1948) founded Mother’s day to recognize and celebrate of the sacrifice of mothers. She especially sought to honor her own mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis (1832–1905), a social activist who organized “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” that tended to suffering Confederate and Union soldiers alike during the war years. Following the war, she staged the “Mothers’ Friendship Day," a reconciliation event for soldiers from both sides and their families in West Virginia’s Taylor County. Throughout her life, Ann Reeves Jarvis organized efforts and spoke on behalf of public health, religion, and community concerns, always with the interests of families in mind.

Another early voice for the establishment of Mother’s Day was Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910) (pictured at top left), perhaps best known for penning the lyrics to the Battle Hymn of the Republic in 1861. Having witnessed the carnage of the Civil War and the difficult lives of widows and orphans left in its wake, Howe issued a Mother Day Proclamation in 1870. It was a call to action that asked mothers to unite in promoting world peace. She was an activist on many fronts, including as an abolitionist and on behalf of women's suffrage.

volunteersmotherA great place to launch a battlefield visit with mom is the historic Newcomer House at Antietam National Battlefield, now a visitor center for the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area. It is the only historic house that witnessed the battle that is regularly open to the public. At the time of the battle in 1862 it was occupied by Joshua and Mary Ann Newcomer, whose seven children were living with them and assisting with the family farm and mill in 1860, as the census records. In September 1862 the Newcomers fled just in time to miss the worst of the skirmishing, long range artillery, and counter-battery firing that skirted their property. But, Mary Ann did not escape knowing a mother’s grief – her son John Clinton, just twenty years old, fell at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December, 1862. Undoubtedly, the Newcomer house and mill, as well as the barn and outbuildings, heard many a cry for “mother” in the days following September 17, 1862, as they were used as makeshift hospitals for the Federal army after the battle.

Today, the fields of Antietam are serene and beautiful. Make a special date with your Mother to experience this hallowed ground.

John MillekerCelebrate Mother's Day at the Newcomer House! Images of loved ones were cherished by soldiers and mothers alike during the Civil War. May 12 & 13, visitors to the Newcomer House can celebrate Mother's Day by sitting for Civil War era tintype portraits and learning about wet plate photography with John Milleker. Those who wish to purchase portraits will also be given instructions on how to digitize their tintype. The Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area will be giving out carnations at the Newcomer House to celebrate Mother's Day. See the event listing on our online event calendar.






Antietam National Battlefield, photograph by Auni Gelles

"Julia Ward Howe" accessed from the Library of Congress

"The Volunteers Mother" accessed from the Library of Congress



Elizabeth Shatto

Contributing Author: Elizabeth Shatto

Elizabeth (Liz) Scott Shatto is the Executive Director of the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area, Inc., a role held since 2005 through various iterations of the organization. She has worked on behalf of history and art museums, historic sites and heritage tourism for many years, in her... Read More