Isabella Fogg South Portland Historical Society photos

One of the more notable people buried in Forest City Cemetery on Lincoln Street is Isabella Fogg. Luckily, there is a nice interpretive marker erected on her gravesite to make passersby aware of the role that Isabella played in American history.

Isabella Morrison Fogg was born in December, 1823, in New Brunswick, Canada. She grew up on the farm of her parents, themselves immigrants from Scotland. She married at the young age of 13, not terribly uncommon at the time, and moved with her husband, William Fogg, to Calais, Maine, in 1837. Hers was a hard life, as she worked as a seamstress, had several children with only one believed to have reached adulthood, and she was a widow when the American Civil War broke out in 1961.

In April, 1861, Isabella’s son Hugh joined the militia and then answered Captain Joel Haycock’s call to the young men of Calais to join his company. They formed Company D and left Calais by ship on May 21, 1861, bound for Cape Elizabeth. They arrived here at Ligonia, on the campground that would be named Camp Abraham Lincoln, and the company became part of the 6th Maine Volunteer Infantry that organized here on July 15 (for a three-year commitment) and shipped out on July 18, 1861, to head down to the battlefields.

With her son headed to war, Isabella decided to join in the Union effort by offering her services to the state of Maine. She headed down to Annapolis, Maryland, in the fall of 1861, attached to another Maine regiment. As you are probably aware, the army camps of the Civil War were a cruel place, with so many soldiers suffering from various ailments, including typhoid and other illnesses spread through close contact, bad weather conditions, and contaminated food and water.

The need for medical attention was great and there was endless work for someone like Isabella in the army camps. She worked tirelessly, tending Maine soldiers as though they were her own son.

In the spring of 1862, Isabella offered her services to the Sanitary Commission of Washington. She was assigned for a time to a hospital transport ship. As the ship made its way up and down the York and James rivers, Isabella was one of many nurses on board helping to care for the sick and wounded. She then was sent to a place called Savage Station, just two miles from the war front.

It was there that she caught up with her son Hugh, who arrived and told her of the suffering of the 6th Maine. She left the very next morning on a supply wagon that headed through a swamp to find them. Once there, she assessed the lamentable conditions of the men and their war camp, then headed back to Savage Station to make plans to improve their situation. Unfortunately, the entire line was then forced to retreat, but she continued helping, even during the retreat, by nursing the wounded and sick from an ambulance.

By the summer of 1862, the 6th Maine was suffering from both typhoid and malaria. Hugh became sick enough that he was sent to a hospital to recover. Isabella ended up heading back to Portland where she started communicating with the public about the conditions of the Maine soldiers and started garnering support.

Historical sign for Isabella Fogg in Forest City Cemetery.

She wrote to the governor, spoke with the mayor, and reached out to the community. Her efforts resulted in the creation of the Maine Camp Hospital Association. In its forming documents, the association said that, “two ladies then on the field were asked to distribute such stores as we might be able to forward to them, which they kindly consented to do.”

Those two ladies were Isabella Fogg and another volunteer nurse, Harriet Eaton.

Isabella and Harriet would then return south, on behalf of the Maine Camp Hospital Association, to care for Maine soldiers. Isabella’s story is an interesting one, with many twists and turns as she served soldiers throughout the Civil War. In January of 1865, while providing care to soldiers on a hospital boat, Isabella fell through a hatchway and suffered a spinal injury, leaving her bedridden for the following two years.

Upon the urging of General Joshua Chamberlain and others, Isabella was given a pension in 1866. She was the only known woman given a pension from injuries sustained during the Civil War.

If you’d like to read more about Isabella Fogg, her story is documented quite well in the book, “Ladies on the Field: Two Civil War Nurses from Maine on the Battlefields of Virginia,” by Libby MacCaskill and David Novak.

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is executive director of the South Portland Historical Society.

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