March 13: Mary Hewitt Doubleday (1907)

Mary Hewitt’s father was a Baltimore attorney. Her mother died when she was just eight months old. Mary was handed off to a succession of relatives and friends. While living in Washington, she met Lt. Abner Doubleday. He would later write that he was “fascinated by the bright eyes of a Washington belle.” On January 28, 1852 Abner Doubleday and Mary Hewitt were married at the Church of the Epiphany. As was the custom with some military wives in those days, she followed her husband from post to post, even on his most dangerous deployments. Though she had been called a belle, she quickly became a “lady of the Army.” She was at her husband’s side when Apaches attacked in Texas, when he fought against the Seminoles in the Everglades, and when their steamship nearly sank in shark-infested waters off the Florida coast.

Mary accompanied her husband to what seemed to be a safe assignment when he was sent to Ft. Moultrie in Charleston harbor in 1858. Things took a turn for the worse and the defense of the fort was inadequate. The War Department refused to send reinforcements. For a time, Mary Doubleday stood watch on the ramparts to relieve the weary soldiers. Capt. Abner Doubleday became second in command in the garrison at Fort Sumter. He aimed the cannon that fired the first return shot in answer to the Confederate bombardment that started the Civil War. Mary Doubleday was back in Epiphany in 1864 as the baptismal sponsor for George Norris Sykes, the son of one of her husband’s West Point classmates.

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