Randall M. Miller
IN 1944, Ezra T. Hazeltine of South Bend, Washington, mailed a privately printed twelve-page booklet to "Aunt Polly's descendants." In doing so, he completed one of the last tasks of his late father, who had, with the aid of family materials and relatives, compiled "a summary of the Civil War experiences of his beloved grandmother," Mary Abbot "Polly" Hazeltine (1813–1892).
In 1862, Mrs. Hazeltine had left her husband and children in Busti, Chautauqua County, New York, for the Annapolis Junction hospital in Maryland. She went to find her son Clark, of the 49th New York Volunteer Infantry, who had taken ill during McClellan's retreat from the failed Peninsula Campaign. According to her daughter, Polly Hazeltine "had never traveled, and had met very few people outside her own circle." But news of her boy's condition sent her racing southward and seemingly into a new life. Having lost one son to the war the preceding spring, she did not want to give up another so far from home.
Mrs. Hazelton found Clark, but the doctor running the hospital resented her presence and interfered with her ministrations. Not to be intimidated, she went to Washington to complain of the hospital's conditions. An investigation led to the doctor's removal, and under a new administration at the hospital, Mrs. Hazeltine nursed her son back to health. She also attended numerous other stricken soldiers in the ward over a two-month stay. Known as "Mother" by the men, she became something of a saint among them for her care. While busy in hospital work, she confessed that "I don't worry about home." Nevertheless, she did write home regularly and also started a journal of her experiences, and she kept up a correspondence with the soldiers after she returned home. Years after the war, veterans in western New York recalled Mrs. Hazeltine's service with reverence. She had