“Aunt Abby” House, Confederacy’s “Angel of Mercy”

On November 23, 1881, “Aunt Abby” House, died.

Born around 1796 and raised near Franklinton, little is known of her life prior to the Civil War. Described as being stooped, grim-looking and often smoking a corn cob pipe, House carried one or two canes at all times, reputedly both to help her walk and to help her make points—and occasionally to whack those who didn’t get her point the first time.

Honoring her promise to nurse, and bring home to bury if necessary, her eight nephews during the Civil War, House traveled rails and walked roads to care for the boys. She saw that her services were needed by more than just her kinfolk, and she began to help other Confederate soldiers in need. She frequently worked in close proximity to battles.

Described by Governor Zebulon Vance as “the ubiquitous, indefatigable and inevitable Mrs. House,” she often paid visits to leaders of the Confederacy, including Jefferson Davis. In 1877, she took an honored place on the platform at Vance’s inauguration.

As House grew more feeble, former Confederate soldiers showed her their appreciation by building her a small cottage in Raleigh. William Woods Holden and Governor Vance, among others, were frequent visitors.

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