This Memorial Day, I’m remembering, Sgt. Charles P. Tidd, and his friend and nurse, Carrie Cutter, both of whom died in service to their country.
Tidd, one of John Brown’s raiders, evaded capture after the raid. After the Civil War broke out, he enlisted in the 21st Massachusetts Infantry under the assumed name of Charles Plummer. He never saw battle, but died of typhoid fever on February 8, 1862, aboard the steamer Northerner while the battle of Roanoke Island raged nearby. Nursing him was his friend Carrie Cutter, who had accompanied her father, surgeon Calvin Cutter, to war. Carrie wrote to Charles’s sister Evelyn Tidd, “Our Charlie is now in the spirit world.” Tidd is believed to be the “Charles Coledge” buried at New Bern National Cemetery, the name being changed to protect his grave from desecration.
Carrie’s stepmother, Eunice P. Cutter, who had known Tidd since the days of the Kansas border wars, read a tribute to him in 1888 at a veterans’ reunion. “Sergeant Tidd dared to do right as he understood his Bible, dared to be true to his convictions, ‘to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free;’ his ardent zeal often led him into peril.” (Worcester Daily Spy, August 24, 1888.)
Annie Brown Adams, who had gotten to know Tidd while serving as her father’s housekeeper and lookout at the raiders’ headquarters in Maryland, recalled years later for Oswald Garrison Villard that her friend “had not much education, but good common sense. After the raid he began to study, and tried to repair his deficiencies. He was by no means handsome. He had a quick temper, but was kind-hearted. His rages soon passed and then he tried all he could to repair damages. He was a fine singer and of strong family affections.”
As for Carrie, when Dr. Cutter, an abolitionist who had been active in Kansas before the war, joined the 21st Massachusetts Infantry as its surgeon, Carrie, an educated young lady who had attended Mount Holyoke, went south with her father and served as his secretary and as a nurse. Having sat beside Tidd in his dying moments, nineteen-year-old Carrie attended to the sick and wounded after the battle of Roanoke Island but contracted typhoid fever and died on the Northerner on March 24, 1862. She asked to be buried next to her friend “Charlie.” A manuscript at the Library of Congress containing biographical notes about Carrie, probably assembled by her stepmother, recalls, “Twice she was asked by her father during her sickness if she regretted coming out, should she not recover. She replied with more than her usual decision and emphasis, ‘Most surely not.'”
Styled “the Florence Nightingale of the 21st,” Carrie was buried with military honors at Roanoke Island and was later moved to the New Bern National Cemetery, where she lies today. She is also commemorated at the Elm Street Cemetery in her birthplace of Milford, New Hampshire.