Daisy Lamb with daughter Sallie
Sarah Ann Chaffee, who went by “Daisy,” was the wife of Col. William Lamb, CSA, commander of Fort Fisher, which guarded the approaches to Wilmington, North Carolina, during the Civil War.
The war had moved her around. In 1862, while Daisy was living in Wilmington with her husband and three children, her daughter Sallie died; expecting another child, Daisy moved back to her in-laws’ home in Norfolk, Virginia. But Norfolk fell to the Union and troops ransacked her in-laws’ home, prompting her father to bring his daughter and grandchildren home to Providence, Rhode Island. After the birth of her son, Willie, she left the newborn with her parents and returned with her two remaining children to Fort Fisher, eventually settling in a cottage the soldiers had built for her family near the beach.
In July of 1863, she wrote a reassuring letter to her mother in Rhode Island, “I think we are in the most comfortable place we could possibly find during the war — so many blockade runners come in every week. There were seven last week. Let me tell you the presents I had from Captains in two days: a large bag of white sugar, four bottles of rum, two jars of pickles, a large cheese, six boxes of sardines, a quantity of limes and two pineapples, a box of toilet soap, half a dozen bottles of claret, 1 doz. bottles of Sherry and 1 doz. of Port, two bottles of brandy and two of Madeira, and two beef tongues. Isn’t that doing very well?”
She wrote also of the monotony of life during the war, of sewing and reading, the absence of “ladies’ society,” the boredom lifted by cannon fire from the Union blockading fleet that sent her and the children to shelter behind sand dunes, and at the end of the day, “after reading and saying my prayers, I have a search for fleas and retire.”
After the fall of Fort Fisher on January 15, 1865, Daisy lost contact with her husband. She finally found him in a Federal hospital, and stayed there nursing him back to health while he was a prisoner. After his release, they returned to Norfolk, Virginia.
The couple lost six children in infancy, and Daisy Lamb died in 1892. William Lamb never remarried. He purchased a stained glass window in her honor for Norfolk’s St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
“The world is absolutely a different place,” Lamb wrote in his diary on May 27, 1892. “I seem to have no settled or definite plan for the future, for everything I did or planned for was for her pleasure or comfort.”
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Thanks to Faces of Fort Fisher, 1861-1864 by Chris E. Fonvielle Jr., to Walt Krug of Wilmington, North Carolina, and to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Norfolk, Virginia