Daniel Addison Bridgman was born the fourth of nine children, on a farm in Hanover, NH, in 1832. Besides being a successful farmer, his father was a deacon of the Baptist Church, served in many town office positions as well as the State Legislature. He sent two of his sons, John and Daniel, to Kimball Union although John was only here for one year (1850-51). Daniel studied in the Classical Department for three years, graduated in 1852 and went on to Dartmouth College (1852-1855). He took medical courses for another year and, for reasons unknown, moved south to Macon, GA, where he taught in local schools before opening his own school.
In 1865, Bridgman returned to Hanover to complete his medical studies. He received his degree in the spring of 1866 and returned to Georgia to open a medical practice. Lacking supplies, he wrote for financial help to A.T. Stewart, a man believed to have been the Irish immigrant who began work as a grocer’s assistant before creating his own retail business on Broadway, a place famously called the “marble palace.” Stewart was known as one of the wealthiest men in America; he was also known for his charity and lenient credit terms.
Bridgman wrote to Stewart and began his letter “I have often heard your name spoken of in deeds of mercy & kindness & trust you will excuse me for asking a favor of you. I was formerly a teacher, a native of N.H., but Sher- man in his grand march completely ruined me. But on that ruin I am struggling to build myself again. Our country is just now badly bankrupt & I am trying to make an honest living by the practice of medicine. The favor is this: Could you not send me a pocket case of instruments (3-ply) & wait on me for a short time. I am needing them every few days but am unable to secure them. I used to have many acquaintances in N.Y. before the war but have no knowledge of them since. I enclose a card where the best instruments can be obtained.”
Some people believe that the reason he claimed to have been ruined by Sherman was the fact that while Sherman was “marching through Georgia,” Bridgman, “a native of N.H.” was not a Union man but a soldier in the 25th Georgia Infantry, CSA, for four years. However, as he seems to have spent most of the war on detached service, on sick leave or as a nurse in Macon and Columbus hospitals, he may not have actually shot at any of his northern brethren. A second existing document, his birth certificate, gives his place of birth as Georgia and some ask if he did this to protect himself from neighbors who otherwise might have seen him as an abolitionist living in the South. Whatever his true sympathies, after the war, Bridgman practiced medicine and was postmaster in Parramore Hill, GA, from 1868 –74. He and his wife then moved to Illinois where he practiced medicine until 1892. Bridgman died in 1916.
An interesting footnote to the life of Daniel Bridgman is the life of his older, adoring sister, Laura, a woman who was once world famous as a result of her accomplishments made under difficult circumstances. At age three, Laura and her two older sisters were stricken with scarlet fever; only Laura survived but was left deaf, blind and with no sense of smell or taste. Because of her mother’s loving care, she learned to sew, to knit and to do some household chores. One day, while still a child, a doctor from Dartmouth College met Laura and found her both in- telligent and affectionate. He corresponded with Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe of the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston. Howe became eager to educate her and eight-year-old Laura moved to the Perkins School in 1837 where she spent her life with occasional visits home. Laura did learn to write and to do arithmetic and later helped as an assistant teacher. Five decades later, Kate Keller, read an account of Laura in Charles Dickens’ American Notes and desired the same help for her own daughter Helen. She hired Anne Sullivan who had shared a cabin at the school with Laura in the 1880s; in fact, Anne came to Helen with the gift of a doll dressed in clothes Laura had made. Laura died in 1889 and was buried near the family farm in the Dana Cemetery in Hanover, NH. Her epitaph reads.
LAURA DEWEY BRIDGMAN
December 21, 1829-May 24, 1889
DEAF DUMB AND BLIND
FROM TWO YEARS OLD
EDUCATED AT THE PERKINS INSTITUTION
SOUTH BOSTON MASSACHUSETTS
Post Script: I recently came across Addison Bridgman’s obituary in the 1916-17 Kimball Union Bulletin. In fairness to him, I should add a little here that answers the question why he, a Northerner, joined the Confederate Army. I read, “Already the war spirit was in the air, and when Fort Sumpter was fired upon the whole country was ablaze with excitement. Dr. Bridgman had grown to love the south and the southern people and he espoused their cause. On his birthday anniversary, August 10, 1861, a company of soldiers marched past his school house. Hastily bidding his wife good bye he fell in with them and marched to the railroad station thirteen miles away. … They went to Savannah and enlisted … .” After hard service, Bridgman was assigned to a hospital; his wife was a matron there as she had followed him to the front. Following Lee’s surrender, they had no money and only a few sheets and pillows to trade for their food. “After many hardships they finally secured enough money to take them back to Hanover, NH, … . He walked four miles to the farm where he was born. His parents did not know him until he told them who he was. He worked on the farm the rest of that fall and winter and took the remainder of the lecture course in Medicine.” Later in life “he became a staunch prohibitionist and worked diligently for that cause.”