Born Sarah A. Graham, and reared in Ithaca, New York,
"Aunt Becky" as she was to be nationally known, was about 17
years of age when the Civil War broke out. She had apparently
married young, and had already lost her husband, a Mr. Palmer,
for it was as Sarah Palmer that in June, 1862, she finally
gained consent to be a regimental nurse, and joined the 109th
New York Infantry, going first to Baltimore, then Bladensburg,
then Deltaville with that unit which contained as many Ithaca
As a young slip of a girl she was called "mother" by the men she
nursed in the Army Camps and Hospital. This title she thought a
little to much for one of her young years, and one day while
objecting to that honor from one of the sick men in a hospital,
a Doctor French of the hospital corps said he would settle it
definitely and for all.... and dubbed her "Aunt Becky", a name
which immediately stuck, and one which followed her throughout
the rest of her life.
followed the northern Army throughout the remainder of the war,
for three years, as close to the front as the hospitalization
1867 She married David C. Young, a contractor, presumably in
Ithaca. In 1868 the couple removed to Des Moines, Iowa, where
they and their family made their home ever since, until her
death on April 6, 1908, the Anniversary date of her marriage,
and that of the Battle of Shiloh.
interest in the care and comfort of the military men did not die
with the peace of 1865. When the Spanish American War broke out
she helped to sponsor a chicken dinner while the men were still
quartered at Camp McKinley at the Fairgrounds. With the $145,
receipts taken from this affair she helped to organize the Iowa
Sanitation Commission, this was in May of 1898. The functions of
the Commission were similar to that of the present day Red
Cross, the providing of bandages, and other accessories which
the soldier might need in camp or hospital. Aunt Becky as might
have expected, was the President of the organization.
Aunt Becky wrote
a biography of her war experiences which is in our Historical
Library. I presume that other copies of the book are located
elsewhere as well.
Young died in Des Moines, Iowa, April 6, 1908, at the family
residence aged 76 years. Mrs. Young was a noted Army Nurse,
Enlisted June, 1862, at Ithaca, New York. She was then Sarah J.
Palmer. Her husband died before the war. In 1867 she became the
wife of D. C. Young, coming to Des Moines in 1868, where she has
since resided. Her Husband and two daughters, Mrs. J. S.
Ainsworth and Mrs. Belle Belton, both of Des Moines survive her.
Becky" was a noble woman of more than ordinary fame as as
army nurse, of unselfish character and devotion, giving her life
to aide the union Soldiers; but in that very retiring and modest
way concerning the deeds which have handed her name down to
In one of her
interviews she said: "Many a dying message was given to me
for far away friends, many a last farewell was whispered in my
ear for the dear wife and children." She was indeed the
mother of all the soldiers, they revered her as much.
said of her; No soldier was braver than she, plying her holy
work before the blaze of cannon; beneath the silent stars
threading her way among the dead, seeking for the wounded with
the light of love in her eyes and words of hope and cheer on her
tributes have been spoken of her, among them is the following by
every where she went, she was observed by some soldier whose
life she saved or who had been cheered and nursed back to life
and happiness by her, and many is the time that I have seen
strong men clasping her hand in theirs, stand weeping before
her, the noblest tribute, I imagine, that it was possible to pay
to woman hood."
truthfully be said of her: "None knew her but to thee but to
love thee; None named thee but to praise". The dear ones of
her household surrounded her in her last days and hours of her
life, administering to every want and giving to her the most
tender care. Tributes of respect and love expressed by choice
words, beautiful flowers and a large concourse of friends marked
the day of her burial; and loving hands laid her reverently to
rest in Woodland Cemetery, that beautiful "City of the Dead"
in Des Moines, her home for many years, where she was well
known and honored by every citizen. The only "Aunt Becky"
known to the history of our Country.
a copy of the Grand Army Advocate: Printed in Des Moines in 1908
She is buried in Woodland Cemetery in Des Moines, Iowa in Block
17 - Lot 134.