sepia toned drawing of a desert scene

Vanished Arizona: Recollections of My Army Life

by Martha Summerhayes

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Born on October 21, 1844, Martha Summerhayes was raised in Nantucket, Massachusetts. She enjoyed two years abroad in Germany where she studied literature. She returned to the United States, and ultimately married a Civil War veteran, John Wyer Summerhayes, who was still actively serving in the US Army. Vanished Arizona is a work of her recollected memories of traveling with him and his regiment, across the desert, while pregnant, during the ‘Apache Wars.’ Summerhayes gives birth while on this journey and describes the difficulties of childbirth and aftercare in an unforgiving desert, with no real information available.

Summerhayes’ writing is reflective of her white, upper class attitudes, which some readers find reliable, while others find mired in prejudice. Either way, Summerhayes offers a very unique perspective of military life, and paints a very vivid portrayal of the complexities of travel, toilet, food, and medical care during the 1870s. This autobiographical account was published originally in 1908 to many accolades from both civilians and veterans. Summerhayes died on May 12, 1926, and is interred at Arlington National Cemetery with her husband, John.