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Civil War Nursing

Women and sometimes Men played a major role in nursing and sanitation efforts during the Civil War, paving the way for their entry into the nursing profession in greater numbers after the war, as well as paving the way for further professionalization of the nursing field.

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Mary Ashton Rice Livermore (December 19, 1820-May 23, 1905)

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Was a key organizer for the United States Sanitary Commission during the Civil War. Afterwards, she became a leader of the woman suffrage and temperance movements, and a popular lecturer on social reform. Her husband, Daniel Parker Livermore (1818-1899) was a Universalist minister, a social activist, an editor, and a writer. Their lives and careers were inextricably linked from the time of their first meeting in 1843 until Daniel's death.

Living in the South she learned that slavery was as "demoralizing and debasing" to white slaveowners as it was hard and painful for blacks. One experience in particular, witnessing the brutal whipping of a cooper named Matt, rendered her ill for days afterward. By the time she returned to New England, Mary was an ardent abolitionist.

In 1857, frustrated with parish life, the couple moved with their two surviving daughters to Chicago while Daniel explored the possibility of moving to Kansas to help establish an anti-slavery colony. However, the serious illness of their younger daughter, Marcia Elizabeth, caused them to abandon the plan, and they made Chicago their home for the next thirteen years. During this period Daniel bought and edited a reform-centered Universalist newspaper, the New Covenant, wrote several books on Universalist theology, helped organize the Northwestern Conference of Universalists, went on numerous preaching missions, and held several brief part-time pastorates in the area.

It was during this period that Mary, with Daniel's help and encouragement, came into her own as a competent, self-confident woman with an important role to play in the reshaping of society. A turning point came when, during a cholera epidemic in the city, she determined to stay and volunteer her help rather than leaving Daniel and fleeing with her daughters. She quickly developed organizational skills, and when the Civil War broke out she was recruited by Henry Whitney Bellows, head of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, to become co-ordinator of the Northwestern branch. During the next four years she organized a far-flung volunteer support network for the Union hospitals, visited the hospitals, wrote letters "by the thousands" for soldiers, escorted wounded soldiers from hospitals to their homes, and raised large sums of money in support of the Commission's work.

During the war, Mary became "aware that a large portion of the nation's work was badly done, or not done at all, because woman was not recognized as a factor in the political world. . . . [M]en and women should stand shoulder to shoulder, equal before the law." Women, she concluded, needed the right to vote. When the war ended, Mary rose to leadership in the woman suffrage movement, writing and traveling widely as she lectured and chaired meetings. In 1868 she organized the first woman suffrage convention held in Chicago.

BORN: Dec. 18, 1820

DIED: May 23, 1905

BURIED: Wyoming Cemetery
Melrose
Middlesex County
Massachusetts

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Dorothea Lynde Dix

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Dorothea Lynde Dix was born on the Maine frontier when it was still part of Massachusetts. After an unhappy childhood, Dorothea left home at the age of 12 to live with relatives in Boston and Worcester. She was 14 when she opened her first school for young children in 1816. For the next 20 years, she combined teaching with writing textbooks, poetry, and religious tracts for young readers. Often in poor health, she travelled to England where she met reformers who were changing the way the mentally ill were treated.

In 1841, when she was nearly 40, she reached a turning point in her life.  Teaching a Sunday school class for women in the East Cambridge jail, she realized that a number of the inmates had committed only one "crime": they were mentally ill. Angered by what she saw, she brought the matter to a local court. Although her charges were denied, the women's living conditions were improved.

There were a few institutions which provided humane treatment for the insane, but they were the exceptions. Most people who suffered from mental illness lived in harsh conditions either at home, in prisons, or in poorhouses. Dix devoted the rest of her  life to changing this; with singleminded fervor, she became the "voice for the mad."

She began by surveying every jail, poorhouse, and house of correction in Massachusetts. In January 1843, she delivered a lengthly and dramatic report to the state legislature. With the support of several influential men, she succeeded in persuading the legislature to appropriate money to expand the state hospital for the insane at Worcester.

Encouraged by her victory in Massachusetts, Dix took her crusade to other states, covering over 30,000 miles in three years of non-stop travel. She prepared "memorials" designed to inform lawmakers and shame them into acting. In 1843, there were 13 mental hospitals in the country; by 1880 there were 123, and Dorothea Dix played a direct role in founding 32 of them.  She lent her support to other causes, especially prison reform and education for the blind, but the mentally ill remained her primary concern.

Her skill as a lobbyist made her the most politically active woman of her generation, but her most ambitious campaign--for federal land grants to endow state mental hospitals--failed. When the Civil War broke out, Dix hoped to become the American Florence Nightingale, but her tenure as Superintendent of Women Nurses for the Union was not a success. After the war, she worked  on behalf of the mentally ill until she herself became too infirm. She spent her last years in the guest quarters of a state hospital she had helped found 35 years before; she died in 1887 at the age of 85.

Born April 4, 1802, Hampden, Maine;

died, July 18, 1887, Trenton, NJ.

Buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery
Cambridge. Middlesex County
Massachusetts

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Couzins, Phoebe Wilson

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Phoebe Couzins served as a Civil War nurse with the Western Sanitary Commission, which her mother Adalaide had helped to found. Her father, John E.D. Couzins, was the Provost Marshall of the State of Missouri during most of the Civil War, and also served as the St. Louis Chief of Police dring the War years.

In 1869, Couzins enrolled in the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, and was Missouri's first female law school graduate %u2013 and the third in the nation. She became a leader of the woman's suffrage movement, and in her remarkable career achieved the following: Admitted to the bar in Arkansas and Utah, the first female member of the bar in each state; First woman to try a case in federal court; First woman to address a national political convention; and, in 1887, the first woman appointed to the positon of United States Marshall.

Phoebe Couzins died in poverty in 1913, and was buried in St. Louis' Bellefontaine Cemetery, her Marshall's badge pinned to her chest.

BURIED: Bellefontaine Cemetery
Saint Louis
St. Louis County
Missouri, USA
Plot: Block 117, Lot 919

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Maria Eastman Olmstead Eldred

Many women became nurses during the Civil War because of illness or injury to a loved one serving in the line of fire.

One such woman was Maria Eastman Olmstead Eldred. She was born in 1842 to William and Eunice Eastman of Pierrepont, New York. She married George Eastman early in 1863; he enlisted in the 13th NY Cavalry, leaving for Washington, DC in June. Maria gave birth to their only child on January 2, 1864. George was wounded and Maria spent nine months nursing him in Falls Church, Virginia. Her husband died on March 30, 1866 and her son Frankie died on March 16, 1868 at age 4 years. Later she married Holden Eldred, a Pierrepont farmer, and had a daughter, Nettie, who was born in 1876.

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ELLON McCORMICK LOOBY

Ellon McCormick Looby was born in Ireland in 1834, immigrated to the United States as a teenager, and married another Irishman, Rody Looby, in Waddington, NY 1854. They had three sons, John (1860), William (1866) , and Richard (1870).

In December 1863 Rody enlisted in the 14th NY Heavy Artillery at Potsdam and served for several months before he was wounded in the Battle of Petersburg in July 1864. When Ellon received word of her husband’s injury, she “left Norwood with my only child 4 year old in my arms and started for city point.” City Point Hospital was located near Richmond, VA. Rody was transferred to the Central Park Hospital in VA and Ellon served there as a nurse from August 1864 through the end of the war in 1865.

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ALVIRA BEECH ROBINSON

Alvira Beech Robinson came from Pierrepont where she was born in 1835. She married David Robinson and had three children: George (1856), Charles (1860), and Sarah (1861).

Two of Alvira’s brothers, Alva and Enos, enlisted early in 1861; her husband David enlisted in the 60th NY Infantry in October 1861. David was killed at Antietam in September 1862 and she returned to work as school teacher with three small children to raise.

In May 1863 Alva was shot in the leg and asked his sister to come to nurse him. She left her children with her mother and spent 2 months nursing Alva and also worked in the government printing office to defray her expenses in Washington. She returned to West Pierrepont in August 1863. Alva came home that fall to finish his recovery and Enos left the army suffering from “the lung fever.” Alvira undoubtedly cared for both of them, her own three children, and her mother. She continued to support herself and her family, setting up the Pierrepont post office and serving as its first postmaster in July 1876. She operated it out of her own home for 15 years until it was moved a few miles away.

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TWO OTHER NURSES

Two other women who served as nurses during the Civil war were Miss Mary A. B. Young and Mrs. Thomas Rhodes.

Miss Young, the sister of Captain James Young of the 60th NY Volunteers, reportedly died of the fever “at her post in Annapolis, MD” along with fellow nurse Miss R. M. Billings in January 1865. She is buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in Morristown.

Mrs. Rhodes, who died on 1893 in Fullerville, Town of Fowler was described as “a nurse in the late war” in a newspaper clipping of her death notice.

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Sally Louisa Tompkins

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Sally Louisa Tompkins lived in Richmond, Virginia at the outbreak of the war, when Richmond was flooded with casualties that filled the understaffed hospitals beyond capacity.

Sally, an influential woman in Richmond of no small reputation, persuaded a judge in Richmond to give up his house in the interest of the war. Sally turned it into a private hospital, staffing it with her friends and the slaves from her household. As the matriarchal head of care, Sally's perspective on cleanliness was different from that of other hospitals. While on the battlefield, the same surgery tools were used without washing between patients; Sally's techniques encouraged cleanliness as part of the treatment for the wounded. Sally's hospital gained a reputation for saving lives. In fact, more Confederate soldiers returned to the battlefield from Sally's hospital in Richmond than any other medical facility in the south. During the 45 months that Sally's hospital was in existence, countless soldiers were sent to her. Only 73 were lost to death. Confederacy President Jefferson Davis bestowed upon Sally the rank of Captain and made her hospital an official army-supported medical facility. It was renamed Robertson Hospital and was run by "Captain Tompkins" for the duration of the war.

BORN: Nov. 9, 1833

DIED: Jul. 25, 1916
BURIED: Christ Churchyard
Mathews
Mathews County
Virginia, USA

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MARY ANN BALL BICKERDYKE

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Mary Ann Ball Bickerdyke was known to everyone in her Galesburg, Illinois hometown as "Mother" Bickerdyke, so it was no surprise when she was asked to take supplies to the northern hospital in Cairo, Illinois, a ride of several hours. Mary Ann was appalled by the filth that was present in the hospital, launching her own campaign to clean up the Cairo hospital and the field hospitals on the battlefields as well. Mary Ann frequently walked the battlefields after dark, searching for wounded that might have been overlooked by the stretcher brigades. General Ulysses S. Grant asked Mary Ann to join the Atlanta Campaign as a hospital volunteer. Because Mary Ann fought for better hospital conditions, she offended hospital staff and doctors. But she was loved by the soldiers. When a doctor reported Mary to General Sherman, his response was to dismiss the complaint with these words: "She outranks me. You'll have to see President Lincoln about that."

BORN: Jul. 15, 1817

DIED: Nov. 8, 1901
BURIED: Linwood Cemetery
Galesburg
Knox County
Illinois, USA

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DR. MARY JANE SAFFORD

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Mary Jane Safford served as a nurse under the indomitable Mary Ann Bickerdyke. Although she herself was small and frail, Mary Jane adopted Mother Bickerdyke's standards and she too walked the Union battlelines at night, searching for wounded. Mary Jane nursed the sick and wounded at the battles of Belmont, Missouri and Fort Donelson, Tennessee.

The story is told that Mary was once so close to enemy lines that Confederates fired on her. She made a flag of truce from her white petticoat and a branch and continued to nurse the sick. Mary Jane accepted duties aboard the Union ship "City of Memphis," making five subsequent trips before collapsing from exhaustion. When the Civil War was over, Mary Ann Safford studied medicine and became one of the first female surgeons in America.

BORN: Dec. 31, 1834
DIED: Dec. 8, 1891
BURIED: Cycadia Cemetery
Tarpon Springs
Pinellas County
Florida, USA

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Louisa Maertz

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Louisa Maertz, 1837-1918, was born in Quincy Illinois and lived most of her life in this city. She was considered to be of a "delicate constitution" and yet managed to work in the field hospitals of the Civil War and to travel extensively. She never married and devoted her life to writing and philanthropy.

Miss Maertz began nursing the wounded and sick just a few months after the war began in 1861 in the hospitals of Quincy and in her home. She was commissioned as an army nurse late in 1862 and went to Helena Arkansas. Brockett says, "...always cheerful and kind, preserving in the midst of a military camp such gentleness, strength and purity of character that all rudeness of speech ceased in her presence, and as she went from room to room she was received with silent benedictions, or an audible 'God bless you, dear lady,' from some poor sufferer's heart." She traveled with the sick and wounded to the North, went home for a brief recuperation and returned to Vicksburg. It is the diagram of the hospital tents which is shown here from her own article, "Midland War Sketches." She was the only female nurse. All of the other nurses and cooks were convalescents themselves. Her duties included getting water from the creek, making poultices, preparing special diets. The area was quite hot and damp and malaria was present. Once again she took sick and went home. Three months later she was called "to New Orleans to aid in establishing the Soldier's Home...." She worked there on into 1864 when she returned home to rest. Her last post was to care for discharged Andersonville prisoners. Miss Maertz was an untrained nurse who saw her work as a service to humanity.

This picture was most likely taken in the early 1890's. The original is in the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County. She is remembered mostly as a Civil War nurse and the author of "New Method for the Study of English Literature" published in 1879.

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Georgeanna Woolsey

Georgeanna Woolsey was a young unmarried woman when the Civil War began. When the Woman's Central Relief Association (a part of the U.S. Sanitary Commission) organized a volunteer nursing staff for the United States Army. In May 1861 she was one of one hundred women selected. With no prior medical training, she was sent to New York for, what she called in her diary, a month's seasoning in painful sights and sounds.

She was assigned to Washington D.C. in July 1861 where, she wrote, Miss [Dorothea] Dix received us kindly and gave us a good deal of information about the hospitals, and this morning we went to the Georgetown Hospital to see for ourselves. We were delighted with all the arrangements. Everything was clean and comfortable. We shall go again and take papers and magazines.

Her pleasant early experiences were misleading, however. Later, looking back on her nursing career, she remarked, No one knows who did not watch the thing from the beginning, how much opposition, how much ill-will, how much unfeeling want of thought, these women nurses endured. Hardly a surgeon whom I can think of received or treated them with even common courtesy. Government had decided that women should be employed, and the Army surgeons%u2014unable, therefore to close the hospitals against them%u2014determined to make their lives so unbearable that they should be forced in self-defense to leave.

She did not leave. As fighting became more intense, a makeshift hospital was set up in the Washington, D.C. patent office (now the National Portrait Gallery) where she continued to work as a nurse. She described her experiences, On the stacks of marble slabs%u2026we spread mattresses, and put the sickest men. As the number increased, camp beds were set up between the glass cases in the outer room and we alternated%u2014typhoid fever, cogwheels and patent churns, typhoid fever, balloons and mouse traps%u2026Here for weeks, went on a sort of hospital pic-nic. We scrambled through with what we had to do%u2026Here for weeks we worked among these men, cooking for them, feeding them, washing them, sliding them along on their tables, while we climbed up on something and made up their beds with brooms, putting the same powders down their throats with the same spoon, all up and down what seemed half a mile of uneven floor; coaxing back to life some of the most unpromising%u2014watching the youngest and best die.

Georgeanna Woolsey lived with her married sister Eliza Woolsey Howland in Washington, D.C. while Eliza's husband, Joseph Howland, was serving in the Union Army of the Potomac. When the Army of the Potomac was ordered to leave the capital, Georgeanna and Eliza wanted to travel with it. They tried several times to get permission but were unsuccessful until the Sanitary Commission gave them positions on the hospital ship Daniel Webster. They sailed after the army in April 1862. She wrote, Sunday, the first day [on the ship] was gone. As for us, we had spent it sitting on deck, sewing upon a hospital flag fifteen by eight, and singing hymns to take the edge off this secular occupation. It is to be run up at once in case we encounter the Merrimac.

Georgeanna's letters after 1862 were lost to a fire, but it is easy to see how the war had affected her over the course of one year. In May 1862, she wrote, We are changed by all this contact with terror, else how could I deliberately turn my lantern on his [a wounded soldier's] face and say to the Doctor behind me, "Is that man dead?" and stand cooly, while he listened and examined and pronounced him dead. I could not have quietly said, a year ago, "That will make one more bed, Doctor."


%u2014Source Letters of a Family During the War 1861-65, Privately published in 1899 by Georgeanna Woolsey Bacon and Eliza Woolsey Howland. 

BORN: Nov. 5, 1833

DIED: Jan. 27, 1906

BURIED: Grove Street Cemetery
New Haven
New Haven County
Connecticut, USA

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Cornelia Hancock

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Born in 1839 in New Jersey, Cornelia Hancock started off her Civil War nursing career auspiciously when she arrived with other women volunteers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania July 1863. She was the only one of the group not to be accepted to become a volunteer nurse. Nonetheless, she found her way to Gettysburg and began what became a well known and respected service as a nurse in the field.

During the siege of Petersburg, Hancock worked in the II Corps hospital of the Depot Field Hospital at City Point.

After the war she opened a school for African-Americans in South Carolina. In Philadelphia she founded several charity organizations and remained active in social work until her death in 1926. Her popular collection of wartime letters is still in print.

BORN: Feb. 8, 1839

DIED: 1926

BURIED: Friends Burial Ground
Harmersville
Salem County
New Jersey, USA

Civil War Nurse, Author. Of all the women arriving in Philadelphia on July 5, 1863, as volunteer nurses for Gettysburg, she was the only one rejected by Dorothea Dix. She was 23 at the time. Undaunted, the young Quakeress sat down on the train scheduled to carry the women west and remained in her seat until it pulled into the station at Gettysburg the following day. Immediately she went to work with a dedication and efficiency that won respect from the doctors and affection and a silver medal of appreciation from admiring patients. A compassionate woman of boundless drive, she stayed with the army, usually as a paid nurse, until May 13, 1865. Her brief term in the Contraband Hospital in Washington D.C., discouraged her because blacks received such degrading treatment. She preferred working in field hospitals and there her reputation thrived as an organizer and as a source of desperately needed supplies that she was able to get from civilians. With severe fighting to the south in mid-1864, her services were requested at the II Corps Hospital at Brandy Station, Virginia. She was the first woman to arrive at Belle Point, where she tended wounded from the Wilderness, then served at Fredericksburg, Port Royal, White House Landing, City Point, and Petersburg. She often wrote letters home richly describing hospital life. She subjected her peers to blunt criticism or approval as she judged their usefulness, but her soldiers received only praise for their endurance under extreme suffering. The task she hated the most was writing to the family of a dying man. She regarded General Ulysses Grant a mere instrument of war; coming to this opinion after the Wilderness. On April 9, 1865, she visited Richmond, and a few days later she joined in the surrender celebrations at Grant's headquarters. Before going home, she stopped in Washington D.C. to see her boys in the Grand Review of the Armies. Her stint in the Contraband Hospital convinced her of the need to labor among freed slaves. Sponsored by the Society of Friends, she opened the Laing School for Negroes in Pleasantville, South Carolina. After teaching for a decade she moved to Philadelphia. She helped found the Society for Organizing Charity in 1878 and the Children's Aid Society and Bureau of Information 4 years later. She never married, remaining active in social work and in urban development almost until her death, in Philadelphia. Her letters, written from July 7, 1863 to May 13, 1865, were first published in 1937 under the title "South After Gettysburg." It became a bestseller. Her letters provide a valuable description of the tragic aftermath of battle and a frontline nurse's attempt to cope with suffering.  (bio by: Ugaalltheway)

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WALT WHITMAN

Walt Whitman’s father Walter, was a house builder, and his mother’s name was Louisa. The Whitman family had nine children with Walt being the second son. The Whitmans lived in Brooklyn and Long Island in the 1820s and 1830s.

Walt Whitman’s brother George Washington Whitman, fought for the Union during the Civil War and was injured at Fredericksburg in 1862. Walt went to Virginia in search of his hospitalized brother and was relieved to discover that George’s wounds were not serious. The wounded, the conditions, and the plentiful misery of a Civil War hospital, led Walt Whitman to volunteer at age forty-two to be a nursing aid, he served for over three years in this capacity.

Whitman wrote two volumes of poetry about the Civil War: Drum Taps (1865) and Sequel to Drum Taps (1866), after witnessing first-hand the suffering, bravery, wastefulness, heroism, and tragedy of war while working in hospitals during the Civil War.

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The Daughters of Charity of Emmitsburg & the Battle of Gettysburg

In the summer of 1863 the Civil War was well into its second year. The war, which optimists expected to end in a few weeks, would last two more years and cost thousands more lives. Almost from the first shots at Fort Sumter, Daughters and Sisters of Charity and sisters of many other communities answered the call to nurse in military hospitals and on the battlefield. Many sisters worked in the cities where they were missioned. Others traveled from battlefield to battlefield north and south.

One Daughter of Charity, Sister Mary Conlan, died of typhoid at Point Lookout, MD while nursing the wounded. In late June 1863, the war came to Emmitsburg. The armies of the Potomac and Northern Virginia succeeded each other at St. Joseph’s. The sisters fed the soldiers encamped on the grounds. So many were hungry that Sister Mary Jane Stokes feared that there would be no bread for the sisters for breakfast. When she went to the bake-house, she found the next day’s baking intact. “I did not see it multiply, but I did see it there.”

The brick house on tollgate hill and St. Joseph’s Rectory were requisitioned for military headquarters. General Howard, later the founder of Howard University in Washington, DC, was among those at the rectory. Surrounded by soldiers, the sisters prayed that the battle they knew was coming would not be fought on their land. The armies moved north to Gettysburg. There on July 1 the battle, which most historians consider the turning point of the war, began.

Writing on July 8 to Father Jean Baptiste Etienne, Superior General of the Vincentians, Father Francis Burlando, the director of the Daughters of Charity, attempted to describe conditions. “On July first the battle commenced about nine miles from Emmitsburg; it continued three days. Two hundred thousand men were in the field and on each side there were from one hundred to one hundred-thirty pieces of cannon. The roar of these agents of death and destruction was fearful in the extreme, and their smoke rising to heaven formed dense clouds as during a frightful tempest. The Army of the South was defeated and in their retreat left their dead and wounded on the battlefield. What number of victims perished during this bloody engagement? No one yet knows but it is estimated that the figures rise to 50,000!”

During the battle the sisters prayed for the combatants. On Sunday, the day after the battle ended, several sisters and Father Burlando set out for Gettysburg. Amid the carnage they began to care for those who had been moved to the churches and hotels of the city. Sisters were assigned in pairs to various locations. The next day more sisters arrived, some from Baltimore and others from St. Joseph’s. Government supplies began to arrive to supplement what the sisters had been able to provide. For as long as there were wounded, the sisters nursed the sick, and comforted and baptized the dying of both armies. One group of nearly 200 men was cared for in the field for three weeks until they could be taken to hospitals in New York and Philadelphia.

Gettysburg conjures up visions of Pickett’s Charge, the Wheat Field, the Peach Orchard, and Big and Little Round Top. Cannon balls can still be seen in the walls of the Lutheran Seminary. Among the victims of the battle was Gen John Reynolds. Reynolds was born in Lancaster, PA in 1820. He was a graduate of West Point and served in the Mexican War. On his way from California, where he had been stationed, to become commandant of West Point he met Mary Catherine Hewitt. She was a young woman from Oswego, NY. She had been working as a governess in California but was from a wealthy family. Although she was much younger than Reynolds, he fell in love with “Fair Kate.” Kate was a Catholic.

John a Protestant. He had a reputation for reserve. They planned to announce their engagement after the battle, when John would be on leave. John gave Kate his West Point ring. She gave him a medal and a ring which he wore on a chain around his neck. They agreed that if he were killed she would join a religious community. Reynolds’ brothers and sisters were astonished to learn that he had a fiancée, but were kind to her after his death. According to her promise Kate entered the Sisters of Charity at Emmitsburg later in July. She was given the name Sister Hildegarde, and assigned to teach. She persevered for five years, but left the community in 1868 due to illness. The Reynolds family attempted to trace her and Civil War buffs have tried as well. To date no one has solved the mystery.

This 140th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg will be celebrated belatedly this year by thousands of re-enactors. Rain, which also followed the battle in 1863, made the ground too wet this year for a July commemoration. Those who fought and died, those who cared for the dead and wounded will be remembered. In Lincoln’s words, at the dedication of the cemetery in November 1863, “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

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Julia S. Tompkins

 

Julia S. Tompkins, Iowa

 

"From the time the first call for volunteer nurses was issued, my heart burned with patriotic longings to do something for our country and the old flag, and why not? My ancestors on both sides were descendants of the Puritan and Revolutionary stock."

 

After her husband was wounded Tompkins was finally appointed to Benton Barracks in St. Louis and served till until she requested to return home to take care of her son.

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Mrs. Ruth Helena Sinnotte

Mrs. Ruth Helena Sinnotte, Illinois

Sinnotte served initially on hospital transports and then as the matron with the 113th Illinois Regiment under Colonel Hoge. She served at Camp Peabody outside Memphis and Holly Springs. She accompanied the regiment on the Tullahoma Raid. General Wright ordered her to join the Union fleet at Vicksburg.

 "While with the Vicksburg fleet, one day I noticed the boat I was on was dragging her hawser from the tree where she had been fastened. I reported to the captain. He said, ‘I know it.’ There was no steam on, and we were drifting down the river. The captain said we were going to Vicksburg, and were only a half mile from the line between the two armies. Among the sick was a captain of one of our of the companies of the 113th Illinois Regiment. I immediately went to him and reported the treachery on board of the boat. He could do nothing, as he was too ill to raise his head. He swore me, and gave me the necessary [Coston] signal. I went on the hurricane deck; no one was there, no one in the pilot house. I gave the signal as he told me. In a moment I saw it answered. Immediately the "Von Pool" came down and towed the boat to the upper end of the fleet, and put a stop to our going to Vicksburg. All of the crew from the captain to the chamber maid were so very angry they would have killed me had they known I was responsible for the change of programme." On board "Imperial" Sinnotte procured brandy and red pepper for one soldier who was ill with typhoid fever and for whom the doctors said nothing could be done. She applied cloths dipped in the mixture to his feet, palms, and chest and administered water, brandy and broth. He soon began to revive. She retired at midnight and the next morning the doctor asked her what she had done. She replied, "I attended to him as though he were my own, and in our own home."

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LUCY FENMAN BARRON

Lucy Fenman Barron, Pennsylvani

Barrow was appointed a regimental nurse in March 1861 and served in regimental and general hospitals in Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Washington until March 1863.

 

"While in West Virginia the rebels took me for a target, but, praise God, they missed their mark and the bullet whistled above my head. Once they surrounded us, and we could get no supplies for nearly three weeks. At the last we had nothing to eat but hard-tack, and not much of that. At this extremity our men fought their way out; the commander of the place surrendered, and was shot for it, as a traitor. I had a severe time among those rebels while I had the typhoid fever, receiving care only from the good Union doctor. We dared not say we were Union, or we might have been killed. When able to travel I returned to the Regimental Hospital in West Virginia where I remained until I returned to my home."

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MODENIA R. McCOLL WESTON

Modenia R. McColl Weston, Iowa

 

Weston entered service on September 1, 1861. She was called the mother of the 3rd Iowa, nursing the soldiers in various camps and accompanied the unit to Shiloh.

 

"I was with the regiment the first day at the battle of Shiloh, and we did up wounds until eleven o’clock. Then went to River Landing and aboard the steamer, on which were four hundred wounded. Here, too, I was the only woman. They had no food, so I first sent for coffee, sugar and hardtack. Tuesday, the boat was ordered to Savannah, where we occupied an unfinished building. After we had been there a few days we received some supplies; then we did very well."

 

Weston remained nursing Shiloh patients until September when she and other nurses were sent to Jackson, Mississippi; Memphis; and Washington, D. C. where she was officially sworn in on April 20, 1863. In January 1864, she was assigned to the small-pox hospital at Memphis from where she was discharged in October 1866.

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ESTELLE JOHNSON

Estelle Johnson, Vermont

When her town’s regiment, the 4th Vermont, was formed her husband and brother-in-law enlisted. She and her sister wanted to accompany the regiment. The colonel said nurses had not been called, but wanted them to join. She was sworn in personally by the colonel and the governor of Vermont.

In September they reached Federal Hill in Washington and joined other regiments. The 9th Wisconsin had seven ladies and at Camp Advance the 2nd Vermont had five women with the regiment. While at Camp Griffith, they were shelled. The captain wanted she and her sister to fall back, but, "I told him if he thought we would run at the first fire he was greatly mistaken." They set up a hospital in a house where she and her whole family succumbed to typhoid fever. Her sister died. She went to Washington three times for supplies, at one point leaving with Amanda Farnham. They took a wagon to Germantown then proceeded on foot to a bakery. "When the German woman who had charge saw our uniforms, she invited us into her kitchen to have some dinner, and would not accept any pay." Her husband was discharged disabled and subsequently she left the service in 1862.

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