Saturday, July 31, 2010

GENERAL- Nurses of the Civil War

"You have given your boys to die for their country;
now you can give your girls to nurse them."
(Nurse Mary Stinebaugh to her father in 1863)

Nurse Kit during Civil War

A devoted nurse later praised her female colleagues: "Would that I could do more than thank the dear friends who made my life for four years so happy and contented; who never made me feel by word or act, that my self-imposed occupation was otherwise than one which would ennoble any woman. If ever any aid was given through my own exertions, or any labor rendered effective by me for the good of the South-if any sick soldier ever benefitted by my happy face or pleasant smiles at his bedside, or death was ever soothed by gentle words of hope and tender care, such results were only owing to the cheering encouragement I received from them. They were gentlewomen in every sense of the word, and though they might not have remembered that "noblesse oblige," they felt and acted up to the motto in every act of their lives. My only wish was to live and die among them, growing each day better from contact with their gentle, kindly sympathies and heroic hearts.

Some historians believe that somewhere between 3,000 and 8,000 women volunteered their services as nurses throughout the duration of the Civil War, the majority of them being from northern states. However, such an estimate is questionable due to the fact that several nurses, upon receiving appointments, refused to have their names recorded in the official books. Mrs. M. J. Boston once said to the surgeon she was working under, "I do not want any pay for my services. I only try to do all I can for the soldiers." Other women who made similar decisions found it even more difficult to collect pensions later in their lives. With the lack of documentation, it is nearly impossible to claim the exact number of women who performed duty as nurses. Yet, we do know that their work was greatly appreciated by the men they cared for. John G. B. Adams, once the National Commander of the G.A.R., expressed that the memory of these nurses "will ever live in the hearts of the veterans they nursed with such tender care."


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