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June 4, 2021

Angels of the Battlefields: Portrait Photos of Nurses During American Civil War

The American Civil War was a civil war in the United States fought between northern and Pacific states (“the Union” or “the North”) and southern states that voted to secede and form the Confederate States of America (“the Confederacy” or “the South”). The central cause of the war was the status of slavery, especially the expansion of slavery into newly acquired land after the Mexican-American War.

Portraits of nurses during American Civil War

The war effectively ended on April 9, 1865. The Confederacy collapsed, slavery was abolished upon ratification of the thirteenth amendment, and four million enslaved Black people were freed.

In total the war left between 620,000 and 750,000 soldiers dead, along with an undetermined number of civilians. The Civil War remains the deadliest military conflict in American history, and accounted for more American military deaths than all other wars combined until the Vietnam War.

These amazing photos from The Library of Congress show the faces of the nineteenth century women who marshaled resources, medical skill, and courage to offer help in wartime. Florence Nightingale is credited with being the founder of modern nursing for her role in caring for wounded and dying soldiers in the Crimean War, serving as a model for the many women who provided medical care during the American Civil War.

Adeline Blanchard Tyler, also known as "Sister Tyler", Civil War nurse in Baltimore, Chester, Pennsylvania, and Annapolis, Maryland

Alma S. Wolcott Bennett, U.S. Christian Commission nurse of Hospital No. 1, Nashville, Tennessee

Almira Fales, philanthropist and nurse during the Civil War

Ann Burtis, Civil War nurse, who worked as matron and head nurse at 1st Division U.S. General Hospital, Hampton, Virginia

Annie Etheridge, Civil War nurse of 3rd Michigan Infantry Regiment, who served at battles including Bull Run, Williamsburg, Antietam, Fredricksburg, and Gettysburg and was awarded the Kearny Cross medal for bravery

Carrie Wilkins Pollard, Civil War nurse, who served at U.S. field hospitals in Louisville, Kentucky, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, and the Floating Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee

Catholic nun and nurse Sister Ann Alexis Shorb of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, also known as Henrietta "Harriet" Shorb, founder of Carney Hospital, Boston, and head nurse at Satterlee General Hospital, Philadelphia

Civil War nurse partially identified as Miss Davis of South Street Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in traditional nurse's uniform

Eleanor C. Ransom, also known as "Mother," Civil War nurse, who worked in a Union hospital in Tennessee and aboard the transport ship "North America", with Union soldier who is showing her a bugle

Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, who served as an inspiration for American nurses in the Civil War

Grace Babcock, Civil War nurse, sitting atop Lookout Mountain, who may have worked with U.S. Sanitary Commission or U.S. General Hospital in Chattanooga

Harriet E. Preston Grogan, U.S. Army Medical Department nurse of Chesapeake Hospital, Hampton, Virginia

Helen L. Gilson, also known as Helen Louise Gilson Osgood, Civil War nurse and head of the Colored Hospital Service, who cared for wounded and dying soldiers at battles including Yorktown, Antietam, Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Petersburg and advocated for a better hospital for African American soldiers and the creation the Colored Hospital Service, of which she became the head until the end of the war

Jane Jennings, also known as Janet, who served in the Civil War in Washington, D.C., and in the Spanish-American War in Cuba

Katharine Prescott Wormeley, Civil War relief worker, U.S. Sanitary Commission nurse, and director of Lovell Hospital, Portsmouth, Rhode Island

Louisa May Alcott, writer, abolitionist, and Civil War nurse

Maria M.C. Hall worked at the Patent Office Hospital, Washington, D.C.; Daniel Webster hospital ship in the Peninsular Campaign; Smoketown Hospital, Antietam; and General Hospital #1, Annapolis

Mary Ann Bickerdyke, also known as "Mother to the Boys in Blue," who cared for wounded soldiers on nineteen battlefields, including Shiloh, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and Atlanta and improved or established approximately 300 hospitals as an agent of the U.S. Sanitary Commission

Mary Jewett Telford, Civil War nurse at Hospital No. 8, Nashville, Tennessee, who was later a charter member of the Woman's Relief Corps

Mary Morris Husband, Civil War nurse in Philadelphia, at field hospitals including Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Port Royal, and on hospital transports to Baltimore, Antietam, and Fredericksburg

Miss Dorothea L. Dix, Superintendent of Army Nurses for the Union Army, holding a book and sitting in a room with a medical bag on the floor

Nancy Maria Hill, also known as Annie Hill, Civil War nurse at Armory Square Hospital, Washington, D.C., who later became a physician and founded an organization to support single mothers and their babies in Dubuque, Iowa

Nurse Mary A.E. Keen of Seminary Hospital, Washington, D.C., and Chesapeake Hospital, Fort Monroe, Virginia who worked from 1861 to 1865 under the jurisdiction of Dorothea Dix and later married Milton Woodworth

Otelia Butler Mahone, Civil War nurse at hospitals in Richmond, Virginia, and wife of Confederate Major General William Mahone, with child, probably daughter Otelia

Susie King Taylor, who served more than three years as nurse with the 33rd U.S. Colored Troops Infantry Regiment during the American Civil War, although officially enrolled as a laundress

Sybil Jones, Quaker missionary who nursed Union soldiers and Confederate prisoners in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Union nurse Clara Barton with Red Cross brooch

Union nurse Clara Barton

Union nurse Debbie A. Hughes in uniform

Union nurse Helen Louise Gilson, also known as Helen Louise Gilson Osgood

Union nurse Major Belle Reynolds


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