Civil War Nurses
Nurses of the Civil War / Civil War Hospitals
Civil War nurses played an integral role in caring for the sick and wounded of the American Civil War. Close to 2,000 nurses of the Civil War served both sides over the course of 4 years. Most served in military hospitals and others in field hospitals.
They saw firsthand the horrors of war - amputated limbs, disease, sickness, horrific wounds and assisted Civil War doctors
in treating every kind of affliction imaginable.
Nurses also opened the door for women in a time when they were considered far inferior to men in holding positions of responsibility. They played an integral role in keeping men in the fight through effective treatment, and offered emotional support in times of suffering and death.
After 20 years experience working as a nurse with the mentally ill, Dorothea Dix volunteered her services to the Union army when the war broke out. She was named Union's Superintendent of Female Nurses and served in that position throughout the war with no pay. She required that her nurses be middle-aged and plain-looking to serve under her direction in Civil War hospitals.
Clara Barton served a similar role although she worked outside the confines of the Union army. Her support throughout New England was strong and she utilized personal funds she raised to help care for the sick and wounded of the Civil War. She often served near the front lines of battle, and would eventually found the American Red Cross after the American Civil War.
Although few written records by Civil War nurses exists, their contributions can not be overlooked. They served both armies admirably under the most difficult circumstances and they saved many lives as a result.
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