Strength in Civil War Nursing–Victorian Style

In the course of reading about beautiful 19th Century women in Georgia (USA), I happened upon an article which stated that the portrayal of slaves to some is too painful. To these individuals I want to say that I truly understand. However, slave history is also rich with African Americans who contributed  in their own individual ways to the fields of nursing, engineering, and architecture during the American Civil War.  Their untold stories gravitate me.

Gravesite for Hospital AttendantMorgan County (Georgia)

Gravesite for Colored
Hospital Attendant
Morgan County (Georgia)

As examples:

  • In the neighboring state of Alabama, seventeen slaves traveled with Andrews Green. Nine of the seventeen slaves were nurses. Of the nine, we know that two nurses were female by name. This fact reveals that there were African American male nurses during the American Civil War. Where can I find the history of these men? For the fashion crowd, what did male nurses wear in the hospitals during the Civil War?

  • The Texas 1st Heavy Artillery (CSA) noted in soldier records of an [African American] Hospital. What is the history of the hospital? What were the names of the patients? What were the causes of death?  Who were the physicians and the nurses?

  • In my own state of Georgia, there is the  “Confederate Dead” Georgia Historical Marker in Morgan County which also commemorates an unknown [African American] hospital attendant with 52 Confederate soldiers.  Has the trail gone cold to trace the name of the hospital attendant(s) who traveled with the Confederate soldiers from Morgan County?

Confederate Papersfor Andrews GreenNARA 2133276 M347

Confederate Papers
for Andrews Green
NARA 2133276 M347

James Brewer, a Confederate historian and author, states, “Most of the thousands of [African-American] nurses, ambulance drivers, stretcher-bears, cooks, bakers, and other hospital attendants-are now nameless. Yet they bathed patients, fed the sick and wounded, administered medicines, aired and made beds, cleaned wards, maintained fires, and performed numerous other tasks.”

In other words, southern slaves played a part in shaping today’s nursing profession. Who will commemorate their contributions to modern day science? Did any within the thousands create a new process to improve caring for patients, but were never recognized?

If I were to portray an African-American nurse as a Living Historian, these are the questions that I would seek to answer.

The featured photo captures Civil War slave nurses and a coachman in period attire.*  While some readers may see pain, I appreciate their strength in working with Civil War physicians to save lives during one of the most bloodiest battles in United States History.

Highlighting the good in humanity,
Ann DeWitt

Reference:
“The Confederate Negro: Virginia’s Craftsmen and Military Laborers, 1861-1865 ” by James H. Brewer

Confederate Soldier Service Records (NARA)

Confederate Dead: Morgan County, Georgia Historical Markers

Featured photograph: Courtesy of civilwarsaga.com

*Featured Photo appears to be Photoshopped

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