Nurses during the American Civil War were not adequately trained to perform the overwhelming tasks of caring for the thousands of wounded and ill soldiers produced by the war. However, due to their efforts thousands of soldiers, who would have else died, were saved. Women nurses proved that, contrary to popular belief at the time of the Civil War, that they were capable of important and difficult jobs; this went a long way in their fight for equal rights with men. On this page are lists of interesting facts about nurses during the American Civil War. The information on this page includes who some of the famous nurses were, what duties nurse had to perform, and where these nurse came from.
General Civil War Nurse Facts
During the American Civil War most nurses were male, outnumbering female nurses 4 to 1. This was largely due to American society's general belief at that time that women were not capable of performing important duties.
When the American Civil War began there were basically no women nurses in the United States. It was the general belief that they were not capable of a job with such responsibilities.
Women Civil War Nurses were generally from well-off middle class families. Most of these women, from both sides, volunteered due to a sense of patriotism and a desire to contribute to their sides cause.
It is estimated that about two thousand women from the North and South served as nurses during the American Civil War; most of them volunteering their services.
The push for equal rights for women in the United States was greatly helped by women Civil War nurses who proved they were just as capable as men in performing the difficult tasks of nursing.
It is difficult to determine the percentage of female nurses who were present on battlefields, but there were not many. Battlefield duty was considered too dangerous for women and usually reserved for their male counterparts, with women mostly serving in hospitals.
List of Famous American Civil War Nurses
Clara Barton is perhaps the most famous Civil War nurse.
She was present during many battles including the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day of the Civil War.
She is best known for founding the American Red Cross.
She earned the nickname "Angel of the Battlefield".
Clara Barton became the Superintendent of Union nurses.
Annie Etheridge was a member of the 2nd Michigan Volunteer Infantry.
She frequently rode her horse out onto battlefields to provide medical supplies and aide to injured soldiers.
She was often very close to the fighting as is proved by the fact she had several horses shot out from under her.
Annie Etheridge was awarded the Kearny Cross; a medal bestowed upon soldiers who performed acts of bravery and heroism in the face of the enemy.
When the Civil War broke out in 1861 Dorothea Dix was appointed the Superintendent of Female Nurses for the Union.
She convinced Northern military leaders and politicians that women should be allowed to serve as nurses for the Union.
Under her leadership the Union formed a competent nursing staff with improved care for soldiers.