Resource

Nursing

Four primary sources that illustrate the experiences of women nurses during the Civil War.

Civil War nurse and soldier.

Frank L. Keyes, wounded soldier, and unidentified woman, 1862. New-York Historical Society Library.

The Night after the Battle, 1863.

Currier & Ives, The Night after the Battle, 1863. Jay T. Last Collection. The Huntington Library, San Marino, California, priJLC_MIL_000941.

Letter home from nurse Sarah Blunt, 1863.

Letter home from Sarah Blunt written from Point Lookout, Maryland, May 11, 1863. New-York Historical Society Library.

Document Text

Summary

Island Hospital, Harper’s Ferry, VA.
March 11, 1865
My dear Mother,
You see I write to you very often and so keep you posted up as to what we are doing. Tonight I am rather lonely. Mrs. de Grindle being very unwell the other two young ladies are over in their wards. So I am quite alone for a little while. I am lonely tonight. Mrs. De Grindle is sick, and the other girls who live here are working at the hospital.
There is hardly a day passed but what there is a death here sometimes several. One poor fellow died yesterday, such a handsome, bright boy. Apparently with the strongest of constitutions. That dreadful fever typhoid and pneumonia takes off so many of the poor fellows. Every day a soldier dies at the hospital. Sometimes many die in one day. Yesterday a handsome, bright soldier died even though he had a strong body. The poor soldiers are being killed by diseases like typhoid and pneumonia.
I cannot tell you how thankful I am to be able to relieve the poor fellows. You must try and feel so too and be glad that I was formed for some use in this world. . . . I am so glad I can help these poor soldiers. You must try and be glad too. . . .

Letter home from Sarah Blunt written from Point Lookout, transcription, Maryland, May 11, 1863. New-York Historical Society Library.

Document Text

The first thing I met was a regiment of the vilest odors that ever assaulted the human nose, and took it by storm. Cologne, with its seven and seventy evil savors, was a posy-bed to it; and the worst of this affliction was, every one had assured me that it was a chronic weakness of all hospitals, and I must bear it. I did, armed with lavender water, with which I so besprinkled myself and premises, that, like my friend Sairy, I was soon known among my patients as “the nurse with the bottle.” Having been run over by three excited surgeons, bumped against by migratory coal-hods, water-pails, and small boys, nearly scalded by an avalanche of newly-filled tea-pots, and hopelessly entangled in a knot of colored sisters coming to wash, I progressed by slow stages up stairs and down, till the main hall was reached, and I paused to take breath and a survey. There they were! “Our brave boys,” as the papers justly