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


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