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Civil War Medicine: Angels of the Battlefield

2011-12-07 | 🔗

Women weren't initially welcome in the Civil War armies, but thousands eventually ended up serving as nurses. We feature five here. Listen in to learn about nurses like Sally Louisa Tompkins, whose hospital became one of the most successful of the war.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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haven't really been seeing them see you now available wherever you get pie guests welcomes stuff you missed in history class from house of works dot com hello and walk into the pot custom to playing a truck the boarding unfair it out and so far in our little theories about civil war medicine we focused on stories about doctors but be remiss if we didn't also discuss some of the other heroes who fall under this umbrella civil war nurses as we mention in the pot cast about doktor mary edwards walker women were really welcome in the army or on the battlefield especially at the start of the war so first the nurses both on the confederate and the union were guys however most of the male nurses were just wounded soldiers who couldn't find any more so they didn't
really know that much about how to take care of sick people didn't have much experience that when both sides started to get overwhelmed with the sheer number of soldiers who were wounded or just think of course that is the civil war after all they needed even more help and women really started to get there and working helping out and wrapped up in the whole challenge of tending for these men and the army's didn't relent at first but some women just kept pushing until they were well to help they just would not take no for an answer and then actually the governments on both sides east up on their gender roles and thousands of women about twenty thousand in fact ended up serving as nurses during the civil war you'll often hear them referred as angels of the battlefield hence the title to this pied cast an of them like walker actually had some sort of medical training if you'll remember she actually volunteered as a nurse before being commission doesn't assistant surgeon
there were many others who are just courageous women who knew something about sanitation and they had expired treating sick family members and so we're gonna talk about five of these civil war nurses by no means as this an exhaustive list there are so many that we are unable to include but we think these are worthy entry is just the same sulphurous we're going to start out with a nurse who served on the confederate side of the war early on in the war by about in july of eighteen sixty one hospitals in the south filled up and the confederate government asked locals to help by setting up private hospitals and the most famous one set up by a woman named sally tomkins so sally louisa tomkins was born november nineteen eighteen thirty three in to a family with a long military tradition her grandfather colonel john patterson had
commission by george washington himself during the revolutionary war and this is probably one reason the strong military tradition was one reason that tomkins supported the confederate cause so passionately which was also very passionate about her commitment to the episcopal church and it was through her tears that she initially got involved in charitable efforts like an orphan you're gonna fear a church connection with federal of these ladys in fact she was used attending the thick even slaves on plantations near where she lived though she she had experienced some nursing yeah she didn't discriminate in that department and after her father died organs on her mother move to richmond from matthews county virginia joint saint james episcopal church there and that's where sally to know some prominent people in richmond including person named judge john robertson and after the war
darted robertson moved his family to the country to keep them safe and he allowed tomkins to convert his vacant home in richmond into a twenty two bad private hospital she did this mostly her own funds and she named robertson hospital in honour of the judge the hospital opened up i thirty first eighteen sixty one so a hospital you need have doctors too and she got doctor a vip guard not to be her chief jan and another fix doctors or so to work him and fairly also had a group of female volunteers recruited called the ladys of robert than hospital to help her such things in and staff the whole operation and robertson hospital was known for being especially efficient and well organised but above all for being especially in valley had been described as being obsessed with cleanliness and sanitation and of course this was really before people knew a whole lot
the link between sanitation and preventing infection but its suspected that this is why she was able to faith and unusually high number of lives that at her hospital then we can talk about a little more unjust to bed but the road was entirely smooth for salaries hospital in september of eighteen sixty one just a few weeks after the hospital had opened the governor decided to close all private hospitals and that's me several reasons for this but some of the hospitals were charging too much in keeping soldiers longer than they really needed to and so the army wanted to place them under the control of the confederate medical department instead but robertson hospital was gonna be closed as part of this decision but tomkins thought back she appeal to president jefferson davis himself and she showed him her records which showed the really high percentage of soldiers that she'd help get back to the battlefield already and davis was and by this and he agreed to let robertson hospital come under the army's control which would
the things give them access to whatever supplies the army had and as part of this he was commissioned as a captain and the confederate cavalry on september ninth eighteen sixty one but even those ships to that commission she refused to accept any army pay and preferred to get through medicine for the men instead that's another thing i think you notice with a few of these ladys this real selfless quality sometimes to there that remain in the end but the commission is captain and the confederate cavalry made her the first woman in the country to hold the military rank during war time and the only woman off third to serve in the confederate army and caught on thin she became known affectionately if captain sally ann robertson hospital state open for the duration of the war and captain sally spent basically all her time they are tending to patients with her medicine bag and
i in tow and really earned a reputation for her healing hands actually patient fainted seem to notice her hands in particular they called her the little lady with the milk white hands that was one of her nicknames in addition to captain sally and a call to an article by read albert and civil war times several jurors proposed marriage to heard and i mean they weren't is taken by her hands i guess they were taken by her whole package yes but she turned them all down and would say quote poor fellows errand yet well of their fevers and she states your entire life so on june thirteenth eighteen sixty five robertson hospital closed and in four years one thousand three hundred thirty three patience had been treated there and out of all those patients only seventy three had died which is ninety four point five
with that survival rate and it said to have had the lowest mortality rate of any military hospital during the civil war again maybe because of her insistence on high sanitation standards cleanliness of that and she didn't their captain sally continue to devote her life to philanthropy until she died in july nineteen sixteen at the age of eighty three and she was buried with full military honours but we should say that i'm of death she was pretty much completely broke because she had spent all her money on these philanthropic efforts are though for our next entry we're gonna move to the union side and talk about the famous than earth mary ann bickersdyke and she was originally from knox county ohio and attended oberlin college and later trained and botanic and homeopathic medicine and after her husband robert bickersdyke died in eighteen fifty nine she continued to practise botanic marathon and partly did some private unearthing as well though she had a should a good
ground going into this whole thing and she wanted to spend the rest of her life helping people who were ill or who were in pain he i read that that desire to help people actually stemmed from her reaction to her husband's death you hungry fair but in june ten sixty one her trip congregation per in charge of making sure a bunch of food and medical supplies made it to a makeshift army hospital in cairo illinois and she was in her forty or so at the time but when she there she was really appalled at the conditions that she found they were extremely unsanitary so she immediately got to work cleaning cooking and offering her nursing services there soon became matron or head nurse there and her cleanup effort spreads several other military hospitals in the area by spring of eighteen step two or so marian began travelling around two other areas to trying to set up clean conditions for medical treatment wherever she went and stuff mobile lawn and kitchens and she
so relentless and trying to forge for supplies for wounded or six soldiers she really where she would raid government supplies without permission she would even take things from care packages that had been sent to healthy filters that neither wish did not always play by the rules and at various marianne really didn't have any sort of official status with the army but that didn't stop her from being pretty pushy and lending a hand or letting her opinion when it came to the medical treatment of soldier she even called doctors out on certain occasions when she thought that they were stealing soldiers medicine or food or just some help not acting professionally and at one place when a battlefield surgeon asked her who gave her permission to do what she was doing i like why are you here mary ann famously responded quote i have received maya ready from the lord god almighty have you then that stuff to argue that feeling
to argue bessie lady yes she was and she eventually did get a bit more influence she was named an agent of the u s sanitation commission in eighteen sixty two and she under the respect and friendship of two very important men generals ulysses s france and william t sherman and when someone once come and about marianne to sherman sherman said to have told the person quote well she ranks me and recommended that listen the complainer register his complaint with abraham lincoln and static it up a notch exactly once those sherman did get frustrated with marianne and asked if she had ever heard of a little thing called insubordination according to an article in america civil war by alice stein marianne responded quote you bet heard of it is the only way ever get anything done in this army and cheer we did get a lot done in addition to improving how
or conditions then scavenging for supplies and helping treat soldiers she became well known for scouring battlefields to make sure that no wounded but living soldiers were left out there all alone and on at least one occasion she said to have done this by herself at night with just a lantern two soldiers cared for marianne became known as mother bickersdyke and because she was no tireless some also called her the cycle kaliko which i think doesn't let some like maybe a young adult story to really it out of her werner go right at somebody encyclopaedia britannica about three hundred field hospitals were built under marian supervision during the war and when the war was over she resigned from the santer commission to devote the rest of her life to charitable deeds until she died in nineteen o one moving on to our next entry we're heading falleth again and this time are going to talk about juliet an
be hopkins whose also known appropriately enough as the angel of the south and unlike some of the other nurses and are less julie an open hopkins is probably better remembered as a hospital administrator then as a hands on nurse though she did get shot in the hip during the battle of seven pine for sheep certainly put in her time still though her info with great enough for robert e lee to praise her work and for her to become a pretty well known figure in this house during the war just a little bit her background she was born juliet an opie may seventh eighteen eighteen on a virgin plantation and she was pulled out of school sixteen when her mother died making her mistress of the house more than two thousand slaves she was married and routines and widowed in her early twenties and open marry again and tell her mid thirty's when she wed arthur francis hopkins a much older widower and the former chief justice of the alibi i'm a supreme court
at the time president of the mobile and ohio railroad so she moved south alabama but she has been really didn't stay in mobile for very long because when the civil war started in alabama went along with the whole thing hopkins knew that the hey i'm a man fighting up in virginia would need some sort of medical assistance they would be without help essentially and at the start of the war there wasn't yeah a united confederate response to treating the wounded as we know from talking about tomkins a minute ago though it was left to states or even individual like tomkins are like hopkins to take care of setting up hospitals for long term treatment as well as for setting up those field camps lines of battles so by the first of manassas she had already had a great reputation for quickly setting up facilities for staff in them and for provision in them and she could turn it
a factory into a hospital in a matter of hours if there were wounded men waiting for bad just to give you an example of how quick she was by november eighteen sixty one the alabama legislature finally began authorizing and provisioning state hospitals in virginia they set aside thirty thousand dollars for costs and may judge hopkins the hospital superintendent although they likely knew full well that the ailing sixteen year old judge wouldn't be the one who was doing all the work his wife when is this half and fled and one of mrs harkin's great skills with now ro lying on that patchy funding from the olive amis state legislature though according to an article by james northern america's civil war she would raise money from women's auxiliary clubs from the grand lodge of the masonic order of alabama and even tuskegee school girls who had put on concerts and send fifty or sixty dollars something like that she also used against
terrible part of her own and her husband fortunes to staff those field can then and set them up in the first place wait eighteen sixty two the confederate congress was starting to consolidate these state run hospitals into larger facilities in richmond as we mentioned with tomkins by somebody eighteen sixty three the alabama legislature finally stopped funding and the hockins fiddles were looped in under one confederate department so mrs haug what home to alabama and outer picture put on some of the states current see what kind of a hero and earn state the up she nursed her husband until his death shortly after the war and billy relocated to new york where she lived for several more decades before dying in washington dc and buried in arlington cemetery we wanted to include a coil about mrs harkin's because of course for a nurse the best test
he is not going to come from general lee but from one of her own patients one of these guys private willie s campbell from the fifth alabama infantry wrote of his eighteen sixty tuesday in one of her hospitals quote i'm very comfortably located in the hospital and expect to remain here but a few days this hospital and also the second ellen under the charge of mrs hopkins and mobile they are kept clean and knife the fair though plane is nevertheless good and such as the sick ought to the physicians in charge doctors morgan and strengthen our very attentive in short a sick man ferris finally here in comparison to the other hospital next upon our list a very well known nurse who is involved in a union war effort dorothy addicts and probably one of the most notable names on this list and it seems like i really natural fit due to her prestigious title during the war superintendent of army nurses but
strangely enough it's her career before the war that she's best known for and its decidedly non military experience that got her that job in the first place he's kind of a contradiction here so boring april fourth no two in hampton main dick was the daughter of a prosperous boston families black sheep he has such an interesting conniston childhood but her father joseph had been a divinity student at harvard when he met and married a lady eighteen years a senior and much below his standing and not only did joseph get kicked out of school for the risk of can be married at the time his father also exiled him to the main frontier to manage lan he really didn't do much of that he preferred to pursue itinerant preaching not a lucrative courier though dorothea grew up poor and with an often absent father and a sickly mother and too little so not much of a childhood at all so it twelve feet
did she wanted something better for herself and she ran away and she went to her wealthy boston grandmother who try to in her into a nice young lady and give her an education biographer worthy wilson wrote that her grandmother try to instil quote industry and dignity economy perfection and manners spartan and puritan well piety her and it must have worked is only two years later the formerly uneducated dorothea went to live with a great on mr and started school for the children of the city's elite there are fourteen year old teacher or a fourteen year old school mister actually it's pretty remarkable to think of how much she must have learned in those two year it isn't she didn't stop thereby time she returned to boston she was considered by the way quite beautiful and accomplished she stepped out on the debutante lifestyle and opted instead to start a school there as well
soon she was managing to schools she was educating wealthy children in her grandmothers home in the morning and then teaching poor kids and afternoon for free by her mid thirty she had had a broken engagement over her refusal to stop teaching stop writing and stop all of her charitable pursuit and had also suffered from several of exhaustion and ill health dorothea was trying to figure out what she was gonna do with her life and by this point also with her wealth because her grandmother had left her pretty sizeable fortune though by chance or i was asked by a harvard divinity student in eighteen forty one whether she knew anybody who might like to teach sunday school to female prisoners in cambridge and dorothea volunteered her stall after the less than she had a little tour of the jail leading the areas where the criminally insane or capped and shoes is horrified by what she thought there they were kept in cold dank fell
with no he i mean this is this is massachusetts to something about that and only rags for clothing and dorothy i was told that they couldn't feel things like thing people could do worry about them it with all ok but she was deeply disturbed and started to talk doctors and mental health experts who were beginning stand that contrary to popular belief or the time mental illness with something that was the call not a spiritual problem and therefore not something that family needed to be ashamed of because often families couldn't tend their own mentally ill at home the thickly just wind up in jail or in poorer houses where the conditions were often terrible so dicks in a campaign for a better state facilities first surveying the mentally ill of massachusetts and moving from there in eighteen fifty she did some are surveys in russia at the can and in turkey and it was her face
as a champion for the mentally ill and her connection to governor senators and other really high powered people they got hurt indeed as the superintendent of army nurses and enter keenly wasn't until the war that dicks had even become a public critic of slavery although she had long been personally against it that she hadn't wanted to risk alienating the south factly about once the were really started she worked to organise volunteer nurses and two core than improve condition in the hospitals and camps but she was not quite as beloved in her service for the army ass she was in her civilian life some of her critics thought she was kind of inflexible as an administrator and that dry for perfection which was of course the quality that had made her so successful a reforming our really vigilant kind of person made her less popular with doctors when she went about trying to reform their opera actions and though as soon as the war
over she was completely relieved to get to her work as a champion for mentally ill and was ultimately responsible for creating thirty two asylum in the u s and improving many may more and maybe most importantly helping to change people's attitudes about how to how to care for people with mental illnesses she died in new jersey and eighteen eighty seven the last person on our list is perhaps even more well known than decks i feel like we get requests to cover person every so often don't you think sara i think we do and she was known as the angel of the battlefield i think that was her nickname fur the women came just generally known as all the nurses worthy angels clara barton was the angel battlefield yes and while she didn't go into the war is famous dorothea dick she came out of it even better known was probably maybe the best known of all the civil war nurses she was born clerk
oh harlow barton and north oxford massachusetts on christmas day in eighteen twenty one and she was the youngest of five kids of a prosperous farmer and screw writing horses hearing war stories from her father and getting early nursing training by tending to her brother who had been entered and fall so at age eighteen she became a teacher worked at that for about ten years before leaving briefly to in college and then when she was without went back to work as a teacher and even established her own school in new they she had a bad experience with that though she had raise funds through the school and set it up successfully
as soon as it was kind of on its feet and doing well man was appointed as her supervisors there she quit quit teaching entirely and move to washington dc to go to work for the patent office as the copier stand that was a good place for her to because she started making some influential friendly senators charles sumner who we talked about i think on the interview with david mccullough part guys and senator henry wilson well and just incidentally i know a lot of the nurses we talked about have been single barton never married as well even though she had numerous suitors including a forty niner who must have done quite well in his pursuit of gold because he sent her ten thousand dollars at one point as an unsuccessful enticement to wed it was still shot i can't believe so in the civil war began barton's
volunteering immediately she'd meet men arriving in dc from new england and treat their sunstroke or other elements from the road and she rested a lot of the kids from new england ass her former students and soon enough families from massachusetts in new jersey started to send her supply is knowing that she'd get them to their boys no not long after barton started doing that she decided to leave her job and start working ass a volunteer nurse for the union army full time her first order of business to single handedly start a campaign to get the word out the army was really badly in need of supplies so she advertised papers and talk to as many people as she could and people from about every northern state responded sending food medicine and eventually she needed three warehouses store at all and by eighteen fixed
to clara was visiting battle grounds herself she would lead team the volunteers out to the front lines and deliver supplies and when she was there should walk round and tend to the wounded man lying on the ground and bring them things they grew or tea and wine and just as an example in august eighteen sixty two she arrived at the second battle of full ran or manassas as we call it earlier with three railroad cars of supplies and for volunteers and she's to head just in till the last possible second the train carried her off just as the confederate troops were round hill behind her right where she had been tending to man few minutes earlier though obviously life on the front lines didn't mean some cause she had a bullet path through her sleeve and kill the wounded man who she was tending and she also had an expert shall tear off part of her skirt as an officer with hope her over a bridge and from to breathe
became known as the florence nightingale of america or the angel of the battlefield as we mentioned and troops would cheer when she arrived even get out the brass band sometimes but by the wars midpoint better organization meant that the provisioning wasn't quite as desperate so often with the u s sanitary commission started to turn down barton's help she got sent back to dc and was actually depressed maybe even suicidal at this time according to the women in world history encyclopedia fortunate though senator henry will then pull through her for his buddy clara and got her papers restored and she went to work for ants army and serve through other men the war but even after the fighting was over she really kept her position as a soldier's advocate and worked at first independently to locate mrs mann on behalf of families who had been writing to her out the war and was ultimately grand a government allowance and help to create these lists
the missing man that were circulated around the country so you could bye but all or or prison then determine which ones had actually died in battle and and presumably get some closure to some of those in her later years barton is of course known for creating the american red cross and united states and for heading it up for twenty three years she died in maryland and nineteen twelve through that rounds out our nurses pie castor civil war this paragraph again there were so many to choose from and so many who would be interesting entry visa or falling back up and running several of these ladys could have could have had entire pica yeah honestly i think that's probably why we didn't bring in a couple of them because we thought they could probably little by little entry later you're not that these don't we probably mention a few of these ladys down the road to but we just thought it would be cool to include them on this
i think to looking at the big picture of several of the nurses we ve talked about it does seem like they have listing role they play in how the war progress there in the beginning when things are really desperate and help it is as things get better organised and men get put in to the higher up positions yet some of them managed to hold on to like marian bickersdyke i mean it yet some of them managed to hold onto like marian bickersdyke i mean it it just depends on the personality and maybe the people they were working under yeah and even if they even after the war ended they didn't let that slow them down that it is kind of kept going and kept serving others and to show that that with such a big part of not just what they needed to do in a moment to help their country but of who they were reminded me very slightly of women going to work during world war two and that obviously affecting some people make
wanna keep working after the war and i have to imagine that at least some of these and what did you say twenty ass a nurse i wanted her to keep working after the actual battle with time like i said will probably make an effort to find out about some more of those in the future and maybe even another part of the series maybe another episode for the serious down the road if we are so inclined or if you guys are still inclined you're certainly welcome to write to us and let us know if there are other nurses that you would love to hear about and before we sign off we want to give a shout out to all our listeners you're nurses we hear from a lot of guys we do thank you are learning and if you suggestions of nurses or any other kind of episode for us please write us where history podcast outhouse the forks dot com you can also look us up on
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-05.