The Tompkins County Civil War Commission has dedicated a memorial to Civil War Nurses. Located on the Tompkins Cortland Community College campus, off of Route 13 in Dryden, New York, the memorial honors the sacrifice and bravery of those women who went to war: from the very first nurse, Susan Hall from the Town of Ulysses, who served through out the war, to those who served in camp and hospital at a time when it was believed that “war was no place for a woman.” The sculptures were created by artist Rob Licht.
Nursing scholarships were created in honor of Susan Hall, Sophronia Bucklin, Sarah Graham Parker Young, and Julia Cook, to be given to students at the College’s nursing program and for faculty development.
There were more than 21,000 women who received federal pensions in 1893 – 30 years after the war. There were women who nursed on the fields as battles raged; there were Southern women who were uncounted who nursed in homes and other shelters and were not counted or considered for pensions; there were at least 420 African American women who nursed, mostly on Western battlefields, and countless people of color who freed themselves from slavery and sought shelter with Union troops. Called contrabands, they served as laundresses, seamstresses, cleaners & cooks. In addition there were 260 Sisters of Charity and other groups of nuns who served.
Yet in 1905 when a Spanish American War Nurse memorial was created in Arlington National Cemetery, the founder was “disinclined to honor all nurses”; in 1914 Massachusetts erected an Army Nurse memorial and cited 600 women who might have served; in 1924 there was the Nuns of the Battlefield Memorial erected at DuPont Circle in Washington DC; in 1938 there was a memorial to army and navy nurses of World War I, and in 1993 a Viet Nam Women’s memorial was unveiled on the National Mall in Washington displaying three women tending a wounded soldier.
Photo of Civil War Nurses memorial courtesy Rob Licht.