Civil War Nurses Battlefield Photo


Volunteer nurses from the North and South served as volunteer nurses in military hospitals during the American Civil War. With over 5,000  serving as nurses, they experienced amputated limbs, mutilated bodies, disease and death. Louisa May Alcott, Jane Stuart Woolsey and Katharine Prescott Wormeley recorded their experiences. Dorothea Dix and Clara Barton were the leaders of a national effort to organize a nursing corps to care for the war's wounded and sick. Dix was already recognized for her work in improving the treatment received by the insane when she began to recruit women to serve as nurses in the Army Medical Bureau. Military traditionalists opposed her, but she prevailed, armed with plain looks and recruits who called her "Dragon Dix."


Clara Barton established the American Red Cross by 1881 at age 60. She persuaded the government to recognize the Red Cross to provide aid for natural disasters. Barton continued to do relief work in the field until she was well into her 70s. But she was not a strong administrator, and political feuding at the American Red Cross forced her to resign as president in 1904.