The idea of a volume featuring women during the Civil War has its roots in 2004, after the publication of my first book. My editor, Bob Brugger, suggested collected photographs and stories would be a great compliment to my first effort. I agreed with Bob, but it was not until a decade later that I took action.
In the summer of 2014, I met Chris Foard and learned about his remarkable collection of photographs, letters, books and other ephemera connected to nurses. Chris, a professional nurse, had spent years accumulating more than 3,000 items. Thus began the journey to Faces of Civil War Nurses.
Representative images from his collection comprise almost half of this book. Chris also provided research and observations based on years of study.
The journey that followed revealed the richly documented and largely forgotten history of these pioneers. Though they hailed from all walks of life and varied life experiences, they all shared a common desire to be caregivers. Not content with staying at home and participating in local aid societies, most struck out with little more than a suitcase and a vague promise of becoming a nurse. Even the role and responsibilities of an army nurse was in a period of great change due to the influence of Florence Nightingale and her landmark 1859 book Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not.
These pioneer nurses blended Nightingale’s learnings with their own practical knowledge of medicine and care against the backdrop of America’s Civil War. They encountered and endured hostility from the male-dominated medical establishment, and a host of other obstacles. Yet these intrepid women overcame a myriad of challenges and went on to serve in makeshift hospitals established on carnage-strewn battlefields, and in well-appointed facilities far away from the front lines. In many cases, they worked without rest or furlough until, overwhelmed with exhaustion, were forced to go home to recuperate for weeks or months.
About the Cover Image
In the previous four volumes, the photographs I recommended for the book jacket were accepted by the design team at The Johns Hopkins University Press without question. I anticipated the same response this time and suggested the carte de visite of Almira Fales, who stands with two baskets of supplies for soldiers. (She is pictured on page 2.) Her confident gaze and the presence of baskets often mentioned in my readings of primary source material captures the essence of the Civil War nurse.
The design team at Hopkins Press preferred another image. We had a healthy debate about the merits of various portraits and the goals of the book. In the end, we came to a mutual agreement on the carte de visite of Marie Brose Tepe Leonard, the legendary “French Mary” who served as a vivandière with the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry, also known as Collis’ Zouaves for its commander, Col. Charles H.T. Collis. This image was owned by Michael J. McAfee, a legend in the community of Civil War photo collectors. Historian, author, and curator at West Point, he passed away about a year before the release of this book.