Letters of a Civil War Nurse: Cornelia Hancock, 1863-1865

Letters of a Civil War Nurse: Cornelia Hancock, 1863-1865

Letters of a Civil War Nurse: Cornelia Hancock, 1863-1865

Letters of a Civil War Nurse: Cornelia Hancock, 1863-1865

Synopsis

She was called "The Florence Nightingale of America". From the fighting at Gettysburg to the capture of Richmond, this young Quaker nurse worked tirelessly to relieve the suffering of soldiers. She was one of the great heroines of the Union. Cornelia Hancock served in field and evacuating hospitals, in a contraband camp, and (defying authority) on the battlefield. Her letters to family members are witty, unsentimental, and full of indignation about the neglect of wounded soldiers and black refugees.

Excerpt

"The Florence Nightingale of America," Captain Charles Dod called Cornelia Hancock as he wrote to his mother of the ministering care he received when taken seriously ill during the Civil War at City Point Hospital. This was before the days of Red Cross with its roll of enlisted trained nurses ready for war or disaster, with first-aid kits, hospital supplies, and a system that has stood the test of many experiences. In 1863, nurses were volunteers, with ingenuity and pressure of necessity their only teachers. It was as assistant to her sister's husband, Dr. Henry T. Child, of Philadelphia, that Cornelia Hancock reached the battlefield after Gettysburg, and again after the Battle of the Wilderness, but the place she made for herself with the army doctors and with her grateful soldier patients ensured to her, in spite of her youth, continuous service in a Second Corps Hospital until Richmond was taken. These letters--to her mother at home, to her sister in Philadelphia, to her brother, and to young nieces and nephews--cover the two years of her volunteer service as nurse.

Hancock's Bridge, her birthplace, was a remote tiny village four miles beyond Salem, in southern New Jersey. Once it had been the scene of stirring events in Revolutionary days, and a hundred years before that Cornelia's ancestors were pioneer settlers from England, coming to this country just after William Penn. Service as colonial legislators and judges, martyrdom in the Revolutionary War, and a sturdy part in the development of a new nation were in her blood, but in the quiet country fife which contented her father, opportunity for her as a woman was confined to teaching in the village school, or marriage. She longed to be in the midst of things herself when her only brother and her cousins went to the War against the South in . . .

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