Dorothea Dix recruited women in the North to serve, while in the South, thirty members of the Sisters of Charity were granted permission to aid the army.
Women, in this time period, didn’t work outside the home, so most only had experience caring for family members. The Sisters, however, already operated hospitals and were highly disciplined. This appealed to both armies.
Geographically, the Sisters were spread out all over the country, but didn’t take sides in the politics of the war. They served equally in both North and South. “Their mission was to serve persons marginalized by poverty, illness, ignorance, disability and injustice.” Soldiers called them the “black caps”.
Prior to the war, Catholic nuns didn’t wear their habits out in public because of discrimination against their religion in America. All across the country, children threw rocks at them, people threatened to burn down their convents and they were sometimes assaulted.
But during the war, their experience was badly needed and with it came respectability.
Mary Livermore, who worked with the U.S. Sanitary Commission, said: “I am neither Catholic, nor an advocate of the monastic institutions of the church… But I can never forget my experience during the War of the Rebellion… Never did I meet these Catholic sisters in hospitals, on transports, or hospital steamers, without observing their devotion, faithfulness, and unobtrusiveness. They gave themselves no airs of superiority or holiness, shirked no duty, sought no easy place, bred no mischiefs. Sick and wounded men watched for their entrance into the wards at morning, and looked a regretful farewell when they departed at night.”
The Sisters were present on the war’s bloodiest battlefields, serving with charity and compassion.
For more about nuns in the American Civil War, visit these sites: http://www.civilwarinteractive.com/This%20Day/thisday0622.htm
For my romances set during and around the American Civil War, visit my website: http://susanmacatee.com