Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

National Association of Army Nurses of the Civil War

 

Introduction by Mary M. North

Out of the throes of battle was born a heroism which fired the breasts of those who proudly wear a badge upon which are the mystic letters "N. A. A. N." and to which every veteran of the Civil War lifts his hat as to something high and sacred.

The National Association of Army Nurses of the Civil War is an organization which is held in great esteem, and the badge is worn only by those who left home when "war waged her wide desolation," and braved the dangers of hospital, camp and battlefield, to minister to the wants, and relieve the sufferings of the boys who left home at their country's call and fell victims to the deadly fever, the terrible shot and shell, or some malady of the camp. Eternity alone will reveal how many lives were saved by these devoted women, who, when the mothers, wives or sweethearts were at home, took their places, and with tireless energy and sleepless vigilance, did all in their power to relieve suffering. If the fell destroyer could not be balked, then with the softest touch, the eyes were closed while the watcher thought of the ones at home who would mourn the boy who would never return. It is no wonder that the veteran lifts his hat in deference and reverence to these aged women, and perhaps his thoughts wander to the time, fast approaching, when both shall answer the last "roll call." Watch his eyes grow misty as he thinks of these women who relieved the tedium of the days of suffering and the nights of raving, when fever held him in a relentless clutch. These whispered words of encouragement and hope for the spirit, while also giving attention to the needs of the body. Many a time have their words helped weary ones to a better life. This little band, now numbering one hundred and eighteen, grows fewer as the years glide by, and soon the last one will have ended the march of this organization whose number cannot be increased, for theirs is an association which cannot be recruited.

Many of the nurses belong to one or more of the patriotic organizations of women, but as theirs was a distinct work, so they should have a distinct organization. Seeing the need of this, Miss Dix, who had been in charge of the nurses during the war, called the survivors together in Washington, D. C, June 18, 1881, with the result that an organization was effected bearing the title of the Ex-Army Nurses' Association.

Miss Dix was elected president and served until her death, when Dr. Susan Edson was elected to the office and served until failing health compelled her to resign. She was followed by Miss Harriet Dame. The name first selected was changed as being too cumbersome and the name National Army Nurses' Association was chosen, which with a slight transformation is the one borne at present.

The National Association was organized in Washington, in 1892, by Mrs. Addie L. Ballou and many others. Mrs. Ballou was elected president Those who have served as president are: Mrs. Delia B. Fay, Mrs. Fanny Hazen, Miss Cornelia Hancock, Mrs. Ada Johnson, Mrs. Emile Wilson Woodley, Mrs. Clarissa Dye, Mrs. Margaret Hamilton, Mrs. Elizabeth Ewing, Mrs. Rebecca S. Smith and Mrs. Mary E. Robey Lacey, the present incumbent. To become a member of the association, tradition will not do, but there must be documentary proof that the applicant served as a nurse. She must have served at least three months as a regular or volunteer nurse, and her application must be approved by the nearest post of the Grand Army of the Republic.

By Act of Congress, all nurses of the Civil War are entitled to burial in National Cemeteries, and several sleep in their "low green tents" in beautiful Arlington. The present officers are:

National President, Mrs. Mary E. Lacey, Utah
Senior Vice-President, Mrs. Catherine L. Taylor, New York
Junior Vice-President, Mrs. Hannah J. Starbird, Nevada.
Treasurer, Mrs. Salome M. Stewart, Pennsylvania.
Chaplain, Miss Hannah U. Maxon, Ohio, deceased.
Secretary, Miss Kate Scott, Pennsylvania, deceased.
Conductor, Mrs. Mary E. Squire, Wisconsin.
Guard, Mrs. Elizabeth Chapman, Illinois.
Counselor, Mrs. Rebecca Smith, Minnesota. 
Chief of Staff, Mrs. Lettie E. C. Buckley, Illinois.
Surgeon, Dr. Nancy M. Hill, Iowa.
Color Bearer, Mrs. Nancy Kripps, Pennsylvania.

This is the tribute of Rose Terry Cook

The Army Nurse

Give her the soldier's rite!
She fought the hardest fight;
Not in the storm of battle,
Where the drum's exultant rattle,
The onset's maddening yell,
The scream of shot and shell,
And the trumpet's clangor soaring
Over the cannon's roaring,
Thrilled every vein with fire
And combat's mad desire;
She fought her fight alone.
To the sound of dying groan;
The sob of failing breath.
The reveille of death;
She faced the last of foes.
The worst of mortal woes.
The solitude of during.
The hearts for kindred crying;
By the soldier's lonely bed
In the midnight dark and dread,
'Mid the wounded and the dead.
With lifeblood pouring red,
The cries of woe and fear,
Rending the watcher's ear.
The hovering wings of death.
Fluttered by dying breath.
There was, her truthful eye.
Her smile's sweet bravery,
Her strong word to impart
Peace to the fainting heart

Army Nurses | Civil War Nurses

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.

 

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