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Thread: where to start with a nurse impression?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2007

    Default where to start with a nurse impression?

    dont worry... i already did a search surprisingly i didnt find anything on being female

    i seriously dont know where to even start with this impression. my knowledge is all this century... though i do know quite a bit on herbs, but thats nowadays.

    can someone please point me in the right direction. everything i have found on the internet does not tell me what exactly they had to know or do.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Central IL


    Ok, I had a post written and my one year old just deleted the entire thing.

    Anyway, Gangrene and Glory is a good book to read to get an overall view of Confederate and Fedeal medical practices during the war years. I believe there are a few images of females in the book, I think some are of religiously-affiliated nurses and one is of a lady who tried to boost the moral of the wounded by singing, etc. (I would LOVE to copy her dress someday!)

    Another good book is Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott.

    I did some research on nursing prior to getting married. It is my understanding that female nurses would practice in general hospitals rather than field hospitals. Depending on who you would be nursing under the authority of, there were some stipulations on dress/appearance. Of course there are instances where female nurses did go into the field but that seems to be the exception rather than the norm. I wanted to portray the norm and thats why I never really got into nursing since the medical impressions around here portray field hospitals.

    Sarah J. Meister

    Independent Civilian /
    Wife / Mother / Seamstress / Musician

    My Sewing Blog

    My Pattern Blog

  3. #3


    Ditto on the recommendation of "Hospital Sketches." It's a quick and funny read, and gives a vivid picture of a typical nurse's life. As far as medical knowledge, most female nurses, of course, wouldn't have any specific training; they were volunteers from home. So the knowledge would be a combination of the average person's experience, plus what she'd picked up being around military doctors and seeing their work in the hospital.

    For the latter, there are several threads in the medical subforum here on medical/surgical procedures and books from the period. As a modern person, it doesn't hurt to know more than a period nurse would have, but in the period, a basic knowledge of what injuries and illnesses were common, their symptoms, the effects of various treatments, recovery times, etc. would be the kinds of things you'd know, rather than the name of each surgical instrument, for example.

    For everyday medicine, depends a lot on your particular background. Poor backwoods? Sure, you'd know all the local herbs, how to prepare them and how to treat your family, before you'd spend money on a doctor. Middle-class city? You might not know vervain if you stepped on it, but you'd know when to ask for Dover's Powders at the drugstore or what the doctor recommended when your children had the measles. There are medical books for the layman, like Child's The Family Nurse or Gunn's New Domestic Physician that were aimed for the middle class and give a good idea of typical conditions, names for them, and treatment. True folk medicine of the lower classes is a little trickier since it was mostly passed on orally and herbal medicine has changed over the years so you can't assume today's popular medicine was on most people's radar years ago, nor that common herbs of the 1860s are heard of today. Even Gunn, though, talks about what the "country people" do.

    Sarah brings up one big problem, though. Typical female volunteer nurses did work in general hospitals, or in hospital buildings closer to battles when the battles were over. So it's hard to find a living history situation where you can experience what you would have and learn by doing. And for nurses of either sex, even assuming the weekend's patients are from Saturday's battle, it's hard to find living history patients to actually nurse, beyond the stage of transportation and first aid care.

    Hank Trent

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    So. Indiana

    Default Another Book

    It's been awhile since I read this, so I'm foggy on details, but the book Bleeding Blue and Grey by Rutkow, Ira M. also covers some on nursing. I believe it recounts some of the early criteria for choosing nurses.

    When my mom was going through nurses' training in the 1950's, one had to be single to go through training. Just a random fact.

    Good luck

  5. #5


    Forgot to mention, for the ideal of nursing practice of the day, Nightingale's Notes on Nursing is a pretty good basic work. Not that it necessarily went like that in real life, though...

    Hank Trent

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2007


    thanks all! those help... now to get ahold of the books. called the library and they are a no go (small town library and they dont do inner library loans!).

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2006


    You can likely find Hospital Sketches on Google Books.

    Call your state's "land grant" university--most will allow state residents to check out books from their collection, as part of the college charter.
    Elizabeth Clark

  8. #8


    The Family Nurse

    Gunn's Domestic Medicine

    Notes on Nursing
    Edited to add that other edition. Not sure how they differ, but the reprint I have is subtitled "What it is and what it is not" same as the second link above.

    Hospital Sketches

    Limited view of Gangrene and Glory (haven't look at it, so don't know how much is there)

    Hank Trent
    Last edited by hanktrent; 10-25-2007 at 05:24 PM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Philadelphia, PA


    Don't forget books on Dorthea Dix and the nursing corp and also US Sanitary Commission and Christian Commission as some nursing services were provided especially in the aftermath of Gettysburg.

    Cannot forget Cornelia Hancock either..go to this site to see her autobiography.
    Marc Riddell
    1st Minnesota Co D
    2nd USSS
    Potomac Legion

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Baltimore, Maryland


    Ok my Southern leanings will show here. Try these:

    Kate: The Journal of A Confederate Nurse by Kate Cumming, Edited by Richard Barksdale Harwell
    Scottish-born, Alabama-bred Kate Cumming was one of the first women to offer her services for the care of the South’s wounded soldiers. Her detailed journal, first published in 1866, provides a riveting look behind the lines of Civil War action in depicting civilian attitudes, army medical practices, and the administrative workings of the Confederate hospital system.

    A Confederate Nurse : The Diary of Ada W. Bacot, 1860-1863
    Although the Civil War was the first major American conflict in which women nurses played a significant role, the dearth of information about these women makes the diary of a Southern medical worker an especially important document. A Confederate Nurse records the daily experiences, hardships, and joys of Ada W. Bacot, a plantation owner and childless widow whose Southern patriotism prompted her to leave her native South Carolina to care for wounded Confederates in Charlottesville, Virginia. Bacot’s journal sheds light on her own experiences and also on the themes that dominated the lives of Southern white women throughout the nineteenth century. A Confederate Nurse reveals the Confederate nationalism that motivated some Southern women and the work these women performed to sustain the war effort.

    Exile to Sweet Dixie: The Story of Euphemia Goldsborough, Confederate Nurse and Smuggler
    From Kirkus Reviews
    A thoroughly researched but ultimately unreadable diary of a Civil Warera nurse and smuggler, edited by Conklin, a Gettysburg battlefield guide and lecturer on women in the Civil War. Euphemia Goldsborough (``Pheme,'' as the editor calls her), born to a prosperous Maryland family, was 24 at the onset of the Civil War. In a diary and in a journal called a hospital book, she recorded her experiences as a nurse in a hospital and in a Union camp for captured Confederate soldiers (she smuggled letters and parcels to the prisoners). While Goldsborough is a fairly lively writer and offers new information on such topics as the role of women nurses at Gettysburg and Confederate women in Baltimore, as well as the treatment of female prisoners, there is far more irrelevant detail here than even the most ardent Civil War buff would ever care to read. The ``hospital book'' offers little more than a catalog of injuries and deaths of Confederate soldiers. An important historical document, but not for general readers. (photos, not seen) -- Copyright 1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

    I believe all three are in print and available online.

    Hope this helps!
    Harry Aycock

    Medical Director Bee's Brigade - 150th First Manassas
    Medical Director Evans' Brigade - 150th Leesburg
    Medical Director Valley District - 150th McDowell
    Chief Surgeon of Division - 150th Seven Pines/Seven Days
    Chief Surgeon of Division - 150th Sharpsburg
    Chief Surgeon Heth's Division - 150th Gettysburg

    Chief Surgeon
    Southern Division


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