The Sisters of Charity and their Service in the Civil War

Satisfactory Essays
The Sisters of Charity and their Service in the Civil War

In Lincoln's inaugural address on March 4, 1861, he pronounced that the Union could not be dissolved by an act of secession (Ward 34). On April 12, 1861, the first shot was fired upon Fort Sumpter, and so began the Civil War in the United States. On April 9. 1865, Grant and Lee met at the Appomattox Court House, for the surrendering of the Confederate Army, and then the Civil War officially ended. In the four years of conflict between these dates, our nation lost by death and disease 600,000 men. The task of caring for so many dying, sick and maimed men was an ordeal. Four Orders of Catholic Sisterhoods participated in caring for the wounded and dying. The orders were: Sisters of Charity, Sisters of St. Joseph, Sisters of Mercy, and the Sisters of the Holy Cross. The work of the Religious Catholic Sisters during the Civil War was commendable. When the war began, the Sisters were the only organized and trained female nurses. The surgeons "liked them because they had been bred to discipline". Even President Lincoln had a high opinion for the tremendous service of the Catholic Sisters during the Civil War.

"Mother", Elizabeth Ann Seton, was the founder and first Superior of the Sisters of Charity in the United States. In March, 1850, the American Community of The Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph's of Emmitsburg, MD united with the French Daughters of Charity, co-founded by St. Louise de Marillac and St. Vincent de Paul. The merger and growth of the religious community resulted in the establishment of more providences throughout the United States. "Their mission was to serve persons marginalized by poverty, illness, ignorance, disability and injustice". The "black caps" as they were called by the soldiers, lived out their mission to its fullest during the Civil War. The Civil War separated the American Sisters of Charity geographically because their community had houses in the North and the South. The Sisters in California functioned outside the conflict, but they did contribute personnel and resources. When President Lincoln sent forth an appeal for volunteer nurses, nearly every Sister answered. On June 1, 1861, Brigadier General John F. Rathbone wrote to Bishop John McCloskey to request Sisters of Charity to assist at the military hospital in Albany, New York. One Sister went, and after a few days, Rathbone declared: "The superiority of the Sisters of Charity as nurses is known wherever the name Florence Nightingale is repeated .
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