When the Civil War broke out, pioneering doctors Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell were involved in the establishment of the U.S. Sanitary Commission and helped to select and train nurses for war work. As the repository for more than a thousand Civil War collections, the Manuscript Division holds extensive material relating to women's medical involvement in the war.18 For example:
Many Civil War nurses and physicians later recorded their reminiscences.
Perhaps the best known of all Civil War nurses was Clara Barton (1821-1912), who later founded the American National Red Cross. At the war's outbreak, Barton was a forty-year-old Patent Office clerk in Washington, D.C., who embraced the task of collecting much-needed provisions and medical supplies for the Union army. Frustrated by bureaucratic delays, she began to distribute the supplies herself and also started nursing the wounded in military hospitals and battlefields, earning the nickname “Angel of the Battlefield.” Barton became famous for her Civil War exploits mainly because of a series of phenomenally successful postwar lectures she delivered about her war experiences and her later efforts to identify dead and missing soldiers. In preparing these lectures, Barton drew not only from memory but also from diaries and notes she had kept at the time, which are now part of her personal papers (70,000 items; 1834-1918).
The following collection titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.