|Mary Ann "Mother" Bickerdyke|
1817 - 1901
THE CIVIL WAR BIVOUAC WITH LOREE HUEBNER
In this month’s Civil War Bivouac, I want to introduce another incredible woman of the Civil War period: Mary Anne Bickerdyke, affectionately known as "Mother" Bickerdyke by the soldiers. This woman was possibly the most resourceful Civil War nurse. Full of character, she pulled no punches when it came to the care of the wounded Union and Confederate soldiers, setting the surgeons and Federal army doctors on edge at times. During the war, she became the chief of nursing under General Grant. She pioneered the nursing core curriculum.
Widowed before the war started, Mother Bickerdyke supported herself and her two sons as a “botanic physician” in Galesburg, Illinois—so advanced for her time, don't you think? Sounds a bit like Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman studying the herbal and plant remedies from the Cheyenne Indians. After the war started, a local physician wrote home to Galesburg about the deplorable and disorganized military hospitals in Cairo, Illinois. The town’s people collected nearly five hundred dollars worth of medical supplies and food, and nominated Mary Ann to deliver it to the military hospital in Cairo. She stayed on there as an “unofficial” nurse.
"I have a commission from the Lord God Almighty to do all I can for every miserable creature who comes in my way; he is always sure of two friends, God and me."
Mary Ann Bickerdyke knew her mission well.
She gained the admiration of General Ulysses S. Grant. As Grant’s army moved south, down the Mississippi River, Mother Bickerdyke moved too. She set up hospitals wherever needed. It was said that Union General, William T. Sherman, was also very fond of her tireless efforts to help the wounded. It was rumored that she was the “only” woman that he ever allowed in his camp. When General Sherman’s staff came to complain about a hard-headed nurse who disregarded any military procedure, he threw up his hands and stated, “She ranks me. I can’t do a thing in the world.” I find that quite a statement from a tough general.
With the help of the U. S. Sanitary Commission, Mary Ann, also known as the "The Cyclone in Calico," built approximately 200 hospitals and assisted thousands of wounded on roughly 19 battlefields. She was one incredible woman who helped change the face of medicine and hospital care forever.
I hope you enjoyed this month's touch on history.
I would love to hear what you think of Mother Bickerdyke.
Between you me and the gatepost,
|The Mother Bickerdyke Monument|
"She ranks me"
Down below is a very short youtube about Mother Bickerdyke. Take a peek.