“The country had only 600 trained nurses at the start of the Civil War. All were Catholic nuns. This is one of the best-kept secrets in our nation’s history,” Civil War chaplain Father William Barnaby Faherty once said.
Battlefield Angels: The Daughters of Charity Work as Civil War Nurses is the newest book by award-winning writer James Rada, Jr. Nearly 700 Catholic sisters from 22 orders provided some sort of service during the Civil War. The Daughters of Charity provided the largest number—around 300—to serve in the war.
The brutality of the war tested even the Daughters of Charity’s abilities as they ran hospitals, served on troop transports and provided care in battlefield hospitals and ambulances. Armies from both sides of the war even occupied the sisters’ Central House at times.
The Daughters of Charity had such a high level of trust among the government officials that they were allowed in the early part of the war to move back and forth across the border between North and South. They served in Alabama, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.
“When I first found out about the work the Daughters of Charity and Catholic sisters did during the Civil War, I was surprised that more hadn’t been written about them,” Rada said.