Black southern nursing care providers in Virginia during the American Civil War, 1861-1865

Maling, Barbara Lee, Department of Nursing, University of Virginia
Keeling, Arlene W., School of Nursing, University of Virginia
Steeves, Richard, School of Nursing, University of Virginia
Holt, Michael, Department of History, University of Virginia
Kirchgessner, John, School of Nursing, University of Virginia
Fontaine, Dorothy (Dorrie), School of Nursing, University of Virginia


The purpose of this dissertation is to investigate the history of Southern black residents giving nursing care in Virginia during the American Civil War. Issues of race, class, gender, the status of medicine and nursing, and the need for African Americans to give nursing care are considered within the context of the nineteenth century in the United States and of the American Civil War.


This study uses traditional historical methods with a social history framework. Primary sources included but are not limited to letters, diaries, morning reports, and hospital rosters from: The National Archives in Washington D.C.; Alderman Library at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville VA; The Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia, The Richmond Battlefield Archives on the site of Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond, Virginia, The National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland, and Howard-Tilton Memorial Library at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Secondary resources were also used.


Large numbers of free and enslaved black residents gave nursing care in Virginia during the American Civil War. They worked in military hospitals, on battlefields, and in make-shift hospitals as well as in Southern homes. In most cases, the boundaries of nursing duties were not clearly defined; race, class, and gender issues affected their nursing duties


Despite the fact that numerous free and enslaved blacks gave nursing care during the War in Virginia, little scholarly research has been published about them. Race, class, and gender issues in the antebellum South defined the involvement of blacks. Class distinguished power, education, and refinement. Gender distinguished patriarch from subordinate, and race marked the difference between free and bound. Thus, the attributes of race, class, and gender not only shaped identities but also dictated life choices.

A unique intersection of events during the Civil War shaped nursing experiences for Southern blacks. Because they were an oppressed people and nursing was largely considered menial work, large numbers of blacks gave care with impunity. In fact, both free and enslaved black nursing care providers became a large and significant part of the Confederate medical response.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
American Civil War, African Continental Ancestry Group -- history -- United States, History of Nursing -- United States, African American nurses -- History -- 19th century, Nurses -- United States -- History -- 19th century, Slaves -- United States -- History -- 19th century, Nursing Service, Hospital -- history -- United States

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

Thesis originally deposited on 2016-03-14 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2017-03-23 16:34:07.

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