In this Book
As a subgenre of war literature, the Civil War nurse narrative offered realistic reportage of medical experiences and declined to engage with military strategies or Congressional politics. Instead, nurse narrators chronicled the details of attending wounded soldiers in the hospital, where a kind of microcosm of US democracy-in-progress emerged. As the war reshaped the social and political ideologies of the republic, nurses labored in a workplace that reflected cultural changes in ideas about gender, race, and class. Through interactions with surgeons and other officials they tested women’s rights convictions, and through interactions with formerly enslaved workers they wrestled with the need to live up to their own often abolitionist convictions and support social equality.
By putting these accounts in conversation with each other, Civil War Nurse Narratives productively explores a developing genre of war literature that has rarely been given its due and that offers refreshing insights into women’s contributions to the war effort. Taken together, these stories offer an impressive and important addition to the literary history of the Civil War.