Prologue Magazine

Fall 2002, Vol. 34, No. 3

Band of Angels
Sister Nurses in the Spanish-American War, Part 1

By Mercedes Graf
© 2002 by Mercedes Graf

5 Sisters of Mercy
The Sisters of Mercy, Baltimore, served as nurses at Camp Thomas, Chickamauga Park, Georgia, during the Spanish-American War. These five are Sisters M. de Sales Prendergast, M. Loyola Fenwick, M. Celestine Doyle, M. Mercedes Weld, and M. Nolasco McColm. (Courtesy, Sisters of Mercy, Baltimore)

Although thousands of patriotic women rushed off to care for the sick and wounded during America's bloody Civil War (1861 - 1865), only a very few were trained in the medical arts— and they were Catholic nuns.1

Doctors, of course, preferred to have trained nurses caring for the sick and wounded. But having nuns as nurses was even better because "the special characteristics of their lives enabled them to function as a cohesive group, to accept difficult physical and material circumstances, and to relate to the soldiers in a nonsexual, even-handed manner."2 Religious women also came from a hierarchical structure where they were used to self-discipline and understood self-sacrifice and obedience to authority. The presence of these well-prepared individuals demonstrated the advantages of having trained nurses on duty during wartime.

Nearly four decades later, in 1898, U.S. soldiers went into battle again in the Spanish-American War, which marked America's debut as a world power seeking to expand its influence. After the outbreak of war in April 1898, US forces quickly subdued the Spanish in the Philippines, then moved on to Cuba. Within months, they overwhelmed the Spanish, and Theodore Roosevelt gained fame that would lead him to the White House.

Despite the lessons learned in the Civil War, the government had taken no concerted steps toward establishing a skilled nursing service to care for the sick and wounded during wartime. Although enlisted men from the US Army Medical Department served in the Hospital Corps, the numbers were insufficient, as there were less than 800 men— 99 hospital stewards, 100 acting stewards, and 592 privates. On June 1, 1898, Congress increased the number of hospital stewards to two hundred.3 But most of the Hospital Corps men who enlisted or who were detailed from combat regiments had little or no proper training as nurses. And when their regiments were moved, detailees were called back to duty.

The war with Spain was quickly demonstrating the important need for trained nurses as hastily constructed army camps for more than twenty-eight thousand members of the regular army were devastated by diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid fever, and malaria— all of which took a much greater toll than did enemy gunfire.

As a result, the need for trained nurses was heightened— and the work of the sister nurses in the Civil War was not forgotten.

The Need for Nurses

While the importance of well-trained female nurses had been demonstrated in civilian hospitals for at least two decades before the Spanish-American War, there were still many military and medical men who questioned whether a field hospital was any place for a woman. Although the surgeon general of the army initially opposed having women in the field, he believed that that they would be needed as nurses and dietitians at base and general hospitals. He obtained authority to appoint both men and women nurses as civilian employees under contract with pay allotted at thirty dollars a month, meals, quarters, and traveling expenses. At the same time, Dr. Anita Newcomb McGee, vice-president general of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) offered to examine all applications referred by the government from women. Even as the surgeon general of the army immediately accepted this offer, his counterpart of the navy joined him, and DAR associates were appointed to help in the selection process. The enormity of this work should not be underestimated, as during the month of May 1898 alone, applications were received from 2,353 women.4

All applications were forwarded to Dr. McGee, who was left free to set her own standards.5 To be placed on the eligible list, a nurse must have been graduated from a training school and have the endorsement of the present superintendent of that school or the one under whom she was trained. The original age limit was thirty to fifty years, but exceptions soon had to be made in view of the huge demand for nurses. A requirement that had not been demanded at the outset, but which became immediately apparent, was a physician's certificate stating that the applicant was well and strong enough for army duty. By August 3l, 1898, there were almost a thousand nurses under contract, with the demand still growing in view of the terrible epidemic of typhoid fever that raged that summer in the camps.

A different sort of recruitment effort was made in July 1898. Under the direction of the surgeon general of the army, Mrs. Namah Curtis had been sent in July to secure the service of immune colored women (living mostly in the South), who could serve as nurses at Santiago, Cuba, to tend yellow fever patients.6 These women were selected for the job mainly because they had already survived yellow fever, but the majority of them were not trained nurses.7

Sisters Answer the Call

As a result of their work in the Civil War, religious sisters were recognized for providing skilled nursing services. In view of the urgent need for medical assistance in the summer of 1898, it was no surprise when the government called for every nursing sister who could be spared. Official government records indicated that the various orders furnished around 250 sister nurses, with the Daughters of Charity (originally referred to in the United States as Sisters of Charity), providing the majority of nurses.8 Although members of other orders were represented, their numbers were considerably less.9

This article focuses on the different orders of nursing sisters and on their experiences and difficulties encountered during the Spanish-American War. Each section below will describe a particular group and their contributions, starting with the Daughters of Charity, which sent more than two hundred women, and continuing to the smaller orders, which sent anywhere from four to just over a dozen sisters.

Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, Emmitsburg, Maryland

On April 23, 1898, the Daughters of Charity, sometimes referred to as the Cornette Sisters because of their large white linen headgear, offered their services to the government much as they had done in the Civil War.10 During that conflict, they had compiled a proud record of tending the wounded at Satterlee Hospital in Philadelphia, where more Union wounded had been treated than at any other hospital during the war. Now, with their official entry into another conflict, sisters were called from the various missions throughout the country, and the motherhouse in Emmitsburg became the focal point for these nursing sisters. Originally one hundred sisters were promised, but in view of the desperate plea for more help, just over two hundred women eventually tended the sick and wounded.11 As a result, "many of those later sent were not so thoroughly qualified as were the Sisters in the early parties."12 Those who had limited nursing experience assisted the more experienced when needed.

As the nuns made their way to the camp hospitals, Reverend Mother Mariana Flynn, head of the order, stated that her sisters were "back in the army again, caring for our sick and wounded."13 The nuns were dispatched to numerous locations, mostly in the southern United States: the Norfolk Naval Hospital, Portsmouth, Virginia; the Third Division Hospital, Chickamauga Park, Georgia; Seventh Army Corps, Jacksonville, Florida; Camp Poland, Knoxville, Tennessee; Hospitals of the Fourth Army Corps, Huntsville, Alabama; Camp Alger, Second Army Corps, Falls Church, Virginia; US Army General Hospital, Fort Thomas, Kentucky; Camp Wikoff, US Army General Hospital Annex, Montauk Point, Long Island, New York; and Camp Cuba Libre, First, Second, and Third Division Hospitals. The sisters' last assignment was at the Military Hospital, Ponce, Puerto Rico, where nineteen of them were stationed for three months nursing sick American soldiers until the last days of January 1899.14 While it is evident that the Daughters of Charity served at numerous sites, only some highlights about their service will be presented here.

Work at the Naval Hospital

Before the first formal requisition could be processed for the sisters' service, a request came from the physicians in charge of the Norfolk Naval Hospital at Portsmouth, Virginia, for five sisters to come there and serve as night nurses.15 All of the women who eventually served there were skilled nurses.16 One of the nuns spoke Spanish, and she wrote: "I am very thankful to the Lord for my Spanish, for it is as great consolation to these poor prisoners, to talk in their own language and tell their troubles and fears to someone who understands what they say."17

While there were some Spanish prisoners at the hospital, the majority were American patients who were recovering from their wounds or had typhoid and malarial fever or pneumonia. In addition, there were ten measles cases in the "pest house," where one male nurse had been assigned to duty. Sister Salazar described cases of serious burns as well as amputations. In fact, one man who had to have his leg removed was "too weak to bear the operation," and the burn case, while alive, was suffering a great deal.18 Sister Salazar's letter further indicates that the sisters were so well experienced that they functioned as surgical nurses, unlike in the Civil War, when the majority of women were untrained. Indeed, the doctors were extremely satisfied as the sisters not only reduced the anxiety and responsibility connected with their work, but they could "be relied on at all times."19

In recognition of their work at the naval hospital, the sisters received an official letter of acknowledgment from the surgeon general of the navy. He felt that the women were to be particularly congratulated for their "kind, faithful, and efficient help and nursing . . . which looks not for earthly praise but has its reward in alleviating suffering, as leading mankind to a better and higher life."20 The sisters' work at Portsmouth demonstrates that a small handful of contract nurses served the navy.

Work at Camp Wikoff

When the motherhouse at Emmitsburg, Maryland, received the government's request for help in caring for the sick and wounded, thirty-seven nuns volunteered on August 18, 1898, to go to Camp Wikoff, Montauk Point, Long Island. By war's end, 112 sisters served there.21 Government records noted that the sisters were frequently forced to go on furloughs because they had overworked themselves to the point of exhaustion between assignments. For example, Sisters Ligouri McClery, Ambrosia McDevitt, Marie Hall, and Margaret Garvey had all just returned from furloughs before being sent on to Montauk.22 Accounts from the period indicate that conditions at Camp Wikoff were less than desirable during the first two weeks after it was established. With the surrender of the Spanish forces at Santiago and the subsequent rapid increase of sickness in the regiments of the Fifth Corps, the army withdrew troops from Cuba and sent them to the quarantine station at Montauk Point. This site was chosen because it was easily accessible by water, and its isolated location lessened the possibility of spreading yellow fever beyond the camp.

By August 5, 1898, work began on building five detention camps for a thousand men each, with hospital accommodations for five hundred. All the men returning from Cuba had to pass through here. At the same time, a general camp of new tents intended to shelter eight to ten thousand men was rapidly constructed. The work of preparing the camp had hardly commenced, however, when on August 7 troops began to come in from Tampa and other places in the southern states. Within forty-eight hours, 4,293 men arrived, along with seven or eight thousand horses and mules. The first of these troops arrived without tents or equipment of any kind and with only travel rations.

Because of inadequate transportation at the camp, supplies were not delivered promptly, and the transfer of sick and convalescent men from the vessels to the camp was at times slower than it should have been. Sanitation for the camps and hospitals was generally acceptable but could have been improved.23

As the sick soldiers started arriving, the surgeons found it necessary to relieve the overcrowded wards by sending many of the men off prematurely. The nursing staff was similarly overtaxed. One of the sisters wrote: "We have hardly time to eat or pray, it is all work, and rush rush at that. The soldiers are constantly coming."24 Another Sister of Charity explained to the Mother Superior:

We are more than busy (if such can be) but all well. . . . Our camp is being enlarged every day. Last night we opened four more immense wards— one surgical ward too. I had to go around stealing the Sisters from other wards to supply these and had a time pacifying two doctors who were unwilling to give the Srs. up. . . . Some of the men want to know how the sisters manage and how they can stand, for they never see them eat, sit down or sleep.25

One newspaper reporter related that all the nurses worked night and day, contenting themselves with poor meals and poor beds while the men whom they cared for got every attention they could bestow. "The sisters from various Catholic institutions are doing especially good work, not that their will is any better than the other noble women who are working here, but because they are better trained and seem to have a sympathetic intuition that guides them at all times."26

After making a personal visit to the camp in September, Dr. Anita Newcomb McGee found the sisters "shamefully overworked" and asked for forty-five more. Her representative requested that these women be regular hospital sisters "who could do anything from giving a hyperdermic [sic] up and down; for owing to a condition of administration, and discipline(!) which it is not prudent to speak of and which is being made the subject of official investigation the life of the patient hangs on the nurse's knowledge."27

It was not long before the nuns fell ill themselves. One member of the order wrote to the motherhouse: "Sister Alice Gannon has been ill for four days. I thought it was only what all the others had— diarrhea. But instead of getting better she is worse and Sr. Cornelia fears typhoid. I dispatched to you to know what to do. Sister is bent upon going home."28 Sister Agnes (Mary Sweeney), who was also at the camp, served as a night nurse. When Camp Wikoff broke up, she went on to Jacksonville, Florida. She was finally forced to take a furlough on October 8, and she was brought to St. Joseph's Hospital ill with typhoid. But she was not constitutionally strong, and when complications set in, she succumbed to the fever and died.29 After leaving Montauk Point, Sister Mary (Anne Larkin) was sent to the General Hospital at Ponce, Puerto Rico, where she became ill and died of typhoid fever.30 Sister Caroline (Caroline Wolfe) also died while in service on October 15, 1898, from typhoid.31 Sister Mary Anastasia (Mary Ellen Burke) gave up her life to the same fever.32

In summarizing their heroic work at Camp Wikoff, one newspaper reported that it would be useless to detail "the self-sacrificing manner in which the sisters labored for the sick soldiers. Most of them are women of refinement and station. While at the camp they did the most menial work, acting as ordinary nurses and attending to the wants of the patients both by day and night."33

Experience at Santiago

The government asked for twelve Daughters of Charity to nurse the sick and wounded soldiers at Santiago, Cuba.34 The request called for those nuns who had previously been exposed to yellow fever and were therefore "immune" from it. When the sisters embarked from the boat at Santiago on the morning of August 19, 1898, a tug took them to the convent of the Sisters of Charity there. The sisters, who were preparing to leave and go back to their native Spain, thought the new arrivals had come to replace them and take charge of the hospital with its Spanish prisoners. The American sisters, however, pointed out that they had come to nurse US soldiers who were ill at Camp Siboney. Sister Mary Carroll reported:

We saw General Schaffter and Dr. Harvard but neither of them would be willing for us to go to the camp. In fact they said it would be impossible for us to live there. They sent an officer with us to the Hospital, a building containing 235 patients men, women and children, not a person in the house spoke or understood a word of English. As soon as we went there the Sisters began to pack their trunks. We tried to make them understand that we could not take charge of their hospitals without the authorization of superiors, that we only came for American soldiers as long as they needed our services, and were then to return home. . . . It seems like an age since we left New York and yet we only spent one night in Santiago.35

If it seemed at first that the long journey had been wasted as the sisters were not allowed to do nursing in Cuba, they soon learned there was more than enough to do. Gen. Leonard Wood, the military governor, ordered the sisters to return on the transport Yale, which was carrying thirteen hundred sick men back to the United States, many suffering from fever and bowel problems. Immediately the sisters began to divide themselves up so they could care for the men and try to make them as comfortable as possible. On their arrival at Camp Wikoff, they continued their work with the sisters who were already stationed there. About twenty thousand patients were treated in the tent hospitals before war's end.

Chickamauga Park

Conditions at Chickamauga were so primitive that when the nuns arrived, a few boards were placed on the ground to form a kind of platform where they could rest. One sister recalled: "Each one put her package down, not having any place to sit, each sat on her satchel. I think the number was twenty-four, we were tired, sleepy, and dirty, but a little while and we all went to work to clean a kind of shed made of green wood for a dormatory [sic]; we were glad enough when six o'clock came, as we got something to eat. . . . We certainly did look like soldiers, for we had no bedding, simply a blanket, one half under us, and the other over us, with one pillow."36

The facilities at the camp were almost always overcrowded, officers in charge were frequently changed, and nurses were limited in number. In addition, medicines, hospital supplies, and furniture were lacking, to say nothing of the day-to-day predicaments that staff encountered. One nurse lamented: "Foremost in my mind are those insects, the innumerable flies. They settled everywhere. Our food was covered with them. Before partaking of meals, we were obliged to shoo them off with force and when they did let go, the tugging was nauseating"37

Even before the Sisters of Charity arrived, the chief surgeon telegraphed to the surgeon general on April 25, 1898:

Have inspected whole command. Three regiments and six batteries have no medicines nor supplies of any kind. Must have more medical officers at once. Dispatch chests of all kinds, field furniture at least. Send 100 bedsacks, 100 blankets, 12 field desks, and blankets of all kinds. Send stewards and hospital corps privates.38

Maud Cromelien, who was with the Red Cross auxiliary for the maintenance of trained nurses, described the suffering as great while "the neglect was greater. . . . Hospital stewards were overworked, as well as nurses; orderlies were scarce and the rush of patients from the surrounding hospitals was unceasing. . . . And it must be remembered," she pointed out, "the patients came in suffering from starvation, covered in some cases with lice and maggots, mouths crusted and sore from neglect, bed-sores that were sloughing and deep."39

The first week of September, there was a heavy rain, "which made sad havoc among the tents." One sister who signed her letter "Your Children of the Battlefield" remembered how the rain, falling in heavy torrents and soaking through the tents, awakened many women from their sleep and "obliged them to change every piece of clothing." In the morning they were informed that the kitchen had blown down during the night, so they were obliged to eat standing up in what was left of the refectory. Yet the sisters never lost their sense of humor, for they reported: "The picture presented at that breakfast table will not soon be forgotten, one could not but smile at the many different shapes the Cornettes had assumed, not any two were alike; yet if there was no uniformity in the head dress, there was in the countenances for each face beamed with joy, revealing the happiness to be experienced in performing acts of charity in the midst of privations."40

As the days passed, the work of nursing went on, and a few of the nuns became ill or suffered from dysentery and sick stomachs. "The surroundings at the hospital are simply horrible," Sr. Mary Stella confided in a letter to the Mother Superior. "Sister Aimee is on the sick list— was not able to attend Mass. I fear she will not be able to stand the exposure of camp life."41 Another sister reported: "Many of the SRS sick, but nothing serious, only fatigue and exposure, the distance from sleeping sheds to Corps tents near a mile, umbrellas and overshoes in constant requisition."42 By the end of September, however, more sisters became ill. A letter sent to the motherhouse noted that "Sr. Berchman coughs very much, she is good and generous, she does not complain, never lost a day and does not attach any importance to her cough. . . . Sr. Stella told me to say that Sr. Josephine Browne is looking very badly— she does not look able for much more hardship or exposure."43

Mindful of the sacrifices that the nuns were making, one of the surgeons wrote to Mother Mariana tendering his hope that the sick sisters were fully recovering. He also complimented the order for the work done at the various hospitals in Chickamauga Park, Georgia.

I can hardly tell you in words strong enough how much of an assistance and comfort they have been to me. I worked hard for them, and they did the same for me, never failed me. They took supurb [sic] care of their patients; they helped me in every department of my Hospital, and if it was a success, a great deal of the credit is due to them. I am waiting here to-day for orders, nearly a tired out man, but I should feel it a dereliction of duty if I did not tell you how nobly they responded to every demand made of them.44

Elsewhere the sisters continued their heroic labors at the numerous camps mentioned above. When Camp Wikoff closed, the nuns were ordered to Huntsville, Alabama. Upon their arrival, some of them found orders that directed them to duty at Jacksonville, Florida. At Huntsville, the sisters cared for the sick soldiers at the Fourth Corps Reserve Hospital, Camp Wheeler, and also at the Field Hospital, Second Brigade, Second Division, Fourth Army Corps. When the camp at Chickamauga Park was shut down, sisters were transferred for duty to Camp Poland, Knoxville, Tennessee, and Camp Hamilton, Lexington, Kentucky. By the end of August, twenty sisters were asked for at Camp Alger in Falls Church, Virginia, but only ten were allowed to remain there when problems arose because of the commanding officer's anti-Catholic attitude.45 This problem was not entirely unexpected as sisters in many of the camps met with religious prejudice. The hospitals in Knoxville and Lexington, however, closed in the latter part of September 1898, and the sisters prepared to go back to their respective convents. By November 1, all sisters had left the camps and returned to their missions.

Sisters of St. Joseph

The Sisters of St. Joseph were founded in Le Puy, France, on October 15, 1650. In 1836, six sisters left France and settled in Carondelet, Missouri. From there, the Sisters of St. Joseph were established in many areas of the United States. They founded hospitals in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Wheeling, West Virginia.46 Sisters of this congregation also rendered aid and comfort to afflicted soldiers in their own hospital during the Civil War when it was leased to the Union government as a military hospital.

During the Spanish-American War, eleven of these sisters served at Camp Hamilton, Lexington, Kentucky; Camp Gilman, Americus, Georgia; and Matanzas, Cuba. Sisters from the various orders, however, frequently served in some of the same camps. As a result, the Sisters of St. Joseph were closely associated with the Sisters of the Holy Cross and the Daughters of Charity from Emmitsburg. Mass was said daily when possible, and their work was lightened by having contact with other community members who often encountered the same problems.

At Camp Hamilton in Kentucky, for example, Sister Bonaventure wrote: "One of the Holy Cross sisters was taken to the Hospital in Lexington last Sunday. Her temperature when she left camp being 104."47 On another occasion, a Sister of St. Joseph noted: "We have not been as long in the field as the Sisters of Charity and Holy Cross; they are nearly all broken down, poor things, but they know how to get along better than we. Some of them have experience of this kind of life."48

Personal Data cards were located for all eleven of the nuns who listed their residences in Missouri and Minnesota.49 Their nursing experience ranged from six months to twenty-one years. Sr. Mary Bonaventure explained that her hospital experience had been limited to one year because she had been teaching school. Many of the other sisters specified that their work had been "medical and surgical," making it quite clear that they were well qualified to take on the duties of army nursing. The youngest was twenty-eight, and the oldest was fifty-one years old, and with the exception of three sisters born in Ireland, all the rest claimed the United States as their birthplace.

In some instances, comments written on the Personal Data cards testified to the services the sisters provided. They were described as "thoroughly satisfactory in every respect," and ratings of excellent were awarded them for both health and ability. The Personal Data card for Sr. Mary Liguori (McNamara) reports that she was "an excellent and exemplary woman and satisfactory in every respect. Has tact and good judgment, and is respected and liked by all."50

Sister (also referred to as Mother) Liguori, superior of St. Joseph's Hospital in Kansas City, was chosen to lead the first small band which consisted of experienced nurses. Under her charge, the group left Carondelet on September 14, 1898, and after taking the oath of allegiance to the United States at Camp Hamilton, they found themselves in a city of tents that held nine thousand men. Their own quarters were close to those of the Sisters of Charity from Emmitsburg and the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Night and day the nuns relieved each other in the wards, "their labors sweetened by the kind and helpful intercourse of the communities, one with the other, and rewarded by the restoration of health of by far the greater number of their patients."51 Many of these were mere youths who had been overcome by fever and nostalgia. Yet all the soldiers were grateful for any service that made their surroundings more homelike. All in all, five hundred men sick with typhoid fever claimed the time and attention of the one hundred nurses in charge, forty-eight of whom were religious.

As the Sisters of St. Joseph tended the sick, they also had to deal with the constant rain and its problems. "The mud, is something terrible," Sister Liguori wrote. "At night it is so dark, but we have lanterns to light our path. Sr. Irmina went up to her knees in a mud hole last night."52 She also commented on the constant cold and the need for winter shawls and flannels. Finally, she brought up a delicate question in her letter to the motherhouse. "Do you think it would be advisable if I could get a little whiskey. The night nurses are so chilled when they come home in the morning that a little hot toddy would warm them up before they go to bed."53 A week later, it appears that the nun got her answer from the Reverend Mother, as she wrote back: "Dear Mother, how to thank you for sending the whiskey, but my, what will we do with 2 gallons. Why, one pint would be all we want and maybe we would not need that."54

From the camp in Kentucky, the band of now ten women (since one nun had been recalled to St. Louis) went on to Camp Gilman in Americus, Georgia. Here there were 150 sick soldiers to care for daily, and while the difficulties associated with camp life continued, the sisters all remained in excellent health. Furthermore, they were treated extremely well by the officer in charge of the camp, who had the highest respect for the sisters and could not do enough for them. The rations were good, better than at Camp Hamilton, although the army furnished no butter or milk. "We have had out trials and crosses to contend with but . . . this is army life and we do not find it hard to live up to the rules," Sister Liguori explained.55

By the beginning of the new year, the sisters were told to ready themselves for their third assignment at Matanzas, Cuba. At the sisters' pleading, they were allowed to remain to prepare Christmas dinner for their patients before boarding a transport ship in Charleston, South Carolina.

The nuns arrived at Matanzas Bay on January 1, 1899, although they remained on ship until January 6, riding in an army ambulance to Mass in a Spanish hospital each day. Once on land, they assumed charge of a government hospital where they continued their work of mercy. In addition, they opened up a diet kitchen for the patients. Now, however, the nuns encountered intense heat during the day as opposed to the extreme cold they had endured in Kentucky. There was also a problem with an unwelcome invader: "The nights are cool," sister observed, "but the fleas have us about devoured."56

By March, word of their good nursing care had spread across Cuba. Sister Liguori wrote: "The fame and neatness of our Hospital has gone all through Camps on the Island. . . . Do not think, dear Mother, we are carried off by all this flattery. No, I am thankful to say it makes us humble, thank God."57 By April, the nuns eagerly awaited the hospital ships that were to pick up the soldiers. Sister Liguori, however, was ill with a case of yellow fever and quarantined alone in a tent on the roof of the hospital. Yet she wrote not of her own isolation but of the feelings of her soldier patients. "They are so homesick for their homes. It cheers them up, the poor soldiers, when they hear of home and going back to the States. When the transport arrives you will hear nothing but cheers, 'Home, Sweet Home,' and 'The Girl I left Behind Me.'"58

In April 1899, the sisters resigned from their contracts as there was no further need of them, although they continued their service among the sick and wounded until May 10, 1899, when they set sail for New York.59 At the same time, US military authorities in Matanzas wanted Americans to oversee an orphan asylum there and urged the sisters to remain longer and direct it, but the Reverend Mother Agatha did not consent to this plan because it was not approved by the archbishop. By the time they arrived home, the nuns had seen eight months of hard duty.

Band of Angels, Part 2


Mercedes Graf is a professor of psychology at Governors State University in Illinois. She is the author of several works about women and medicine, including Quarantine, a book about Typhoid Mary; A Woman of Honor: Dr. Mary E. Walker and the Civil War; "Women Nurses in the Spanish-American War," Minerva (Spring 2001), and "Women Physicians in the Spanish-American War," Army History (Fall 2002).


Articles published in Prologue do not necessarily represent the views of NARA or of any other agency of the United States Government.
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