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Faces of Civil War Nurses by Ron Coddington

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Northern and Southern women radiated patriotic fervor equal to their male counterparts during the U.S. Civil War. They contributed to the war effort in countless ways: forming charitable societies, becoming nurses, or even marching off to war as vivandières or unofficial attachés to the regiments. In this talk, Coddington shares research from his book Faces of Civil War Nurses, in which he turns his attention to the experiences of 77 women of all ages and walks of life who provided care during the war as nurses, aid workers, and vivandières. Their personal narratives are as unique as fingerprints: each provides a distinct entry point into the larger social history of the brutal and bloody conflict. Coddington uncovers the personal histories of each intrepid individual. Each story is illustrated with an original, wartime photograph of the subject, many previously unpublished. In a few instances, likenesses of better-known individuals were mass produced to meet public demand or to be used for fundraising purposes. After the war, some of the images appeared in history books. Eventually, these portraits faded from memory and disappeared into attics and basements. Decades passed. Then the Civil War centennial spurred a wave of popular interest that gave rise to a community of collectors eager to own a piece of history. These images deserve recognition alongside the famous battlefield photographs by Mathew B. Brady and other pioneer photographers. Coddington is the Editor and Publisher of Military Images, a quarterly magazine that showcases, interprets, and preserves photographs of the Civil War period. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, Civil War News, Civil War Times, The Civil War Monitor, and other publications. He is a career journalist who has worked for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The San Jose Mercury News, and USA Today. Presented on December 19, 2020.

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