Margaret Hamilton, Civil War Nurse


Notes on this courageous woman:  (Will be writing this up in finished form, but wanted to tell her story for Women’s History Month.

Mrs. Margaret Hamilton



Born in Rochester, New York in October 19, 1840,  Hamilton had been educated by the Sisters of Charity (founded in 1809 by Mother Elizabeth Anne Seton).    Her mother died of consumption when she was 17; she received her father’s permission to enter the Order.  and after her mother’s death in 1857 decided to enter the Order. She was sent to teach at the Orphan’s Asylum in Albany. When the war broke out, in 1862, she and three other Sisters proceeded to the Satterlee United States Military Hospital in Philadelphia that accommodated 5,000 patients.

The first wounded they received were from the Chickahominy Swamps. “Dozens of them were already dead when taken from the ambulances, and many others were just breathing out their brave lives.” All through the next three years battles, “our hospital was constantly filled.”

Following Gettysburg, “The weather was extremely warm, and the vast number of the wounded made careful attention to their wounds impossible; and upon their arrival at the hospital many wounds were full of vermin, and in many cases gangrene had set in, and the odor was almost unbearable. The demand on our time and labor was so increased that the number of nurses seemed utterly inadequate and the hospital presented a pure picture of the horrors of war.”

“We received a large number of wounded after the battle of the Wilderness, among them a young woman not more than 20 years of age. She ranked as lieutenant. She was wounded in the shoulder, and her sex was not discovered until she came to our hospital. It appeared that she had followed her lover to the battle and the boys who brought her in said that no one in the company showed more bravery than she did. She was discharged soon after entering the ward.”


Margaret Hamilton served for three years and fell in love with one of her patients, a member of the 19th Maine Volunteers.  She left the sisterhood to marry him.    They raised eight children. “I have taken great pleasure in instructing them in the great principles of patriotism, and it is a standing joke among them that they have “Civil War for breakfast, dinner, and supper.”

She later served as president of the Army Nurses and was a member of the women’s auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic, H.M. Warren Post, Wakefield, MA.

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