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Gentle Annie: The True Story of a Civil War Nurse is a great children’s book to both inspire and educate young people.
Gentle Annie: The True Story of a Civil War Nurse was published when I was ten years old and I read my copy of this book so many times that the cover was literally falling off by the time I donated it to the local library. I fantasized that I was Anna Blair Ethridge and before I realized just how many sciences medical practitioners require at college, I thought that I might one day be a doctor or nurse saving lives like Anna/Annie. So when it came time to make a book recommendation in honor of February’s Women’s Role in History Month I knew this would be the perfect choice.
Who Was Anna Blair Ethridge?
After the Civil War began, Anna Blair Ethridge (known as Annie) enlisted as a Daughter of the Regiment in the 2nd Michigan Infantry. Daughters of the Regiment were women who followed the army in a quasi-military capacity, did chores in camp, and usually served as nurses. Annie marched with her regiment to Washington, DC, where they joined the Army of the Potomac. Her first battle was at Blackburn’s Ford, Virginia. When the fighting started, she ran onto the battlefield and nursed the wounded.
Gentle Annie, as the soldiers called her, was an expert horsewoman. She would fill her saddle bags with bandages and supplies and would ride fearlessly onto the battlefields to care for the injured soldiers. The Union Army loved Annie for her selflessness and courage in saving lives of wounded soldiers, even under fire from the enemy. In fact she was almost captured by the Rebels at the Second Battle of Bull Run.
Armed with two pistols on her belt and provided with a horse, Annie would dash into the midst of the battle to lift the wounded soldiers onto her horse and get them to safety. Twice her horse was recorded being shot out from under her but that did not deter her. As fighting would come to an end in the evening hours she would personally look for and retrieve soldiers who could not get safely get away from the battlefield, bind their wounds and make them as comfortable as possible until they could see the surgeon.
In the summer of 1864 when General Ulysses S. Grant ordered women to leave the Union camps, Annie reluctantly left her regiment whereupon she joined the hospital service at City Point, Virginia.
For her bravery under fire, Annie was one of only two women awarded the Kearny Cross, named in honor of Major General Phillip Kearney for “noble sacrifice and heroic service to the Union army. In fact, after Second Battle of Bull Run, Annie had come to the attention of General Kearney himself who had recommended she be given her first horse and also the rank of sergeant. (She did not get the rank due to the General being killed in battle.)
Annie Blair Etheridge received a veteran’s burial in the Arlington National Cemetery.
Why All Young People Should Read Gentle Annie: The True Story of a Civil War Nurse
We all need heroes. Heroes fuel us and inspire us. That’s why Marvel’s team of Avengers are so well loved. But what better than a real life heroine who might otherwise be relegated to a footnote here or there in a time when the heroism of the male white soldier was the focal point? A heroine who was selfless, caring, compassionate, good, and loyal.
Fans of history who are looking for a female heroine to read about will love the story of Gentle Annie as I did when I was in 5th and 6th grade.
Look for a copy of Gentle Annie at your local library or find an used copy for sale on Amazon.
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