Monday, July 14, 2008

Meet Sister Joseph

The photograph is of Sister Joseph, one of seven Sisters Of Mercy from St. Catherine's Convent in New York, who volunteered to become nurses in Beaufort, North Carolina, in 1861, during the Civil War. Union forces had occupied the southern city, and at the request of the War Department, the sisters left their covent and traveled south with a physician, Dr. John Upham.

Built on the seashore shortly before the start of the war, the famous three story Atlantic Hotel was taken over by the Union for use as a hospital. It had become, however, a filthy, vermin-ridden building, and the manager was described thus: “a man whose hair was matted and his scraggly beard stained with tobacco juice….constantly sitting in a wheelbarrow near the door…with a huge bunch of keys dangling from his belt.”

The seven Sisters created Hammond Hospital, a clean, sanitary facility where they worked faithfully, nursing wounded Union troops. The hospital closed in 1862 and the building reopened as the Atlantic Hotel in 1866.

The drawing below depicts the Atlantic Hotel as it appeared when it was converted to a hospital in 1861.

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