Dr. Mary Walker Wednesday #8

We’re closer to the end of Dr. Walker’s story than the beginning. Chapter Eight is the first one about her postwar life. Still a young woman at the conclusion of the Civil War, she had much to yet accomplish.

Chapter Eight: The Medal of Honor

The war may have ended, but not Dr. Mary Walker’s work.

Trinity Episcopal Parish | Clarksville, Tenn.

In Clarksville, Tennessee, she provided medical care for women. While attending services at the Trinity Church, Dr. Walker got into a dispute with its minister over issues of loyalty, a controversy that spilled into the community. During the months following the warm she considered various job opportunities as she struggled, physically and emotionally, with the transition to peacetime life.

At the end of August 1865, after receiving testimonials about Mary Walker’s accomplishments, President Andrew Johnson asked the secretary of war to find out “if there is any way in which or precedent by which” any recognition could be made of the doctor’s wartime service.

U.S Army Civil War Medal of Honor | Per Wikipedia: "The Meda… | Flickr

Learn how Edwin Stanton and Joseph Holt, the judge advocate general, decided how such recognition could be made–all in Chapter Eight.

Remember, Dr. Mary Walker’s Civil War releases on June 1!

Stay safe and stay well. See you next week.


Dr. Mary Walker Wednesday #7

Last week, we saw hints of a very dramatic and traumatic time in Dr. Walker’s life. This week, as the Civil War moves through its final months, we get a glimpse of how she picked up the pieces.

Chapter Seven: Surgeon in Charge

The newly released prisoner returned to Washington, DC, with only a set of well-worn clothes on her back.

Union Prisoners, Andersonville

(A.J. Riddle photo, 1864, New-York Historical Society)

This is a photo of the infamous Andersonville prison, officially known as Camp Sumter, located in southwest Georgia. Mary Walker had the good fortune never to step foot inside. About 45,000 Union soldiers were held prisoner there, and close to 13,000 died, mostly because of malnutrition.

Read more about prisoners of war in the forthcoming Dr. Mary Walker’s Civil War.

Until next week, stay safe and well, as always.


Dr. Mary Walker Wednesday #6

Today marks the halfway point of the Dr. Walker Wednesdays. Last week, we found her tirelessly working in Washington, D.C. and in the field with Union troops. This week, we see a dramatic turn as a result of her time in the field.

Chapter Six: Union Spy

At the beginning of 1864, Dr. Mary Walker immersed herself in women-led organizations.

(Dept. of Rare Books and Special Collections, University of Rochester Libraries)

One was the Women’s Loyal National League (or Women’s National Loyal League), organized in 1863 by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, who were suffragists and abolitionists.

As the chapter title indicates, Dr. Walker also engaged in some risky activities while she was away from the nation’s capital tending to sick and wounded soldiers:

On her way back to Lee and Gordon’s Mills on April 10, 1864, a few of Confederate general Daniel Harvey Hill’s soldiers, weapons drawn, detained Dr. Mary Walker.

A photograph of Daniel Harvey Hill in confederate uniform. Image from the University of Arkansas.

(Gen. Hill, University of Arkansas photo)

What was Dr. Walker doing there? What did the Confederate soldiers do with her? The rest of that story is in Chapter Six.

Until next week, stay safe and stay healthy.


Dr. Mary Walker Wednesday #5

This is the fifth in my Dr. Mary Walker Wednesdays series. Each week I’ll post the first sentence of a new chapter, along with images that relate to material in the chapter. This week’s featured chapter is book-ended by events in Washington, D.C.: a special New Year’s Day celebration in 1863 and, in early 1864, the founding of an important charitable organization. The doctor spent much of the time in between at front line locations.

Chapter Five: In the Field, In the City

On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln held a reception at the Executive Mansion.

African Americans Enter Abraham Lincoln's White House, 1863-1865 ...

(Alfred R. Waud engraving, published in Harper’s Weekly, of the 1862 reception.)

New Year’s Day gatherings were traditional events for U.S. presidents, but the one in 1863 marked an extra special celebration: the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect.

During 1863, Mary Walker split her time between the city and the field; one set of activities intertwined with the other. Her work in the field with the army in 1862, first at Warrenton, then at Fredericksburg, made it easier for her to secure the necessary travel passes to move through Virginia and other forward locations.

The doctor also affiliated with the United States Sanitary Commission from time to time, which facilitated her ability to get into the field. The USSC, a private relief organization sanctioned by the federal government, was founded in June 1861 by a group of men who usurped the already existing Women’s Central Relief Association (or Women’s Central Association of Relief). Convened by Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell in April, it envisioned tapping into women’s expansive organizing capabilities to provide medical care for Union soldiers. It eventually merged into the USSC. Though shut out of top leadership in that organization, women like Mary Livermore and Mary Ann Bickerdyke held regional positions that proved integral to the USSC’s success.

Mary Livermore.jpg

(Mary Livermore)


Mary A. "Mother" Bickerdyke - Kansapedia - Kansas Historical Society

(Mary Ann Bickerdyke)





Dr. Mary Walker Wednesday #4

This is the fourth in my Dr. Mary Walker Wednesdays series. Each week I’ll post the first sentence of a new chapter, along with an image (or two) that relates to material in the chapter. This week features Dr. Walker’s medical work in the field, caring for sick and wounded soldiers. Since this first sentence is short, I’ve included a couple extra.

Chapter Four: Field Surgeon

Dr. Mary Walker still could not secure a commission.

[In November 1862, she decided General Ambrose Burnside’s sick and wounded men at Warrenton, Virginia, needed help, so she went.]

Carrying with her a blank book for keeping track of the names of patients, Dr. Walker found some men on the floor of an old house, many suffering the effects of typhoid.

(General Burnside and staff at Warrenton, 1862)

[In December] Dr. Mary Walker volunteered at Lacy House in Falmouth, a behind-the-lines station where soldiers received treatment before being sent on to Washington.

(Smithsonian Institution)