At the beginning of the Civil War, thousands of women volunteered their services as nurses for the Union Army. They just showed up at military hospitals, or wherever their help was needed.
When opposing forces met at Bull Run, Virginia in July 1861, no doctors or hospitals were waiting to tend to the one thousand men who had been injured. Civilians and local officials criticized the Union Army's poor treatment of the wounded and called for a system that would ease the suffering of the soldiers.
Martha's husband John C. Pemberton had served honorably in the United States Army for twenty-four years, but when war broke out in 1861, he agonized for weeks before deciding to fight for the Confederacy and Martha's native state of Virginia.
During the Civil War, Americans observed an elaborate set of rules that governed their behavior following the death of a spouse or relative. After the loss of a husband, the widow was not to leave home without full mourning garb and weeping veil for one year and a day.
After his troops had endured several charges, Union Colonel Joshua Chamberlain decided that a countercharge might catch the Confederates off guard. This painting depicts the 20th Maine's desperate bayonet charge down the slopes of Little Round Top at the Battle of Gerrysburg.
A Unionist circle of women in Atlanta was led by Vermonter Cyrena Stone. She and her pro-Union cohorts risked their lives to assist the escape of Union prisoners, to protect slaves, and to provide intelligence to General William Tecumseh Sherman's advancing army.