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This Birth Place of Souls: The Civil War Nursing Diary of Harriet Eaton

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Home » Books » Nonfiction » Social Sciences » Women's Studies

This Birth Place of Souls

The Civil War Nursing Diary of Harriet Eaton

By Jane E. Schultz (Edited by)

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Format: Paperback, 288 pages
Other Information: 20 b/w halftones
Published In: United States, 14 June 2012
After the battle of Antietam in 1862, Harriet Eaton traveled to Virginia from her home in Portland, Maine, to care for soldiers in the Army of the Potomac. Portland's Free Street Baptist Church, with liberal ties to abolition, established the Maine Camp Hospital Association and made the widowed Eaton its relief agent in the field. Doing the work of nurse and provisioner, Eaton tended wounded men and those with smallpox and diphtheria during two tours of duty. Eaton found the politics of daily toil challenging. Conflict between Eaton and coworker Isabella Fogg erupted almost immediately over issues of propriety. Though Eaton praised some of the surgeons with whom she worked, she labeled others charlatans whose neglect had deadly implications for the rank and file. If she saw villainy, she also saw opportunities to convert soldiers and developed an intense spiritual connection with a private, which appears to have led to a postwar liaison. Published here for the first time, the uncensored nursing diary is a rarity among medical accounts of the war, showing Eaton to be an astute observer of human nature and less straight-laced than we might have thought. This edition includes an extensive introduction by the editor, transcriptions of relevant letters and newspaper articles, and a biographical dictionary of the most prominent people mentioned in the diary.

Table of Contents

Introduction ; The Diary ; 1862: 6 October to 31 December ; 1863: 1 January to 12 May ; 1864: 12 October to 24 December ; Notes ; Appendixes ; Transcriptions of Letters and Newspaper Items ; Biographical Dictionary ; Bibliography ; Index

About the Author

Jane E. Schultz is Professor of English and Director of Literature at Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis where she teaches courses in nineteenth-century literature and culture and in the medical humanities. Her book Women at the Front: Female Hospital Workers in Civil War America received Honorable Mention for the 2005 Lincoln Prize.


A beautifully conceived book. * H-Net Reviews * Harriet Eaton's diary vividly brings to life the inner-workings of Civil War field and general hospitals, where army regulars, civilian relief workers, and freed slaves often came to blows about how best to care for the wounded. For eleven months and through two rigorous tours of duty Eaton made nightly journal entries that allow readers to experience the immediacy of triage work in the aftermath of Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. In This Birth Place of Souls, Jane Schultz thoroughly and ably places Eaton in the context in which she lived and worked, offering us a fascinating snapshot of one nurse's experience and a group portrait of caregivers of all stripes * Judith Giesberg, Villanova University * Jane E. Schultz's meticulous editing of Harriet Eaton's diary and newspaper correspondence provides detailed insights into the backbreaking day-to-day hospital work of a 'roving' Civil War nurse. Eaton's 'sanitary labor' immersed the pious Christian into the world of rickety ambulance wagons and filthy field hospital tents as she cared for Maine's sick and wounded volunteers. Schultz's thorough introductory essay, annotations, and biographical appendix contextualize Eaton's humanitarian/missionary efforts within contemporary New England attitudes towards gender and race. Eaton's determination and diplomatic skills enabled her to navigate the male-dominated military-medical world of her day and minister to the physical and spiritual needs of innumerable suffering soldiers. A major documentary edition and a significant contribution to Civil War medical history * John David Smith, University of North Carolina at Charlotte * Jane Schultz is arguably the nation's leading expert on Civil War nursing, whose articles and book, Women at the Front, have had a profound effect on how scholars-including literary critics and historians-have viewed women's contributions to the American Civil War. First-person accounts of northern women nurses (and of northern women in general) during the Civil War remain rare-and so it is a pleasure to see that Schultz has produced this carefully edited and beautifully written volume documenting Harriet Eaton's nursing. This is a great discovery and a significant contribution to Civil War literature. * Alice Fahs, UC Irvine * Jane E. Schultz has found a treasure in Harriet Eaton s diary...This is an important source for understanding the role of women in wartime benevolent agencies. Schultz effectively highlights the tensions, challenges and excitement of state relief for the Civil War. Well constructed and argued, the book brings to the fore a fascinating source that displays the gendered relationship between women nurses and male doctors within the military medical organisation. It is a major contribution to Civil War history and an enjoyable read. * Social History of Medicine *

EAN: 9780199899548
ISBN: 0199899541
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Dimensions: 23.39 x 15.6 x 1.55 centimetres (0.44 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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