IDENTIFIED ARMY NURSES OF THE CIVIL WAR G.A.R. ARCHIVE

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Item Code: 2021-384

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This group of medals and ribbons from the National Association of Army Nurses of the Civil War belonged to Maria Olmstead Eldred (1842-1928,) who served as an army nurse in Falls Church, Virginia, in 1864. She received a government pension for her services and is generally credited with nine month’s service, though it is said she initially journeyed there to take care of her husband, George W. Olmste(a)d, a member of Co. D 13th NY Cavalry, who enlisted again at age 24 at Pierrepont, NY, on 8/7/64, mustered in as a private 9/3/64, and was discharged for disability on 2/19/1865 at Camp Lowell, Prospect Hill, Va. His service with the unit is shy of the nine months with which she is credited, but George was sick in the brigade hospital from 9/23/64, and she might well have hurried to join him. He had previously served as a musician in Co. C, 92nd NY, enlisting 10/23/61, but returning home after six months on a sick leave, going back to the regiment, being taken sick again and discharged 10/1/62. After his discharge, in February 1865, he returned home to Pierrepont, where he applied for an invalid pension in July and died in March 1866 at age 25, leaving Maria with a young son, who died two years later. She remarried to Holden Eldred, some years her senior in 1873, with whom she had a daughter. Her second husband died in 1908. When she died in 1928 “Army Nurse” was engraved below her name on their joint tombstone.

The National Association of Army Nurses of the Civil War 1861 – 1865 had several different names during its history, but was started by Dorothea Dix in 1881 as a regional group and expanded to a national organization in 1892, though it did not start holding official meetings as part of the GAR national encampments under that title until 1895.

This grouping includes an original circa 1900-1910 photograph of Maria Olmstead Eldred, which was published in the July 1969 issue of “The Quarterly” published by the St. Lawrence (NY) County Hist. Assoc., and includes a page from a 1984 issue with another later photograph of her with a short biography, including the detail that her maiden name was Eastman.

The group also includes A) a ribbon for the 20th annual convention of the “Army Nurses of the Civil War” at the 48th National Encampment of the GAR at Detroit in 1914. Black lettering and photo of the soldiers and sailor’s monument in Detroit on cream color silk ribbon. Exc. B) Delegate badge for the National Association of Army Nurses at the 1914 GAR convention. GAR delegate white metal pin back at top with bust of the national commander. Mustard color ribbon with white lettering. White metal drop with paddled vessel and clouds overhead with “Detroit” at bottom.

C, D & E) Three ribbons for meetings of the Army Nurses association at the 57th, 58th and 60th annual encampments of the GAR (1923, 1924, and 1926.) All show the badge of the organization over its title with date and location of the National GAR encampments at bottom. Black text on cream colored silk. The first two show shredding. The third is very good.  F) A badge for the 1915 GAR 49th annual encampment at Washington, DC. Red, white and blue ribbon with “Army Nurse” in white, suspended from bar and pin back clasp with red, white and blue enamel GAR encampment in raised letters and round medal with image of the Capitol and Washington monument. G) 1909 Gettysburg 43rd National GAR Encampment badge with oval Lincoln portrait at center of pin bar, with celluloid image of white flowers, on a nice gold ribbon, with a drop with red cross on white background, with “National Convention” in raised letters. Some losses to the red cross, otherwise vg.

This is an interesting grouping from a relatively unheralded group of women who aided in the preservation of the Union as much as the men fighting in the ranks.  [sr] [ph:L]

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