“Nuns on the Battlefield” Monument

Located at the intersection of Rhode Island Avenue, Connecticut Avenue, and M Street in Washington D.C., there is a unique Civil War monument dedicated to the hundreds of Catholic nuns who volunteered as nurses during the conflict. The monument was approved by the United States Congress in 1919 (though paid for privately) and dedicated 1924.

Here are some photos of the monument:

The bas relief sculpture on the front of the monument depicts and honors 12 different orders of Catholic Sisters.

Always check the back of the monuments. Here’s this one:

The figure on the left side of the monument is a female warrior army in armor and holding a shield. She is supposed to represent war and women’s role in the combat.

The figure on the right side of the monument is a religiously veiled female angel, representing peace.

6 Responses to “Nuns on the Battlefield” Monument

  1. Were the sister involved during the aftermath of Gettysburg, given the proximity of the Emmitsbirg Shrine?

    1. Mr. Pryor – For weeks after, the sisters along with townspeople, went out onto the Gettysburg battlefield locating, identifying when they could, and removing the surviving wounded to shelter and care. There is an astonishing book published by the Sisters of Charity, containing the written recollections of the nuns and their service at numerous hospitals and battlefields. It is astonishing because it is primary source and portrays the devotion to care for all, the resistance from some injured who refused treatment because they were Catholic; and the persistent devotion to the religious practises and rule of the order, even in barns and hospital ships. Numerous times the sisters had to cross from one side of the place of war and enter the other, even when close to the hostilities. Call Emmitsburg and you’ll find a bookstore or gift shop carrying it.

    1. I’ve been there, Joe. The nuns will play a role in my next Civil War novel in the Asunder trilogy.

  2. The Sisters of Charity, founded by St Elizabeth Seton, the first American born saint, were very active on several battlefields near their residence in Emmitsburg, MD. At the Battle of Antietam, a young soldier of the 16th NY Artillery, was injured and taken to a nearby Military Hospital. A Sister of Charity, while caring for his wounds, asked him his name. He said “I am William Seton.” Astonished at hearing his surname Seton, she asked if he were related to Elizabeth Seton. He replied, “my grandmother founded your order.” Now that is an interesting Civil War story. Seton ended up surviving the war, afterwards studied law at Fordham, married, and had one son who died in infancy. He died in 1905 in New York City at the age of 70.

  3. Thanks for the article. The monument is located in a very popular DC area. Just down from Du Pont Circle named after Civil War Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont. The family moved his statue out of the park to Delaware and replaced it with a fountain if your looking for the statue. Across the street is St. Matthew Church the place of JFK funeral. And too dangerously close to the Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Shop!

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