OUR NURSES

HELEN MILAN PORTRAYING: "Mother" Bickerdyke - Nurse
After the Confederates attack on Fort Sumter in April 1861, President Abraham Lincoln calls for volunteers and the men of Galesburg hurry to enlist. The volunteers from Illinois are sent to Cairo, Illinois. But one man in particular volunteers the Union as a Medical Surgeon, Dr. Benjamin Woodard, the town doctor. The Ladies of Galesburg organize for the purpose of sewing and making hospital supplies for the soldiers while Dr. Woodard reports for duty in Cairo. During the hot humid days of late summer news reporting the condition of men injured and sick at Bird’s Point due to filthy conditions of the camps started filtering to the general population in Galesburg. It was the fall of 1861 when Dr. Woodard wrote to Rev. Edward Beecher giving explicit detail of the conditions in Cairo. October 1861 Mary Anne arrives in camp with $500 worth of supplies and parcels of merchandise.


Mary Anne quickly assesses what needs to be done and who needs attention the most. The men made fun of her by calling her the “two-legged cyclone” or the “cyclone in calico” but with busy hands and an open heart she takes charge scrubbing and cleaning everything in site calling these men, “her precious boys”. A surgeon who suffered her wrath of charges petitioned General Sherman to drop the charges. Sherman looked the Surgeon directly in the eye and said he could not because, “She has more power than I. She Ranks me! You’ll have to see the President Lincoln.” She became known as America’s Florence Nightingale.

She saw 19 hard fought-battles from Pittsburg Landing and all the way to the surrender of Atlanta. She saw more than 63,000 men on battlefields, boats and hospitals, establishing some permanent hospitals along the way. Mary Anne was attached to the departments of the Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland Armies. Her work continued serving the Union Army until 1866 when the last of the Illinois Volunteer mustered out at Camp Butler in Springfield and returned home. Her efforts continued as lecturer and campaigner for the Sanitation Commission and other relief organizations that served the unfortunate and the needy until her death on November 8, 1901 at the age of 84 at Bunker Hill, Kansas
(based upon archives)

REBECCA TULLOCH PORTRAYING- Mrs. Major Bell Reynolds - Nurse
In April 1860 at the age 19, Belle married William Reynolds, a druggist in Peoria, Illinois. After Ft. Sumter, he enlisted and became a lieutenant Company "A" of the 17th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Throughout the fall and winter of 1861-1862, Belle traveled with the regiment. She ate the same food the soldiers did, drank the same water, slept on the ground for days with only a gum blanket and never complained about the long marches. She passed many nights with sick or wounded soldiers of the 17th Illinois Regiment. General Rawlins even stated, "I know of no woman who is helping the sick and melancholy soldier boys like this young woman, scarcely more than a school girl."
On Sunday, April 6th 1862, Belle was eating breakfast when the Confederate troops attached her husband's camp at Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing, Tenn.). She retreated with the troops to the bluff of the river where she found the wounded pouring in. She treated the wounded for over 24 hours with the Union surgeons on duty.

She bandaged the injured, broke into supplies bringing bread to the hungry soldiers still fighting on the bluff, and provided water for the thirsty. Upon returning to Illinois by steamer, she met Governor Yates and related her story at Shiloh. Passengers on the steamer told the Governor that she deserved a commission for all she did for the boys of Illinois. Governor Yates commissioned her a Major in the USV from Illinois (her husband at the time was a Lieutenant) and gave her a fine black horse to ride.

Her commission attracted the national press including a picture and article in the May 17, 1862 issue Harper’s Weekly. Mrs. Major Belle Reynolds returned to Peoria a local celebrity and hero for her efforts for Illinois troops. Her total service in the army was three years, the same as her husband.
(based upon archives)

LINDA WETTER PORTRAYING - Aunt Lizzie Aiken - Nurse

Lizzie Aiken was born Eliza N. Atherton on March 24, 1817 in Auburn, New York. At the age of twenty she married Cyrus Aiken of Vermont. On their honeymoon the couple took a flatboat through the Erie Canal to Chicago with the purpose of joining fellow Vermonters in Ogle County. She lost her four sons and husband to cholera.



At the start of the Civil War in 1861, she visited the 6th Illinois Cavalry camp in Peoria and offered her services as a nurse. She worked without pay until she entered Federal service in 1862. Attached to the 6th Cavalry, she followed the regiment south. She was eventually placed in charge of a ward in the Union hospital in Memphis, Tennessee where she cared for hundreds of wounded soldiers during the war.
After the war she became a missionary in Chicago. She died at the age of 88 in Chicago on January 16, 1906
(based upon archives)