Natchez Catholic Sisters Come to Help in Monroe

Another book I have found on the Internet Archives site is a book called, “Angels of the Battlefield: A history of the Labors of the Catholic Sisterhoods in the Late Civil War” by George Barton done in 1897. On pages 120 – 123, there is a brief mention of the Monroe Confederate Hospital during the Civil War and an incident which happened there. My added notes are in brackets.

Some time after this General Blanchard, who was in command of the military in Monroe, La., made a request for Sisters to care for the sick and wounded under his charge. A deputation of Sisters was at once sent from St. Mary’s Asylum in Natchez.

The Sisters were obliged to leave in the night in consequence of a dispatch announcing the approach of the Federal gun boat Essex [This would have been early in 1862. The book, “Daughters of the Church: A Popular History of the Daughters of Charity in the United States 1809 – 1987, states the Sisters’ names as, Geraldine, Emerita and Vincentia.], which might have prevented their departure had they remained until the next day. Hence they were compelled to cross the Mississippi River shortly before the midnight hour. The good Bishop of Natchez, now Most Rev. W. H. Elder, Archbishop of Cincinnati, alarmed for their safety, determined to accompany them to the post to which they were destined, and he did so. The pastor of the church at Monroe [this is Father Louis Gergaud] was also one of the party. The Sisters and their friends crossed the river in a skiff, and, reaching the other side, found an ambulance awaiting them. They traveled the remainder of that night and the following two days over a very rough and dangerous road. General Blanchard had a matron and nurses employed in the hospital. he dismissed these and arranged with the Sisters to take charge the day after their arrival.

Sister E—– [Emerita?] had in her ward a convalescent patient who, deeming himself of more consequence than the others, was somewhat piqued at her for not showing him special attention. The Sister kept him in his place and treated him precisely as she did the others. One day she went as usual to administer the medicines, and as she was passing the ward in which he was located she heard him utter most terrible oaths. She passed on quietly, butt on her return showed her displeasure at his disorderly conduct. He made very apology for his misbehavior. The Sister proceeded on her way, having a bottle in each hand. At a very short distance from where the man was standing she stopped to say a few words to another patient. She happened to look back and noticed the convalescent man put his hand in his coat pocket, and at the same instant the crack of a pistol shot was heard. The ball passed through the front of the Sister’s cornette, within an inch or two of her forehead. The poor man with whom the Sister had been talking thought he was wounded again, jumped up and clapped his hands on his old wound, as if to assure himself of its escape from harm. The Sister, pale, but with perfect presence of mind, still held her bottles and made her way through the cloud of smoke and the crowd that had gathered at the report of the pistol. The man was arrested and would have been dealt with in a summary manner, but at the request of the Sister he was released. He claimed that it was an accident. It was afterwards discovered that he was a gambler and had loaded the pistol to shoot an enrollment officer in town.

In the Congressional Record, I found a speech made by Rhode Island Representative Ambrose Kennedy, made March 18, 1918 paying tribute to the “Nuns of the Battle Field”. He mentions the three Natchez Nuns:

Higher up the Mississippi River is the city of Natchez, which was also bombarded by the Federal gunboat Essex. In Natchez the Sisters of Charity had conducted an orphan asylum from which all the inmates had been removed. Three of the sisters from this institution, at the request of Gen. Blanchard left Natchez to go to Monroe, La., where there were many Southern soldiers in need of hospital treatment. These sisters crossed the Mississippi River in a skiff in the dead of night in order to meet the conveyance at Vidalia on the opposite side of the river, which was there to take them to their destination on an overland route of about 100 miles. After three days they arrived at Monroe and began the work of ministering to the afflicted soldiers. There were a number of cases of fever and malaria, but no epidemic prevailed. Much of the illness there was caused by the ordinary fatigues and hardships of war. Altogether there were about one hundred patients who came within the ministrations of the sisters. The sisters remained in Monroe for a year, at the end of which time, Gen. Blanchard proposed to move his troops to Shreveport and requested the sisters to go along with the regiment. Circumstances prevented them from making the journey, and instead they were sent back to Natchez by Gen. Blanchard, under a flag of truce, with a detachment of seven soldiers and a captain, the soldiers riding on horseback and the sisters proceeding in a carriage.

The following are the names of the sisters who bore with pious patience and meek resignation the trials and burdens of the work at Monroe:

Sister Geraldine Murphy.
Sister Emerita Quinlan.
Sister Vincentia Leddy

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