Cordelia Harvey

Date in History: 19th century

In the years after the Civil War, an elderly widow moved to Fort Atkinson and taught Sunday school at the Congregational Church. This unassuming woman was Cordelia Harvey – better known by soldiers everywhere as an Angel of Mercy.

After her husband, the Wisconsin Governor Louis Harvey, drowned while on a mission to Tennessee to visit the Wisconsin men who were wounded at Shiloh in 1862, his widow made it her mission to improve the care and comfort of sick and wounded soldiers. Appointed a sanitary agent, Harvey toured hospitals in the field and her persistent complaints and efforts eventually led to improved conditions.

She was able to get General Grant to appoint medical inspectors, and even met with President Lincoln, getting authorization to establish three soldiers’ hospital in Wisconsin. Her abiding concern was always that sick men be transferred to hospitals nearer their homes where they would inevitably receive better care.

This historic document aired on the radio as an Historic Minute on 05/02/2005.

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