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“She Is a Member of the 23rd”

“She Is a Member of the 23rd”

Lucy Nichols and the Community of the Civil War Regiment

(p.184) “She Is a Member of the 23rd”
This Distracted and Anarchical People
Barbara A. Gannon
Fordham University Press

In 1915, when Lucy Nichols died, her passing was noted in the New York Times obituary section; this represented quite an honor for an illiterate former-slave. She was given this honor because she had been awarded a pension for her Civil War service as a nurse with the Twenty-third Indiana Volunteers, an all-white regiment. Lucy could not enlist in the regiment because she was an African American woman; however, she had accompanied the Twenty-Third Indiana on its campaigns for three years and participated in Sherman's March to the Sea. She was considered a member of the regiment by white veterans who fought to obtain her pension. Lucy Nichols’ status supports the notion that the regiment was more than a wartime military unit whose members had enlisted in government service; instead, it was a community defined by the shared suffering of its members during Civil War. When the war was over and the Twenty-third Indiana mustered out, the community of the regiment remained intact because Lucy Nichols and her comrades still suffered from wartime injuries and illnesses. It was both shared wartime service and peacetime disabilities that defined the community of the Civil War regiment.

Keywords:   Civil War Nurses, Civil War Medicine, African-American Women, Twenty-third Indiana Volunteer Infantry, Lucy Nichols, New Albany, Indiana, Civil War Pensions, Escaped Slaves

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