|USS Red Rover on the Mississippi River|
Although nurses were not recruited in high numbers during this time period (especially for the Navy), effective clinicians would eventually become integral to the health and stability of any military. It is no surprise then that disease, not combat, was the greatest killer of the American Civil War.
|Mother Mary Ann Bickerdyke|
|USS Red Rover|
In the West, ships did not have the luxury of swift transport to a shore hospital, so floating hospitals like the Red Rover were commissioned. Commissioned on 26 December 1862, the Red Rover served with the Mississippi River Squadron for the remainder of the war. The medical personnel included four nuns of the Sisters of the Holy Cross as well as five black women - Alice Kennedy, Sarah Kinno, Ellen Campbell, Betsy Young, and Dennis Downs, who assisted the nuns. These women were the very first women to serve on a U.S. Navy ship, and the predecessors to the Navy Nurse Corps of the 19th century.
Godson, Susan H. Serving Proudly: A History of Women in the U.S. Navy. Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2001.