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She was known as the "Wisconsin Angel," and devised a way to assist in the healing of wounded soldiers. Originally ignored, she appealed to President Lincoln to approved her plan.

  Cordelia Perrine Harvey

By John T. Marck


Cordelia P. Harvey was the wife of Louis P. Harvey, the then governor of Wisconsin. On April 10, 1862, when her husband had been governor for only one hundred days, he slipped and fell while stepping from one boat to another, falling into the Mississippi River, and drowned. The governor had been on a mission to check on the treatment of soldiers from Wisconsin who had been wounded at the Battle of Shiloh. Four months after his death, a friend of Cordelia's wrote to the new governor and requested that she be appointed to the Sanitary Commission. The friend wrote, "It is the sort of missionary labor for which you know her to be very capable and she must have something to do or she will follow her husband I fear."

She received this appointment and immediately went to work in the Union hospitals along the Mississippi River. Devoted to her duties, she was soon labeled the "Wisconsin Angel." During the war, wounded or sick Wisconsin soldiers were not allowed to leave the hot southern temperatures for the cooler climates in the north to recover. The army felt that by letting the soldiers leave to other climates, they might desert. Cordelia was appalled by this logic. Then, when she herself came down with one of the camp fevers, she then returned to Wisconsin, whereby she recuperated quickly, further convincing her that the soldiers should be afforded this same opportunity. She then appealed to President Lincoln telling him that keeping these sick and wounded men in the hospitals in the hot climates of the South was really a death sentence. She further told Lincoln that dead soldiers cannot fight, nor can they desert. At first, both Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton refused to alter the military procedures, however Ms. Harvey persisted in her plight. Finally, both Lincoln and Stanton saw the logic in her argument and authorized the construction of hospitals in the North.

With permission now to use Northern hospitals, she returned to her duties at the front, and served as such until war's end.

Copyright 1993-2022 by John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author.