Sisters: Witnesses to the horrors of war

Posted by Patrice Tuohy
Tuesday 09, July 2013 | Category:   Consecrated Life
The Daughters of Charity are featured in an essay by Tony Magliano for National Catholic Reporter. Magliano recounts the sisters' courage and compassion ministering to fallen troups following the Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest of the American Civil War:

In that three-day period [July 1-3, 1863], the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and the opposing Union Army of the Potomac suffered more than an estimated 43,000 combined casualties.....
Not content to safely sit out the battle, about 16 Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph, as they were then known, headed to Gettysburg [from their motherhouse in Emmitsburg, Maryland] to nurse the wounded.
As they arrived, they encountered the horror of war. Sr. Marie Louise Caulfield wrote that she saw "thousands of guns and swords lying around. ... further on we saw many soldiers on horseback as silent almost as the dead who lay there ... The rain had filled the roads with water, and here it was red with blood. Our carriage wheels rolling through blood! Our horses could hardly be made to proceed on account of the horrid objects lying about them."   
On the battlefield, and later in area hospitals, the sisters cared for the medical and spiritual needs of both Catholic and non-Catholic Confederate and Union soldiers.
According to Denise Gallo, provincial archivist for the Daughters of Charity, the care from the sisters was so good that many of the soldiers actually cried when they learned they were going to be transferred to other hospitals.
The love shown by the sisters melted even the most hardened hearts. In the context of anti-Catholic sentiments of the time, Gallo reported that some of the soldiers said, "And these are the people that we insult" who are being so kind and loving to us. 

Learn more about the Daughters of Charity.
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