Annie Etheridge Hooks
Lorinda Anna Blair was born May 3, but the year is in dispute. It is believed to have been 1839, because the 1850 census of Wayne County, Michigan, lists her name and age as eleven years old. Her parents, Cynthia and John, had two other children, Maria and John, 6 and 4 years of age. Her father was a blacksmith; he died when Anna was very young, and the family moved to Wisconsin. It is uncertain whether she returned to Michigan on a visit or moved back to live there, but by 1861 she had married twice already. Very little is known of either husband; it appears that of the second, James Etheridge, Annie kept only the name. Her first husband, a David Kellog, is a complete mystery.
When the war broke out, Annie, living in Detroit, joined the 2nd Michigan Infantry, ironically the same one Sara Emma Edmunds enlisted with as Franklin Thompson. It is not known if the two women ever met. The 2nd, the original Flint Grey militia, embarked for Washington, D.C., in May of 1861, and was in the battle of Blackburn's Ford, VA, July 18th. Annie is reported to have ridden her horse in the charge, afterwards taking care of the wounded on the field, but this too is in doubt, as it appears she did not possess a horse until the battle of Second Bull Run, when General Phil Kearny gave her one. But she was there, and on the front lines, helping nurse the wounded and giving water to the dying.
During the battles, Annie was on the field with the regiment or as close to it as possible; binding up wounds in the storm of shot and shell and deadly "minies", directing and aiding the wounded to the rear to find the surgeons. Twice her horse was shot from under her, but she never quailed. The sick soldier in camp was sure of a visit from Annie, and of her ready sympathy and every comfort she could command. Often the encouraging, hopeful words were of more benefit than the delicacies that Annie's loving heart and willing hands found some means of procuring. She was 'Our Annie' indeed...sympathizing and comforting us in sickness, sharing our perils on the battlefield and binding up our wounds. --Etheridge, Pension Exhibit B RG 46 S 2884, 49th Congress
Annie was at First Bull Run, a few days after Blackburn's Ford, but her regiment was held in reserve until sent in to cover the mad scramble that ensued after seven hours of fighting.
After McClellan took command, Annie's regiment took part in the Battle of Williamsburg, although it is uncertain if Annie accompanied them. It is generally thought McClellan ordered all women to the rear, and forbid them the camps and the front lines. But she was at Williamsburg; some claimed it was here that General Philip Kearny first noticed her, and commended her bravery on the battlefield. She remained with her regiment through the spring and summer, and in the thick of the fighting at Second Bull Run, where a young soldier was literally torn from her hands by a solid shot. She was almost immediately forced to retreat, the Confederates being nearly upon her. It was at this battle that General Kearny rode up to her as she was treating a wounded soldier, and said "I am glad you here, caring for these poor fellows, and I shall recommend that you be given a horse and the rank of sergeant as soon as possible. Thank you, my dear." She did receive a horse from her regiment, but not the rank and pay of sergeant, for the gallant Kearny was killed in the rear guard retreat at Chantilly after the battle. From then on she always had a mount, which enabled her to carry more bandages and water on the battlefield, and helped her reach the wounded more quickly. She soon became a familiar sight on her horse, and the men would cheer her as she rode by.
Annie's division was temporarily detached and sent to Washington before the battles of South Mountain and Antietam; she was thus not present at those fields. After Antietam, the 2nd Michigan was sent to Tennessee. Annie elected to stay with the Army of the Potomac and joined the Third and Fifth Michigan regiments. She was present at the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. It was at the latter she won most of her fame and was awarded the Kearny Cross for her bravery under fire. It was in this battle she was wounded in the hand when an officer attempted to hide behind her. He was killed, Annie's horse was hit and dashed through the woods in fear and panic, Annie clinging to his neck. They emerged in a clearing, plunging into the midst of the Eleventh Corps, where several soldiers caught and halted the frightened animal.
Birney's Division followed the Confederates down the Plank Road. Surrounded, they were forced to cut their way out. A soldier wrote: "Annie Etheridge...accompanied them on their perilous journey on horseback, and was under fire the whole time; she was perfectly cool, and often dismounted to help the poor wounded soldiers."
On May 27th, 1863, Annie stood at attention as General Birney pinned the Kearny Cross, emblem of courage under fire, to her blouse in front of the entire Division. The men agreed unanimously that she had more than earned the recognition.
Annie was next under fire at the Battle of Gettysburg. She had marched there with her regiment, now and again riding her horse at the rear of the soldiers. At night she wrapped herself in a blanket and slept on the ground, her saddle as a pillow.
At Trostle Farm, on July 2, 1863, Annie was seen walking among falling shells, retreating from the Peach Orchard with her regiment, and riding her horse back amid falling shrapnel. From time to time, she would dismount to tend wounded or help a limping soldier back to the rear. On the third day of the battle she had retired from the front and was seen tending wounded of her regiment at the Third Corps Hospital behind the Round Tops. She marched to New York with the remainder of the Third Michigan on July 13, where it was sent to quell further demonstrations of the Draft Riots. Many people had heard of her by now, and her tent was invaded by the curious who wondered what manner of woman would elect to live a life of such danger and hardship, to tend the soldiers in the field. In person she was reported to be five-foot-three in height, with dark hair and eyes, and was "decidedly good looking." She dressed in a riding habit, the skirt of which she hooked up to her waist, wearing pants and high boots underneath; she also wore a sack coat in colder weather and a forage cap. She carried two Navy Colt revolvers, but was reported never to have used them.
On April 15, 1864, General Grant issued an order commanding all women to leave the front. Annie's records, however, showed complete disobedience to this, as she was in seven battles of the Army that spring and summer; the Wilderness campaign, Cold Harbor and Petersburg. In July she returned to City Point, and on the 13th of that month 286 men of her regiment, the Colonel, the Brigade General, the division's Major General, and the II Corps commander Major General A. A. Humphreys all signed a petition asking Grant that she be allowed to remain with her regiment. It was presented to the Union commander, who denied it. Annie was still at City Point that September, but she often rode back to look in on her "boys".
She was also observed, dressed in her best, at the Sunday church services with her regiment in the spring of 1865. But Grant put his foot down with finality, and Annie was not at Appomattox when Lee surrendered. She had been sent back to City Point to nurse in March of 1865, and there remained until her regiment returned. She mustered out with them in Detroit on July 17, 1865.
After the war, Annie married a third time, a one-armed veteran named Charles Hooks, of the 7th Connecticut Infantry. She took a job at the Treasure Department, but was discharged in 1878 to make room for someone else. Her soldiers were furious at this treatment and petitioned the Treasury Department to reinstate her. Hundreds of signatures were obtained, but the government remained unmoved and Annie remained out of work. She wrote a deposition in 1886 tinged with bitterness, requesting a pension for her wartime service:
The pension was approved by Congress on Feb. 9, 1887, for $25 a month.
Annie Etheridge Hooks died on January 23, 1913, at Georgetown University Hospital. Her husband had died three years earlier; the cause of her death is unknown. On January 27, 1913, she was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.