Cornelia Hancock, 1839-1926
Cornelia Hancock, a Quaker from New Jersey, answered the call for nurses at Gettysburg. At age 23 she was quickly immersed in the horrors of war, which she relayed to her relatives in descriptive, heartfelt letters. After only days of helping the wounded at Gettysburg, Hancock wrote her sister, “I feel assured I shall never feel horrified at anything that may happen to me hereafter.”
“It took nearly five days for some three hundred surgeons to preform the amputations that occurred here, during which time the rebels lay in dying condition without their wounds being dresses or scarcely any food... The Air is rent with petitions to deliver them from their suffering,” the compassionate nurse wrote of the wounded and dying. While helping at Gettysburg, Hancock described her own conditions: “I am as ... dirty as a pig and as well as I ever was in my life - have a nice bunk and tent about twelve feet square. I have a bed that is made of four crotch sticks and some sticks laid across and pine boughs laid on that with blankets on top. It is equal to any mattress ever made.”
Hancock’s skills as an organizer as well as her ability to raise supplies made her a very valuable nurse/ In mid - 1864 large numbers of wounded called her south to Virginia. Hancock grew totally disgusted by the carnage wreaked by General Grant’s tactics, writing, “The idea of making a business of maiming men is not worthy of a civilization.”
The pitiful conditions at the Contraband Hospital in Washington D.C., spurred Hancock to try to help the plight of freed slaves after the war. She opened the Laing School for Negroes in South Carolina, where she taught for 10 years before moving to Philadelphia. There, Hancock helped found the Children’s Aid Society and Bureau of Information; she dies in 1962.