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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
I Have Answered My Nation’s Call: Tales of Civil War Nurses by Robert Groves is a non-fiction anthology that provides extensive insight into the stories of front line nurses during the battle between the North and the South. Whereas in England there are as many biographies of war nurses as there are of their combat counterparts, 19th-century nurses in the United States tend to be overshadowed by the stories of others. Groves steps forward to put an end to that by detailing the role individual nurses played in the war effort. He achieves this with dozens of profiles that are meticulously compiled, casting a wide net to showcase men and women who have really become the forgotten heroes. Groves also includes nurses on both sides of the battle line with even-handed attention given to nurses with the Union as well as those under the banner of the Confederate States of America.
I imagine that the research Robert Groves put into I Have Answered My Nation's Call to be exhaustive. References are made to encyclopedias, historic documents, and newsletters, as well as multiple additional resources in the compiling of these biographies. There definitely standouts to me, including Jane Grey Cannon Swisshelm, a nurse who had witnessed the travesty of slavery in Kentucky, and balanced her care for the injured alongside her abolitionist stance—one that had her assisting with the Underground Railroad. Another is Annie Blair Etheridge Hook, a front-line nurse who found herself being used as a human shield during the Battle of Chancellorsville. It takes a special type of courage for a person to intentionally place themselves where death or dismemberment weren't just possible, they were probable. This book is a valiant nod to a service we are all grateful for and hope that through their memories we may strive to help in any way we can.