The Five Most Bad Ass Women Of The Civil War

Published September 20, 2016
Updated September 25, 2019

Oriana Moon Andrews

Oriana Moon Andrews

Woman’s Missionary UnionOriana Moon Andrews and her husband, John.

At a time when there were hardly any female doctors at all, Oriana Moon Andrews served as the first female doctor in the Confederate Army.

Andrews pursued her love of reading and education from a remarkably young age, with her father even supporting her goal of becoming a doctor. She soon enrolled in the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania and received her Doctor of Medicine in 1857. Even though she had completed her degree, women were banned from practicing medicine in Philadelphia hospitals.

Finding herself rejected from her own profession, she embarked on a missionary tour of Jerusalem and did not return to her home in Virginia until 1859.

Though Andrews faced skepticism and even ridicule there from her male peers as a practicing female doctor, she was not discouraged from her chosen profession. And when the Civil War broke out in 1861, Andrews did not hesitate to volunteer her services to the Confederate Army.

She temporarily served as a surgeon at the University of Virginia before her friend, Confederate General John H. Cocke, secured her a position at Charlottesville General Hospital. As injured soldiers from the first Battle of Bull Run poured into the hospital, Andrews was given authority over an entire ward of the hospital, and the Richmond Daily Dispatch praised her “skillful and experienced hands.”

Not everyone cheered Andrews’ contribution to the war effort, however. In 1885, Edward Warren, Surgeon General of North Carolina, wrote of his meeting with Andrews that though she did not “distinguish herself as a physician, she made an excellent nurse.”

Despite such criticisms, Andrews continued practicing medicine long after the war ended, eventually establishing the First Sanatorium of Southside Albemarle, treating women and children, in Virginia in 1882. Sadly, however, Andrews would die just a year later of pneumonia at the age of 49.

Next, read about Belle Boyd, Civil War spy. Then, check out how drastically Abraham Lincoln aged during the Civil War.

Elisabeth Sherman
Elisabeth Sherman is a writer living in Jersey City, New Jersey.