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Eliza E. “Mother” George

Civil War nurse
Born: Oct. 20, 1808
Birthplace: Bridport, Vt.

Of her early life, little is known. Born Elizabeth Hamilton, she later married W. L. George and had three daughters, Eliza M., Belle, and Jennie. It is recorded that the two older daughters were born in New York and the youngest in Kentucky; at some point, probably before 1856, the family moved to Fort Wayne, Ind.

In Jan. 1863, at the height of the Civil War, George applied to the Sanitary Commission (a forerunner of the Army Nurse Corps) to become a hospital nurse. Although initially there was some doubt as to her fitness to be a nurse because of her age (she was then in her early 50s), she was soon accepted. In the spring of 1863, she reported for duty in Memphis, Tenn., where she tended the sick and wounded that were brought there during the Union assault on Vicksburg, Miss. At the request of Governor Morton of Indiana, she focussed her attention on the men of the Indiana regiments. They quickly dubbed her “Mother” George because of her great compassion for their suffering and for her devotion to them.

For the remainder of the war, George traveled through the South in the wake of the Union army, working on the battlefields and helping to set up makeshift hospitals. She also made frequent trips to procure hospital supplies, food, and clothing for the wounded soldiers. On several occasions she narrowly escaped with her life, as the Confederates shelled the hospitals or the supply trains on which she traveled. During the summer and fall of 1864, she was attached to General Sherman's troops in Georgia, where she stayed until the fall of Atlanta.

Although George periodically returned to Indiana to rest and visit family and friends, she never stayed for long and was always anxious to return to her nursing duties. In the spring of 1865, she traveled to Wilmington, N.C., which had just fallen to Union troops. Unfortunately, she caught typhoid fever from some of the soldiers in her care and died. Her body was returned to Fort Wayne, where she was buried with full military honors.

Died: May 9, 1865

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