After Joshua Chamberlain miraculously survived a horrible bullet wound through his pelvis, he was transported many miles by stretcher and loaded onto a steamship. Nurse Isabella Fogg from Maine heard that he was aboard and volunteered to stay with him on the ship. Unfortunately, the ship’s chief medical officer did not want any women on board and sent her packing. Thankfully, a Dr. Thomas Abraham Moses from Bath was there to make sure that Chamberlain was taken care of.

Eliza Fogg is considered a Civil War heroine because of her extensive efforts to help Maine soldiers. Maine Memory Network

Isabella Fogg, a widow, decided to join the war effort when her only son volunteered for the 6th Maine regiment. She wanted to help deliver medical supplies to wounded Maine soldiers and joined the United States Sanitary Commission.

She soon showed her bravery at Annapolis, Maryland, where a hospital was raging with spotted fever. Most nurses were unwilling to work there and risk contagion, but Fogg stayed for weeks and tried to ease the soldiers’ suffering. Later she helped start a field hospital at Savage’s Station. She proved her bravery again when Confederate forces were approaching the hospital and she stayed until the last wagon had been loaded with evacuees.

Unhappy with the primitive conditions and lack of supplies that wounded soldiers were facing, Fogg quit the U.S. Sanitary Commission and helped talk the state of Maine into forming its own commission to supply its regiments. Later, word came from Antietam that wounded Maine soldiers were suffering greatly. Fogg went on an epic journey through the southern battlegrounds in search of Mainers.

Near Sharpsburg she encountered several Maine men laying wounded on a bare wooden floor with their coats for pillows. She traveled on to Smoketown Hospital and found 30 more Maine men living in putrid conditions. She reported to her superior that the stench was enough to make a healthy man sick, and wondered how any wounded man could be expected to recover. She found even worse conditions at Harper’s Ferry and the Loudon Valley.

Often the masses of wounded soldiers were left outside on the ground, with nowhere else to put them. Some lived in tents with no stoves for heat, while others huddled over small fires with snow on their heads and thin shirts on their backs. Hard bread was often their only food, and they suffered from disease and shock from amputated limbs.

Fogg scoured the countryside looking for supplies to feed them. As she reported on one occasion, “Through some delay my supplies had not arrived, however I took a team and made a circuit of many miles, persuading the farmers to contribute bread, butter, chickens and pies, as they had large quantities prepared to sell to our boys, but I talked them out of it and made them give to me for them and returned with as much as my carriage would contain.”

I suspect that she must have possessed such a strong and intimidating presence that she scared those poor farmers half to death.

Fogg continued to look for the forgotten wounded, finding them holed up in sheds, shacks and whatever other crude shelter they could find. She later served in the field hospitals at many major battlefields, including Gettysburg.

The masses of wounded men and the chronic lack of supplies must have seemed like overwhelming problems to a single volunteer nurse. Isabella Fogg ignored the odds and went into action to save the young men of Maine. Truly she is one of our greatest Civil War heroes.

Comments are not available on this story.