Of the 31.4 million inhabitants of the United States in 1860 only 3.1 million were Catholics.

The courage of Catholic troop, like the Irish Brigade, and the compassion of the nursing sisters went a long way to reducing the strong anti-Catholicism from before the war.


Between 1861 and 1865, approximately 640 Catholic nuns from twenty-one different religious communities from both the North and the South nursed wounded and sick soldiers. Thanks to the sisters, the death toll in the hospital declined while the conversion rate increased: Sister Angela Heath, from the Daughters of Charity, estimated that four out of 10 soldiers they nursed became Catholic.

In 1924, the selflessness and heroism of all the nursing sisters was honored with a monument erected across the street from St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C. which reads:

They comforted the dying, nursed the wounded, carried hope to the imprisoned, gave in his name a drink of water to the thirsty …

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