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Dr. Mary Walker

Date of Award: November 11, 1865
Conflict: Civil War
Branch: U.S. Army (civilian)

Dr. Mary Walker portraitThe Civil War broke out and Mary Walker was denied commission as a medical officer in the U.S. Army, so she volunteered despite the stigma of gender inequality. She became the first woman surgeon in the U.S. Army and served a few years as a field surgeon near the front lines of the Union. She was later appointed assistant surgeon of the 52nd Ohio Infantry.

Walker was often suspected to be a spy due to her frequent trips across Confederate lines to treat civilians, which led to her capture and imprisonment in Richmond for four months. Upon her release, Walker spent the rest of the war as a contract surgeon at a women’s prison in Louisville, Ky., and an orphan’s asylum in Tennessee.

Citation: “faithfully served as contract surgeon in the service of the United States, and has devoted herself with much patriotic zeal to the sick and wounded soldiers, both in the field and hospitals, to the detriment of her own health, and has also endured hardships as a prisoner of war four months in a Southern prison while acting as contract surgeon.”

Last Updated: July 11, 2023
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