The response was similar among the North’s leadership. Conyngham includes letters from Union Gens. George B. McClellan, George Meade and Philip Sheridan, all thanking the sisters for their intercession. Gen. Ambrose Burnside offered the highest praise, saying that his words could never describe the gratitude his men felt for the sisters’ deeds. “Of the Sisters of Mercy there is little need for me to speak,” he wrote. “Their good deeds are written in the grateful hearts of thousands of our soldiers, to whom they were ministering angels.”
Officers wrote personal commendations of the sisters. John E. Michener, a Union soldier captured in the summer of 1864, in a letter thanked the Sisters of Mercy at the Confederate hospital in Charleston, S.C., for bravely administering to men dying of yellow fever—even when Confederate officers were “too much alarmed to even furnish water for the sick and dying.” He added, “I know full well, that but for your untiring devotion to our helpless and unfortunate officers and soldiers, thousands to-day would have been sleeping the sleep that knows no waking.”
In one typical episode at a Kentucky hospital served by the Sisters of the Holy Cross, a Protestant chaplain witnessed a nun serve the sick without rest from daybreak until well past sunset. “It is as mystery to me, how those sisters can stand at their post without ever giving up,” he told a friend. Then, turning to the sister, he asked, “How do you account for it?” The nun only smiled at him and gestured to the rosary on her hip.
— John J. Miller (@heymiller) April 26, 2019