Eliza Howard Powers (Civil War Nurse)

Reprinted from Short Sketches on Passaic County History
by Edward M. Graf, 1935

Many of our citizens, and especially the soldiers during the Civil War, dropped a tear when the news reached Paterson that Mrs. Eliza Howard Powers had died in Washington, D.C., at the age of eighty-five, August 24, 1887.  She was known as the Florence Nightingale of Paterson, and no one did more for our soldiers; caring for the sick and wounded, collecting and forwarding hospital supplies and money, ministering to their wants and relieving their sufferings in camp and hospital.  She took care of the widows and orphans of those who gave their lives for the union.  Her appeals were ever before the public and they were always liberally responded to.


Union Sanitary Commission nurse with her patients in a field hospital near Fredericksburg, Virginia

Union Sanitary Commission nurse with her patients 
in a field hospital near Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Being already sixty years of age with sprinkling of silver in her hair, Mrs. Powers was elected president of the Florence Nightingale Association, and from April 28, 1861 to August 14, 1864 she devoted her whole time, energy, influence and means to serve the Union soldiers.  From November 1862 to August 1864 Mrs. Powers was associate manager of the United States Sanitary Commission of New Jersey.  In this capacity she collected over $8,000 in money and over twenty thousand articles for hospital use.  She received no pay or compensation whatever, paying out of her private means the cost of her own transportation and subsistence, besides contributing freely to the purposes she served to the amount of at least $2,500.

Before the war had ended she lost by misfortune what little property she had and was an invalid for years from the effects of exposure in the performance of the acts of kindness to the soldiers.  Many times she went to see our soldiers after a battle.  In January of 1863 she went to the headquarters of General Sumner at Fredericksburg and many of her letters written from the field of battle are very interesting but too long to reprint at this time.  The Forty-eighth Congress voted her a pension, through the strenuous efforts of Judge Holman who made a pathetic and patriotic speech in her behalf.