Not long after the Civil War started, Philadelphia citizens realized Union troops passing through their city needed to be fed. Two refreshment saloons were established there in 1861—Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon of Philadelphia and Cooper Shop Refreshment Saloon.
Wounded soldiers also arrived in Philadelphia, prompting local women to open a hospital. Anna Maria Ross worked there as Lady Principal. The 12-bed Cooper Shop Hospital received the first patients on October 29, 1861. The Cooper Shop was located at 1009 Otsego Street below Washington Street.
Day and night, Anna dressed soldiers’ wounds. She also made certain that discharged soldiers received a donation to tide them over until receiving their army pay.
Union troops passed through Philadelphia at all hours. A signal gun fired when regiments came. Women living near the Navy Yard—many responsible for their own families—responded to the signal. They walked to the refreshment saloons, day or night, to cook for the soldiers.
The Cooper Shop alternated days with the Union Volunteer Shop. The 24-hour daily period ended at 6 pm. Even if it wasn’t their day to serve, shop leaders could divide the soldiers and send them to the other shop if more than 200 men needed meals.
Wounded from Gettysburg arrived in July and August of 1863, crowding the saloon hospitals. Hospital trains passing through Philadelphia also benefited from supplies at the saloon hospitals. Shop volunteers, like Mrs. Eliza G. Plummer, gave the wounded toast and tea.
Anna was one who saw a need for a Soldiers’ Home to care for Civil War veterans. Along with others, she planned a fundraising fair in June of 1863, which provided enough money to obtain a building. Then they needed to furnish it.
Anna traveled in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to gain support, raising around $2,000. The Soldiers’ Home was dedicated December 22, 1863. Unfortunately, Anna caught a chill and died before the dedication.
She can be proud of her efforts. Throughout the war, the Cooper Shop Refreshment Saloon fed about 400,000 soldiers. Its hospital treated about 7,500 wounded. Most patients were temporary though not all. For instance, their annual statement for the year ending May 25, 1864, reported that 85 patients remained from 1 week to 1 year.
The Grand Army of the Republic gave her a posthumous honor–Post 94 in Philadelphia.
-Sandra Merville Hart
Brockett, L.P. MD and Vaughan, Mary C. Woman’s Work in the Civil War: A Record of Heroism, Patriotism and Patience, Zeigler, McCurdy & Co., 1867.
Edited by O’Brien, Kevin E. My Life in The Irish Brigade: The Civil War Memoirs of Private William McCarter, 116th Pennsylvania Infantry, Savas Publishing Company, 1996.
Moore, Frank. Women of the War, Blue/Gray Books, 1997. (originally published 1866).
Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon, foot of Washington St., Philadelphia, by Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon, 1861.