Euphemia Goldsborough, Confederate Nurse at Gettysburg

Ambulance outside Lutheran Seminary, Gettysburg.

by Sandra Merville Hart

Euphemia Goldsborough learned of the terrible battle at Gettysburg that took place July 1-3, 1863, and wanted to help nurse the wounded.

She lived in Baltimore, Maryland, and it wasn’t an easy place for a Southern sympathizer to live in 1863. Citizens leaving the city were required to take an oath of allegiance to the Union before a pass would be issued.

General Robert E. Schenck, who commanded the Middle Department and VIII Corps in Baltimore, declared martial law in Baltimore on June 29, 1863. The next day he made it mandatory for anyone leaving the city to have a pass signed by the provost marshal.

Union and Confederate wounded were brought to Baltimore after the battle. Anyone visiting the hospitals had to be completely loyal to the Union. Another order, passed on July 10th, stated that no Confederate soldiers could be entertained in homes or any place other than his assigned hospital.

Under those circumstances, Euphemia’s devotion to the South didn’t allow her to nurse wounded soldiers in Baltimore. She decided to go to Gettysburg.

It’s unclear how she and dozens of other women accomplished leaving Baltimore because the railroads had suspended travel. She also needed a pass—after taking an oath of allegiance—to leave by boat on the Patuxent, Potomac, or West River. Perhaps she disguised herself or hid with the supply wagons headed to the battlefield.

Valley where Pickett led a charge, Gettysburg Battlefield

Regardless of how she got there, she was a nurse at the temporary hospital at Pennsylvania College Hospital by July 18th. Wounded soldiers, some missing limbs, lay on bare floors without pillows.

Colonel Waller T. Patton, 7th Virginia, was one of the wounded there. An artillery shell ripped part of his jaw away during Pickett’s Charge on July 3rd. To aid his breathing, the unconscious man had to be propped up to have any chance to live. Unfortunately, there was no way to prop him.

Euphemia volunteered. She sat on the floor with her legs stretched out in front of her. Surgeons placed his back against hers. Fearing her slightest movement might cause the officer to suffocate, she fought the numbness that soon set in. All through the long night, she sat motionless in the candlelight.

Despite heroic efforts to save him, Colonel Waller T. Patton died on July 21st. His obituary in Richmond’s Daily Enquirer mentioned that he’d been tenderly nursed by a Baltimore woman. Perhaps the article was speaking of Euphemia. When she met the officer’s family in Richmond a few months later, they offered her the hospitality of their home while she was in their city. She thanked them but refused the gracious offer.

Civil War nurses made many sacrifices for their heroic patients. Gettysburg wounded were soon moved to Camp Letterman, a large tent hospital outside town where Euphemia had one hundred patients—fifty Union and fifty Confederate soldiers. She kept hospital books that were autographed by some of her patients. She also had letters and poems from them.

WWII General George S. Patton is a name many recognize. Colonel Waller T. Patton was his great-uncle.


Conklin, E.F. Exile to Sweet Dixie: The Story of Euphemia Goldsborough Confederate Nurse and Smuggler, Thomas Publications, 1998.

“Waller T. Patton,” Wikipedia, 2021/01/28

Wilson, Laurel. “A Gun with a Story: Waller Patton’s Civil War Pistol,” Gettysburg Compiler, 2021/01/28



The Aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg

Ambulance outside Lutheran Seminary, Gettysburg.

On July 4, 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee began his retreat after the Battle of Gettysburg with an ambulance and wagon train that was about seventeen miles long. Nine Gettysburg men accused of spying or other suspicious activities went with them. Captured African Americans headed south along with thousands of military prisoners. Confederate sharpshooters continued to shoot at Union soldiers in town.

Confederates no longer controlled Gettysburg. The townspeople, who endured a nightmare during the battle, ventured outside their homes to a new ordeal. Their town didn’t look the same nor would it ever be the same.

Homes had been damaged by bullet holes and cannon balls. Soldiers’ discarded knapsacks, blankets, cartridge boxes, bayonets, ramrods, broken guns, food, and letters littered the streets and fields. Broken wagons, wheels, and unexploded shells remained after the battle.

Groans and shrieks from the wounded in churches, the courthouse, homes, and barns tugged at citizens’ hearts. Injured soldiers lay in tents in the fields and under blankets hung over cross-sticks.

Wounded from both sides lay on the battlefields, awaiting rescue. Some had waited since the first day of the battle.

Dead horses lay in the streets. Soldiers killed in battle needed to be buried. (Some 7,000-8,000 soldiers died—sources vary on exact numbers. See my article on Gettysburg’s numbers.) People, even in the stifling heat, closed their windows to block out the terrible odor. They treated the streets with chloride of lime. They cremated bodies of mules and horses with kerosene, adding to the smell.

The town mourned the loss of Jennie Wade, who was buried with dried dough on her hands. She’d been kneading dough when a Confederate bullet aimed at Union soldiers claimed her life.

General Lee left almost 7,000 men too wounded to travel. These soldiers ended up in area hospitals, and were transported to prisoner-of-war camps like Fort McHenry once they recovered.

Damaged rail lines were repaired about a week after the battle ended. About 800 men were then moved daily by train to larger city hospitals.

The Sanitary Commission gave food to several hospitals—10,000 loaves of bread, 11,000 pounds of poultry and mutton, 7,100 shirts, 8,500 dozen eggs, and more than 6,000 pounds of butter. The Christian Commission also gave out supplies.

Drinking water was in short supply.

The demand for food for so many extra people had local farmers charging steep prices. For example, a loaf of bread cost ten cents before the battle and seventy-five cents after it.

On July 7, 1863, Gettysburg resident Sarah Broadhead wrote, “I am becoming more used to sights of misery. We do not know until tried what we are capable of.”

-Sandra Merville Hart


Creighton, Margaret S. The Colors of Courage: Gettysburg’s Forgotten History, Basic Books, 2005.

McGaugh, Scott. Surgeon in Blue: Jonathan Letterman, the Civil War Doctor who Pioneered Battlefield Care, Arcade Publishing, 2013.

Sheldon, George. When the Smoke Cleared at Gettysburg: The Tragic Aftermath of the Bloodiest Battle of the Civil War, Cumberland House, 2003.

Slade, Jim & Alexander, John. Firestorm at Gettysburg, Schiffler Military/Aviation History, 1998.

Thomas, Sarah Sites. The Ties of the Past: The Gettysburg Diaries of Salome Myers Stewart 1854-1922, Thomas Publications, 1996.


Battle of Gettysburg: Lee’s Long Line of Ambulances

Ambulance outside Lutheran Seminary, Gettysburg.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s plan to transport thousands of wounded soldiers after the Battle of Gettysburg was a daunting task. He ordered General John Imboden to lead them to Cashtown before heading south to Williamsport, Maryland. When they reached Williamsport, they paused for a break. Once men and horses rested, they resumed their journey back to Virginia.

The ambulance wagon train stretched for 27 miles.


And 7,000 Confederate soldiers, wounded too severely to travel, were left behind in Gettysburg. Characters in my novel set during the Battle of Gettysburg, A Rebel in My House, had to deal with this issue.

Conservative estimates for Confederate wounded number around 13,000. Other sources report over 18,000. Either way, 27 miles of ambulances means a distressing number of injured soldiers traveled south, groaning in agony as rickety wheels jostled them over rutted dirt roads.

I wondered how many ambulance wagons might have been required and thought it might be fun to try to figure it out.

Ambulance outside of Lutheran Seminary, Gettysburg.

Many models in use at the time were 10 feet long or 10 feet, four inches. The heavier wagons required 4 horses to pull them while lighter ones needed only 2.

Some carried 10 patients—4 prone and 6 seated. The driver and 2 patients sat on a closed chest holding medical supplies.

A lighter model carried 5—15 wounded, depending on how many needed to lie prone for the journey.

It seems almost certain—with the number of wounded requiring transportation to Southern hospitals—that folks squeezed onto wagons meant to hold fewer men.

I confess that I got lost trying to figure the length of an average horse—it seems the larger horses are about 6 feet long. An ambulance 10 feet in length with a two-horse team might require about 20 feet. A four-horse team and wagon might need 30 feet.

Allowing 30 feet for each wagon to estimate how many ambulances might have been in this ambulance train … a staggering 4,752 wagons. The actual count was probably less because some patients with minor injuries walked.

Some ambulances held only 5 patients. If folks had to travel in a laying down, less patients could ride with them.

7,000 were left in Gettysburg. Going with the highest estimate of 18,000+, some 11,000 wounded traveled south. That means 2-3 folks traveled in each wagon.

If we allow 50 feet of space for each wagon, there are about 2,851 or 3-4 patients per wagon. If this is true, then lots of soldiers were in bad shape along the way. Possibly greater numbers of slightly injured weren’t included in the total count.

Has anyone run across this in their research?

-Sandra Merville Hart


“Battle of Gettysburg,” Encyclopeadia Britannica, 2018/06/15

“Battle of Gettysburg,” HistoryNet, 2018/06/15

“Battle of Gettysburg Facts,” Stone Sentinels, 2018/06/15

“Civil War Ambulance Wagons,” Civil War Home, 2018/06/17

Compiled by Editors of Combined Books. The Civil War Book of Lists, Da Capo Press, 1994.

Edited by Kennedy, Frances H. The Civil War Battlefield Guide, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990.

“Gallery: Field Medicine,” Trans-Mississippi Theater Virtual Museum, 2018/06/17,

Long, E.B and Long, Barbara. The Civil War Day by Day: An Almanac 1861-1865, A Da Capo Paperback, 1971.

Sheldon, George. When the Smoke Cleared at Gettysburg: The Tragic Aftermath of the Bloodiest Battle of the Civil War, Cumberland House, 2003.