While we have no original Lincoln materials in our collection, Lincoln’s surviving papers do contain a few references to the Daughters of Charity.
There is one known Lincoln letter to a Daughter of Charity, dated September 22, 1862 from Lincoln to Sister Mary Carroll of Providence Hospital requesting services of a Catholic Chaplain for hospitalized soldiers. The original letter resides in a private collection.
Lincoln signed the Acts of Incorporation for two Daughter of Charity institutions in Washington, DC: St. Ann’s Infant Asylum (March 3, 1863) and Providence Hospital (April 8, 1864). Our collection does not include the original documents for either institution.
The correspondence of Mother Ann Simeon Norris (provincial superior of the DC Province of the United States during the Civil War) contains a letter from Mother Ann Simeon to Congress, December 8, 1864, asking that the Sisters’ habit material be imported free from duty. In the letter, she notes that she had written to Lincoln about the matter, that Lincoln had replied that he would support such a measure but that it would require an act of Congress. Lincoln’s actual reply to Mother Ann Simeon does not survive. It is not in our collection nor is it listed in any standard collection of Lincoln’s letters. Legislation was introduced in the Senate which would have remitted the import duties paid by the Sisters, but it did not reach Lincoln’s desk. See our June 7, 2013 blog post for an image of Mother Ann Simeon’s letter and history of the legislation.
The Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress contain two letters concerning Daughters of Charity. Images and transcriptions of both items are available online.
1. Letter of William A. Hammond, Surgeon General, to Lincoln, July 16, 1862, concerning Catholic and Protestant nurses: … “I think it is a fact that the Catholic nurses predominate. This is because we found in the Sisters of Charity, a corps of faithful, devoted and trained nurses ready to administer to the sick & wounded No such organization exists among the Protestants of this country, and those whom we have employed cannot compare in efficiency and faithfulness with the Sisters of Charity. The latter are trained to obedience, are of irreprochable moral character and most valuable are their ministrations …”
2. Letter of Sister Emerentiana Bowden to Lincoln, April 23, 1864, thanking Lincoln for pardoning a Union soldier.
Further online resources for the study of Abraham Lincoln:
Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler – online version of the multi-volume book originally published in 1953 by the Abraham Lincoln Association, of Springfield, IL. This is the standard scholarly edition of Abraham Lincoln’s surviving correspondence.
The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln
Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana at the Library of Congress
2 responses to “Abraham Lincoln and the Daughters of Charity”
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This site has been so useful in my research for a paper on the contributions of Catholic religious to the Union during the Civil War. Thank you for all of your work and your thoughtful organization of everything.