Monthly Archives: June 2019

100 years ago today: The signing of the Treaty of Versailles

June 28, 1919: Over six months after the November 11, 1918 Armistice which ended the fighting of WWI, the signing of the Treaty of Versailles ended the war between Germany and the Allied Powers.

The Wilmington Morning Star, 29 June 1919, p. 1

In Brunswick County, 82 men serving in the US Army had not yet returned home after the treaty was signed, out of a total of 351 Brunswick County soldiers making the trip overseas.

It is difficult to track the 93 Brunswick County men serving in the US Navy but we do know that 56 had already been discharged including Navy nurse Susan Williams from Southport.

Many who continued to serve overseas were those you might expect: some from service and labor battalions, as well as engineers, medical units, and MPs, such as Pfc Harry Clayton Chinnis.

Those serving in units other than the above may have remained due to illness, such as Cpl Rothschild Holden from the 81st Division and Pvt Castello Goodman from the 543rd Engineers.

The 1st and 5th Divisions had been assigned to the Third Army, the Army of Occupation, and had not yet returned home. The 5th Division was relieved in May 1919 but their departure was delayed until July, which included Cpl Charles Byron Drew, Pfc John William Mills, Pvt Owen Ransom Mintz and Pfc Barfie Randel Long from Brunswick County.

The 1st Division remained until August 1919, which included Pvt Alvin Alwin Milliken, Cpl William Thompson White and Cpl Johnnie Vereen.

Historians and economists continue to debate whether the concessions and reparations the treaty required from Germany helped lead to World War II. After being assured this was the “war to end all wars” these courageous and in many cases, forgotten veterans were then asked to make additional and likely what they considered more difficult sacrifices as they sent their sons and daughters to face the horrors of war.

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WWI Fort Caswell Nurse Profile: Dora A. Bell 1892-1969

To view this or another nurse profile at any time, click the “WWI Profile” link beside the nurse’s name on Fort Caswell WWI Nurses, which is also accessible by the blue button on the top right of the webpage.

Source: Findagrave
Dora Alice Bell Harris
Cumberland, MD
Army Nurse Corps
2nd Lieutenant

March 22, 1918 – January 5, 1921
Fort Caswell, US Army Post Hospital:
March 22, 1918 – August 8, 1918
September 1, 1918 – November 25, 1919

Dora Alice “Dovie” Bell was born and raised in Pendleton County, WV, in the Appalachian Mountains near Western Maryland. There is a partial family tree in FamilySearch.

The 1900 Census shows the family having five children, all living. Dovie was the second oldest daughter, age 8. Her father was presumably a farmer, as listed on the 1910 Census.

Dora could not be found in the 1910 Census. However, the following articles from 1914 shows she was enrolled in the nursing training program at Western Maryland Hospital in Cumberland, MD, as well as Bellevue Hospital in NYC.

[Source for first clipping: Cumberland Evening Times, 30 June 1914, p. 9; Source for second clipping: Cumberland Evening Times, 31 Dec. 1914, p. 10.]

Nurse Bell is listed in the 1917 Cumberland City Directory.
[Source: U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA]

More news about Dora was found from June 30, 1918.

Another Nurse Leaves for Hospital Service

Tenth from Western Maryland Hospital to Enlist Since March 1 for Army Work
Miss Mildred Parsons, Kansas City, Kan., graduate nurse of the Western Maryland Hospital, leaves today to take up her duties at Base Hospital, No. A, Newport News. Miss Parsons is the tenth Western Maryland nurse to enlist since March 1. Those in service now are: Misses Matilda Duvall, Camp Dix, N.J.; Nola Lepley, Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas; Martha Mont, Corpus Christi, Texas; Ethel Matlick, Walter Reid Hospital, Washington D.C.; Dora Bell, Greenville Hospital, North Carolina; Pearl McFarland, Hospital No. 1, Aberdeen, Md.; Mary A. Boyle and Edith Head, unassigned.

The Government is so much in need of nurses that it is felt the public should do all it can to relieve private duty nurses.
“Another Nurse Leaves for Hospital Service.” Cumberland Evening Times, 30 June 1918, p. 2.

Details of her US Army service may be found on her WWI MD Service Card, which is located in bound volumes, Maryland in the World War 1917-1919; Military and Naval Service Records, Volumes I & II, and is shown below in table form for easier reading. Her military service is not detailed after December 1919, although she remained in the service until January 1921.

03/22/1918 – 08/08/1918 Fort Caswell, NC
08/08/1918 – 09/01/1918 Mobilization Station
09/01/1918 – 10/12/1918 Base Hospital No. 60 (France)
10/12/1918 – 10/17/1918 Base Hospital No. 81 (France)
10/17/1918 – 04/09/1919 Provisional Hospital No. 1
04/09/1919 – 05/09/1919 Evacuation Hospital
05/09/1919 – 07/29/1919 Camp Hospital No. 33 (Brest, France)
07/29/1919 – 11/25/1919 Demobilization Station
11/25/1919 – 12/06/1919 Base Hospital; Fort Sam Houston, TX

The Passenger List below is for Aquitania, leaving NY on September 2, 1918, containing 8 pages of nurses in the Army Nurse Corps, for a total of over 200. This excerpt shows her mother as her next of kin, with her mother’s address as Elkins, WV. As mentioned in the introductory Fort Caswell nurse post, nurses were not assigned overseas service against their will.

Source: U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2016.

As her service card above shows, she moved assignments often while overseas. She was also the recipient of the Order of St. Sava (Serbian) Military Year: 1917-1919. No details were found regarding the award.

When she returned to the United State near the end of 1919, she continued service but as mentioned, details are unknown. Her final day of service was the date she was married, January 1, 1921.

On January 1, 1921, Dora A. Bell, graduate nurse from Elkins, WV, married Joseph M. Harris, US Army Officer currently living in Los Angeles.
Source of excerpt shown above: California, Marriage Records from Select Counties, 1850-1941 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.

Dora and Joseph remained in Los Angeles until their deaths. Joseph would eventually become a real estate broker, as shown in the 1930 Census. The 1940 Census includes three of Dora’s brother’s children. Curiously, the children are also listed that year in her brother Minor’s Census in WV. The reasons behind this are unknown.

No additional information or obituaries were found. Dora Alice Bell Harris passed away on June 29, 1969, in Los Angeles at age 76. She was laid to rest next to her husband at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, CA.

If you would like to help us honor Dora Alice Bell Harris or another Brunswick County WWI veteran, please use the following links:

Click here for the announcement: Announcement: Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran
Click here for directions to donate and honor a veteran: How to Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran

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Commemorate our heroes of the Old Hickory Division on the Centennial of the end of WWI

A recent item in Wilmington’s Star News called attention to the effort to honor the 119th and 120th Infantry of the 30th “Old Hickory” Division for breaking the Hindenburg Line on September 29, 1918, the bloodiest day in WWI for North Carolina.

Those organizing this effort hope to install a monument in France, as well as replace the small monument currently located on the grounds of the capitol in Raleigh, shown here.

If you would like to contribute to this effort, visit

Our website offers a Roster of many men from Brunswick County serving in WWI, which includes the 30th Division. WWI Profiles are available for those killed or wounded.

In addition, our post 100 years ago today: The breaking of the Hindenburg Line gives more background information on the Brunswick County heroes of the 30th Division.

Thanks to Barbara Griffin for alerting us to this effort!

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WWI Fort Caswell Nurse Profile: Elizabeth F. Bachman 1892-1952

To view this or another nurse profile at any time, click the “WWI Profile” link beside the nurse’s name on Fort Caswell WWI Nurses, which is also accessible by the blue button on the top right of the webpage.

WWI Service Card from New York

Elizabeth Florence Bachman Williams
Allentown, PA
Army Nurse Corps

October 7, 1918 – March 14, 1919
Fort Caswell, US Army Post Hospital:
October 7, 1918 – March 14, 1919

Elizabeth “Bessie” Florence Bachman was born and raised in Allentown, PA.

The 1900 Census, when Bessie was 7 years old, listed her father as a produce salesman. The census indicates her mother had given birth to 5 children. Four were still living, all daughters. Bessie was the oldest. She and her younger sibling were attending school.

Her mother, Caroline, passed away suddenly from a heart ailment in 1907, when Bessie was 15. Her father remarried about seven months later; they would have no children together but a stepdaughter a few years younger than Bessie joined the family.

In 1910, Bessie was still living at home and was reported to be age 16, although likely 18. She and her younger sister were “tailoresses” at a manufacturing company. The younger sisters and stepsister were attending school.

By 1912, the Allentown City Directory shows Bessie living alone, no longer working as a tailoress. Source: U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA

Given the newspaper articles from 1915 shown below, she was likely training or preparing to train as a nurse at that time.

Mr. and Mrs. Charles D. Grim, of No. 1304 Hamilton street, have as their guests Mr. and Mrs. George Brady, of Reading; Mr. and Mrs. B Connor, of Philadelphia; and Miss Grace Gangwer, of Weatherly, who came on to attend the Hospital Day exercises at St. Luke’s Hospital, South Bethlehem. Mr. and Mrs. Grim’s niece, Miss Elizabeth Bachman, is a member of the graduating class of nurses.
The Morning Call (Allentown, PA), 20 Oct. 1915, p. 7.

Source: The Allentown Leader (Allentown, PA), 19 Oct. 1915, p. 1.
St. Luke’s Hospital is located in Bethlehem, about 9 miles from Allentown. It established a nursing school in 1884, the fourth in the nation and currently the oldest nursing school in the nation. The effect of the industrial revolution on Allentown meant that injured workers could no longer only depend on medical facilities in Philadelphia, needing a closer source. [Source: The History of St. Luke’s Hospital]

This photo, courtesy of St Luke’s School of Nursing, shows the graduating class of 1917, two years following Nurse Bachman’s.

Nurse Bachman completed post-graduate work in New York City at the Manhattan Maternity Hospital and Long Island Medical College [Source: Marriage announcement, below]. This may have been why her residence at the time of enlistment into the Army Nursing Corps was New York City. See NY WWI Service Card at top.

On October 4, 1918, Nurse Bachman enlisted in the Army Nursing Corps as Elizabeth F. Bachman. She served at Fort Caswell Post Hospital and was discharged on March 4, 1919.
[Sources: NY WWI Service Card and The American Journal of Nursing, Vol. 19, No. 3 (Dec., 1918), pp. 220, excerpt shown below]

After the war, she returned home to Allentown. In September, she became the first woman to be elected as a member of her local American Legion. The published story is printed below.

First Lady to Join H.P Lentz Post

Miss Elizabeth F. Bachman Was a Red Cross Nurse During the War
Setting the initiative for the ladies who were regularly enlisted in the military or naval forces of the United States during the World War, Miss Elizabeth F. Bachman, of No. 1304 Hamilton street, yesterday made application for enrollment as a full fledged member of Herbert Paul Lentz Post No. 29, The American Legion, and at the meeting last night in the court house she was duly elected, thus giving her the distinction of being the first enlisted female of Lehigh county and this community of becoming affiliated with the recognized veterans’ organization of the late war.

Miss Bachman left this city during the early period of the war, as a member of the Red Cross. She had some years ago been graduated as a registered nurse, and it was in this capacity that she served the United States. She was sent to some camp in South Carolina [North Carolina], along the Atlantic coast, and soon after her arrival her worth was easily established, and she was duly enlisted in the military service as a nurse in the Army Nurses’ Corps of the United States Army. She served continuously in this camp, which was a convalescent center, until the latter part of February, when she was honorably discharged from the service.

For a number of years, also, Miss Bachman had been the attending nurse to W.J. Grim, aged about eighty-five years, of 1304 Hamilton street, as he was most generally known to his associated. He is the father of the late Charles D. Grim of the same address. Her untiring efforts as nurse to Mr. Grim, Sr., she has endeared herself to the family, so that she is considered as one of the family.

The fact that the application for membership from Miss Bachman came unsolicited and purely from her own motives, brought a delightful surprise to the members of the Legion, at its meeting last evening. When the application was handed to a Legion member, she expressed the hope that her example would be a forerunner for all eligible ladies in the city and community to become affiliated with the organization.

The constitution of the American Legion states that any person, male or female, who was regularly enlisted or commissioned in the force of the United State between the period of April 6, 1917, and November 11, 1918, and who has been honorably discharged, may become enrolled as a member in any Post in the country. Ladies who are eligible under this head and who wish to become affiliated with the local Post, should communicate with the membership drive headquarters at the Chamber of Commerce rooms during this week, or with one of the officers of the organization.

[end of excerpt]

On January 14, 1929, Elizabeth was married to Benjamin W. Williams from NYC. The wedding announcement mentions her service at Fort Caswell.

Elizabeth F. Bachman to Wed N.Y. Attorney
Mrs. Charles D. Grim, of 1304 Hamilton street, announces the engagement of her niece, Elizabeth F. Bachman, to Benjamin W. Williams, prominent New York attorney and banker. The wedding is to take place in the First Presbyterian church, this city, some time in January.

Miss Bachman, a native of this city, is industrial nurse for the General Cigar company in this city. For several years she conducted work in the settlements of Henry street in New York city and during the World War served as a nurse in the base hospital at Ft. Caswell, N.C.

She is a graduate of St. Luke’s hospital, Bethlehem, a post-graduate of the Medical College of New York and the Manhattan Maternity hospital and dispensary, of New York city.
“Elizabeth F. Bachman to Wed N.Y. Attorney.” The Morning Call (Allentown, PA), 23 Oct. 1928, p. 16.

This story published after the ceremony inexplicably describes her service as being in the Gulf of Mexico. Their honeymoon trip includes North Carolina, which may indicate she wanted to return for a visit to Southport.

Elizabeth F. Bachman Weds Benj. Williams

At Pretty Ceremony at the Home of her Aunt, Mrs. Charles D. Grim
Miss Elizabeth F. Bachman, 1304 Hamilton street, and Benjamin Williams, Tottenville, N.Y., were united in marriage at a quiet home wedding on Tuesday night at 6 o’clock. Since the death of Miss Bachman’s mother several years ago she has been residing with her aunt, Mrs. Charles D. Grim, widow of Charles Grim, former chief of the Allentown fire department and well known coal dealer.

The Rev. S.K. Piercy, pastor of the First Presbyterian church, performed the ceremony which was witnessed only by relatives of the couple. Yellow tulips and caneldians were used as decorations and made an attractive setting for the bride who wore a wedding gown of gold imported lace, draped at the hip, with slippers to harmonize. Her bouquet was of orchids and fuchia.

Mrs. Charles Grim, aunt of the bride, was the matron of honor and wore a dress of beige crepe. Her bouquet was of sweet peas and fuchia. An uncle of Miss Bachman, Marshall Gagewere, Bethlehem, served as best man.

Following the ceremony the bridal party enjoyed a reception and dinner at the Hotel Bethlehem, after which the happy young couple left for their honeymoon trip. Palm Beach and other points of interest in Florida, as well as North Carolina, will be included in their trip, which will extend into May. Upon their return North Mr. and Mrs. Williams will receive their friends in their newly furnished home in Tottenville.

Mrs. Williams graduated from St. Luke’s hospital, Bethlehem; Manhattan Maternity hospital, New York, and the Long Island Medical College, Brooklyn. During the World War she did commendable work at the Gulf of Mexico, and since her return to Allentown has been filling the position of industrial nurse and welfare worker at the General Cigar Company, this city. Mrs. Williams was also a settlement worker in New York, and is a member of the American National State Organization of Nurses.

Mr. Williams is a prominent banker, realtor and lawyer of Tottenville. He is a graduate of Rutgers College and studies at Princeton. Popular in both business and fraternal circles, he is an active member of the Colonial Country Club of New Jersey. Mr. Williams is the son of the late Colonel W.L. Williams, of Kentucky.
“Elizabeth F. Bachman Weds Benj. Williams.” The Morning Call (Allentown, PA), 24 Jan. 1929, p. 7.

The 1930 and 1940 Census records indicate they remained in the same house at 73 Hopping Ave, Tottenville, NY, until her death.

Elizabeth Florence Bachman Williams passed away on November 15, 1952. She was 59 years old. The cause of death was liver cancer.

The following obituary was published.

Graduate Nurse Dies in Hospital
Mrs. Elizabeth Williams, 59, of 73 Hopping Avenue, Tottenville, N.Y., a graduate nurse of St. Luke’s Hospital, died at 6:15 p.m. Saturday in St. Luke’s Hospital.

Wife of Benjamin Williams, Mrs. Williams also donated a room to the hospital. She was born in Allentown July 11, 1893 a daughter of Erwin and Caroline Gangawer Bachman.

A member of Beauvais Hudson Post 126, American Legion Auxillary of Tottenville, and Richmond County Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, she is survived by her husband; three sisters, Mrs. W.P. Uhler, Tottenville; Mrs. Bernard Mahoney, Scarsdale, N.Y., and Mrs. Margaret Clauser, Allentown.
“Graduate Nurse Dies in Hospital.” The Morning Call (Allentown, PA), 17 Nov. 1952, p. 8.

She was laid to rest on Staten Island.

Her husband Benjamin requested a military flat marker which was presumably installed. No photo is available.

Curiosity about Tottenville led to a 2008 Landmark Preservation report which mentioned Benjamin and Elizabeth. Tottenville is on the Southern end of Staten Island and was quite isolated at the time. Many historic buildings are thankfully preserved. The following is the excerpt of the Landmarks Preservation Commission July 15, 2008, Designation List 404 LP- 2229.

Benjamin Williams, a successful Tottenville businessman, was born around 1871 in Newport, Kentucky. He attended schools in Cincinnati, Ohio, and New Brunswick, New Jersey, before settling on Staten Island ca. 1888. His wife, Elizabeth, was born in Pennsylvania. In the Standard Directory of Richmond County, 1893-94, his vocation is listed as “insurance,” a business he practiced for the rest of his life. Subsequent directories also specify “real estate.” Precisely why he came to Tottenville is not known. His arrival in the late 1880s is indicative of Tottenville’s growing prosperity and its attraction to professional businessmen. On Oct. 24, 1902, Williams purchased a lot at 73 Hopping Avenue. He soon built a house and came to reside at this prestigious address. He may have done business at more than one address, for some Staten Island directories give office addresses both on Main Street and Arthur Kill Road. He was a representative of the Insurance Company of North America for over 60 years. In 1906 Williams was one of the organizers of the Tottenville National Bank. He became vice president and later president of the bank board. He was treasurer of the Richmond County Savings and Loan Association and a member of the Chase Manhattan Bank advisory board when that bank took over the Tottenville bank in the 1950s. Benjamin Williams died on December 29, 1957.

If you would like to help us honor Elizabeth Florence Bachman Williams or another Brunswick County WWI veteran, please use the following links:

Click here for the announcement: Announcement: Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran
Click here for directions to donate and honor a veteran: How to Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran

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WWI Fort Caswell Nurse Profile: Anna Andis 1889-1943

To view this or another nurse profile at any time, click the “WWI Profile” link beside the nurse’s name on Fort Caswell WWI Nurses, which is also accessible by the blue button on the top right of the webpage.

Source: Findagrave
Anna Lucille “Lou” Andis Cleveland
Johnson City, TN
Army Nurse Corps

October 5, 1918 – January 15, 1919
Fort Caswell, US Army Post Hospital:
October 5, 1918 – January 15, 1919

Anna Lucille “Lou” Andis was born and raised in Jonesville, VA.

The 1900 Census, when Lou was 11 years old, listed her father as a farmer. There were eight children, all living. Lou was the third eldest sibling and the eldest daughter. Her older brothers were working on the family farm. All siblings over age 5 were reportedly reading, writing, and attending school.

In 1910, Lou was living in Johnson City, TN, with her younger sister who had recently married. Lou’s brother-in-law was employed as a salesman. Lou was employed as a trained nurse.

According to The Comet [Johnson City, TN], 1 July 1909, p. 1, her younger sister’s marriage was “a notable event in social circles.” Lou served as maid of honor. The bride was reportedly a “most popular young lady” and the groom “is a successful young business man of Johnson City, where he holds a responsible position with the Summers-Parrott Hardware company.”

Jonesville, VA, is in the far western part of Virginia. Johnson City, TN, is actually east of Jonesville, VA, and NE of Asheville, NC, about halfway between Jonesville, VA, and Asheville.

The 1913 Johnson City, TN, City Directory, the earliest directory in which Lou appears, shows Lucile Andes (both names misspelled) as an apprentice nurse at Memorial Hospital, living at the hospital. It was common to live at the hospital while training.
Source: U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA,

The next year, the nurses were listed in the City Directory as shown. It is assumed that Lou had completed the training program.
Source: U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA

On October 5, 1918, Lou enlisted in the Army Nursing Corps as Anna Andis. She served at Fort Caswell Post Hospital and was discharged on January 15, 1919.
Source: The American Journal of Nursing, Vol. 19, No. 3 (Dec., 1918), pp. 60, excerpt shown below

Lou’s younger brother Guy Herbert Andis served in WWI in the 117th Infantry, 30th “Old Hickory” Division.
Source: World War Record of Ex-Soldiers of Washington County, State of Tennessee; Page 10

Lou remained in Johnson City, TN, according to city directories until some time after 1935. She married Wilbur Cleveland in Miami, FL, sometime before the 1940 Census. (Wilbur divorced a woman named Ann in 1936, then married Anna Lucille “Lou” Andis, which created complications due to their similar names.)

Wilbur and Lou remained married until her death, as her death certificate shows. Lou died in 1943, at age 54, after spending 6 months in the VA Hospital in Asheville, NC. The cause of death was cervical cancer.

The following obituaries were published.

Mrs. Wilbur Cleveland
A nurse of World War I, Mrs. Wilbur Cleveland, 50, died in a hospital in Asheville, N.C., Wednesday morning. Word of her death was received by a brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Mr. And Mrs. Charles W. Cleveland, 1227 S. W. 11th ave. The deceased had lived in Miami at 3030 S. W. 25th terrace the last five years, coming here from Asheville. She was well known here, in North Carolina and in Tennessee as a nurse. Funeral services will be held in her home town, Johnson City, Tenn.
The Miami News, 30 Sept. 1943, p. 13.

Mrs. Wilbur Cleveland
Mrs. Wilbur Cleveland of Miami, Fla., formerly of Johnson City, Tenn., died yesterday at 8:30 a.m. in an Asheville hospital following an illness of several months.

The body will be sent by the Morris-Gearing funeral home to Johnson City for funeral services and burial today. The Morris funeral home will be in charge of services in Johnson City.

Mrs. Cleveland, a nurse in World War I, is survived by her husband, Wilbur Cleveland of Miami; her mother, Mrs. W.H. Andis of 22 Kenilworth road, and four sisters, Mrs. George M. Hyder of 22 Kenilworth road, Mrs. Alton Riley of New Town, Ind., and Mrs. M.S. Smith of Roanoke, Va., and Mrs. Lon Smith of Jonesville, Va.
Asheville Citizen-Times (Asheville, NC), 30 Sept. 1943, p. 2.

Anna Lucille Andis Cleveland was laid to rest in Johnson City, TN. Her husband Wilbur passed away over 30 years later.

Four years later, in 1947, a military flat marker was ordered for her gravesite. The marker was requested by Mrs. John W. Moulton. Her connection to Lou is unclear.

If you would like to help us honor Anna Lucille “Lou” Andis Cleveland or another Brunswick County WWI veteran, please use the following links:

Click here for the announcement: Announcement: Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran
Click here for directions to donate and honor a veteran: How to Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran

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WWI Fort Caswell nurse profiles begin next week

Source: Oteen Newsletter, October 4, 1919
“If Doughboys Gave Medals”
Beside the brave fighting men of WWI were the women of the Red Cross and Army Nurse Corps. Fourteen of these courageous women were identified as serving in Fort Caswell during WWI. These women’s lives will be shared in the coming weeks.

Navy Nurse Susan Adkins Williams from Southport was introduced in one of the first Brunswick County WWI Profiles posted on the website. WWI began the shift to viewing women as competent contributors both in war and at home. The diary used in Nurse Williams’ profile gives a clear picture of the physical and mental strength required to serve overseas. To read a short article about WWI nurses serving overseas, visit

These women chose to serve. What motivated them to join the war effort? A look into their lives may help answer that question but there are no obvious answers. Some had both parents, some lost one, one was an orphan. Some were the oldest children in the family, others were the youngest. Some were relatively wealthy, others came from more disadvantaged backgrounds. All of them relocated, at least briefly, to cities for training.

One immigrated from Germany. Two were born and raised in NC, one relocated to NC (Asheville) for nursing training and remained in NC throughout her life.

During World War I,

  • 5 served only at Fort Caswell.
  • 7 served in multiple locations.
  • 3 served overseas.

After World War I,

  • 7 continued serving.
  • 2 of those continued serving in the US Navy.
  • 1 served in World War II, became the first Navy nurse to win the Bronze Star, and achieved the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

In their life after service,

  • 8 were married.
  • None had children.
  • 1 died at age 33 (tuberculosis)
  • 3 died in their 50s.
  • 3 lived into their 90s, with one dying at age 99.

ANC Pin from WWI; Source of Pin: NC DNR
The Army Nurse Corps (ANC) was formed in 1901 after the Spanish American War in which 1500 nurses were contracted to help. A permanent nursing corps was deemed necessary. The Red Cross recruited reserve nurses, while the ANC included active duty nurses.

Posters such as the one shown below lured women to become trained nurses. Only graduate nurses were eligible for serving in WWI.

“The minimum educational requirement is one year of high school work. The profession, however, offers almost unlimited opportunities for high school and college graduates. During training the students receive full maintenance, also books, uniforms and a monthly allowance of $25.00. Free elective post-graduate courses are open to graduates.

“The schools in the Department of Public Welfare, New York City, also Bellevue School, afford the best of facilities for a broad general training.

“Address the Principal of the following registered Schools for further information –
Bellevue Hospital School, East 26th Street – New York City
City Hospital School – Blackwell’s Island, New York City
Cumberland Street Hospital School, Cumberland Street, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Kings County Hospital School – Clarkson Street, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Metropolitan Hospital School – Blackwell’s Island, New York City”

When the US entered WWI, there were only 403 nurses on active duty. By November 1918, there were 21,460 with 10,000 serving overseas. By one estimate, 1/3 of nurses in the US served with the military during WWI.

These were the requirements for US Army nurses. Some requirements were changed during the war in order to admit more nurses.

  • US citizens – later changed to accept citizens of Allied countries
  • female
  • unmarried
  • between 25 and 35 years of age – later changed to 21-45 years of age
  • Caucasian
  • Graduates of training schools offering theoretical and practical nursing
  • Appointed by the Surgeon General with the approval of the Secretary of War
  • All applicants had to be individually considered, especially regarding physical examinations before and after appointment.

No member of the ANC was assigned to overseas service against her will.

According to Volume V of the Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War, published in 1921-1929 by the Government Printing Office, “The part played by the post hospitals in the care of the sick and wounded during the World War was, perforce, relatively small.” Unless the post hospitals were at large recruit depots like Fort Jay or Fort Leavenworth, they had few personnel and the senior medical officer on duty was in charge of the hospital while also serving as post surgeon.

A chart in the referenced document (page 394) that lists the number of personnel in United States Army Post Hospitals shows that the majority had no nurses whatsoever. One post hospital with a list of the number of nurses broken down by month matches fairly closely to Fort Caswell: Chief Nurse Nellie E. Davis began in March 1918 with a staff of 7, swelling to 13 during the influenza pandemic in the fall-winter of 1918, dropping gradually as nurses left for other posts or overseas until March 1919 when all nurses were discharged.

US nurses overseas worked on surgical teams, hospital trains, hospital ships, and in all sorts of hospitals: field hospitals, mobile units, base hospitals, evacuation hospitals, camp hospitals, and convalescent hospitals. They often worked 14-18 hour shifts for weeks at a time. They served on shock, gas, orthopedic, and surgical specialty teams where they could be moved to the front lines in groups of five or six.

All of this was accomplished while wearing full length dresses! Initially the dresses were required to be white, but in order to free up time to care for the wounded rather than cleaning their white clothing, nurses were given permission to wear gray uniforms.

“All white is the dress uniform of the Red Cross nurse in foreign service, where its wearing, for laundry purposes has to be a luxury. But sometimes a wounded man is decorated in the ward, or a General may visit; almost certainly then the nurse will wear dress uniform as a mark of honor, and one which is dramatic in its symbolism. Nurses of the Army and Navy Nurse Corps wear the same uniform, with their insignia the Caduceus of the Army or anchor of the Navy replacing the Red Cross pin. They retain the Red Cross on the cap, however, if they have entered military service from the Red Cross reserve.”

“This is the Nurses’ uniform that wounded soldiers know best – the gray cotton crepe working uniform of the Red Cross Army and Navy Nurse, which makes its wearer “the best dressed woman in the world.” Gray is an innovation used abroad made necessary by the laundry problem in France. The Red Cross brassard is worn only by nurses serving directly under the Red Cross.”

“Stormy weather attire is the same in the Red Cross or Army and Navy service, the only difference being in the insignia. The heavy ulster was worn often in the sleeping tents as well as the out-of-doors during the rigors of last winter in France. Though the nurses who had tent quarters in base hospitals maintained that they were as warm as those within solid walls, during the almost fuel-less months.”

272 US Army nurses died of disease. Those who died during their Army service were buried with military honors.

Three nurses were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and 23 the Distinguished Service Medal.

  • Nurses held no rank.
    • In 1920, they were authorized to retain ranks from 2nd Lieutenant to Major.
    • In 1947, the Army Nurse Corps was established as a staff corps, with officers holding permanent commissioned rank from second lieutenant to lieutenant colonel.
  • Their pay was half that of soldiers with the same rank.
  • They were neither enlisted nor commissioned personnel.
    • In 1944, military status was granted by Congress.
  • African American nurses could join but could not serve in the war.
  • Men were prohibited.
    • The first man was commissioned in 1955.

The 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote was passed by Congress June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920. These women accelerated the changing views of what women could accomplish. To learn more, listen to episode #125 of the WWI Centennial podcast.

Nurses assigned to Fort Caswell were discovered by searching “Nursing News and Announcements” in the issues of The American Journal of Nursing in the relevant years. The list of fourteen may not be complete.

More details were found when the nurses lived in small communities with archived newspapers. Larger cities rarely published details about them in their society pages or included obituaries.

A few references were found in the Wilmington newspapers.

Dora Bell in March 1918:

Bertha Jost in June 1918:

Anna Loveland in December 1918:
The name listed with Anna, “Helen E. Davis,” is certainly Nellie E. Davis, another Fort Caswell nurse.

The Army Nurse Corps Association
Army Medical Department
The History of American Red Cross Nursing
Posters from Library of Congress
Photographs from National Archives

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