According to an article describing the life and descendants of Lydia Holliday in the monthly publication “The Echoer” dated 1 Aug 1970, she began her work as a volunteer field nurse in the hospitals of the Union Army in the spring of 1861. She was nearly 60 years old.
“…she began her work by first appearing at
(sic) on .
This was a camp for the mobilization of raw recruits from the northern states.
Many of the soldier boys had few or no clothes. Commissary and quartermaster
arrangements were inadequate. (Lydia Holliday) unselfishly stripped her home of
its furnishings to help allay their privations. Soon the sick and injured began
arriving from the front. They were placed in improvised hospitals in the Sprigg
House (now the Windsor Hotel), and in the Athaneum, later a military prison
where Confederate soldiers taken prisoner were confined. Here, she could be
found relieving their suffering” (The Echoer). She later spent time nursing
“her boys” at Wheeling Island Winchester and ,
and became known as “Mother Holliday”. Washington, D.C.
After the war,
Lydia was active in the Woman’s
Relief Corps, an auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic. The G.A.R. post was named after her son John.
She was also active in the local chapter of the Woman’s Christian Temperance
Union remaining a contributing member of the community throughout her long
life. Wheeling, West
Mother Holliday was a kind and simple soul who sent three sons to war and decided to offer her nursing skills to
and Confederate soldiers alike without compensation.
During her later years, as a widow and with only three of her seven children living, she became destitute and in need of financial support. At age 90, she “made a declaration for the purpose of being placed on the pension roll of the
States” (National Archives Pension File, 5
Aug 1892). As she had not been officially hired by the United States medical
service, her pension was initially denied. Along with her personal declaration,
four others (including a military physician and a Lt. Colonel) who knew of her
work offered affidavits to her cause to the State of West Virginia.
On 23 Feb 1897, “An Act Granting a pension to Lydia W Holliday” was passed by Congress:
“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Secretary of the Interior be, and is hereby, authorized and directed to place the name of Lydia W Holliday, of Wheeling, Ohio County, West Virginia, late army nurse in the army hospitals of the United States Volunteers, in the late war, from eighteen hundred and sixty-one to eighteen hundred and sixty-five, on the pension roll, at twenty dollars per month from and after the passage of the Act” (National Archives).
She died 5 Oct 1899 of “old age and prostration” per West Virginia Death Records.
She was 97 years old. She is buried next to her husband among many members of her family at
Mount Wood Cemetery,
. It is a small, rambling cemetery on a hill
overlooking the Wheeling, West
Virginia Ohio River. Rest in Peace from your thankful 3rd great-granddaughter, also a nurse.