Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Civil War Oddities #97

Considered unfit for service, because she was female, as a nurse when she offered to go with the First Michigan Cavalry, Bridget Divers refused to take “no” for an answer. Purchasing a small supply of staple goods, she accompanied the unit as a vivandiere, somewhat like “a female sutler.” While with the regiment she served in the roles as nurse, hospital steward, ward master and even surgeon. She had three horses killed under her in actual battle, and lost ten in various ways throughout the course of the war.

Near Dinwiddie Court House, the First Michigan was involved in a hot skirmish with Confederate cavalry and one of the captains of the regiment was killed. Bridget knew that the captain had fallen, and when the regiment was driven from the field, she determined to retrieve his body. Riding alone into the midst of the gray troopers, she quickly placed the body on her horse and rode off to the amazement of the Confederates. After a twelve-mile ride, Bridget caught up with the rest of the regiment and delivered the corpse for proper burial.

Little or nothing is known about the man she followed to war, but Bridget liked military life so well that she remained with the U.S. Army as a laundress after the end of hostilities. Hundreds of soldiers knew Divers’ wife simply as “Irish Biddy,” and a smaller number persisted in calling her “Michigan Bridget.”