Just over 20 years after the founding of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind., the country was torn apart by the Civil War (1861-1865). Sisters of Providence answered a call to duty by Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton.
Barely a month after the April 12, 1861, attack on Fort Sumter, Gov. Morton requested that the Sisters of Providence provide assistance in the administration of City Hospital in Indianapolis which had been turned over to the federal government for the care of soldiers. Superior General Mother Mary Cecilia Bailly made arrangements to assist the hospital, and on May 17, 1861, the sisters were in charge of all "domestic arrangements" like washing, cooking and cleaning. Their services were not limited to these duties, as Sisters of Providence also served as nurses.
Sister Athanasius Fogarty, directress of the hospital, was well-known as a sister nurse. Risking infection from various war-time diseases such as typhoid, dysentery and measles, Sister Anthanasius tirelessly comforted and cared for sick and dying soldiers. At the end of the war, she served as directress of St. John's Infirmary, a convalescent facility for soldiers that closed in 1871.
The Sisters of Providence are one of several congregations honored in a memorial called "The Nuns of the Battlefield" in Washington, D.C. The monument stands on the corner of Rhode Island Avenue and M Street.