The Diary of a Civil War Nurse, Amanda Akin

This website uses the published work of Amanda Akin to paint a picture of life for a nurse during the Civil War. The two links represent two interactive units based around Akin’s book, as well as other primary sources.

Source Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Dates and Eras Civil War
Themes Women, Medical, Battles


Suggested Questions

  1. What types of people became war nurses? Why might these types of people become war nurses?
  2. Examine the Harper’s Weekly illustration from September 6, 1862 (Our Women and the War). Is this illustration consistent with the actual roles women played in hospitals? Why or why not?
  3. How do you think Amanda Akin’s routine changed following a major battle? Note page 4 for information. Explain why a recent battle would have made things more hectic.
  4. Read pages 1 and 2. Why do you think men and women were leaving their homes to help with the war effort? In what ways do you think women who volunteered were like Amanda Akin? Do you think she was a special case? Think about Akin’s background and the typical hospital worker (as explained on page 3).
  5. What do you think it would be like to be a female nurse during the Civil War? What do you think the people in Washington DC felt during this time?

Suggested Activities

  1. Have students imagine they are Amanda Akin. Then, have the students write a letter to their 1860s family describing their day as Amanda Akin. This should include details about the daily life of nurses during the Civil War, especially important places used for the treatment of the wounded (see interactive map) or important day-to-day activities for Amanda Akin.
  2. Have students look at pages 5 and 6 and have students write about how the pages are related. How do these relate to communication and memory within the nurses’ and soldiers’ own time? Is there a page that relates more to the Photography Studio than the other? What kinds of things were the soldiers and nurses sharing?
  3. Have students write from the perspective of a resident of Washington D.C. in the 1860s. Based on the readings, ask them to write about the four most important locations in DC. Make sure to cite the purpose of the location and at least two important facts about the location using other information given.