ANNA ETHEREDIGE – The Angel of the 3rd Corps.
Anna Etheridge was a woman who was known to every man of the 3rd Corps of the Army of the Potomac. She is mentioned in numerous regimental histories that I’ve read from this corps, and I don’t think a history of the Corps can be written without talking about her.
Anna was a nurse from Wisconsin. She joined the Second Michigan in Detroit, but she then transferred her allegiance to the Third Michigan in the field with it. She never carried a rifle, or course, but it was said that she carried pistols. She was wounded in the hand at Chancellorsville. General Kearny gave her the Kearny Cross for her devotion to the wounded at Fair Oaks, and commissioned her as a regimental sergeant. She was sometimes called Michigan Annie, and Gentle Annie.
She was furnished with a horse, side-saddle, saddlebags etc. and during battle would often ride fearlessly to the front. When she saw a man fall, she would dash forward into the hottest fire, lift him on her horse and bring him safely to the rear; and whenever she ound a soldier too badly hurt to go to the rear, she would dismount, and, regardless of the wounds, give water or stimulating drink, then gallop on in search of another sufferer. At night she would wrap herself in her blanket, sleeping on the ground with the rest of the soldiers. Her exploits at Manassas, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and in the battles of Grant’s closing campaign were a favorite theme with the soldiers. Wounded only once, a grazed hand, she acquired many bullet holes through her long dresses. Once a shell burst near her, killing the young man from New York she was bandaging. At Blackburn’s Ford, she was there at the front of the charge. She displayed a “reckless indifference to danger” and, when the charge was over, though wounded in the hand, she calmly dismounted, unpacked her saddle bags and, though under heavy fire, set about caring for the wounded.
At Chancellorsville, she went to the outposts with the skirmishers and was ordered back to the lines. The enemy was already shooting at the pickets. On the way back, she passed a line of low trenches where the Union soldiers lay concealed, and, spurning the thought that the affair must end in a retreat, she turned her face to the enemy and called out to the men, “boys, do your duty and whip those fellows!” A hearty cheer was the response, and those fellows poured a volley into the hidden trenches.
At Spotsylvania she turned a party of retreating soldiers back to their place in the ranks by offering to lead them into battle.
And, finally, a soldier’s tribute: At the beginning of the war, many regiments brought out laundresses, as provided for in army regulations. Annie Etheridge, a young and remarkably good looking girl, from humble life, was among the laundresses of the Third Michigan Volunteers……..At the battle of Williamsburg, during the severest shelling on Sunday morning, she rode coolly up to the spot where the brigade commander and staff were watching the progress of the fight, and insisted on their eating some breakfast and drinking some coffee she had provided. Ordered repeatedly to seek a place of safety, she refused till each one had taken a drink of coffee from her canteen, and a ‘hard tack of two if nothing more.” While in the group three horses were shot under their riders by her side, but she never flinched or betrayed the slightest emotion of fear.
At one time the enemy had killed nearly every horse of one of our batteries, several of the caissons had been exploded, and more than half of the men shot at their guns. Disheartened, the remainder were about to abandon their pieces, when Annie rode up calmly to the battery so thinned, and smiling said, “That’s right, boys, now you’ve good range, you’ll soon silence their battery.” The boys took courage, remained at their posts, silenced the enemy’s battery and saved their pieces. One of the men, relating the incident, said, that “all the officers of the Army of the Potomac would not have had as much influence over the men as did Annie, on her little roan mare. “ They say that she saved their battery that day.
At another time she came very near being captured. Riding in the extreme front, she came within a rod of the enemy’s line, but she said she grasped her pistol, (which she always wore in her belt,) determined to have a fight before being captured.
Annie Blair was born in Detroit Michigan on May 3rd, 1844. She is said to have been of Dutch descent and her father, was well-to-do at the time of her birth. In her early childhood, however, the family fortunes changed, and a move was made either to Minnesota or Wisconsin,…where her father died when she was twelve years old. While still young, Anna married a Mr. Etheridge…
After the war, Annie returned to Detroit with her regiment which was mustered out on July 1, 1865. She secured a clerkship in the Detroit Treasury, but was dismissed in 1878 upon her marriage to a Mr. Hooks, a one-legged soldier. She was initially denied a pension, but her soldier friends lobbied for her and she was granted a pension of $12 a month.
It can confidently be said the she saved many hundreds of lives of wounded men who would have perished but for her assistance.
Arlington National Cemetery
Plot: section 17 SITE 20968