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Margaret Kirkpatrick - Union Army Nurse


Posted By: Debbie Truitt (email)
Date: 6/14/2021 at 18:47:08

Note: Margaret died March 31, 1909, in Kansas City, Kansas, and she is buried in Shaul Cemetery in Ottumwa.

Article From “Ottumwa Tri-Weekly Courier,” Tuesday, September 25, 1906, Page 2:



Enlists in the Union Army in First Capacity and Later Becomes Skilled in the Second–Will Leave Shortly for Soldier’s Home in Marshalltown.

Serving in the federal army during the Civil war, first as a nurse and afterwarsd [sic] as a government secret agent, is the record of Mrs. Margaret Kirkpatrick, age 76 years, who resides on Church street and who will leave soon for Marshalltown where she will enter the soldier’s home.

Few women can lay claim to a career like that of Mrs. Kirkpatrick’s. The incidents connected with that portion of her life spent in the days of the war, if chronicled would fill a book and surpass the wildest dreams of the war story novelist.

White with age and crippled from a fall she received a few months ago, the aged woman yesterday received a report amidst the confusion of the packing of her household goods. With her face lighted for the time with the old patriotic fire, she related some of the stirring events which happened when she was a young woman, devoting her life to her country.

The career that Mrs. Kirkpatrick followed during those bloody days of the rebellion was one that many a stout hearted man would have shrunk from. That of a secret agent or spy. In those days it was a dangerous occupation, for if one were caught, it meant certain death.

Enlists as Nurse.

In the month of September, 1862, Mrs. Kirkpatrick, who was then unmarried, entered the Federal army as Miss Margaret Vinson at Indianapolis, Ind. She had gone there to visit a soldier brother who was stricken with the fever while in the south and had been brought north to the hospital. It was while in Indianapolis that she saw the need of help in the army and her patriotic nature caused her to enlist as a nurse.

She was stationed at the hospital in Indianapolis for the remaining part of the winter, when she was sent south and into active service on the battlefields, in the vicinity of Nashville, Tenn.

Thinking that she was not rendering enough service to her country the young woman next entered the service as a secret agent. It was while in this occupation that she had the trying experiences which in many cases nearly cost her her life.

Carries Dispatches.

The old lady assumed a far away look while relating her history and said: “I remember one incident connected with my experience as a spy, which at the time, made it look as though my career was finished. But I have always trusted in God and I knew that I was in the right and thought that if my time had come I would meet death calmly.

“I was commissioned by General Hooper, then stationed at Sheldon, Mo., to carry important dispatches to General Merrill at Paris, Mo. Between the two cities I had to pass a detachment of the rebel army. Arriving in the vicinity of the rebels, I pulled my veil down over my face and cantered by on my horse down the road passing several of the rebel sentries or pickets. At intervals I passed them until I had gone by eight of them. Finally, as I went to ride by the last two, they commanded me to halt, which I did and asked them what they wanted.

Captured by Rebels.

“The informed me they thought that I was carrying information to the union lines and meant to find out for certain. Giving a call on a bugle, soon the road was filled with rebel soldiers who ordered me off my horse and declared that I was to be searched. I told them that I was on an errand of peace and only a lone women [sic] among a crowd of men, and that I would like to be shown a little respect.

“They took me to a nearby rebel home where they ordered the women folks of the house to search me for dispatches and swearing that if they found any, they would hang me to the nearest tree.

“I was thoroughly searched, but they did not find my messages which I had taken the precaution to sew on the inside of my skirt, perfectly concealing them.

Watches Quantrell’s [sic] Men.

“Another occasion,” continued the aged woman, “upon which I very nearly lost my life, happened one cold stormy night while I watched the entrance of a cave, studying the movements of a detachment of Quantrell’s [sic] men, who were hiding in the rocks.

“I had to make the distance to the mouth of the cave on foot, and having done so, I lay concealed so close to them, that when the men came out I could have put out my hand and touched them.

“I saw them come out of the cave in companies of two and threes and scatter in different directions. After a large number had come and left the vicinity I slipped up to the opening and finding all quiet within, I drew aside the covering for the entrance and peeped in. Only one man remained within and he was asleep. Searching around I found his horse and rode the remainder of the night through the storm to the Union lines and gave the information. I froze my feet on this trip.

“The next day a detachment surrounded the place and in the scrimmage which followed ten of the men belong to Quantrell [sic] were killed and a number taken prisoners.”

Was Born in Kentucky.

Mrs. Kirkpatrick was born in Madison county, Kentucky, in 1830. When she was a year old her parents moved to the vicinity of Indianapolis, Ind. From Indiana the family moved to Monroe county, Mo. In the year of 1867 she married R.M. Kirkpatrick of Macon, Mo., a soldier of the Federal army.

In the year of 1870, Mr. and Mrs. Kirkpatrick moved to this city, where they have resided and where Mr. Kirkpatrick died several years ago at the age of 87 years.

Since the death of her husband Mrs. Kirkpatrick has resided in rooms on Church street. Recently she was crippled by a fall which she received, and which has kept her confined to her rooms to a great extent.

It has always been her wish to spend the remainder of her life in this city, but circumstances have made it seem best to have her place in the soldier’s home. Though with the weight of many long years resting on her shoulders, in no way has time quenched the dashing patriotic spirit which has been a notable part of her nature throughout her life.


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