NOTE: Ray Mullins has done an incredible job of researching Annie's life and he has kindly put all of his work online, which includes links to documents, records, etc.:
Many errors made in subsequent attempts, including mine, have been corrected so by all means turn to Ray for the final word.
Annie Etheridge, also known as “Ethridge,” and “Lorinda Blair,” was born May 3, 1839, probably in Michigan.
Her father was reportedly born in New York and her mother in Massachusetts. Although she was never an official member of the Third Michigan infantry, “Michigan Annie” or “Gentle Annie”as she was often called, played a vital role in the history of several Michigan Regiments, including the Third infantry.
Her maiden name was reportedly Lorinda A. Blair, and while she was occasionally mentioned in studies on women in the Civil War or in personal accounts of the war, the details of her life, who she was or where she was from are far from certain. Aside from her known record during the war and to some extent afterwards, little is known of her personal history. In 1863 she was described as of Dutch descent, about five feet three inches tall, with a fair complexion, brown hair and a “vigorous constitution, and decidedly good looking.”
She may have been born in Wisconsin the daughter of “a man of considerable property and her girlhood was passed in ease and luxury; but as she drew near the age of womanhood, he met with misfortunes by which he lost nearly all he had possessed, and returned to her former home in Michigan.” She was probably married at least twice before the war, and certainly once after the war: first to a David Kellogg, second to a James Etheridge, and finally to Charles E. Hooks on March 1, 1870.
Other accounts report that she was born in Detroit and, according to one source, “her father was once a man of wealth, and her early youth was passed in the lap of luxury, with no wish ungratified, and no want uncared for. But misfortune came and swept away his property, and, broken in fortune and depressed in spirit, he removed to Minnesota, where he died leaving our heroine, at the age of 12 years, in comparative poverty and want.
George Axtell, a former member of the Fifth Michigan infantry, claimed that she was “born in Detroit [and] married to Mr. Etheridge and early in the war, like many another wife, she went with him to the front, he being a member of the 2d Mich. After his death she remained with the brigade, doing what she could to alleviate the sufferings of the soldiers and finally became closely associated with the 5th Mich., with which regiment she claimed membership, although aiding the sick and wounded of other commands when opportunity offered.” And Third Michigan soldier Warren Wilkinson also confirmed that she was Mrs. Etheridge, at least in 1863.
L. P. Brockett claims that when her father left Wisconsin to return to Michigan Anna remained behind because she was married, but that while visiting her father in Detroit when the war broke out, she joined the Second Michigan when they left for Washington “to fulfill the role of daughter of the Regiment, in attending to its sick and wounded.” And a contemporary account wrote that “On the breaking out of the rebellion, she was visiting her friends in” Detroit and “Colonel Richardson was then engaged in raising the Second Michigan volunteers, and she and nineteen other females volunteered to accompany the regiment as nurses. Every other has returned home or been discharged, but she has accompanied the regiment through all its fortunes, and declares her determination to remain with it during its entire term of service.”
According to Bruce Catton, however, “Annie had gone to war with the Third Michigan as a laundress. When the Regiment first left Washington to go to the front, the other laundresses went home, but she stuck with the Regiment, sharing its marches and its bivouacs. It is recorded that she was ‘a young and remarkably attractive girl,’ that she was ‘modest, quiet, and industrious’, and that any soldier who dared utter a disrespectful word to her or about her had to fight the entire Third Michigan.”
The author of Michigan Women, on the contrary, claims that Anna “became the cook for the officers’ mess at Brigade headquarters” when she first left for Washington. According to the study Michigan Women in the Civil War, sometime in late winter 1861 or
early in the spring of 1862 Anna left the army temporarily, excluded perhaps by the same order which sent many of the Regimental woman from their places at the beginning of the Peninsular campaign of that year. However, she immediately found a place for herself in the Hospital Transport service operated by the U. S. Sanitary Commission. There she was assigned to the hospital boat, Knickerbocker, with Amy Bradley, another Regimental woman and formerly with the First Maine Infantry. They were in charge of the second deck of the boat and labored mightily to have it clean and ready for the sick and wounded who were brought down from the front twice a day in trains. the men came in bad shape, often untended from the time of their fall on the field. They were brought on board as rapidly as possible and laid in all the cabins and on the decks so thickly that it was difficult to work among them. It was the duty of the women matrons to wash their faces and feed them as quickly as possible while the surgeons and male nurses looked after their wounds. As soon as the boat was filled to its capacity of 450 men and the pitiful cargo had been made as comfortable as possible, the boat sailed for Washington, Baltimore, or even New York and the great hospitals. It would return again and again for more passengers. Miss Bradley and Annie also made three trips on a truce boat sent to receive the wounded who had fallen into the hands of the enemy. They worked on other boats, the Louisiana and the Daniel Webster, all hospital transports.
It seems fairly certain that by mid-July of 1861 she was firmly established in some capacity with the four Michigan Regiments encamped near Washington. She was under fire during the action at Blackburn’s Ford on July 18 and at the fiasco at Bull Run on Sunday, July 21, where, according to Brockett “she manifested the same courage and presence of mind which characterized her in all her subsequent career in the army.” According to one source, when the Third Regiment “went into the fighting line,” Anna “filled her saddle-bags with lint and bandages, stuck a pair of pistols in her belt, mounted her horse and galloped to the front. She was usually attended by the surgeon's orderly, who carried the medicine chest, but though they went out together, they as often became separated in the confusion of the battle.”
Margaret Leach and Brockett both described her as a “daughter of the Second Michigan” and Anna, although not carrying a musket, was reportedly armed with “two pistols in her holsters, but seldom or ever used them.”
Although the Detroit papers make no mention of the pistols, the Advertiser and Tribune reported in early 1863 that Annie “has for her use a horse, furnished with side-saddle, saddle-bags, etc. At the commencement of a battle, she fills her saddle bags with lint and bandages, mounts her horse, and gallops to the front, passes under fire, and, regardless of shot and shell, engages in the work of stanching and binding up the wounds of our soldiers.” It was also reported that “when not actively engaged on the battlefield or in the hospital, she superintends the cooking at the headquarters of the brigade. When the brigade moves, she mounts her horse and marches with the ambulances and surgeons, administering to the wants of the sick and wounded, and at the bivouac she wraps herself in her blanket, and sleeps upon the ground with all the hardihood of a true soldier.”
It was also noted that
Her dress, on entering battle, is a riding dress, so arranged as to be looped up when she dismounts. Her demeanor is perfectly modest, quiet and retiring, and her habits and conduct are correct and exemplary; yet, on the battlefield she seems to be alone possessed and animated with a desire to be effective in saving the lives of the wounded soldiers. No vulgar word was ever known to be uttered by her, and she is held in the highest veneration and esteem by the soldiers, as an angel of mercy. She is, indeed the idol of the brigade, every man of which would submit to almost any sacrifice in her behalf. She takes the deepest interest in the result of this contest, eagerly reading all the papers to which she can obtain access, and keeping thoroughly posted as to the progress of the war. She says she feels as if she stood alone in the world, as it were, and desires to do good. She knows that she is the instrument of saving many lives and alleviating much suffering in her present position, and feels it her duty to continue in so doing.
On August 1, 1862, Annie went back to the Michigan Regiments when they returned from the Peninsula, and was at the Second Battle of Bull Run, on August 29. It was reported that early on in the action “she was on a portion of the battle-field which had been warmly contested, where there was a rocky ledge, under shelter of which, some of the wounded had crawled. Annie lingered behind the troops, as they changed position, assisted several poor helpless fellows to this cover and dressed their wounds.”
One of these was a soldier of the Seventh New York Infantry, “a noble looking boy to whose parched lips she had held the cooling draught, and had bound up his wound, receiving in return a look of unutterable gratitude from his bright blue eyes, and his faintly murmured ‘God's blessing on you’, when a shot from the rebel battery tore him to pieces under her very hands. She discovered at the same moment that the rebels were near, and almost upon her, and she was forced to follow in the direction taken by her Regiment [Second]. On another portion of that bloody field, Annie was kneeling by the side of another soldier binding up his wounds, when hearing a gruff voice above her, she looked up and to her astonishment saw General Kearny checking his horse beside her. He said, “That is right; I am glad to see you helping these poor fellows, and when this is over, I will have you made a Regimental sergeant.”
Bruce Catton wrote in Glory Road that General Kearny “more or less adopted her into the Division, providing her with a horse and saddle and a Sergeant's pay and detailing her officially as cook for the officer's mess.” Brockett, however, points out that Kearny was killed two days after this incident at Chantilly and Anna never officially received the appointment.
Anna was at Chancellorsville on May 3, 1863, when the Third Michigan
were in such extreme peril, in consequence of the panic by which the Eleventh Corps were broken up, one company of the Third Michigan, and one of the sharp-shooters were detailed as skirmishers. Annie, although advised to remain in the rear accompanied them, taking the lead; meeting her colonel however he told her to go back. as the enemy was very near, and he was every moment expecting an attack. Very loth to fall back, she turned and rode along the front of a line of shallow trenches filled with our men; she called to them, ‘Boys, do your duty and whip the rebels.’ The men rose and cheered her, shouting ‘Hurrah for Annie’, ‘Bully for you.” This revealed their position to the rebels, who immediately fired a volley in the direction of the cheering; Annie rode to the rear of the line, then turned to see the result; as she did so, an officer pushed his horse between her and a large tree by which she was waiting, thus sheltering himself behind her. She looked round at him with surprise, when a second volley was fired, and a Minie ball whizzing by her, entered the officer’s body, and he fell a corpse, against her and then to the ground. At the same moment anther ball grazed her hand, (the only wound she received during the war), pierced her dress, the skirt of which she was holding, and slightly wounded her horse. Frightened by the pain, he set off on a run through a dense wood, winding in and out among the trees so rapidly that Annie feared being torn from her saddle by the branches, or having her brains dashed out by violent contact with the trunks. She raised her self upon the saddle, and crouching on her knees clung to the pommel. The frightened animal as he emerged from the woods plunged into the midst of the Eleventh Corps, when his course was soon checked.
In Glory Road, Bruce Catton tells of yet another incident involving Anna at Chancellorsville.
Out in the open men fought in a blinding fog, and as they fought, in a clearing by the turnpike there appeared in the front lines a young woman, one of the characters of the III Corps, gentle, respected Annie Etheridge, who wore a black riding habit with a Sergeant's chevrons band who had been part of the army since the early days of the war. This morning, in the hottest of the fighting, Annie came riding forward with a snack of hardtack and a dozen canteens of hot coffee, and she trotted brightly up to a busy general and his staff and offered refreshments. The officers tried to shoo her back to safety, but she refused to budge until each one had had something to eat and drink. The Rebel bombardment was at its worst, and three horses in this mounted group were smashed by solid shot while she was about this business, but an admiring Pennsylvania soldier who watched it all wrote that ‘she never flinched or betrayed the slightest emotion of fear’. A bit later she appeared from nowhere beside an all but disabled Union battery which had lost all of its horses, several caissons, and a good many men. The gunners were about to abandon their pieces, but Annie talked them out of it. She smiled at them and cried, ‘That's right, boys -- now you've got the range, keep it up and you'll soon silence those guns’. The men raised a little cheer, made her go to the rear, and returned to the service of their guns. One sweaty cannoneer remarked that all the officers in the army could not have had as much influence with them just then as ‘that brave little Sergeant in petticoats’.
For her participation in the battle of Chancellorsville on May 3, 1863, General David Birney, who had succeeded General Phil Kearny as Division commander, awarded Anna the Kearny Cross, a medal struck just for and awarded to many of the men who fought at Chancellorsville. She was also mentioned in the Official Records for her participation in the action at Chancellorsville.
According to Michigan Women, when the Second Michigan was transferred to Tennessee, Anna transferred her allegiance to the Third Michigan, ostensibly in order to remain in the eastern theater. She was therefore present with the Regiment during the battle at Gettysburg. In his massive study of the second day at Gettysburg, Harry Pfanz writes that Anna served in the field tending to the wounded at Gettysburg. As Cross’ Brigade of Irishmen were heading for the Wheatfield on July 2, “They headed southeasterly down the front of the slope of the ridge and through the open fields in the general direction of the Trostle buildings. Somewhere near the farmyard they splashed through the upper reaches of Plum Run and saw Annie Etheridge, a Third Corps nurse ride by.”
She went with the Third Michigan when it was assigned briefly to Troy, New York in late summer of 1863, to serve as protection during the upcoming draft in that city. Dan Crotty, a member of Company F, wrote some years after the war, that Anna became quite popular with the people in Troy. “Annie's tent,” he wrote, “is besieged with visitors. People come from far in the rural district to get a sight of the great heroine of so many campaigns and battles. We do not blame them much, for, indeed, she is a curiosity, as she is one woman in a million who would leave a home of luxury and cast her lot with the soldiers in the field, who are all proud of her, and any man in the Regiment would die in her defense, should any one cast a reproach on her fair name and character. All believe her to be one of the truest of women.
According to the Troy Daily Times of August 31, writing under the headline “Daughter of the Regiment”,
In the ranks of the Third Michigan volunteers there is a most agreeable exception to the bronzed face, and stalwart forms of which the regiment is composed. The refining influence of woman’s presence mingles with the panoply of war, and a lady -- a true lady -- is enrolled under the banners of the Third. Mrs. [?] Annie Etheridge is the lady who discharges the honorable duties that entitle here to the name ‘daughter of the regiment.’ She has accompanied it ever since its organization -- sharing the hardships of two years’ campaigning and the dangers of the battlefield with this fighting body. On several occasions bullets have passed through the folds of her dress, as she moved on an errand of mercy amid the scenes of Fredericksburg, Gettysburg and the Seven Days Conflict. Mrs. Etheridge is a lady of refined manners, pleasing personal appearance and rare adaptation to the duties which she has assumed. Her husband was a soldiers, and she became associated with the army two years ago -- enlisting in May 1861 and regularly receiving pay since that time. Her services as a nurse has [sic] been invaluable, and her influence upon the regiment have been most salutary. Numerous compliments have been paid her by those in authority, including Vice President Hamlin, and many encomiums have been passed by the public press upon her services and example. The soldiers would die for her, and she is deservedly the idol of this noble regiment. Mrs. Etheridge is not one of the women who believe that “While our nations sons are fighting, We can only pray.” It is her mission to be useful in her sphere and to contribute towards the final and fast-approaching victory of the Union cause. We are glad to know that Mrs. Etheridge has been tendered the hospitalities of many of our leading citizens and their families during her stay in Troy. All honor to the “daughter of the regiment.”
Hospital Steward Warren Wilkinson wrote from the Third Michigan’s camp near Culpepper, Virginia, in late September of 1863 that “Mrs. Etheridge is with us and is in the enjoyment of good health. She seems to feel much more at home in the camp than she did in the city of Troy, and I presume that when our regiment is disbanded she will enlist in the veteran corps. “
Anna was still with the Regiment the following year when it entered into the Wilderness and Spotsylvania campaigns in Virginia. At the battle of Spotsylvania on May 12, writes, Brockett, she met up with a number of soldiers retreating from the field and she “shamed them into doing their duty, by offering to lead them back into the fight, which she dud under a heavy fire from the enemy.” And when the Second Corps (to which the Third Michigan was now attached) attacked the enemy at Deep Bottom, Virginia on June 1 or 2, she became separated from the surgeon’s orderly who usually rode with her and she found herself near the enemy lines. Rebel skirmishers soon appeared to her immediate front, but did not open fire as they did not want to give the alarm, and Anna escaped unscathed.
When the Third Michigan was mustered out of service on June 10, 1864, those men of the Third who had reenlisted were consolidated into the Fifth Michigan, and Anna moved right along with them. In fact, Dan Crotty described a particular incident involving Anna during the campaign in Virginia in 1864. He wrote that she “has remained with the colors, but this time we are up too close to the front line, and unless we get back we may be captured. So we have to do some tall walking to get out of the swamp we have got into. Anna falls back with us in good order, but her dress is a little torn by the brush. One of our boys is borne back wounded, our heroine dresses up his wound. The balls fall thick and fast around her, but she fears them not, and performs her task as coolly as if she was in camp and out of danger. I need not mention this one instance, hundreds of the same kind could be related to her. She is still with us through thick and thin for the last three years.”
Crotty added that toward the end of September of 1864, “General Grant issues an order that all women in the army have to get back, and Anna for the first time has to leave her Regiment. A petition is sent to the commander to have her stay, but no use, she must get back and she bids us good-bye and goes to City Point [Virginia]. We hear from her, however, often, by receiving lots of good things sent to us by her, such as potatoes, onions, and all kinds of vegetables she can obtain.” In fact, it was on or about July 14, 1864, that General Grant ordered all women to be excluded from the camps. The officers of the Third Corps united in petitioning Grant to make an exception in Anna’s case, but this was denied and she went to the supply base at City Point, Virginia. She continued her work of serving the soldiers from City Point.
Curiously, however, Brockett reports that Anna was back “in the saddle again”, as it were by late 1864. On October 27 in one of the numerous actions near Hatcher’s Run and Boydton Plank road, Virginia, “a portion of the Third Division of the Second Corps, was nearly surrounded by the enemy, in what the soldiers called the ‘Bull ring’. The Regiment to which Annie was attached [Fifth Michigan] was sorely pressed, the balls flying thick and fast, so that the surgeon advised her to accompany him to safer quarters; but she lingered, watching for an opportunity to render assistance. A little drummer boy stopped to speak to her, when a ball struck him, and he fell against her, and then to the ground, dead. This so startled her, that she ran towards the line of battle. But to her surprise, she found that the enemy had occupied every part of the ground held a few moments before by Union troops. She did not pause, however, but dashed through their line unhurt, though several of the chivalry fired at her.”
She was mentioned in the Detroit newspapers and Dan Crotty wrote at some length about her heroism under fire; “the heroine and daughter of our Regiment”, as he described her. “The world never produced but very few such women, for she is along with us through storm and sunshine, in the heat of the battle caring for the wounded, and in the camp looking after the poor sick soldier, and to have a smile and a cheering word for every one who comes her way. Every soldier is alike to her. She is with us to administer to all our little wants, which are not few. To praise her would not be enough, but suffice to say, that as long as one of the old Third shall live, she will always be held in the greatest esteem, and remembered with kindly feelings for her goodness and virtue.”
Dan Crotty probably spoke for many of his old comrades when he wrote about a Sunday in early March of 1865. One could see “Annie in her best dress, sitting on the ground with her own boys listening to the man of God [a Mr. Pritchard]. . . . Annie, you, I hope, will get your reward in heaven when your campaigns and battles in this life are ended. For no one on this earth can recompense you for the good you have done in your four years' service for the boys in blue, in the heat of battle, on the wearied marches, and in the hospitals and camps. May your path through this life be strewn with roses, and may you rest on the laurels you have so dearly won, is the prayer of thousands who have been benefited by your timely presence.”
And, in July of 1865, writes Crotty, “Noble Anna is with us to the last, and her brave womanly spirit brakes [sic] down, and scalding tears trickle down her beautiful bronze face as each of the boys and comrades bid her good-bye. Good-bye noble, heroic and self-sacrificing Anna. May your path through life be the reverse of your four years' hardships, strewn with flowers the most delicious, and when your campaigns and battles with this struggling world shall end, may you meet in Heaven with those whose burdens you have sought to lighten in the hard life of the soldiers' experiences.”
It wasn’t only the soldiers who thought highly of Anna, some of her peers did too. The Detroit Free Press of June 9, 1864, reported the observations of Mrs. Jessie Hinsdill who served as a nurse during the war, apparently with the Second Michigan. Mrs. Hinsdill “speaks in glowing terms of her co-laborer, Miss Anna Etheridge, of this state, who has already become famous in the discharge of her angelic duties as hospital nurse. Her name will be cherished and remembered by many a suffering soldier to the latest hour of their lives.” She had her detractors, however, and one of them was Dorothea Dix, a champion of women in nursing during the war. Dix thought Annie was everything a woman nurse should not be: small, young and attractive, but all this seemed only to add to the respect she was given by the soldiers.
After the war “she felt the necessity”, wrote Brockett, “of engaging in some employment, by which she could maintain herself and her aged father, and accepted an appointment in” the Treasury department, “where she labors assiduously for twelve hours daily. But her army experiences have not robbed her of that charming modesty an diffidence of demeanor, which are so attractive in a woman, or made her boastful of her adventures. To these she seldom alludes, and never in such a way to indicate that he thinks of herself in the least as a heroine.”
In 1870 she married Charles E. Hooks, a one-armed veteran of the 7th Connecticut Infantry war. She was referred to as “the Florence Nightingale of the Regiment” during the proceedings of the Second annual reunion of the Old Third Infantry Association in December of 1872, and in 1883 she was made an honorary member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association and given “Three cheers and a tiger” for the lady “who acted as a nurse for the Regiment all through the war. . . .”
In 1886 Senator Thomas Palmer introduced a bill into Congress to allow Annie a pension of $50 per month, and it was approved on February 9, 1887 (no. 352510 under the name of Anna Hooks), though it was reduced to only $25 per month. In 1891 she marched with the Regiment at the Grand Army of the Republic encampment and parade in Detroit, and in 1892 during the association business meeting “a deserved tribute” was paid to Anna by Henry Patterson, formerly of Company G.
Annie died at Providence Hospital in Washington, DC, on January 23, 1913, she was buried in Arlington Cemetery, section 15, next to her husband Charles Hooks.
On June 24, 1915, the Grand Rapids Herald reported that
To commemorate the memory of Anna Etheridge Hooks, late of Washington DC, but formerly of Michigan, who went to the front with three Michigan Regiments during the Civil War and gave valuable assistance in first aid members of the old Third Michigan infantry, in annual convention at the Morton house yesterday, took the first steps to have a statue erected on the capitol grounds at Lansing. Mrs. Hooks was known as the daughter of the ‘Old Third’. She went with the Second, Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments and, according to the old veterans, was often on the firing line giving what aid she could to the wounded and dying. The veterans now propose to ask the next legislature for a sufficiently large appropriation to erect a statue that will commemorate the heroic deeds of the woman in years to come.
The statue was never made.