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Mary Walker Mary Walker
Account of a lecture by Dr. Mary Walker in Durham, England, covering her capture by the Confederate Army and imprisonment during the Civil War.

Why It Matters

Mary Edwards Walker was unique not only for her Civil War experience, but also for her style of dress and her outspoken personality. This newspaper article gives an account of Edwards’ capture by Confederate soldiers and her imprisonment. It also reveals how an English journalist viewed Walker and what he thought about her speech and her appearance. Walker's public persona sparked strong reactions in all who met her.

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Analyze this evidence

  • Why do you think it was uncommon for a female prisoner to be exchanged for a male prisoner?
  • How were prisoners of the Civil War treated? Do you think Mary Walker was treated any better or worse because she was a woman? Has the treatment of prisoners of war detained by the United States changed since the Civil War? If so, how?

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On Tuesday evening, Dr. Mary Walker – an American lady, who has been for time past before the notice of the English public – gave a lecture in the Town Hall on “The Various Incidents and Adventures of Four Years in the American Campaign.” There is much that is novel in Miss Walker’s appearance. Her dress consists of a black cloth tunic, reaching to the knee, and black pantalettes of the same material, the tunic having a gimp trimming down the front and around the bottom of the skirt. On her left breast she wears the medal of honor for special services in the United States Army. Miss Walker stated that in the year 1864 she was assigned to duty as an assistant surgeon in the Union Army and whilst on duty attending to the people of the South who did not support the Confederate Army, she was taken prisoner by the rebels, and had to travel under guard from Georgia to Richmond, Virginia. She was then placed in a cell and served with rations of a disgusting character. Dr. Mary was very uncomfortable in that place of imprisonment, and inwardly thanked the press for the newspapers which she used to cover the filthy furniture. The vermin were very annoying during the four long months she was there, and she frequently gave her rations to the rats without any of the officials knowing that she did so. Ultimately she was exchanged for a gentleman surgeon. Such an incident as that of a lady surgeon being exchanged for a gentleman of the same cloth was unparalleled in the annals of warfare. The lecture, which was read from a manuscript, occupied upwards of an hour and a half. Miss Walker, it may be remarked, fails to impress the audience with the sacredness of her mission, or with the veracity of her narrative, which is marked by much of the exaggeration which figures so prominently in the character of our American cousins.