General Thomas appointed the first woman physician who worked as an assistant surgeon on battlefields in Kentucky and Tennessee. She was later awarded the Medal of Honor for her service.

What was her name?

Answer: Mary Edwards Walker

Mary E. Walker, M.D., was a very remarkable woman who worked against popular criticism and prejudice to become one of the first female physicians in America. At the outbreak of the war, she was initially refused an appointment as a doctor in the union army and served as a volunteer nurse. She later convinced General Thomas that she was capable and served as an assistant surgeon on battlefields in Kentucky and Tennessee. After the war, she was awarded the Medal of Honor for services to her country which was indorsed by both General Sherman and General Thomas. Facing controversy to the end of her life, during a review of awards in 1917 by an army board, her medal was revoked and she reportedly said, “you can have it over my dead body”. Congress reinstated her right to the medal in 1977.

Some say her medal was given more for her spying role rather than for her medical work. She often bravely went between the lines with an ambulance team to look for the wounded and afterwards reported her observations of enemy dispositions to General Thomas’ staff. She was actually captured on one of these patrols, and, as she later proudly stated, “exchanged man for man for a Confederate officer”. In those days spying was not something a lady or gentleman could boast about and it would not be publicly mentioned.

-Source: Civil War Trivia and Fact Book by Webb Garrison, Rutledge Hill Press 1992

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