Lorinda Anna "Annie" Blair Etheridge (May 3, 1839– January 23, 1913 ) was a Union nurse and vivandière who served during the American Civil War. She was one of only two women to receive the Kearny Cross. She was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 2010.
Anna Etheridge was born Lorinda Anna Blair in 1839 in Wayne County, Michigan. In 1860, she married James Etheridge. At the outbreak of the American Civil War, Etheridge enlisted in 2nd Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment, serving as a nurse and vivandière (Daughter of the Regiment). Her desire to become a nurse stemmed from caring for her father before his death. Before the war, Etheridge worked in a hospital with a poor reputation for patient care, which she had attempted to improve.
Etheridge enlisted with her husband in the Second Michigan regiment, later serving as the daughter of the Third Michigan regiment. Though her husband soon deserted, Etheridge served throughout the rest of the war with the Fifth Michigan. Etheridge was famous for her courageous work under fire, her skirt often being torn by bullets. Armed with pistols for her protection and saddlebags filled with medical supplies, Etheridge frequently rode into the front lines on horseback to aid wounded soldiers. Etheridge embodied the ideal daughter of the Union, much unlike her husband. She was "brave, constant, tender possessed nerves of steel, and willing to join the fight as necessary, encourage[d] the men to greater valor, or remain[ed] in the rear treating wounds." Etheridge was repeatedly exposed to the same hardships as the soldiers she treated, such as sleeping on the ground in camp.
Various accounts locate Etheridge at notable battles, such as both battles of Bull Run, Williamsburg, Antietam, Fredricksburg, and Gettysburg. Etheridge was also in every battle of the Army of the Potomac except the battle of South Mountain. In 1864, all women were ordered out of camp as a result of an order from General Ulysses S. Grant. As a testimony to Etheridge's admirable service, numerous officers signed a petition addressed to Gen. Grant to allow Etheridge to remain in service on the field. "Gentle Annie" then worked for the Hospital Transport Service, a subcommittee of the U.S. Sanitary Commission. Assigned to the Knickerbocker, under Amy M. Bradley, she aided in the transportation of wounded men from the ports of Alexandria, Virginia, to Philadelphia, New York City, and Washington. By early 1863, she had returned to vivandière duties in the Army of the Potomac. For her work and courage, she received the Kearny Cross.
Etheridge's service ended with the Fifth Michigan in Detroit on July 1, 1865. Like so many women who served, Etheridge was never paid for her service. After the war, she married and worked in the United States Treasury Department, eventually receiving a monthly pension of $25 for her unpaid military service. Etheridge was honored with the Kearny Cross for her bravery in service. She died January 23, 1913, and was buried with veteran's honors in Arlington National Cemetery.
Gentle Annie: The True Story of a Civil War Nurse, written by Mary Francis Shura, is a “fictionalized biography” of Anna Etheridge.