Pennsylvania Volunteers
in the Spanish-American War


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PA Spanish-American War

Interview of a PA Regular Nurse, Mary A. Koeller

Miss Mary A. Koeller was a regular army nurse on duty in Porto Rico. "I have been a regular army nurse ten years," Miss Koeller say, and one looks at her in sheer wonder, for her face is that of a woman of twenty-five. Her eyes are large, and there is a tinge of sadness in their expression. That Miss Koeller looks upon duty as if it were to be always spelled in capitals, is evident from her part in the recent war. Through it all she nursed the wounded and ill at Fortress Monroe, and when the war was over her ceaseless efforts had left her ill in turn worn out, and in urgent need of a rest.

Mrs. Miles obtained a furlough or Miss Koeller, and she went with Mrs. Miles and her family to join the Commanding General in Porto Rico. As soon as she arrived, however, the army nurse took her place among the sick. She labored in the hospital day and night, almost without rest, and then came the long trip home. An extended furlough awaited her there, but Miss Koeller went to Fortress Monroe again, there to take up her labor of love.

When she tells one these things she smiles a protest.
"There will be time for rest by and by," she says, "but now all are needed. The business of war is terribly interesting; so absorbing that one forgets all else," and the large, dark eyes of the army nurse looked just a trifle sadder than before. "There are so many cases that are interesting from a medical standpoint." she explained. "Personalities are lost sight of. The war has brought us so much that we knew nothing of before. It is fascinating to study each case, to notice the small differences, to watch the effect of medicine."
Yet Miss Keller does not look like one who could analyze the fluctuations of a dying man's pulse. One thinks of her rather as in a white cap finding flowers to make a sick room pleasant. Miss Koeller graduated from a training school in Philadelphia. She traveled around the world, and, retuning, entered the regular army.

"I am a regular," she says, "a trained army nurse," and she says it proudly.
She has words of praise for the volunteers of the Red Cross, but she says she is glad that she is a regular.
"I have watched the work of the nurses during the war, and I saw it at close range in Porto Rico. They have done their duty - that is, they have done all they could do."
Such is Miss Koeller's testimony, and all on can do from her standpoint is to entirely sacrifice self.

Source: Thrilling Stories of the War by Returned Heroes, Young, Hon. James Rankin, 1899 Resources

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Disclaimer: Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information of the PA Spanish American War rosters, all transcriptions are subject to human error, and researchers should always check the original source.