Beyond All Price
Nellie Chase Leath was very young when she offered her services as a nurse with the 100th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment. She had no references, no experience, and a limited education. She had eloped at the age of nineteen with a man she later described as a "drunk, a gambler, a liar, a forger, and a thief." She left him when he ordered her to become the madame of his new brothel. On her own, she had been supporting herself by mending costumes in the basement of a theater. Nellie enlisted because life in the midst of a war seemed safer than the one she had been living.
So how did such a young woman manage to become head matron for one of the most devout regiments in the Union Army? She was strong enough to escape from a potentially abusive and resourceful enough to support herself in a world that did not easily accept single career women. She believed so passionately in her country’s cause that she went off to war with the enthusiasm of a soldier. She displayed compassion and skill in her nursing duties. She took over the task of running a southern plantation with all the aplomb of a lady to the manor born. The men she cared for remembered her as their very own Florence Nightingale. And after found a new life, her self-esteem and her reputation intact. All that remained was for her to find a new theater in which to commit a final act of self-sacrifice and martyrdom.