St Mary School System

FACTS Family Portal

Viking Links
St. Mary School System
St. Mary School System

Alumni News

St. Mary's Academy 

The Civil War Years

The Union then converted an existing Marine hospital in town, renamed it Ft. Anderson and placed it under the direction of General Charles Smith. Faced with growing numbers of wounded soldiers, General Smith appealed to the St. Mary convent for nurses. The Sisters dutifully began to tend the sick and wounded - moving from education to nursing. Many local churches and private homes were also converted into make-shift hospitals to house the war wounded. 

Dedicated and courageous, the St. Mary Sisters reputation as beloved nurses grew. One such sister was Sr. Mary Lucy Dosh (Pictured caring for wounded soldiers).  She arrived in Paducah with plans to be a music teacher but threw herself into the task of nursing instead - caring for infectious disease cases. Sadly, due to overwork and exposure, she contracted typhoid fever and died within four months of her arrival. Her casket was escorted by a military detail aboard the U.S. Gunboat Peacock to Uniontown, KY where she was buried at St. Vincent’s Academy with full military honors. Sister Lucy was eighteen years old. St. Mary was her first, and last, mission.  

Another brave sister was Sister Martha, who, after many of the Sisters in her community were sent to Illinois, and most of the St. Mary families and students fled to homes a safe distance from Paducah, she held her ground and refused to leave the school she had worked so hard to establish. She barricaded the school doors, and covered the windows with mattresses. Facing a hail of shot and shell, she stood guard over the school. When the old school was eventually torn down in 1907, a cannonball was found embedded in a wall - a chilling testimony to brave Sister Martha.  

For over three years, the Union and Confederate armies battled in and around Paducah: approximately 100 homes were burned to the ground in the Ft. Anderson neighborhood alone. Through it all, the Sisters continued as nurses, caring for the many souls wounded on the battlefields. After the war ended, the families and students remaining in Paducah were plagued with infectious diseases and sickness. Illnesses were often deadly, and recovery was long. Responding to this new immediate need, the Sisters operated St. Vincent’s Infirmary which was located on Third and Ohio Streets.  

Finally, in August 1864, the doors of St. Mary Academy reopened, and the Sisters were able to return to their original educational mission. Soon, eighty-eight eager young students were enrolled at St. Mary Academy. The Sisters began planning for the future once more and Paducah entered the historical time of post Civil War reconstruction.  

Source:  Allen, Hall.  “Center of Conflict”, published by the Paducah Sun-Democrat, 1961.

© St. Mary School System, All Rights Reserved