Luann McDaniel, Valley Forge nurse

Luann McDaniel’s grave in Mechanicsburg Cemetery. Between her tombstone and the tree are plaques placed by the Sangamon County Historical Society and the Daughters of the American Revolution. A larger historical marker erected by the Sons of the American Revolution stands near the cemetery entrance. (SCHS photo)

Of more than 50 Revolutionary War veterans thought to be buried in Sangamon County, Luann McDaniel is the only woman.

According to family tradition, McDaniel (1759-1850) acted as a nurse at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-78. Her husband, Robert (1757-1826), was a member of the 5th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment. He spent 3½ years in the Continental Army and reportedly was present when Lord Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown.

Robert McDaniel died in Pennsylvania and is buried there. Luann McDaniel came to Illinois at age 75 with her youngest son, also named Robert, the last of Luann McDaniel’s five sons to emigrate to the Mechanicsburg area. All five sons are buried near their mother in the Mechanicsburg Cemetery.

There are no written records to support the McDaniel family’s tradition regarding Luann McDaniel, but that’s not surprising. Her nursing duties would have been informal and impromptu. As a plaque erected by the Sons of the American Revolution at the Mechanicsburg Cemetery states:

During the Revolutionary War, many soldiers were accompanied by their wives, daughters or mothers. In some cases, these women were pressed into service as laundresses or cooks.

Nursing in the military was traditionally done by male soldiers. The shortage of man-power prompted General George Washington to provide female nurses to attend the sick. … (E)very woman nursing meant one more man freed for fighting on the line.

The women who accompanied their men and women residing near the scene of battle were among those pressed into service as nurses.

Karl Reed’s 2009 list of Revolutionary War veterans buried in Sangamon County reports that “There are no specific records in the Valley Forge Historical society of Luann McDaniel or nurses who served there,” but cites other histories that note the informal nursing services provided by women from the area.

Here is a full list, based on Reed’s work, of Revolutionary War veterans buried in Sangamon County.

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