Alice (née Farmer) Risley (1 November 1847-10 May 1939)


Alice Farmer Risley, a Civil War nurse and teacher, was born in November 1847 in Wilmington, Ohio. Her parents were natives of Massachusetts. In the autumn of 1859, the family moved to New Iberia in the Bayou Teche region of Louisiana, where her father was a basket maker

As Unionists, the Farmers weren't well accepted after the Civil War broke out. In the fall of 1861, Alice's father was forced to flee the Confederate-controlled Teche region for Union-occupied New Orleans, leaving his family in New Iberia.

In the summer of 1862, Alice's mother, Phoebe, was accused of being a spy, and she and Alice fled to New Orleans, where they were reunited with Mr. Farmer.

The public buildings and hospitals in New Orleans were overcrowded with sick and wounded soldiers. Phoebe and Alice volunteered as nurses and began a daily routine of visiting the various locations, bringing food and delicacies.

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When there was no room left in the hospitals, the Farmers took patients into their home, sometimes for weeks at a time. The army allowed them to draw rations for the soldiers they cared for at home. Their service to the sick and wounded continued through September 1865. Alice also worked as a teacher in a school for blacks in Baton Rouge.

Samuel A. Risley had served as an officer of the United States Army Signal Corp in the 117th Illinois Infantry Regiment in General Ulysses S. Grant's army. He was hospitalized in New Orleans in 1863, and was later cared for at the Farmers' home.

After the war, the Farmers left New Orleans and moved back to Massachusetts, then later to Illinois. Samuel Risley corresponded with Alice after the war. In 1872, near St. Louis, Alice and Samuel were married.

They moved to West Plains, Missouri, where Samuel established the South Missouri Journal, becoming one of the city's first newspapermen. Alice and Samuel had four children.

Later, the couple were appointed postmaster and assistant postmistress of West Plains, and Samuel was elected mayor. The Risleys were among the most prominent citizens in social and civic circles.

Samuel Risley died in 1894, and Alice lost her mother a year later. Alice soon moved in with her son at Alexandria, Louisiana.

After Samuel's death, Alice was active in the Women's Relief Corps of Missouri, the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, and the National Association of Army Nurses of the Civil War. This last organization met annually at the national encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic.

Alice faithfully attended those reunions for 40 years, and was often featured in stories in the national press. She was elected national president of the National Association of Army Nurses of the Civil War in 1915, and held that post for 16 years.

When she died in Alexandria, Louisiana on May 10, 1939, she was reputed to be the last surviving nurse of the Civil War. She was buried in Oak Lawn Cemetery in West Plains.



Alice Cary Farmer Risley was born at Wilmington, Ohio, on Nov. 1, 1847. Death: May 10, 1939 Rapides Parish Louisiana, USA.

She married a civil war officer, Samuel A. Risley. To this union, 4 children were born. They moved to West Plains, Missouri, where Samuel established the South Missouri Journal, becoming one of the city's first newspapermen. Later, the couple were appointed postmaster and assistant postmistress of West Plains, and Samuel was elected mayor. The Risleys were among the most prominent citizens in social and civic circles. After Samuel's death, Alice was active in the Women's Relief Corps of Missouri, the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, and the National Association of Army Nurses of the Civil War. This last organization met annually at the national encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic. Alice faithfully attended those reunions for 40 years, and was often featured in stories in the national press. She was elected national president of the National Association of Army Nurses of the Civil War in 1915, and held that post for 16 years. She was reputed to be the last surviving nurse of the Civil War.


Miss Alice C. Farmer with her mother, Mrs. Phoebe Farmer, after innumerable hardships reached New Orleans and commenced the work of caring for the sick in Marine University, St. James and St. Louis Hospitals.

Mrs. Farmer's husband refused to vote for secession and was oblidged. in the spring of 1862, to seek safety in New Orleans, after which his familv received no mail. Mrs. Farmer being charged with being a spy.

Dick Taylor and his men threatened to hang her. One dark night the helpless woman and her daughter left their beautiful home and were taken aboard a steamer and locked in a stateroom by the friendly captain. Eventually they were landed at Braspear City. Her term of service was from August 1862 to September 1865. She is 65 years of age. Mrs. Risley receives no pension. -- Mousseover Enlarges Image

National Association Civil War Nurses 1910In honor of the National Association of Civil War Army Nurses. Published by courtesy of the Citizens Executive Committee of Atlantic City, New Jersey (1910)



A photo dated 1936 from the collection of the Union Veterans of the Civil War. Alice Carey Risley, the last surviving Civil War battlefield nurse, receiving a kiss from a veteran.