Christiana Kerfoot, known as “Annie” to her family, was born around 1846. Her father was the Reverend John Barrett Kerfoot, Episcopal priest and rector (headmaster) of the College of St. James, in Washington County, Maryland. (This institution still operates today, as St. James School, about six miles south of Hagerstown.) Annie was the second child in the family, and the oldest daughter.
Annie Kerfoot grew up in comfortable, middle-class circumstances. Her family was white, religious, well-educated, and cultured. They lived at the College of St. James, where Annie knew the students, all of them boys and young men, mostly from Maryland and other southern states. Her family owned several enslaved women and girls; one of them was just about Annie’s age.
Annie was about fifteen years old when the Civil War broke out. Many of the students at St. James went off to fight for the U.S. or for the Confederacy, and western Maryland found itself in the path of armies. Life at the College in the war years became a strange mix of the normal and the dramatic: trying to carry on education as usual, while only a fraction of the student body remained, and while troops sometimes marched through the neighborhood or camped on the school grounds.
When the Confederate army crossed into Maryland in September 1862, the Rev. and Mrs. Kerfoot sent Annie and her older brother Abel to New York, “with the family silver and other valuables,” as one of the teachers at the College wrote. They got out of Hagerstown on September 8, on the last train that left “for many days.”
So Annie missed the battles of South Mountain (September 14) and Antietam (September 17). Her mother, Eliza Kerfoot, stood on the St. James rectory porch all day on September 15, handing out food, water, and bandages to passing soldiers. Her father, John Kerfoot, walked the battlefields during and after the battles, and was deeply shaken.
In October, Annie Kerfoot traveled home from New York. She found a neighborhood shattered by the slaughter of Antietam, and her father and several of the male teachers spending much of their time ministering to the wounded. Among the hospitals near her home, the tent hospital at Smoketown was the most prominent and probably the largest. Annie was drawn to service there.
The army had started setting up Smoketown Hospital on September 17, and by winter it consisted of some fifty tents for patients, plus dozens more housing personnel and all the functions of a hospital. Visitors noticed the elaborate decorations in each “ward” (crafted by the invalid soldiers), as well as the women who cared unceasingly for the sick and wounded.
There is very little information about Annie’s work at Smoketown. One of the teachers at St. James noted that Annie was “assisting Miss Hall and other ladies in nursing, under Dr. Vandenkieff [sic], physician in charge.” Both Maria Hall and Bernard Vanderkieft are well known for their roles at Smoketown and elsewhere. Hall, a native of Washington, DC, had cared for President Lincoln’s son before becoming an army nurse. Vanderkieft, medical director at Smoketown, was a Belgian by birth and had years of military medical experience.
Annie Kerfoot was nursing at Smoketown by late December, and was apparently living there as well. She was definitely there overnight on New Year’s Eve. An entry in her father’s diary, written at the College at 12:15 a.m. on Jan. 1, 1863, notes the locations of various family members as 1863 began: “I have just come from … our dear chapel… Abel is at Concord; A[nnie] at Smoketown Hospital…. my dear wife worshipped with me…”
We don’t know how long Annie worked at Smoketown, or any details of her experiences there. We do know that the soldiers laid up in these temporary facilities depended on nurses like Annie Kerfoot, both for care and for emotional support, especially at Smoketown. Months after local houses, barns, and churches had been cleared of the wounded and returned to their regular uses, the purpose-built tent hospital at Smoketown was still operating, as late as May 1863.
In July 1863, after the battle of Gettysburg, the College St. James was in a precarious position and had to be evacuated. Eliza and Annie Kerfoot protested that they didn’t want to go; they preferred to stay on campus, despite the prospect of an imminent battle there. They lost that argument; the Kerfoot family carriage traveled to Hagerstown under artillery and musket fire.
These few surviving glimpses of Annie remind us that there were many young women like her during the Civil War. Previously constrained by class and convention, she ventured during the war to do things outside her previous station in life. Although nursing was a traditional female role within the home, nursing large numbers of male strangers, away from home, wasn’t something a gently raised sixteen-year-old girl would normally have done. War opened a challenging door for Annie Kerfoot and for countless others, and they stepped boldly through it.
 For more about the College in wartime and about the enslaved people there, see Emilie Amt, “Slavery, War, and Destruction: The College of St. James, 1861- 1864,” in Saint James School of Maryland: 175 Years, ed. W.L. Prehn (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2021), 51-85.
 Hall Harrison, Life of the Right Reverend John Barrett Kerfoot… vol. i (New York: James Pott & Co., 1886), 232.
 For an eyewitness description of the hospital, see https://behind.aotw.org/2018/12/16/smoketown-hospital-january-1863/.
 Harrison, Life of Kerfoot, 253.
 http://john-banks.blogspot.com/2013/10/remembering-their-ancestor-civil-war.html; Frank Moore, Women of the War: Their Heroism and Self-sacrifice (Hartford, CT: S.S. Scranton & Co., 1866), 397-408.
 Harrison, Life of Kerfoot, 253.