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Characters / Mercy Street

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This page lists characters that appear in Mercy Street.

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Main characters

     Mary Phinney von Olnhausen 

Baroness Mary Phinney von Olnhausen

A recently widowed woman who is appointed Head Nurse of Mansion House Hospital.

  • Age Lift: The historical Baroness Von Olnhausen was 44 years old in 1862, but Mary Elizabeth Winstead turned 31 while shooting the 1st season.
  • Composite Character: Mary Phinney is a close approximation of the real Baroness Von Olnhausen, but gets her personality, New England roots and abolitionist and feminist views from Louisa May Alcott, who was also a nurse during the Civil War.
  • Historical Domain Character: She is based in the real Baroness Von Olnhausen, whose memoir provided the setting for the series and the descriptions upon which many of the fictional characters are based.
  • Hospital Hottie: No amount of gore or plain period dresses can hide the attractiveness of this nurse.
  • Ill Girl: She suffers a serious enough case of typhoid fever in the second season to warrant removal from the hospital midway through the season.
  • New Meat: Her only nursing experience before being assigned to be head nurse of the hospital was nursing her sick husband and a few nephews.

     Emma Green 

Emma Green
Portrayed By: Hannah James

The eldest daughter of the Green family. She volunteers as nurse at the hospital to take care of the Confederate patients. As the series progresses, however, her staunchly Confederate point of view softens considerably.

  • Composite Character: The real Emma Green never volunteered at Mansion House Hospital and her personality is drawn from the accounts written by other Confederate nurses.
  • Historical Domain Character: She is based on the eldest daughter of the family that owned the hotel that became Mansion House Hospital.
  • Hospital Hottie: Among the prettiest members of the hospital staff.
  • Only Sane Man: As the series progresses, she becomes the only member of the Green family to behave completely rationally.
  • New Meat: She had no nursing experience whatsoever before volunteering at the hospital
  • Southern Belle: She embodies this trope to a ridiculous degree, to the point that she keeps wearing an extravagant Pimped-Out Dress for breakfast, even in the middle of an occupation and with Union officers quartered in her house.

Mansion House Hospital Staff

     Dr. Alfred Summers 

Dr. Alfred Summers
Portrayed By: Peter Gerety

The Chief Surgeon of Mansion House Hospital, he is a career army surgeon rose to the rank of major by virtue of his age, not his ability.

  • Jerkass: He is a dick to Mary from the minute she walks into the hospital.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: He deeply resents the fact that Dorothea Dix, Superintendent of Union Army Nurses has the authority to appoint the head nurse at his hospital without consulting him.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Despite his general dickheadedness, he shows a great capacity for this in later episodes when he makes it clear that he will not stand for crookedness in his hospital after Dr. Foster reports a conspiracy by Silas Bullen which will undoubtedly have a negative impact on his patients.
  • Unfit for Greatness: He was promoted to Major and put in charge of the hospital because of his age and seniority, not his skills as an administrator.

     Dr. Clayton McBurney 

Major Clayton McBurney III
Portrayed By: Bryce Pinkham

Dr. Summer's replacement as Chief Surgeon of Mansion House Hospital, he is a stickler for rules and suffering from PTSD from the Battle of Bull Run.

  • Hospital Hottie: Sister Isabella of all people, considers him quite handsome.
  • Jerkass: The man is an asshole to the staff of the hospital when he first arrives.
  • The Neidermeyer: His fixation with following military protocol and implementing the strict new standards and regulations of the Army Medical Department bring him into conflict with all the doctors in the hospital.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: His experiences in the First Battle of Bull Run have left him with a host of PTSD-related psychological wounds that he tries to ignore.

     Dr. Jed Foster 

Dr. Jedediah Foster
Portrayed By: Josh Radnor

A Civilian Contract Surgeon, he is the son of a wealthy Maryland landowner, but committed to the preservation of the Union.

  • Black Sheep: His family has disowned him for siding with the Union in the conflict.
  • Defector from Decadence: He is the son of Southern slave-owning family, all of which supports the Confederacy.
  • Insufferable Genius: He is the best physician at the hospital, but he has a tendency to talk down to colleagues and nurses.
  • Jerkass: He might be a good guy, but the way he treats people leaves much to be desired.
  • Pet the Dog: He is a huge Jerkass to basically everyone except Samuel Diggs. After discovering that Samuel is a gifted surgeon, he offers to get him set up in an official apprenticeship, and later saves his life when Samuel is framed for theft and about to be lynched.

     Dr. Byron Hale 

Dr. Byron Hale
Portrayed By: Norbert Leo Butz

An old-school army surgeon who does everything by the book, no matter how wrong the book is.

  • Driven by Envy: He deeply resents Dr. Foster because he realizes Foster's superior skill as a physician.
  • Jerkass: Dr. Hale is in the habit of mistreating everyone he thinks he can get away with.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Throughout the second season, he starts to show signs of this. Particularly shows itself when he sees Samuel cauterize a Confederate sympathizer's wound and stop any infection thereof with charcoal and asks him to tutor him in preparation for his own coming medical exam.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Major McBurney transfers him to a California outpost in "Unknown Soldier" following passage of a mandated medical test, simply because, in his own words, "I do not care for you."

     Nurse Anne Hastings 

Nurse Anne Hastings
Portrayed By: Tara Summers

An Englishwoman whose claim to fame is her experience working with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea.

  • Driven by Envy: She deeply resents Mary because of her position in the hospital hierarchy.
  • Historical Domain Character: She is based on Anne Reading, an English nurse trained by Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War.
  • Insufferable Genius: Anne Hastings served as nurse in The Crimean War under Florence Nightingale herself, a fact that she will keep reminding you off at every opportunity.
  • Passed-Over Promotion: She doesn't even bother to hide her anger at the fact that someone with no experience has been appointed Head Nurse.

     Matron Brannan 

Matron Brannan
Portrayed By: Suzanne Bertish

Mrs. Brannan is the formidable Irish matron who knows and sees all at Mansion House. With no clear job description, she does her best to manage the housekeeping while keeping an eye on the staff.

  • Apron Matron: Mrs. Brannan is technically in charge of the housekeeping but in fact keeps the whole hospital from falling apart and the staff off each other’s throats.
  • Cool Old Lady: She is the coolest and most level-headed person in the entire hospital.

     Silas Bullen 

Silas Bullen
Portrayed By: Wade Williams

The scheming, conniving and morally bankrupt hospital steward.

  • The Atoner: What we see of him in the second season demonstrates that he's trying to be this following his near-death experience.
  • Corrupt Quartermaster: The man is a villainous crook, who has veritable banquets down in the kitchens while the patients spend days without food.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: His main henchman is the black cook.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Aurelia, who he had raped and lied to, takes three weeks' worth of pay he had withheld from her, before leaving him for dead.
  • Made of Iron: In the second season premiere it is shown that he got stabbed in the gut, bled out for hours and survived an operation that involved getting his intestines getting pulled out and then put back in... only to then have his throat cut and survive that.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: When he thinks he's dying from his wounds, he takes it upon himself to make things right with God. How out of character is it? Another character remarks upon hearing of it that for him it's "a Herculean task".
  • Precision F-Strike: After enough coaxing, he decides he may as well tell Pinkerton who had twice assaulted him with intent to kill, in the event that he should not survive the second attempt on his life, and he can barely get five words out before (temporarily) losing consciousness again.
    Silas: It was the Goddam dentist...!

     Samuel Diggs 

Samuel Diggs
Portrayed By: Mc Kinley Belcher III

A black laborer who works in Mansion House Hospital and harbors a secret knowledge of medicine.

  • All Love Is Unrequited: He is carrying a torch for Aurelia, but she doesn’t reciprocate.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Those surgical skills of his become extremely useful when Dr. Hale walks in on him as he prevents infection of a Confederate sympathizer's wound by first cauterizing it and then spreading charcoal all over it.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Samuel is a better surgeon than half the doctors on the staff, but he pretends to be a simple laborer to avoid reprisals.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: After he leaves Alexandria, he manages to track down Aurelia's still-enslaved mother and son in South Carolina, helps them flee slavery, and brings them back to Alexandria.

     Chaplain Henry Hopkins 

Chaplain Henry Hopkins
Portrayed By: Luke Macfarlane

A hospital chaplain with a dark past, is newly committed to God and his work.

  • Berserk Button: Normally calm and serene, he angrily interrupts a funeral service for a deceased Confederate soldier when the presiding minister gives a pro-slavery and anti-Union sermon.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: When he was young he beat a man so badly he gave him brain damage. Years later the man froze to death as a result. In the second season this comes back to haunt him in a big way when he fights and ends up drowning another man in self-defense.
  • Good Shepherd: He takes a keen interest in the wellbeing of the patients, both physical and spiritual.
  • Sexy Priest: The chaplain is one of the most attractive men in the hospital.

     Aurelia Johnson 

Aurelia Johnson
Portrayed By: Shalita Grant

A stoical "contraband" working as a laundress at the hospital.

  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Absolutely refuses to let other people know about her predicament because she doesn't want their pity.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Averted. She is one of the most sympathetic characters on the show but she is determined not to have Silas Bullen's child.
  • Put on a Bus: She leaves Alexandria for Boston at the end of season one and is only mentioned in season two.
  • Sex for Services: She is forced to trade sexual favors in return for Silas using his contacts to get her family out of Carolina.

     Sister Isabella 

Sister Isabella

Portrayed By: Emily Marie Palmer

A young nun who volunteers at the hospital.

  • Covert Pervert: The first thing she notices about Major McBurney is that he is very attractive.
  • Hollywood Nuns: Appropriately for the time period, she walks around in the full penguin outfit.
  • Mauve Shirt: She is the only member of the nursing staff besides the main characters to have a name and some lines, but gets no character development.

The Green Family

     James Green, Sr. 

James Green, Sr.
Portrayed By: Gary Cole

The patriarch of the Green family who is struggling to maintain his family businesses while living in an occupied city.

  • Everyone Has Standards: He's just as appalled at learning of Alice colluding with pro-Confederate terrorists as he is at his other children actively colluding with the Union.
  • I Have No Son!: Downplayed; he lashes out at his son for signing the oath and potentially dishonoring the family name, but he doesn't go so far as to outright disown him, merely letting him know in no uncertain terms that his actions simply confirmed to him how useless he'd been to the family business thus far.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Mr. Green's loyalty towards the Confederate cause gains this dimension once it's shown that he has no particular love for slavery.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: The most noble thing he does, giving Tom a proper burial, bites him in the ass at the end of "The Dead Room" and throughout "The Diabolical Plot", and also costs him his position in his own company during the second season.
  • Playing Both Sides: He is loyal to the Confederate cause, but that doesn't stop him from doing business and trying to profit from the occupying Union Army.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: He is the most levelheaded person in his family and a fair boss to the employees of his furniture factory.

     Jane Green 

Jane Green
Portrayed By: Donna Murphy

The wife of James Green, Sr., this mother to three is the quintessential Southern belle.

  • Sacred Hospitality: She is so committed to her reputation as a gracious host that she would go as far as taking over a Union Army benefit ball taking place in her house to make it a success. Even if she hates their guts.
  • Southern Belle: She is an even more straightforward example than her daughters.

     James Green, Jr. 

James Green, Jr.
Portrayed By: Brad Koed

The Greens' only son, he works in the family businesses, though he desperately wants to be on the front lines for the Confederate cause.

  • Can't Hold His Liquor: He is a lightweight when it comes to drinking and everyone knows it.
  • Honor Before Reason: In contrast to his father, he is desperate to prove his loyalty to the Confederacy, without any care of how much damage it could do to his family.
  • I Just Want to Be Badass: He desperately wants to join the fight on the Confederate side, but but both his disability and his own incompetence prevent him from doing so.
  • The Load: Despite his attempts, James Jr. isn't anywhere near as competent as his parents or sisters, and they have to continuously work around his stupidity to get things done. This becomes most evident when James Sr. is arrested and it's his mother and sisters who come up with and implement all the plans to get him released, without even consulting James Jr., and even James Sr. believes his signing the oath in an attempt to get him released confirms him to be this.

     Alice Green 

Alice Green
Portrayed By: AnnaSophia Robb

Emma's younger sister, who at first frivolous and naïve, becomes the most radicalized member of the family.

  • Even Evil Has Standards: She gets extremely worried when she thinks Frank is about to kill some peaceful civilians, including perhaps even a child. To her great relief, he doesn't.
  • Lethal Chef: Alice's cooking will leave you in desperate need of a dentist.
  • The Smurfette Principle: The only actively-participating member of the Knights of the Golden Circle terrorist organization.
  • Southern Belle: She is plays this role to the fullest, playing particular attention to the social aspect of it.
  • Spoiled Brat: Unlike Emma, she is prone to throw temper tantrums when she doesn’t get her way.

     Belinda Gibson 

Belinda Gibson
Portrayed By: L. Scott Caldwell

The Green family servant, adjusting to life as a free woman.

  • Old Retainer: She had been Mrs. Green's slave since Jane was a child and she practically raised the Green daughters.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Takes no crap from absolutely nobody.
  • Servile Snarker: She is always ready with a sarcastic remark for everyone, her employers included.
  • Supreme Chef: Her cooking skills are such that she can prepare delicious courses with very little prep time.

The Union

     Dorothea Dix 

Dorothea Dix

Portrayed By: Cherry Jones

The Superintendent of Army Nurses of the Union Army.

  • Historical Domain Character: Dorothea Dix was an actual historical figure.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: The male Army doctors deeply resent her authority to appoint female nurses to their hospitals without their consent. She in turn is determined to enforce it.
  • Sink-or-Swim Mentor: She ends Mary to the hospital with no training and virtually no backing other than the authority of her appointment. note 

     Allan Pinkerton 

Allan Pinkerton
Portrayed By: Brían F. O’Byrne

The man in charge of President Lincoln's security detail an a dogged detective.

  • Catchphrase: Every time he introduces himself to people who clearly have never heard his name in their lives.
    Pinkerton: Yes, that Pinkerton.
  • Determinator: Once he catches the scent of his prey, the man simply will not let go.
  • Historical Domain Character: The real Allan Pinkerton is one of the most famous detectives in US history.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Pinkerton is a pompous man who’s something of a legend in his own mind, though he’s not nearly as renowned as he thinks he is.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Pinkerton might be a self-important ass, but Frank Stringfellow and the Green family (with the possible exception of Emma) are all guilty as hell of the all the crimes Allan suspects them off.

The Confederacy

     Frank Stringfellow 

Frank Stringfellow
Portrayed By: Jack Falahee

A Confederate scout and spy, he is Emma Green’s beau.

  • Historical Domain Character: The real Frank Stringfellow was one of the most notorious confederate spies of the Civil War.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: The historical Frank Stringfellow was indeed a Confederate spy in Alexandria who posed as a dentist. However, he didn’t go around murdering people left and right.
  • The Infiltration: He gains access to the hospital by pretending to be a dentist’s assistant.
  • Leave No Witnesses: He will not hesitate to murder you where you stand if you catch him while conducting a spying operation.
  • What Have I Become?: After escaping from Alexandria with Alice, he has an opportunity to murder a young Quaker couple and steal their gun for protection, but, apparently moved by the couple's talk of forgiveness for all of God's children - including those who kill - he decides not to. Afterward, he confesses to Alice that he's tired of killing and is having doubts about the righteousness of the Confederate cause. It may be too early to ascertain whether he's really had a change of heart, but it's still a telling moment.

     Tom Fairfax 

Tom Fairfax
Portrayed By: Cameron Monaghan

A Confederate soldier and Alice's childhood friend and secret beau. He was wounded at the Battle of Williamsburg and brought back to Mansion House for treatment.

  • Afraid of Needles: He is absolutely terrified when Dr. foster produces a syringe to administer him with morphine.
  • Driven to Suicide: After escaping the hospital, Tom decides that he would rather die than return to the front lines, so he shoots himself in the head.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Tom was so traumatized by his experiences in the battlefield that he can barely function.
  • There Are No Therapists: One of the biggest issues Tom has with dealing with his PTSD is that at the time the closest thing to a therapist he has access to is the hospital chaplain.