Agnes Elizabeth Joy

Princess Agnes
Princess Agnes

Time Period


Subject Categories

Activist, Military, Medicine, Writers

Notable Facts

Well-known in military and royal social circles both in the U.S. and in Europe. Assisted her husband, Prince Felix Salm-Salm, in military affairs in the Civil War, in Mexico and in Prussia and Germany. Combat nurse during the Civil War and a surgical assistant in the Franco-Prussian War.

Personal Information

Date of Birth


Date of Death


Primary Residence



Catholic (converted)



Historical Significance

"Agnes Elizabeth, Princess Salm-Salm, led a Cinderella life, a fairy-tale life, yet she was almost entirely the architect of her own fortunes."

Agnes Elizabeth Joy was born in Swanton, VT. As a child, she also lived in Georgia, VT and Phillipsburg, Quebec. She ran away to join the circus, and performed as an actress, dancer, and equestrienne under the name, Mlle. Agnes LeClercq.

While visiting her sister in Washington, D.C. in 1861, Agnes Joy met Colonel Auguste Felix Salm-Salm, Prince of Westphalia. Agnes and Prince Salm-Salm were married on August 30, 1862. Salm-Salm's position in Washington ended shortly after, and Joy used her social connections to win Salm-Salm the commission of Colonel of the 8th New York Volunteers. During the Civil War, Salm-Salm fought in Virginia with the Army of the Potomac, and later served as Colonel of the 68th New York Volunteers stationed in Tennessee under Gen. James Steedman, who was under the command of the infamous General William Tecumseh Sherman.

During this time, Agnes Joy once again used her social connections and received a captain's commission from the Governor of Illinois. This enabled her to travel south to be near her husband. She lived in the army camps and organized and commanded a nursing unit. Much of her life's work was spent as a combat nurse. Agnes Joy played an important role in gaining public acceptance of nursing as a woman's job.

After the Civil War, Joy again helped to secure a position for Salm-Salm as civil and military governor of Northern Georgia, where he was made a brigadier-general. Shortly after, the Prince was called to fight in Mexico with the Austrian Emperor's brother, Maximillian. Emperor Franz-Joseph had sent his brother there in 1864 to establish Napoleon III's empire. In 1866, Prince Salm-Salm left to join the failing effort, and Princess Agnes followed shortly after. The Mexican people had elected Benito Juarez as President of the Republic. Maximillian and Prince Salm-Salm were captured and held at a prison in Vera Cruz. Agnes Joy had connections with the German Prime Minister in Mexico. She managed to meet with President Juarez, but when he refused her permission to go to the Mexican army headquarters at Queretaro, she stole a horse and went anyway. Here she met with General Escobedo and was allowed to visit her husband. She returned to Mexico City to plead with Juarez for the lives of Prince Salm-Salm and Maximillian. He promised to spare the Prince, but Joy returned to New York City doubtful. She was welcomed home as a celebrity and heroine.

Prince Salm-Salm was set free, and, in 1867, he was reunited in Paris with Princess Agnes. Here she was introduced to the royal family at Westphalia. She was given a $1200 annuity by the Emperor of Austria in thanks for her work in Mexico.

When the Franco-Prussian War began in 1870, Prince Salm-Salm was serving a Major commission in a Prussian Guards regiment. He and Agnes were stationed at Cob Lentz, Germany. Agnes Joy attained a captain's commission and traveled with her husband as a hospital assistant. She had attended surgical classes at the University of Bonn and helped care for both German and French soldiers. She also helped procure supplies and food for the soldiers.

Prince Felix Salm-Salm was killed in battle in August 1870. His body was buried near the battlefield. Agnes Joy, once again using her social connections, retrieved her husband's body and brought it home for a proper Catholic burial.

Joy continued nursing at the Queen Augusta hospital in Berlin. German Emperor William I recommended her for a medal, "The Order of the Iron Cross". She traveled to Switzerland as Baroness Stein. She lived in Italy at a convent while writing her memoirs, "Ten Years of My Life". Joy was briefly married to an Englishman, Charles Heneage, while living in Berlin. In 1899, she returned to the United States where she was made an honorary member of the Blenker Veterans Association.

Organizations or Movements

  • Blenker Veterans Association
  • Daughters of the American Revolution
  • Order of the Iron Cross


  • Circus entertainer
  • Princess of Westphalia
  • military nurse and surgical assistant
  • Captain in the military


  • Some medical training
  • University of Bonn, Germany

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • "Those Indomitable Vermont Women", essay by Dorothy Steele Link

  • "Princess Salm-Salm: An American Priness", The Journal Link

  • "Soldier Princess", David Coffey (2002)

  • Swanton, Franklin County Driving Tour Link

  • Princess Salm-Salm Link

Additional Images

Agnes Elizabeth Joy
Agnes Elizabeth Joy
Princess Salm-Salm
Princess Salm-Salm