The South used its waterways to transport supplies and troops, designating ships like the CSS Nashville to move the wounded after the Battle of Vicksburg in 1863. Barges were used as hospital transports on the James River in Virginia. But the Union’s naval superiority gave the North an advantage in moving supplies and injured soldiers.
In the beginning of the war, the sick and wounded of the U.S. Forces were ferried in passenger and cargo vessels. By Act of the Legislature, February 28th, 1862, Pennsylvania Surgeon General H.H. Smith was directed to send a hospital ship to retrieve casualties from Virginia.
In 1862, the U.S. Sanitary Commission augmented the government hospital ships with the commission of the “Daniel Webster”. The government provided the ship and the Sanitary Commission furnished the staff and supplies.
Later in the war, the Union Army purchased more ships and outfitted them with the most recent innovations in hospital transport. These ships demonstrated revolutionary improvement in the evacuation and transport of sick and wounded troops.