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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Confederate Hospital Trains

By Alfred Jay Bollet, M.D.

The Confederate Medical Department also used trains whenever possible, although the Southern railroad lines were much less developed than those in the North. They did not build special ambulance cars for their trains; the dearth of rolling stock and manufacturing facilities precluded it. Boxcars on trains brought supplies to the troops and returned carrying wounded and sick soldiers, usually with some straw thrown on the floor, water, food, and when possible, some nursing and medical personnel to accompany them.

The railroads were most useful to the Confederates in Virginia, where good service existed from Manassas Junction south to Gordonsville, and then on to Richmond. There was good east-west service from Richmond across the mountains to the Shenandoah Valley. From Staunton, in the Valley, there was service to Tennessee at Knoxville and then on to Chattanooga, but that segment was often cut and service was irregular. After the battles fought in northern Virginia, such as First and Second Manassas, the wounded were transported quickly by rail to Gordonsville and then to hospitals in Richmond or Charlottesville.

After Antietam and Gettysburg, wounded were taken by ambulance to Winchester and then down the Valley Turnpike (which had a macadam surface) to Staunton; once there, they could be sent south to Lynchburg or east to Charlottesville, Gordonsville, and Richmond, Depot hospitals, known as "receiving and forwarding hospitals", were set up at key points, such as Gordonsville and Staunton, to provide care en route and to serve as distribution centers.

Excerpted from: Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs by Alfred Jay Bollet, M.D.

IMAGE: From Confederate States $50 bill

See more about Civil War hospital trains at www.CivilWarRx.com.

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