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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Hospital Fund

By Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein


The hospital fund was a method designed to pay for the food and supplies used for patients in military hospitals during the Civil War. A procedure devised by the prewar U.S. Army, the hospital fund concept was retained by both Union and Confederate forces.

The concept was based o the assumption that hospitalized soldiers wounded not be able to eat any or all of their normal rations. This was partly true because the sick and wounded would find hardtack and salt pork indigestible, although other parts of the ration,m such as rice, could be useful. The surgeon in charge was to calculate the total number of uneaten rations monthly, based on the number of patients in the hospital, and multiply it by the standardized monetary value of a ration (usually thirty cents). The total figure was the hospital fund from which the surgeon was to buy chickens, eggs, milk, vegetables, and other "delicacies" needed for the patients' diet.

While the concept may have made sense in theory, it was difficult to carry out satisfactorily. Surgeons in both the Union and Confederate armies, joining the military from civilian life, had great difficulty figuring out how to calculate the fund., This led to several kinds of problems. Some surgeons wasted their share of the fund because they failed to claim it and so their patients suffered from shortages. Other surgeons failed to understand how to apply the funds properly and became subject to disciplinary actions, such as courts-martial, for  misappropriation of funds. Even if the funds were properly used and adequate, the surgeon might be unable to buy the proper supplies locally because the area had already been overforaged by one or both armies.

Union surgeon general William A. Hammond concluded that the amount of the hospital fund was not sufficient to meet the patients' needs, but did not attempt to change the calculation.

From: "The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine"

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