Thursday, January 1, 2015

Civil War Hospitals

From: totalgettysburg.com

Civil War Hospitals were typically requisitioned homes, barns and any serviceable buildings on battlefields. Tents were also used as Civil War field hospitals on rural battlefields or when all other available buildings were being used.

Of the roughly 620,000 killed in the American Civil War, 240,000 died of disease. It was a soldiers worst enemy and even when the fighting subsided, you could find Civil War doctors tending to scores of men fighting deadly diseases that would rapidly spread through the ranks if untreated.

Civil War hospitals, particularly those in the field were anything but sanitary. Not much was known at that time about the need to sterilize equipment, change linens and keep the hospital clean to minimize the chance of diseases lingering within its walls and spreading to others.

During the course of a battle, Civil War nurses and doctors would make their way to the field of battle and establish hospitals in building in and around the battlefield. They would use anything available to them at the time including beds, chairs, carpets, linens, and curtains to create makeshift accommodations for the wounded coming in from the battle.

Civil War surgeons would often use tables from private residences to treat the wounded and dying as a raised surface was necessary. Civil War surgery could be a grisly task and amputations would be performed with disturbing rapidity often near a window so that the severed limbs could be tossed out into a pile.

There was also a need for hospitals for soldiers requiring long-term care and hundreds sprouted up around the Confederacy. Richmond was a bustling center for hospitals as the railroad converged on the capital city from every direction making it easy to get soldiers there by rail quickly. Chimborazzo Hospital in Richmond was the one of the largest and most well-organized in the Confederacy. Over 75,000 patients passed through its doors and received some of the best medical care available in the south at the time.

Satterlee U.S.A. General Hospital in Philadelphia, PA was one of the largest hospitals on the Union side. It was a series of tents that covered 16 acres of ground and had 4,500 beds. Over the course of the war, they treated close to 12,000 soldiers with only 260 deaths. This was an amazing feat at a time where unsanitary conditions in Civil War hospitals were the norm.


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