By Sande P. Bishop, Local Historian, 11-28-99
Background of USA General Hospitals
Until 1818, the US Army consisted of small regiments without central organization. At that time, Secretary of War, John C. Calhoun, created a national army, which included a separate Medical Department. Medical officers, having no rank and remaining outside the military hierarchy, served under the department head, called the Surgeon General. Medical care was severely limited by the lack of scientific knowledge, and disease prevention and cure were usually impossible. The ill and injured were placed in USA General Hospitals that were tents or local public buildings.
The horrors experienced by the sick and wounded during the first months of the Civil War made the need for change in the Medical Department of the US Army undeniable. The Army extensively studied its earlier experiences in Second Seminole War in Florida (1835-42) and some of the Indian Wars in the West. It also studied European military medical models, particularly those of the English in the Crimean War and the French in eastern Europe. It was apparent many more hospitals, new leadership and new organization were essential.
In the new system, General Hospitals remained under the supervision of the Surgeon General, who was not subject to orders of local commanders. Having a single responsible person, with a separate chain of command of medical officers devoted solely to the care of large numbers of sick and wounded soldiers, was a departure from previous US military practice. The need for a permanent staff, who would not be recalled to their regiments, was recognized as critical to successful and efficient hospital administration.
Army surgeons remained helpless confronting devastating infections, epidemics and wounds because they were ignorant of bacteria. Regardless, they were forced to try to solve the massive problems of shelter, diet, sanitation and other variables of preventable disease. In addition, a more successful treatment of wounds was imperative. Amputation became the common remedy for gunshot wounds to the limbs because the soft lead bullets shattered flesh and bone. Such injuries, combined with unsanitary battlefield conditions, made infection the chief threat to life. Amputation halted the spread of infection.
Through Army systematization and large-scale collection of data, some advances were made. More effective use of the department's increased medical staff, new organizational structure, and the use of volunteer staff contributed in a practical way to the treatment of large numbers of patients. The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, a multi-volume record compiled by the Surgeon General's office, not only recounts the development of the hospital system, but also lists the thousands and thousands of cases of disease and wounds that were treated along with their outcomes.
The principal diseases treated by Army surgeons were those classified as fevers, especially malaria and typhoid. Diarrhea and dysentery were the most frequent symptoms treated. The medical volumes illustrate the severity of the condition by listing 1.6 million cases of diarrhea. Anesthesia, ether and chloroform, was used in 95 percent of the surgical procedures performed on soldiers during the Civil War, and opiates, mainly morphine derivatives, were used to ease the pain afterward. The frequent use of such anesthetics notably advanced medicine's understanding of them. The Circular Orders and Special Orders included in the volumes at the Massachusetts National Guard Archives and Museum make clear the standardization of the Surgical Table. One, written May 4, 1863, reads:
"From the reports of the Medical Inspectors and the Sanitary reports to this office, it appears that the administration of calomel has so frequently been pushed to excess by military surgeons as to call for prompt steps by this office to correct this abuse,...it is directed that it be struck from the Supply Table.... The records of this office having conclusively proved that diseases prevalent in the Army may be treated efficiently without tartar emetic....[it] is also struck from the Supply Table of the Army."
Another example, written on June 27, 1864, orders:
"...the department to forward to the Surgeon General's office full reports of the Wounded, Surgical operations, Secondary Hemorrhage, tetanus and pyoemia."
And on August 27, 1865:
"In all cases either in hospital or in the field, in which death is supposed to result from the employment of anaesthetic agents, a detailed report of the attendant circumstances will be transmitted by the medical office in immediate charge. Together with the report a sample of the anaesthetic agent employed will be forwarded for analysis."
In the early years of the War of the Rebellion, scores of hospitals were established in areas contiguous to the battlefields around Washington and Alexandria. As the war continued and casualties mounted, additional hospitals were built in Philadelphia, New York and other points conveniently accessible by water. In the final years of the war, "with the prolonged struggle for national life with the awful succession of battles and campaigns unremitting, these with their tens of thousands of beds have been inadequate," military hospitals were built further from battle and closer to the homes of the sick and wounded. Dale General in Worcester, Massachusetts, was one of these.
At the Inauguration of the Dale General Hospital in Worcester on February 22, 1865, the keynote speaker, Dr. Warren Webster, said, "In March 1861 there were no Military General Hospitals in the United States. Today there are under orders 195 with a capacity of 129,950 beds bounteously provided with everything which the wisdom of Congress... deem[s] necessary." Twenty-five of these fixed-bed military hospitals were located in the Department of the East, with a total of 17,000 beds.
Desire for a Military Hospital in Worcester
Unlike previous wars, the Civil War brought about graphic newspaper descriptions of suffering to a horrified public, provoking an outcry for better care of the sick and wounded. Families wanted to make sure their loved ones were well cared for. From the beginning of the War, citizens of Worcester wanted a hometown hospital where their wounded sons could come for treatment. Timothy W. Wellington, a local coal merchant, who had been rejected from serving in the armed forces because of his age, made support of Massachusetts' soldiers his mission. During the conflict he made many trips to the front to deliver food, medical supplies, mail and good cheer to the men from Massachusetts all the while lobbying for a local soldiers' hospital. On July 31, 1862, he wrote to the Surgeon General of Massachusetts, William J. Dale, M.D., explaining that he "recently fitted up a house in this city for the use of our wounded and sick soldiers thinking it might relieve (in a measure) our crowded Hospitals." At 110 Mason Street, he installed twenty beds, where a manumitted slave, "Dr." Lunsford Lane, steward of Wellington Hospital, could care for soldiers. Drs. Benjamin F. Haywood and Oramel Martin were among those who offered their services as physicians. Lane, his wife and two daughters cared for 100 soldiers who were injured or fell ill at Massachusetts' training camps before the ‘hospital' closed in 1863 after ten months of operation.
Local authorities presciently recognized that the hospitals in the war zone would be overburdened and state hospitals were the logical solution. In November, 1863, "while there were yet no Hospitals in New England, Dr. Joseph Sargent of Worcester, a distinguished and enlightened member of the profession, suggested to the Surgeon General of this state the advantage" of establishing a General Hospital on the premises of the Eclectic College, high on a hilltop in Worcester. About the same time, four men, the Honorable Alexander H. Bullock, Speaker of the House and from Worcester, Surgeon General Dale, Surgeon C. McDougall, Medical Director of the Department of the East, and Major Lincoln, met to examine the proposed site for a new army hospital. "The salubrity of this locality, its elevation above the level of the sea were especially noted by the Medical Director and he returned to New York a cordial and steadfast friend of the hospital. At his request, Col. Bullock caused plans of the premises to be made and forwarded (at his own expense) and advised him of whatever would facilitate the necessary negotiations."
Also in November of 1863, Surgeon General Dale received several letters that were in obvious response to his inquiries to recruit a staff for such a hospital. Assistant Surgeon Charles R. Greenleaf and a Dr. Peters, both serving at the Medical Director's Office in Baltimore, Maryland, responded to Dale's request for a director for a General Hospital in Worcester.
The people of Massachusetts were determined to have a soldiers' hospital in Worcester, regardless of the sentiment in Washington. Clearly, Dale petitioned the War Department more than once for a General Hospital. One time he included recommendations from Governor Andrew and each of the state's senators and congressional delegation. In a handwritten letter dated March 31, 1864, Brigadier General Ed. McCamby wrote for the Secretary of War a letter to Senator Charles Sumner, acknowledging a communication from Surgeon General [of Massachusetts] Dale. He said, "...after having given the matter that earnest consideration which it merits, he deems it inexpedient to authorize the establishment of such a Hospital at present."
Three months later, on June 6, Governor Andrews again addressed the Legislature,
"I am happy to inform the Legislature that there is now a reasonable hope of a U.S. General Hospital in this Commonwealth, to which our sick and wounded soldiers invalided in other states may be transferred. On the recommendation of the Medical Director of the Military Department of the East, who was specially detailed by the Acting Surgeon General to visit the State for this purpose and in accordance with my own views and with the suggestions of the head of our Medical Department, it is expected that Worcester will be selected by the proper authorities as its locality."
On June 17, 1864, Special Order No. 210 was issued by the War Department, in which it reversed its previous policy:
"The following named officers are hereby constituted a Board to procure a lease of the site and buildings, and to prepare plans and estimates of all necessary additions and alterations, to be made by the Quartermaster General, for the conversion of the Eclectic College, at Worcester, Massachusetts, into U.S. General Hospital, for a thousand beds:-"
Surgeon General C. McDougall, U.S. Army, Medical Director, Dept. of the East
Surgeon General W. J. Dale, State of Massachusetts
Captain E. E. Camp, Assistant Quartermaster, U.S. Army
The Board will meet at Worcester on the 22nd day of June, 1864
The junior member will record the proceedings.
By order of the Secretary of War,
E. E. Townsend, Assistant Adjutant General
Support from the City of Worcester
Citizens in Worcester were well aware of the need to give aid and succor to troops returning to or passing through the city. In October 1863, the Ladies' Soldiers' Relief Society sponsored a fair at Mechanics Hall, which raised $3,000 to support relief efforts. The following spring, Anna F. Washburn appeared before the Mayor and Aldermen to request that the City pay the rent of 4 Foster Street for the coming year, starting April 1, 1864. The city complied and authorized the "lease of Charles W. Freeland certain rooms on Foster Street known as the "Soldiers' Rest" for the term of one year from April 1, 1864 at a rent not to exceed $200 and that said Rooms be placed under the care and control of the Ladies' Soldiers' Relief Society."
The Soldiers' Rest on Foster Street was within sight of the train station. Soldiers, who got off the train in Worcester and who were in need of a place to spend the night, saw the building immediately when they walked onto the street. Painted on the building in large letters was ‘Worcester's Soldiers' Rest.' Before Dale U.S.A. General Hospital was open, the Soldiers' Rest cared for hundreds of soldiers on their way home from the front. Many were sick and wounded. During the first three weeks of June, 1864, more than sixty men received food, lodging and attention to their wounds at 4 Foster Street. The Worcester Daily Spy reported that "nearly every train from the south brings additions to the number. The rooms are constantly open and a competent person is in charge. Much credit is due the ladies for the efforts in behalf of the Rest..."
During those years, large amounts of new water pipe were laid throughout the city of Worcester. Bell Pond Aqueduct had become an inadequate reservoir for the rapidly growing city and the waters of Lynde Brook were added to the water supply. On September 5, 1864, the City Council authorized 2,967 feet of 6- and 4-inch pipes to be laid on Providence Street, the site of the Eclectic College. By an arrangement with the U.S. Government, 1,170 feet of 4-inch pipe from the termination of the city pipe to the hospital site would be paid for by the general government. The Council minutes read, "By these extensions and the service pipes that have been laid, the U.S. Military Hospital, ...will be immediately supplied and the city will begin to receive an immediate revenue from the Aqueduct." The U.S. Government agreed to pay $1,152.92 for the pipes.
The city also agreed to allow the "U.S. Government or its agents to lay a drain or sewer from the Dale Hospital on Providence Street through a portion of said street and through Harrison Street to and across Water Street to be done at sole expense of said government." This sewer then dumped its contents into the Blackstone Canal or River.
Construction of Dale USA General Hospital
Military hospitals were built at an amazing rate - from zero to 195 in the space of the four years of the war. The Army standardized and revised construction plans, intending hospitals to be temporary installations. In the volumes of Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, one can trace the evolution in planning for General Hospitals. Originally, tent hospitals were standard. Later, requisitioned neighboring buildings were typical, such as the Mason USA General Hospital in Boston.
It was a "four-story brick residence, accommodating sixty patients.... [It was very comfortable,] having the advantages of a city mansion - a good site and quiet neighborhood, lavatories, baths, water closets, and an excellent system of ventilation and heating by furnace-warmed air, supplemented when necessary by open fireplaces. Medical inspectors regretted only that there was not more of it..."
As the number of sick and wounded overwhelmed such facilities, Assistant Surgeon W. A. Hammond urged the Army to construct ridge-vented wooden sheds for hospital purposes. The need for fresh air and good ventilation was recognized, but these hospitals proved unsatisfactory. The rough shed construction with cracks and crevices and the ridge vents without shutters allowed cold wind, rain and snow to penetrate. The idea of an aggregate system of pavilions, however, was continued. Many plans are shown in the volumes, explaining the problems of various layouts. De Camp General Hospital in New York (where Warren Webster, M.D. was the officer in charge) was one example. Pavilions there were "substantially built, lathed and plastered, well lighted, ventilated by the ridge and heated by coal-stoves. Water was raised by hand from wells [but] no provision was made for the distribution of warm water to the wards, the bathrooms particularly in winter were rendered comparatively useless." Each succeeding hospital of detached pavilions erected during the war improved upon previous plans. Eventually, in a Circular dated July 20, 1864, Secretary of War, E. M. Stanton described in detail standardized construction approved for General Hospitals. It appears Dale Hospital followed these plans closely and was indeed one of the finest the system produced.
Years earlier in Worcester, John Pond had donated the land for the Eclectic Medical College, the first sectarian medical school in New England. The college, started by Calvin Newton, M.D., in 1845, was also known as the New England Botanico-Medical College. A beautiful Romanesque building, designed by Elbridge Boyden, the leading architect in Worcester, with towers and turrets, stood high on Union Hill overlooking the city. The building was first used in 1852. The following year Newton died of typhoid fever, and the building was sold to the Ladies' Collegiate Institute. The Institute purchased more land around the school and added a new wing to each end of the building. During the economic depression of 1857, the Baptist institution was unable to meet its financial obligations and closed in 1860. This building and land formed the nucleus of the General Hospital in Worcester.
The building was empty and unused until 1864 when the U.S. Army signed the lease with the Baptist organization. Once authorized, plans and construction moved forward quickly. The assigned Board met as scheduled, and Captain Camp immediately leased the College building for an annual rent of $6,000. Captain W. McKim advertised proposals to erect ward buildings on July 11, and the contract was awarded to Messrs. Pratt and Penniman on July 28, 1864. Fourteen pavilions were erected, with their length running east and west. A carefully drawn plan showing the placement of the 60 beds, the ward master's room, bath and wash room, all lighted by gas, is included in the Army's "Construction of General Hospitals." The pavilions were 160 feet in length and 25 feet wide, one story (14 feet) in height. (These were a little shorter than the standard plan, which called for 187 feet by 24 feet.) Their ends formed a straight line, with the west ends opening to a covered walk that extended the entire length of the pavilions and interspaces, forming one continuous corridor 714 feet in length. This walkway also connected the pavilions to the headquarters, dispensary, mess room and extra diet kitchen.
Other buildings were constructed, including a guard barracks, knapsack room, carpenter's shop, smoking room, pest house, dead house, stables, commissary storeroom, steam laundry and printing office. Each of these buildings is described in the master plan and we assume that those at Dale conformed quite closely. Some of the details included in the standard plan are: The roof of the laundry was to be flat with posts for stretching clotheslines. The commissary would be a two-story building, furnished with boxes and shelves for the various rations and would be connected to the icehouse for the preservation of meats and other perishable articles, and a room for clothing. Cooks lived on the second floor. The knapsack house contained many pigeonholes, each two feet square, to hold the belongings of the patients. With some sensitivity, the Army suggested the dead house be located where it could not be observed from the wards, and it was lighted by skylights. Two operating rooms were recommended, one lighted by skylight and the other by windows. Most hospitals relied on water storage tanks, but we know from Worcester City Council records that all parts of Dale enjoyed running water and city sewerage. In fact, it was noted that "one of the most admirable features is the drain or sewer, by which the entire waste of the hospital is carried away into a river, a distance of half a mile at an expense of $3,000."
The College building was converted to hold the headquarters, chapel, library, kitchen, mess rooms, and wards for patients. It was heated by steam. Both the laundry and cooking were also by steam. The kitchens were "admirably filled with every convenience and facility." Pratt and Penniman finished construction on November 1, 1864, at a cost of $70,000.
Early Days at Dale Hospital
As word of the facility to be located in Worcester spread, some medical officers wrote to request a post in the new hospital. Aside from the aforementioned inquiries by Dale to physicians in Baltimore to head the hospital, included in the books of correspondence to Dale are many letters of request by various physicians stationed outside of Massachusetts who hoped to continue their service closer to home. On July 21, 1864, George Livermore wrote requesting his son be given a position "at the General Hospital to be organized at Worcester." Among others, R. J. P. Goodwin, Assistant Acting Surgeon, stationed at Webster U.S. Hospital in Manchester, New Hampshire, wrote several letters asking to be assigned to a hospital in Massachusetts. William Longshaw wanted to resign from the Navy, where he was stationed on the frigate "Minnesota" off the coast of Wilmington, North Carolina, to serve at the "new hospital at Worcester." However, on August 24, Surgeon General Dale named Cyrus N. Chamberlain to be in charge of the new hospital.
Chamberlain was born in Barnstable. He married Anna Garland, daughter of Dr. George Garland of Lawrence, Massachusetts, and practiced surgery there for many years after the war. He served for three years in field hospitals with the Army of the Potomac, first as surgeon 10th Massachusetts Volunteers, later as Surgeon U.S. Volunteers in charge of a field hospital at Gettysburg, and subsequently as Medical Inspector of the 1st Army Corps. By all accounts he was a good choice to set up operations at Dale.
On September 22, 1864, a memorandum was sent from the Surgeon General's Office in "Washington City" to Charles McDougall, U.S.A Medical Director in New York City, advising that the hospital in Worcester would be named the Dale in honor of the Surgeon General of the State of Massachusetts. Five days later, in what might be the first official correspondence from Dale Hospital, Chamberlain wrote to Dale, forwarding him a copy of the orders from Washington and adding, "I need not assure you that nothing could accord better with my own desires." From several handwritten letters on Dale General Hospital letterhead, Chamberlain made clear that starting a hospital was not easy, especially when medical care and construction were occurring simultaneously.
In at least two letters written to Dale in October, 1864, Chamberlain requested that the inaugural ceremonies be postponed "until the buildings and appointments be measurably complete." In one, he closed, " I think I can safely say that the Hospital promises to be, in its arrangement at least, an honor to the Department, and a credit to those who selected the site and provided the plan for its construction. ... I only hope that my own endeavors to make it worthy of its name may not prove failures."
The first patient was admitted to the Hospital on October 20, 1864; on the 24th 131 patients were transferred from Readville General Hospital. Warren Wilkinson lists several of these patients in the book Mother May You Never See the Sights I Have Seen. Chamberlain writes in a second letter:
"...although we have a few patients, some 160, we are in the midst of all sorts of extra-hospital operations - What with carpenters constructing commissary store house - laundry, coal-shed, stables, general house and quarters &c - Plumbers putting water pipes and closets &c - men at work also over the main building in putting in clean rooms - men digging trenches & laying drain - & the City bringing the water to the Hospital - with all these operations progressing along with the regular Hospital duties which are not yet fully reduced to a satisfactory working system, we are in a state of confusion which would prevent the guests with whom you propose to honor the institution receiving such an impression of the Hospital as I should be glad to have them carry away.
"... I suppose if we have good luck, four or six weeks will suffice to carry U.S. safely through the bulk of our tribulations.
"Perhaps you may think it best to invite His Excellency and the other gentlemen before that time. If so, I will do the best I can to put the buildings in presentable shape, but they cannot be very satisfactory.
"...We have labored incessantly to get ready to open it early but our embarassments [sic] are many. We can see daylight, however."
Construction continued through the late fall. On November 8, 1864, Captain John McKim wrote (in beautiful script) a letter to the Honorable Waldo Lincoln of Worcester. He included the specifications for the fence to be built enclosing the Hospital, "...if you will be kind enough to exhibit them to any of your Worcester mechanics who may be disposed to bid." Clipped to the letter is a newspaper advertisement ‘Proposals for Building a Fence' by the Assistant Quartermaster's Office in Boston. The specifications were as follows:
Palings of 4 feet 6 inches high placed on a base board 1 foot 3 inches wide making the fence 5 feet 9 inches high. Posts of chestnut or cedar placed 8 feet apart to which the palings are nailed 344 inches.
Gates to be 3 in number as seen by plan made and hung in substantial manner. Gates to be fastened with hooks - staples and a good padlock, worth $1.50 each.
Soldiers continued to arrive at Dale Hospital. By the end of October, one hundred and eighty-five had been admitted, and Chamberlain turned his attention to the soldiers and their comforts. To be sure, he was grateful to the Ladies' Relief Society. The organization continued to raise funds and contributions (pillows and small tables were especially needed) for the expanded Soldiers' Relief on Foster Street (now at #4 and #12) as well as Thanksgiving Dinner for "brave men who have fought our battles and are now confined by wounds and disease in our midst."
As reported in The Daily Spy on the Saturday after Thanksgiving:
"The liberal supplies sent in by the citizens and ladies of Worcester and the neighboring towns, were spread in a handsome and bountiful manner upon the tables. Plates filled with roast turkey in the most orthodox Thanksgiving fashion, vegetables, gravies, and applesauce, served up in the nicest possible manner, hot and steaming (doing great credit to the cook and cooking apparatus of the hospital), fruit and pies, filling up every available place, proved to the soldiers that in their honorable absence from their families, they and their services were not forgotten."
After the dinner, Chamberlain spoke. Calling the men "fellow soldiers," he told them of his three years in hospitals with the Army of the Potomac and of his "wish that the connection which had recently been formed between him and them might be mutually pleasant." He congratulated them on their good fortune of being in Worcester, to which the soldiers "rose simultaneously and gave three rousing cheers." On Sunday, another full Thanksgiving dinner was served. Many patients had arrived during the holiday weekend, and the Ladies' Relief ensured there were enough "good things" left over to provide a second dinner. "Quite a number of citizens" joined the approximately 400 patients who were now at the hospital for the Sunday dinner. Some of the recently arrived soldiers came from Atlanta and told "lively and characteristic anecdotes" about General Sherman.
Soldiers continued to overcrowd the lodgings on Foster Street. At various times, The Daily Spy reported as many as forty, sixty and seventy staying overnight. On March 15, 1865, citizens read:
"that the accommodations are very far from what they should be in a city like ours.... Some of these men come to U.S. with hardly life and strength enough to endure the journey, anxious only to get home, die if need by, amid loving ministries of mother, wife or friend. One such case has appealed to our sympathy during the past week - a young man but thin, worn by suffering and exposure, by want and disease and a lingering life in many rebel prisons. He was made as comfortable as the place would allow but it was not possible to give the required rest and quiet in a small room with fourteen other soldiers, with constant passing in and out and unavoidable confusion incident to a place where at any hour any number of soldiers may arrive or depart. Sometimes (we are grieved to say it) some of the men, brave soldiers though they be, to whom we owe a debt we can never repay, come in a condition not conducive to quiet behavior..."
The Ladies continued their efforts to raise funds and support for the Soldiers' Rest, appealing to the community in a variety of ways. On the first Sunday in February, they sponsored a charity concert at Mechanics Hall - Handel's Messiah was sung by the Mozart Society. The Daily Spy promoted the event daily for a fortnight, urging the community to generously support the Society because the need was so great and the cause so important. The concert was considered a "grand success," raising $557.47.
From The Daily Spy, we learn the Ladies' Relief Society also asked that people send apples and pickles, considered luxuries, to the soldiers at the Dale Hospital (1/31/65). George Crompton sent oranges and lemons (6/21/65). Some of the surrounding towns held levees: the ladies of Holden sent $148.05 and those of Paxton forwarded $15 to support the effort (2/28/65).
At the end of winter, in a miserable storm, the Society held its most ambitious event. Planning dominated activities for several months, and the newspaper carried frequent articles about the coming event. The sixteen-piece German Band of Boston was hired for a "promenade concert and grand costume, military and civic ball" at Mechanics Hall. Community enthusiasm for the event was high, with many people eager to dress in costume. The Ladies' Costume Committee compiled a "list of suitable characters which they will be happy to show to anybody who may consult them." Eventually, two costume merchants were imported, one from New York and one from Boston. They set up shop in Brinley Hall and in the Worcester Public Library to market their wares. All officers were asked to appear in uniform. Indication of brisk ticket sales convinced the Society that auctioning the sale of choice seats could make more money. Every ticket was sold, and premium seating ranged from $7 to $125. The auction raised $1,100. Mr. Wellington was one of the highest bidders. Governor Andrew and several members of his staff attended with Governor Gilmore and General Stark of New Hampshire. Altogether, the event raised $2,630.60, of which the treasurer reported $1,865 was available after expenses.
Construction was done. The workmen were gone. The Dale U.S.A. General Hospital settled into Army routine, run by Army discipline. Chamberlain was ready to have state and military officials visit the most modern of U.S.A. hospitals. The day was set - George Washington's birthday, February 22, 1865.
The Boston Journal, February 24, included a long description of the Inaugural ceremonies among articles about Washington birthday celebrations held in various cities in New England. Ginery Twichell, President, and E. B. Phillips, Superintendent, of the Boston and Worcester Railroad Company provided an "elegant car attached to the New York Express train" to bring the visitors from Boston to Worcester in style and comfort, "contributing largely to the success and enjoyment of the occasion."
The guest list included all the notable men in the military and government from Massachusetts and the other New England states. Among the guests were: Surgeon General Dale, Governor Andrew and his staff, Mayor Lincoln, ex-Governors Lincoln and Washburn, Honorable A. H. Bullock, and a number of doctors from the state Medical Commission. Representing the federal government were Dr. A. N. McLaren, USA Medical Director, Major F. N. Clarke, USA Military Commandant of Massachusetts, Surgeon William J. Sloan, Medical Director of the East, and Captain McKim from the Quartermaster's office. Doctors came from hospitals in Augusta (Maine), Manchester (New Hampshire), as well as Cambridge, Springfield and Lowell (Massachusetts). Dr. John Machie from the New Bedford forts, Drs. Osborn and Ropes from Readville, Dr. W.E. Townsend from Mason General Hospital in Boston, and Dr. Shaw, superintendent of Massachusetts General Hospital, all attended. Many surgeons and retired surgeons from various regiments were included.
From the train, the eminent gentlemen were whisked up to the "commanding elevation on which the hospital [was] located. " The assembled company then toured the Hospital and "were everywhere struck with the complete order and perfect accommodations as well as the apparent satisfaction of the unfortunate inmates with the provisions for their comfort." On the day of the ceremonies, forty-six different Massachusetts regiments were represented in the hospital.
At noon, the ladies of Worcester, represented by the Misses Shepard, Gray and Dayton, presented a "beautiful flag" to the hospital with eloquent words, which were read by Mr. Bullock. As the flag was raised and "unfurled in the breeze," the veterans, "supported by canes and crutches and ranged around the [flag]staff gave three times three cheers for the flag with powerful effect."
A large audience congregated in the chapel at "twelve and a half o'clock" when Surgeon Warren Webster, of De Camp General Hospital on David's Island in New York harbor, delivered the Inaugural address. Webster reviewed the development of the medical department of the army during the four years of war and compared it with those of other countries. His scholarly and historical address was later published and widely circulated; in fact, on April 17, Webster himself requested "three hundred copies more of the Worcester address" so that he could "supply the volunteer as well as regular portion of the Medical Staff."
At 2 o'clock, about one hundred dignitaries banqueted at the Bay State House. As would be expected, there were many toasts, complimentary speeches and political remarks, duly reported by the Boston Journal, as "all brief and abounded with wit and humor constituting no small part of the day's entertainment." The grand affair ended with three cheers for Governor Andrew. The guests from Boston returned to their elegant train car for the trip home.
At the Inauguration, it was noted that 580 patients had been admitted at Dale since the first patient arrived on October 20, 1864. Of those, 184 men returned to duty, 43 were discharged from the service on a surgeon's certificate of disability, and 12 were "representatives of the prison pens of the South." Presumably the remainder continued as inmates.
Life at the Hospital
Dr. Thomas H. Gage in the Proceedings of the Worcester Society of Antiquity for the Year 1907 reported Chamberlain advertised on September 7 for cooks, clerks, male and female nurses. The roster (on October 31, 1864) included Reverend Thomas W. Clark as chaplain, five surgeons, one of whom was Frank Livermore, (whose father had written Dale requesting this appointment), a medical cadet and two stewards. By the inauguration, the roster had expanded to include at least three more surgeons and a number more stewards and cadets. Reverend Clark quickly became active in Worcester events and organizations. His name is listed at various meetings in the city, including a Bible Meeting at Mechanics Hall, where he spoke of the "wants and temptations of the soldiers" and requested that more Bibles be sent to them.
For entertainment and to keep up their spirits, the inmates at Dale organized a weekly Lyceum. The group arranged discussions, recitations, the reading of essays, and music. The men apparently enjoyed the literary entertainment of Reverend Mr. Shippen of Worcester, who spoke for about an hour at their first meeting. The evening concluded with some "excellent singing." Many of the entertainments at the Lyceum were reported: Reverend Mr. St. John gave a lecture entitled ‘Progress,' John B. Gough discussed ‘Temperance,' and the duo of Miss Goodnow of Boston and Mr. Doane of Charlestown provided an evening of vocal and instrumental music.
The men themselves arranged and performed several of the Lyceum entertainments, some of which were presented to the community. In May, the Dale Hospital Minstrel Troupe, who had performed at a number of Dale Lyceums, entertained at Mechanics Hall:
"...where both vocal and instrumental music, clog dancing, and all the attractions incident to an exhibition of the best burnt cork minstrelsy will be produced. We assure our readers that the concert will be well worth hearing and the clog dancing will not be inferior to the best. All the performers are old soldiers who have been the target of rebel bullets. One of them received eight balls, another seven, and if they are not worthy of a good home, we don't know who are."
On the afternoon of February 3, 1865, thirty pupils with several supervising adults enjoyed a ride in open sleighs up the hill to the Hospital. The students from Miss Baker's School brought with them a national flag to present to the soldiers. Their visit must have been a festive event and the sight of the young faces surely cheered the patients. Dr. Chamberlain accepted the flag on behalf of the soldiers and said it would be placed over the portrait of Florence Nightingale, which hung in the library. He must have told the children a little about Nightingale and what she had done for the soldiers of her own country, and he "intimated there were a good many little Nightingales before him." Before the party returned to the city, they were given a tour of the hospital. In July, 1865, in conjunction with several churches in Worcester, the students donated an organ to the chapel of Dale Hospital.
June brought another enjoyable day at Dale, when the ladies of Worcester and Leicester hosted a Strawberry Party in honor of the soldiers. In one of the pavilions, they set up "a long row of tables, neatly covered with tablecloths and adorned with a fragrant array of splendid bouquets." The men partied on strawberries with cream, ice cream and cake. For those who were unable to leave their beds, the ladies personally served them with the assistance of the ward surgeons.
To complete the celebration, Dr. Chamberlain made some brief remarks, and then asked Reverent Mr. Samuel J. May of Leicester to speak to the soldiers. Mr. May was an early supporter of the abolition of slavery and was well known in the community for his commitment to that cause. The Daily Spy reported that:
Mr. May's remarks were able and were listened to with extraordinary attention, especially when he spoke among the other sentiments of how great an honor it is and what great dignity it imparts to a man to be called a soldier of the United States which is a synonym of a soldier of liberty and freedom.... The speaker was heartily applauded. After the singing of a quartette [sic] by the hospital club and ‘John Brown's Body' and the rendering of three rousing cheers to Dr. Chamberlain, the party withdrew.
Relations between the staff and the patients appear to have been cordial. At Thanksgiving and other celebrations, the surgeons addressed the men "in a very happy manner." Reports always noted the "courteous bearing of the officers and their generous and hearty cooperation" or the "gentlemanly and orderly behavior of the soldiers." Shortly before Christmas, 1864, Chaplain Clark, on behalf of the medical officers, presented Acting Assistant Surgeon Dr. J. R. Lord with a handsome barometer and thermometer as "a token of their high esteem and their appreciation of his valuable services." On another occasion, the men of Ward 6 presented their ward master H. G. Curtis with a silver snuffbox. Thomas C. Bond of Co K 23rd Massachusetts Regiment made the presentation and Curtis responded with humor and appreciation.
In December, 1864, one of Chamberlain's difficulties initiating the new hospital became public. A father of one of the soldiers wrote to both Surgeon General Dale and the press, complaining about the quantity and quality of food rations. The Daily Spy claimed government rations were generous and suggested corruption at the hospital accounted for the complaints. Chamberlain's response was immediate and defensive. He said "a most rigid investigation" about the quality and quantity of food served and the management of the institution would follow, adding that, "The particular complaints lately made public... [are] at variance with the facts." The article continued that "Chamberlain, in organizing the new hospital, has had many difficulties to encounter, but he has devoted great care to details and we have no doubt has aimed to secure the comfort of the inmates." Chamberlain issued an invitation to friends of the soldiers and the general public "to satisfy themselves personally of the discretion and humanity with which it has been their purpose to administer all the affairs of the hospital."
In a letter to Dale, Chamberlain thanked the Surgeon General for forwarding the letter of complaint by Mr. Elliot. He explained that the patient was on ‘extra diet' and under the care of Dr. Livermore (referred to previously), who was "not an officer who fails to appreciate the necessities of his patients or who neglects them." Chamberlain went on to say that the hospital had encountered fewer "annoyances" and "embarrassments" than he had anticipated in the opening of the institution - that once or twice the kitchen had run out of butter - and he would invite comparison of the tables of his "young hospital" to any in the country. He continued that hospital rations could not be expected to compare to the family table, but he recognized "the soldier's right to grumble."
In a letter written in May, Chamberlain again wrote to Dale regarding complaints made by some of the patients about their care. Personally, he didn't think they were worthy of further action. He wrote:
"My hospital is made as far as possible a soldier's home and I have heard so often of late emphatic testimonials from the patients of their appreciation of our efforts and of their comfort and happiness that I had not anticipated any further complaints.
"It is a very common thing for patients on receiving their discharges to express their gratitude to the officers of the Hospital for the tenderness and consideration with which they have been treated while here."
By far, the most exciting day was April 12, 1865, when the hospital celebrated Lee's surrender and the fall of Richmond. The Spy said:
"The grandest and most remarkable display was at the Dale Hospital. The wounded soldiers were jubilant over the downfall of the Rebellion and the most feeble of the patients made efforts to assist in the illumination of the buildings. Over 10,000 lights were displayed from every point in the extensive buildings, even high up to the turrets and from the city it had the appearance of a beautiful temple of light."
The Palladium added, "Dale General Hospital threw out the glare of more than 10,000 lights, making a magnificent exhibition which was visible miles away.... The overjoyed soldiers, sick and maimed as they were, have thus added their contribution to the glad season of rejoicing..." During the firing of 200 guns at Dale, one of the soldiers lost his right arm.
Every account of Dale General Hospital mentions the admirable library. It was located in the Main Building, and dedicated to the "invalided soldiers." Early in the construction process of Dale General, Chamberlain included in the plans extensive library shelving, anticipating that citizens would contribute books to the hospital. And they did. Two Unitarian ministers donated $70 for books on November 5, 1864; Col. Hamson Richie of the Governor's staff provided a box of illustrated foreign papers and publications sent by Leonard's & Co. Express; and Mary L. (Mrs. Samuel) Putnam of Boston contributed most of all. In fact, the library was named, by General Order No. 37, for her son, Lieutenant William Lowell Putnam, of the 20th Massachusetts Volunteers, who was killed in the battle of Ball's Bluff on October 31, 1861. Mrs. Putnam furnished "a room leading out of the main library at a cost of $2,500 with library cases, carpet, curtains, etc. and a portrait of her only son... whose life was sacrificed on the altar of patriotism. The painting is by Marshall of New York, and is said to be a masterpiece. The soldiers have access to the room for reading, etc. and it is a pleasant spot to visit..."
Putnam, who died at the age of twenty-one, was educated largely in Europe. While there, he collected paintings, mostly of "Italian landscapes and fine specimens of architecture, camera lucids," newspapers, games etc. All of these were given to the Hospital library. Among the 1,100 volumes donated by Mrs. Putnam were the complete works of Shakespeare, Milton, Grey, Coleridge, Bryant, Longfellow, Walter Scott and Bancroft's History of the United States. The collection also included the poetic works of Spencer, Herbert, Goldsmith, Wordsworth, Campbell, Lowell, Whittier, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. A later donation from Mrs. Putnam contained "excellent pictures representing German and Italian landscapes and cathedrals and... a number of classical works. Among them we notice The Life of Cicero by Forsyth." Eventually, the collection grew to nearly 2,000 bound volumes.
Thomas Gage listed a number of other contributors, including the Society of Rev. Dr. Hill in Worcester, the citizens of Hampshire County through S.C. Bridgeman, Esq. of Northampton, Mrs. Theo Brown and the pupils of Miss Baker's School. Gage said the bookshelves "bore the names of distinguished officers of the Union army, including many belonging to Worcester, who had fallen in war." Gage supplemented the story of the Putnam Library at Dale Hospital by recounting that he, the librarian of Clark University, Mr. Wilson, the publishers of the Worcester Evening Gazette and Mr. A. S. Roe traced the collection to the National Soldiers' Home in Dayton, Ohio. He learned that Mrs. Putnam continued during her lifetime to add regularly to the collection and after her death, her daughter continued. He concluded his report:
"...it now numbers 11,500 volumes, and it bears the name of Putnam Library in honor of Lieut. W. Lowell Putnam, and that a superb portrait of Lieut. Putnam adorns the library walls. But I have learned also what seems very remarkable, that the early history of Putnam Library, located in Worcester, was wholly unknown at the Soldiers' Home until the receipt there of a letter of inquiry from Mr. Wilson. The catalogue, which I have seen, shows that books have been selected with intelligent care and good judgment and at great cost, and that the collection is one of great value."
One of the more interesting contributors to the Library was Mr. L. B. Schwabe of Waltham. Early in the history of the hospital, his name appears in a memo from Chamberlain to Surgeon General Dale. Chamberlain wrote that he would "acknowledge the generous intentions of Mr. Schwabe who has so kindly offered to supply in part at least one of the prominent wants of this Hospital." It would seem, from Thomas Gage's account that ‘Count' Schwabe gave a large number of books to the Library on November 23, 1864. Gage said Schwabe was a "German living in Waltham. He was a resident of South Carolina when the war broke out and, not sympathizing with rebellion, made his way north as expeditiously as possible, from that time throughout the whole war devoting his time and his money to the promotion of Union soldiers' comfort and welfare, more especially, it would seem, in establishing libraries for hospitals. He founded one at Readville."
Gage did not tell us where he learned these facts about Schwabe, and there is no record in Waltham of his living there. Two entries in The Daily Spy on September 12 and 13, 1865, lead to more questions than answers about Schwabe.
The library at Dale Hospital, the origin and successful operation of which is due to the generosity and interest of Count Schwabe, is to be continued for the soldiers' benefit as will be seen by the note below. In view of the prospective abandonment of the military hospital here, Count Schwabe has transferred the library to the Soldiers' League of this city to be used by them when by muster out the soldiers shall have departed from Dale Hospital. Here is the donor's note:
"To the soldiers of Worcester,
"I take pleasure in informing you that I presented last evening, in the presence of a number of gentlemen, at Dale Hospital the library which I established there, to be used until unnecessary by the soldiers and afterwards to be handed to the Committee of the Soldiers' League in this city for their benefit. Dr. Chamberlain was kind enough to inform me and the committee that he considered it a great credit to me in selecting and directing the library, to be called after the much lamented Lieut. Putnam, as the affected mother has once made a nice donation, which will after the close of the hospital return to her. I am, soldiers, yours affectionately, Mr. Schwabe."
The very next day, the newspaper included this rather irate letter from Dr. Chamberlain:
"To the Editor, Will you permit me through your journal to correct certain misapprehensions and misstatements referring to the library of this Hospital...
"Mr. L. B. Schwabe, styled Count Schwabe, has no connection with the hospital and no responsibility for and no authority in any department thereof. He did not establish nor in any manner direct the formation of the Library of the Hospital nor is its success due to him...
"He has not turned over the Library tot he surgeon commanding the Hospital and the transactions he describes including the alleged remarks of Dr. Chamberlain exists only in vain and deceitful imagination.
"This like all General Hospitals established by the United States for its sick and wounded soldiers has been from the first much indebted to a generous and sympathizing public for voluntary donations whereby the comfort and pleasure of the soldiers have been enhanced.
Thus libraries have been generally provided for the army hospitals.
"Many ladies and gentlemen of Worcester and of the other parts of the state have taken active interest in this hospital and have contributed books, pictures, furniture, flags, flowers, etc...
"In some instances Mr. Schwabe has been the medium of these donations. In this capacity only and not as the source of any donations he has been recognized at the Hospital. A large number of books credited to Mr. Schwabe in the catalogue of the library were thus contributed...It is proper to state that included in that number collected and forwarded by Mr. Schwabe about 100 volumes were not deemed worthy of a place on the shelves of the library.
"I will not further tax your space, my object being not the exposure of individual vanity and extravagance but to establish correct impressions and to acknowledge gratefully in behalf of the sick and wounded soldiers the many kindnesses of the people of this city.
C. N. Chamberlain"
Circular Orders provide a glimpse of the medical care that was provided in General Hospitals. The addition of Port wine made some of the medicines, especially quinine, more palatable. When port was unobtainable, "Tarragona" wine was substituted. Ice was used exclusively for the sick; one pound a day per patient was rationed to hospitals south of Washington, only half a pound per day for those in the north.
The Army permitted male and female, black and white, cooks and nurses, but preferred not to hire civilians. It can be assumed, however, from Mr. Gage's reference in his report to the Society for Antiquity and from Worcester City Death Records, that local people were hired. Salaries were raised in 1864: from $10 a month and one ration (January) to $13 a month (May), and eventually to $24 a month (June). The pay increases appear to have been for white men only. Women's salaries actually went down.
Warren Wilkinson's Mother May You Never See the Sights I have Seen lists fourteen soldiers from the 57th Massachusetts Veteran Volunteers housed at Dale General. One died of chronic diarrhea, one deserted, and most of the others were recuperating from bad wounds and amputations. One, John Midgely, kept a diary and wrote, "I was taken to Dale Hospital [in December 1864], where I received excellent care. I was still confined to bed and was very low with chronic diarrhoea [sic]. My medicine was confined to peregoric [sic] chiefly, and I can truly say I took quarts of it." Two weeks later, surgeons at Dale removed the "second half of the ball... from my leg after having been in seven months and ten days."
Diarrhea was the most common complaint of the war. Chamberlain's recommendations about the treatment of ‘malarial disease' are included the Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion. Faced with an epidemic in 1861, he:
"...used a laxative of castor oil and oil of turpentine, often preceded by 4 grains of blue pill. Full doses of quinine and an occasional Dover's powder, after the operation of [the] cathartic. Decided to use quinine as prophylactic, provided sufficient quantity could be procured. An appeal to the Sanitary Commission secured 23 gallons of whiskey containing 3 grains of quinine per ounce of liquor. The men were allowed to take daily one or two ounces and I was happy to witness its results in reducing the morning report of the sick for 50-60 to 20 daily. After the supply was exhausted, the reports indicated an increase in the disease. I am prepared to recommend emphatically the use of quinine as a prophylactic."
Acting Assistant Surgeon E. B. Lyon was assigned to Ward 6 at Dale (with Curtis who was given the snuffbox). Of special interest were two surgeries Lyon performed at Dale, both recorded in The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion. The first was on Private H.F. Norcross, Co C 25th Massachusetts, one of those transferred from Readville on October 25, 1864. A minie ball was deeply embedded in his hipbone, and the wound had been festering since he was shot on May 16 at Drury's Bluff. Dr. Lyon used a trephine, divided the ball and removed it in seventeen parts. The second was performed on September 15, 1865, on I. Pernell, Co K 6th Colored Troops, U.S. Infantry. From this and the discharge papers of George Hays (colored) Co F 54th Massachusetts Infantry Volunteers, whose arm was amputated at Dale, we know the hospital was integrated.
Stillman Spaulding left an eloquent testimonial to his stay at Dale. Spaulding, a thirty-year-old tinsmith from Middleboro, drew or etched two almost identical pictures of the hospital: one of only the building, the second includes veterans. The almost-stick figures have crutches and peg legs as they stand under the trees and around the hospital. Letters to Spaulding exist, written between February and November, 1865. Most are from his sister Ophelia, living in New Hampshire. Her letters recount family news, and little about the hospital can be learned from them. Envelope addresses demonstrate Spaulding was housed in both Ward 3 and Ward 4. From a letter written in August in which Ophelia hoped his arm was improving after his recent operation, we know he had surgery during the summer. His sister Anna in Newton also wrote him a few letters, and they indicate she must have visited him at the hospital and met some of his friends.
At the meeting of the Worcester Society of Antiquity when Gage gave his report, Cephas N. Walker, a patient from November, 1864, till August 15, 1865, described his life in the sixth ward under the charge of Dr. Lyon. "The entire grounds were enclosed by a high picket fence; but that obstruction was not sufficient to keep all the convalescent soldiers from getting out now and then. Mr. Walker also told of some of the pranks the boys resorted to for enlivening in a measure the long weary hours of their confinement there."
Because the amputation of limbs was so common, a Circular Order, May 13, 1865, listed the manufacturers who were authorized to furnish artificial limbs "to mutilated soldiers upon your order." Dr. Douglas Bly of Rochester, New York, made the most expensive authorized limb, which provided ankle joint motion, listed at $120. Most others cost $75. If soldiers wanted to purchase "more expensive Arms or Legs the maximum price for each will be allowed in part payment."
The Hospital system employed wounded soldiers as staff. At Dale, Chaplain Clark had lost a leg while in service and his assistant Charles Lenz, a "German and a young man of promise, ...had lost his right arm six days before his three year term of service in a Massachusetts cavalry regiment expired."
City Records list eight deaths, one surprisingly, a woman. They are:
November 6, 1864. Charles Connell, Private Co C 26th Reg. Ma Inf., 37 years, cirrhosis of the liver. Residence - Fall River, born in Ireland. Buried at Hope Cemetery.
February 8, 1865. Owen Falon, 35 years, acute diarrhea. Buried St. John's Cemetery.
April 22, 1865. John W. Coon, 43 years, wound in battle, softening of brain. Residence - Salisbury Street, born U.S. Buried at Hope Cemetery.
May 15, 1865. William McQuade, 26 years, typhoid fever. Residence - Boston, born Ireland. Buried at Roxbury.
July 29, 1865. Thomas Huneyburn, 51 years, delerious tremens. Residence - Lowell, born England. Buried at Hope Cemetery.
August 6, 1865. Joseph Knittle, 24 years, cholera morbus. Residence - New York, New York, born Germany. Buried at St. John's Cemetery.
August 15, 1865. Niles Anderson, Co H 11th Ma., 32 years, chronic diarrhea. Residence - Boston. Buried at Hope Cemetery.
October 9, 1865. Mary Ann Corker, 30 years, dysentery. Born - Ireland. Buried St. John's Cemetery.
Closing the Hospital
After Lee's surrender in April, the Union started to wind down its services. Gage reported that Chamberlain knew large numbers would be mustered out shortly and thus prepared a masterful address for the men. Delivered in the chapel and entitled "Has it Paid?" Chamberlain tried to prepare the soldiers for the "peaceful pursuits of civil life." Gage said the "lecture was one of great ability and must have been preceded by a profound study of American history, as also by a close observation of the events of the war." At the end of his address, Chamberlain asked the question, "Has it Paid?" and was answered by an enthusiastic "yes." On May 24, 1865, one hundred soldiers were mustered out of service from Dale.
It had long been recognized that many, many disabled soldiers would require a place to live after the war was over. As early as February 1, 1865, the Surgeon General of the Department of the Northwest wrote and published an articulate request for such facilities. He reminded his peers that more than 50,000 men had been permanently disabled:
"...many of whom had neither friends, relatives, money or homes; and many others are without adequate means of support. These soldiers have been disabled in the service of their country, and justice, alike with humanity, demands that their Government should provide these crippled and war-worn veterans with a pleasant asylum...."
He suggested a system of institutions be established, one in each section of the country, and they should be furnished with workshops and grounds sufficient for farming. He included suggestions of several possible ways to fund such facilities.
Chamberlain too believed Massachusetts needed to furnish a permanent home for many of the wounded. On May 30, he wrote to Surgeon General Dale an organized and forceful letter proposing that Dale become that home. He listed six reasons why Dale Hospital was it was best suited to be the Massachusetts Disabled Soldiers' Home. He wrote:
Soldiers recuperated much more quickly at Dale than anywhere he had ever seen.
The beauty of the surrounding country was a source of pleasure for the men.
The plan and construction of the hospital made it superior to any other facility.
Its central location and accessibility to railroads, water and roads made it easy for people and supplies to get to.
Worcester supported the hospital, having contributed to the grounds and buildings.
The only objection he could see was the amount of the rent. He countered this argument by suggesting the Government purchase the property, and if that were not possible, he still believed the cost was justified when compared to obtaining another hospital of equal construction, planning and salubrity of location.
This letter was stamped with endorsements by Governor Andrew, Surgeon General Dale, the Medical Director's Office in New York and forwarded to the Surgeon General in Washington. It was noted on the outside of the letter by William Sloan, Medical Director, Department of the East that:
"there can be no doubt of the superior claims of the Dale General Hospital over those of the General Hospital at Readville in every respect and that one or the other can be discontinued very soon. My orders compel me to yield the Dale General Hospital on account of the rental and if that difficulty can be removed by the Surgeon General the beautiful and healthy Dale Hospital can be continued until no longer necessary."
The men who were able wanted to go home. Chamberlain wrote on May 17, 1865:
"...most of the men are awaiting discharge from the service. Some of them are inclined to indulge the belief that they can practice unwarranted liberties with impunity & are disposed to take advantage of their expectations of an early release. It is therefore more difficult to maintain a high degree of discipline than ordinarily."
On July 17, Dr. George Osborne, Surgeon in charge of Readville Hospital, wrote that the closing was "so far progressed as to make it necessary to collect the property from the wards." He needed to move all the soldiers out. By August 23, both the camp and the hospital at Readville were discontinued and the buildings were sold at auction. Dale Hospital in Worcester was also scheduled to close. Chamberlain wrote to Surgeon General Dale asking him to try to find a position for Reverend Clark, soon to be mustered out. Chamberlain also requested his own discharge and was relieved from his post on September 29, at which time he returned to Lawrence to practice surgery with his father-in-law.
E. Martindale replaced Chamberlain to oversee the final days of Dale Hospital. Across the state, lobbying was strong for Dale to remain open. The Springfield Union ran a long history of the hospital, calling it a "home ready built" for Disabled Soldiers and Sailors. It proposed that wards be converted to workshops and its land be farmed, and thus "The Soldiers' Home can be made a self sustaining institution, where the returned volunteer may find a home and support himself and at the same time know that he is not dependent for a livelihood upon either public or private charity." The paper continued that the management should be in the hands of the soldiers and have no civilians connected with it.
The Daily Spy wrote on October 17, 1865, a similar article. "Wise foresight in securing Dale Hospital for a Soldiers' Home is not only to be recommended to the next legislature of Massachusetts, but should meet universal approval on the part of the people as well as the legislative and executive authorities." It explained that the few patients still housed there would be transferred to Boston or to David Island, New York.
On November 5, the Medical Director of the East sent Assistant Surgeon J. Theodore Calhoun to Worcester to make arrangements for the sale of the property in the hospital. The sale was scheduled for November 17, unless a deferment could be obtained. Martindale wrote to Dale, "I shall be sorry to see the place dismantled and have been in daily hopes of receiving an order to defer proceedings until the state authorities could take some action in the matter." Again, he pressed the case that Dale Hospital was the perfect place for a Soldiers' Home, completing every requirement - good drainage, commanding view, dry clean atmosphere, its internal arrangements. He also sent a complimentary photograph of the Hospital.
On November 13, the War Department in "Washington City" communicated that the sale was suspended. However, on November 20, 1865, the medical and hospital property was sold at public auction. One thousand iron bedsteads, one thousand each counterpanes, blankets, sheets, mattresses, pillows and pillow ticks, towels, dressing gowns, drawers, shirts, socks, nightcaps, etc were advertised. Abbott Denny & Co. was the auctioneer and advertised that many items were new and still in their original packaging. Also auctioned were the full supply of standard drugs and medicines, medical books, chairs, crockery, tin ware and a large assortment of miscellaneous articles. The terms were cash.
Martindale stayed till the end. He wrote Dale on December 5 that everything was sold; he also sent by Leonard Express three photographs of Governor Andrew, Surgeon General Dale, and Dr. Hooker, taken at the hospital. He concluded, "I am to all intents and purposes once more a private citizen." Dale Hospital was no more. The Soldiers' Rest on Foster Street also closed. It became a public lodging and coffeehouse.
A few mementos remained. One barracks, which stood directly in the rear of the main building, was left. When Worcester Academy purchased the property in 1869, it became the gymnasium until Walker Hall was constructed in 1890. Brian A. O'Connell, a member of the Worcester School Committee, lived for the first fifteen years of his life in the building that once housed Dale General Hospital. Known as Davis Hall, it was used as a dormitory and faculty residence. O'Connell says that students always believed the building was haunted by a Civil War Soldier whose leg had been amputated there, and in death, his ghost returned to the fourth floor attic, where it walked back and forth on its peg leg, searching for the leg it had lost. O'Connell lived on the third floor and he can vouch for the fact that noises emanating from the attic on occasion very much resembled the sound of a one-legged man slowly pacing the corridors there.
One other undertaking connected to the hospital to the city. When the government auctioned the pavilions at Dale, Mary Fallon:
"...submitted the winning bid for the work. She hired carpenters, bought a parcel of land next to St. John's Church and used the wood ...to build several three-deckers. With the money she collected for rent, she was able to put her son Michael and three of his four brothers through the College of the Holy Cross."
After his education at Harvard Medical School and training at Mayo Clinic, Fallon started the Fallon Clinic in Worcester. There is a nice symmetry that the acclaimed Dale Hospital should be recycled to promote the founding of an acclaimed medical clinic.
There are no physical remains of Dale U.S.A. General Hospital, but its history illustrates the commitment of a people to caring and humanity. In 1907, Dr. Thomas H. Gage quoted from the Inaugural ceremonies this patriotic statement:
[The] Commonwealth of Massachusetts may well be proud of this General Hospital.... It is an appropriate companion of the many civil institutions for the cure of disease which the liberality of the State has erected within her borders.... All the world has seen during this war that wherever a Massachusetts column passes a great people follow it, not only to stimulate the living to fight, endure and conquer, but to place beneath the suffering the great arm of support and consolation, and softly whisper in the ear of the dying the brightness of eternal anticipations for the brave and the good who die for their country.
I am most appreciative of a grant from the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities and the Bay State Historical League, permitting me to study the Dale General Hospital, located in Worcester, Massachusetts. While Dale Hospital was well known and mentioned in histories and many short articles, there has never been a definitive study made of the institution, how it came to be in Worcester or who supported it. The hospital, a large (1000 bed) institution commissioned toward the end of the Civil War, was considered to be one of the finest General Hospitals built. Not only the community of Worcester, but all of Massachusetts supported the hospital during the war and lobbied for its continuation as a Soldiers' Home at the conclusion of the war.
The records stored at the Massachusetts National Guard Military Archives and Museum on Salisbury Street in Worcester provided valuable insight on the care of the wounded and ill in the soldiers' home state. Until a few years ago, many of these documents had been stored at inaccessible locations in Boston and environs. Most of the records had been in crates for decades and had never been used for research purposes. With the assistance of Col. Leonid Kondratiuk and his staff, I was able to trace the development of General Hospitals during the War and the specific orders that pertained to the construction and staffing of Dale General. Len's knowledge of military history provided invaluable guidance as I read volumes of special orders, circular orders, handwritten letters and compilations of data.
I would also like to thank Bill Wallace and the staff at Worcester Historical Museum for their sustained support throughout this project. Theresa Davitt produced folders and boxes of archival material from the Civil War. She also helped me locate biographical and background information on the citizens of Worcester whose names appeared in connection with Dale Hospital. The Museum hosted the Work-in-Progress session as well as a public program in conjunction with the Medical Detachment of the Massachusetts Army National Guard and the Civil War Roundtable.
The City of Worcester, through the offices of David Rushford, City Clerk, provided Journals of the Common Council, Records of the Mayor and Aldermen, Death Records and other helpful resources. Material, including a hand-drawn diagram of the hospital site, found in the City records traced the involvement of the City with the U.S. Army in the building of Dale General Hospital and offered insight into the support for Dale by City officials.
On a visit to Worcester Academy, the site of Dale General Hospital, I met Frank Callahan, who gave me a tour of the grounds, describing his understanding of where the various hospital buildings had been located. Frank's enthusiastic interest in my research was most encouraging. He put me in touch with Brian O'Connell, whose stories are now part of this narrative.
I am obliged to various librarians, both in Massachusetts and nationally, who cheerfully answered my questions by e-mail, saving me many hours of travel. Louise Sandberg in Lawrence, Kate Tranquada in Waltham and especially Terry Reimer, archivist at the Museum of Civil War Medicine in Washington, D.C. Terry wrote, "There is very little published about specific hospitals, and the Museum is interested in collecting information about General Hospitals." She provided me with much background information, bibliographies and a list of General Hospitals in the Northeast.
The unfailing courtesy of librarians at the American Antiquarian Society provided me with local newspapers for the years 1864 and 1865. At times, when all the seats were taken in the microfiche room, I appreciated that they found private space for me at a machine at the Goddard Daniels House.
Discussions with my colleagues from the Worcester History Group were of immeasurable assistance. A group of congenial historians, they offered helpful advice, factual data and encouragement over the course of this research. Ken Moynihan and Bob Cormier, in particular, were of special help.
Unfortunately, one resource became available too late in this project for its inclusion. I have recently learned that the National Archives has available 35 rosters of men who staffed the Dale General Hospital and ten registers of patients who were treated there. The condition of the records is reportedly very poor. I plan to visit the Archives, but it will be after the final copy of this project has been submitted. I make mention of the rosters and registers so that others who are interested in pursuing study of Dale Hospital will know of their existence.
It should also be noted the National Soldiers' Home in Dayton, Ohio, mentioned in this report, no longer exists. Whatever remains of the Putnam Library is stored, because of budget constrictions, in boxes in the basement of the Veterans' Services building in Dayton. There is no catalog. Some parts of the collection may have been sent to Washington, possibly the Smithsonian.
Sande P. Bishop
November 28, 1999