Friday, August 12, 2011

Civil War Field Hospitals

Ward in the Carver General Hospital, Washington, D.C.

The logistics of setting up a field hospital were complex. A location had to be carefully selected, and arrangements made for transportation of the wounded, maintaining supplies, and burying the dead.

After initial treatment at a field station close to the fighting, a wounded soldier who might be saved was taken to a Field Hospital for evaluation and treatment. If his injuries warranted further attention, he would be transported to a General Hospital in a nearby city or town.

The requisites for locating a field hospital were water, shade, wood, good dry ground and an even surface. Choice locations were those near woods, where pine boughs could be obtained for bedding.

In the field, Assistant Surgeons were usually placed at field dressing stations in the rear of the line and closer to the fighting. The Surgeons and their Assistants would establish the field hospital much farther behind the lines. Sometimes a Pioneer and Construction Corps would prepare roads to the hospital.

At many army camps, tents would be pitched in the form of a square with surgeons’ tents, hospital tents, kitchen tents and hospital wagons. Well-staffed field hospitals included a hospital steward to dole out supplies and act as a general assistant to the surgeons.

Later in the war, mobile field hospitals on wheeled vehicles were adopted by the Civil War armies. These crude facilities evolved into the mobile hospitals used in future military campaigns.


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