Civil War Hospital Ship

The U.S.S. Red Rover, a captured Confederate vessel, was refitted as a hospital ship.

Evolution of Civil War Nursing

The evolution of the nursing profession in America was accelerated by the Civil War.

The Practice of Surgery

Amputations were the most common surgery performed during the Civil War.

Army Medical Museum and Library

Surgeon-General William Hammond established The Army Medical Museum in 1862. It was the first federal medical research facility.

Civil War Amputation Kit

Many Civil War surgical instruments had handles of bone, wood or ivory. They were never sterilized.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Losses of Gettysburg

Excerpted from: Civil War Trust

Both armies had been badly bloodied. The Army of the Potomac began the battle with 83,289 men. In three days it suffered total losses in killed, wounded and missing of 17,684 men, or 21.2 percent.

All the army’s corps except the VI had long casualty lists. The I and III Corps were so badly decimated that they were ultimately combined into the II Corps. Of Meade’s initial corps commanders, Maj. Gen. John Reynolds was dead and Maj. Gens. Daniel Sickles and Winfield Scott Hancock were both seriously wounded.

Lee had brought 75,054 men across the Potomac into Pennsylvania. His unsuccessful attempts to punch a hole through the Union lines had cost him 22,638 casualties, or 30.2 percent of his total force. The heavy loss of field-grade officers at Gettysburg would prove a drag on the Army of Northern Virginia for the remainder of the war.

The Wounded at Gettysburg

Over 30,000 soldiers of both armies lay wounded in temporary field hospitals at the close of the Battle of Gettysburg. In every sense of the word, these were not real hospitals at all, but private homes and buildings which afforded some shelter and a nearby source of water. Every barn, church, warehouse, and outbuilding within a ten mile radius of Gettysburg was filled with suffering men, so many that they could not all be attended to at once. Surgeons from the various regiments worked for days without rest to treat the wounded and medical supplies were hurried to the scene as rapidly as possible. Still, many soldiers went without care or treatment for several days. "Houses and barns, but chiefly the woods were used as hospitals and the wounded, necessarily endured much suffering," wrote Dr. Jonathan Letterman. As the Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac, Dr. Letterman and his staff had an overwhelming job ahead of them. Before the battle ended, Dr. Letterman ordered more medical supplies to be brought to Gettysburg and he sent his ambulance corps over the field to move the wounded into a more central medical stations called corps hospitals. Dr. Letterman was forced to leave Gettysburg with the army in the pursuit of the Confederates, but he assigned Surgeon Henry James to the task of supervising the gathering and treatment of all the wounded in the area.
The first task was gathering all of the wounded into central field hospitals where adequate water supplies could be found, treatment could be rendered and wounds dressed. Further surgery could also be performed at these hospitals until the wounded could be taken to Gettysburg where they could be transported by railroad to hospitals in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington. A central hospitalwas established on the York Pike east of Gettysburg and near the railroad and named Camp Letterman after Dr. Letterman. Wounded soldiers were taken from the field hospitals by horse-drawn ambulances to the new camp where they were housed in large canvas tents. Unlike the rigors of a field hospital, the new camp had cots with clean sheets and pillows. Nurses were assigned to each of the tents and surgeons stayed busy around the clock treating the more serious cases. Food was plentiful and the camp was remarkable for its sanitation. Cases considered too serious to move remained at the camp while an average of 800 men per day were shipped by rail to hospitals in northern cities.
Many of the nurses at Camp Letterman were women who were members of the U.S. Sanitary Commission and U.S. Christian Commission, organizations formed in the north for the benefit of Union soldiers wounded in battle. Clara Barton, who later founded the American Red Cross, was not at Gettysburg, but many women like her were. They put in long hours in the hospital wards, aiding the sick and injured soldiers, both Union and Confederate.
Surgical operations continued on the most serious cases at Camp Letterman. A visitor to the hospital witnessed the most gruesome of treatments in a surgeon's tent:
"In the operating tent, the amputation of a very bad looking leg was witnessed. The surgeons had been laboring since the battle to save the leg, but it was impossible. The patient, a delicate looking man, was put under the influence of chloroform, and the amputation was performed with great skill by a surgeon who appeared to be quite accustomed to the use of his instruments. After the arteries were tied, the amputator scraped the end and edge of the bone until they were quite smooth. While the scraping was going on, an attendant asked: 'How do you feel, Thompson?' 'Awful!' was the distinct and emphatic reply. This answer was returned, although the man was far more sensible of the effects of the chloroform than he was of the amputation." (excerpt from A Strange and Blighted Land, Gettysburg: The Aftermath of a Battle, by Gregory Coco, Thomas Publications, Gettysburg, 1995.)
By August 7, 1863 all of the corps and field hospitals were closed and Camp Letterman was the only hospital remaining with over 3,000 patients. Union and Confederate wounded were both treated at the camp by army doctors and personnel of the United States Christian Commission and the United States Sanitary Commission. Still, not all of those wounded men could be saved and many died from the results of their wounds or infection. A cemetery was established near the camp and burials took place every day. The camp remained at Gettysburg until November 1863 when the last remaining patients left, the tents were packed, and the doctors and nurses left for other battlefield hospitals.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Camp Letterman: The Largest Field Hospital in North America

From: The Camp Letterman Fund Trust
Camp Letterman was once the largest field hospital ever built in North America. Camp Letterman General Hospital near Gettysburg was chosen for on the George Wolf Farm, east of Gettysburg on the York Pike. The farm was near the main road and the railroad where a depot was established. Trains would deliver supplies for the Gettysburg camp and take recovering patients to permanent hospitals in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington.
Over 30,000 soldiers of both armies lay wounded in temporary field hospitals at the close of the Battle of Gettysburg. As the Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac, Dr. Letterman and his staff before the battle ended ordered more medical supplies to be brought to Gettysburg and he sent his ambulance corps over the field to move the wounded into a more central medical stations.

A central hospital was established on the York Pike east of Gettysburg and near the railroad and named Camp Letterman after Dr. Letterman. Wounded soldiers were taken from the field hospitals by horse-drawn ambulances to the new camp where they were housed in large canvas tents. Unlike the rigors of a field hospital, the new camp had cots with clean sheets and pillows.

By August 7, 1863 all of the corps and field hospitals were closed and Camp Letterman was the only hospital remaining with over 3,000 patients. The camp remained at Gettysburg until November 1863 when the last remaining patients left, the tents were packed, and the doctors and nurses left for other battlefield hospitals.

Dr. Letterman's Gettysburg Report

Dr. Letterman's Gettysburg Report

Camp near Culpeper Court-House, Va., October 3, 1863.

GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following report on the operations of the medical department of this army at the battle of Gettysburg, July 1, 2, and 3:

As the subject of transportation has an important bearing upon the manner in which the wounded are attended to after a battle, it is necessary to make some allusion to the manner in which this department was supplied. It is scarcely necessary to say that if-the transportation is not sufficient to enable the officers of the department to conduct it properly, the effect must fall upon the wounded.

In the autumn of 1862, I investigated the subject very carefully, with the view to the adoption of some system instead of the irregular method and want of system which prior to that time was in vogue, to limit the amount necessary, and to have that amount always available. The transportation was one wagon to each regiment and one to each brigade. This gave all that was required, and it was not too much; and, it may be remarked, was a reduction of nearly one-half of that which had been in use prior to that time. This system worked well. At the battle of Chancellorsville, the department had upon the left bank of the Rappahannock means sufficient, had it been allowed to use them, for taking care of many more wounded than there came under its control.

On June 19, while the army was on the march, as it were, from before Fredericksburg to some unknown point north of the Potomac River, the headquarters being near Fairfax Court-House, Va., the transportation of the department was cut down by Major-General Hooker on an average of two wagons in a brigade, in opposition to my opinion, expressed verbally and in writing. This reduction necessitated the turning in of a large portion of the supplies, tents, & c., which were necessary for the proper care of the wounded in the event of a battle. Three wagons were assigned to a brigade of 1,500 men, doing away with regimental wagons. This method in its practical working is no system at all, as it is liable to constant changes, and proved to be, what I supposed at the time it would be, a failure to give the department the means necessary to conduct its operations.

The headquarters left Fairfax Court-House on June 26 ultimo, for some point as yet unknown in Maryland or Pennsylvania.
On the 25th of that month, I directed Assistant Surgeon [Jeremiah B.] Brinton, U.S. Army, to proceed to Washington, and obtain the supplies I had ordered the medical purveyor to have put up, and there await orders.

On the 26th, he was ordered to proceed with them to Frederick. This step was taken to obviate the want of supplies consequent upon the reduction of transportation. At this date it was not known that the army would be near Frederick; still, the risk had to be run, and the event justified the order, Dr. Brinton arriving at Frederick on June 28, the day after the arrival of headquarters there, with twenty-five army wagon loads of such supplies as would be most required in case of a battle. The train with these supplies followed that of headquarters until we reached Taneytown.

On July 1, the trains were not permitted to go farther, and, on the 2d, were ordered farther to the rear, near Westminster.
On the 1st, it was ordered that "corps commanders and the commander of the Artillery Reserve will at once send to the rear all their trains (excepting ammunition wagons and ambulances), parking them between Union Mills and Westminster."

On the 2d, these trains were ordered still farther to the rear, and parked near Westminster, nearly 25 miles distant from the battlefield. The effect of this order was to deprive the department almost wholly of the means for taking care of the wounded until the result of the engagement of the 2d and 3d was fully known. I do not instance the effect of this order, excepting to show the influence of it upon the department. The expediency of the order I, of course, do not pretend to question, but its effect was to deprive this department of the appliances necessary for the proper care of the wounded, without which it is as impossible to have them properly attended to as it is to fight a battle without ammunition. In most of the corps the wagons exclusively used for medicines moved with the ambulances, so that the medical officers had a sufficient supply of dressings, chloroform, and such articles until the supplies came up, but the tents and other appliances, which are as necessary, were not available until July 5.

The supply of Dr. Brinton reached the field on the evening of July 4. This supply, together with the supplies ordered by me on July 5 and 6, gave more than was required. The reports of Dr. Brinton and Dr. [John H.] Taylor show that I ordered more supplies than were used up to the 18th of July, when the hospitals were taken from under my control. Surgeon Taylor, medical inspector of this army, who was ordered on July 29 to Gettysburg, to examine into the state of affairs there, reports to me that he made "the question of supplies a subject of special inquiry among the medical officers who had remained with the wounded during and for a month subsequent to the battle. The testimony in every instance was conclusive that at no time had there been any deficiency, but, on the contrary, that the supply furnished by the medical purveyor had been and still continued to be abundant." This is, perhaps, sufficient to show that not only were supplies ordered in advance, but that they were on hand when required, notwithstanding the difficulty in consequence of the inability of the railroad to meet the requirements made upon it, until after General Haupt took charge of it on July 9. I have not deemed it necessary to present any tables showing the amounts ordered and issued, considering what I have just given as ample enough to show the action of this department. The chief want was tents and other appliances for the better care of the wounded. I had an interview with the commanding general on the evening of July 3, after the battle was over, to obtain permission to order up the wagons containing the tents, &c. This request he did not think expedient to grant but in part, allowing one-half the wagons to come to the front; the remainder were brought up as soon as it was considered by him proper to permit it. To show the result of the system adopted upon my recommendation regarding transportation, and the effect of the system of field hospitals, I may here instance the hospital of the Twelfth Corps, in which the transportation was not reduced nor the wagons sent to the rear at Gettysburg.

Surgeon [John] McNulty, medical director of that corps, reports that "it is with extreme satisfaction that I can assure you that it enabled me to remove the wounded from the field, shelter, feed them, and dress their wounds within six hours after the battle ended, and to have every capital operation performed within twenty-four hours after the injury was received. I can, I think, safely say that such would have been the result in other corps had the same facilities been allowed -- a result not to have been surpassed, if equaled, in any battle of magnitude that has ever taken place.

A great difficulty always exists in having food for the wounded. By the exertions of Colonel [Henry F.] Clarke, chief commissary, 30,000 rations were brought up on July 4 and distributed to the hospitals. Some of the hospitals were supplied by the commissaries of the corps to which they belonged. Arrangements were made by him to have supplies in abundance brought to Gettysburg for the wounded; he ordered them, and if the railroad could have transported them they would have been on hand.

Over 650 medical officers are reported as present for duty at that battle. These officers were engaged assiduously, day and night, with little rest, until the 6th, and in the Second Corps until July 7, in attendance upon the wounded. The labor performed by these officers was immense. Some of them fainted from exhaustion, induced by over-exertion, and others became ill from the same cause. The skill and devotion shown by the medical officers of this army were worthy of all commendation; they could not be surpassed. Their conduct as officers and as professional men was admirable. Thirteen of them were wounded, one of whom (Asst. Surg. W. S. Moore, Sixty-first Ohio Volunteers, Eleventh Corps) died on July 6 from the effects of his wounds, received on the 3d. The idea, very prevalent, that medical officers are not exposed to fire, is thus shown to be wholly erroneous. The greater portion of the surgical labor was performed before the army left. The time for primary operations had passed, and what remained to be done was to attend to making the men comfortable, dress their wounds, and perform such secondary operations as from time to time might be necessary. One hundred and six medical officers were left behind when the army left; no more could be left, as it was expected that another battle would within three or four days take place, and in all probability as many wounded thrown upon our hands as at the battle of the 2d and 3d, which had just occurred. No reliance can be placed on surgeons from civil life during or after a battle. They cannot or will not submit to the privations and discomforts which are necessary, an-d the great majority think more of their own personal comfort than they do of the wounded. Little more can be said of those officers who have for a long period been in hospitals. I regret to make such a statement, but it is a fact and often a practical one. Dr. [Henry] Janes, who was left in charge of the hospitals at Gettysburg, reports that quite a number of surgeons came and volunteered their services, but "they were of little use." This fact is so well known in this army that medical officers prefer to do the work rather than have them present, and the wounded men, too, are much better satisfied to be attended by their own surgeons. I, however, asked the Surgeon-General, July 7, to send 20 medical officers to report to Dr. Janes, hoping they might prove of some benefit, under the direction of the medical officers of this army who had been left behind. I cannot learn that they were ever sent.

Dr. Janes was left in general charge of the hospitals, and, to provide against contingencies, was directed, if he could not communicate with me, to do so directly with the Surgeon-General, so that he had full power to call directly upon the Surgeon-General to supply any want that might arise.

The ambulance corps throughout the army acted in the most commendable manner during those days of severe labor. Notwithstanding the great number of wounded, amounting to 14,193, I have it from the most reliable authority and from my own observation that not one wounded man of all that number was left on the field within our lines early on the morning of July 4. A few were found after daylight beyond our farthest pickets, and these were brought in, although the ambulance men were fired upon when engaged in this duty by the enemy, who were within easy range. In addition to this duty, the line of battle was of such a character, resembling somewhat that of a horseshoe, that it became necessary to remove most of the hospitals farther to the rear as the enemy's fire drew nearer.

This corps did not escape unhurt; 1 officer and 4 privates were killed and 17 wounded while in the discharge of their duties. A number of horses were killed and wounded, and some ambulances injured. These facts will show the commendable and efficient manner in which the duties devolving upon this corps were performed, and great credit is deservedly due to the officers and men for their praiseworthy conduct. I know of no battle-field from which wounded men have been so speedily and so carefully removed, and I have every reason to feel satisfied that their duties could not have been performed better or more fearlessly.

Before the army left Gettysburg, and knowing that the wounded had been brought in from the field, six ambulances and four wagons were ordered to be left from each corps, to convey the wounded from their hospitals to the railroad depot, for transportation to the other hospitals. From the Cavalry Corps but four ambulances were ordered, as this corps had a number captured by the enemy at or near Hanover a few days previous. I was informed by General Ingalls that the railroad to Gettysburg would be in operation on the 6th, and upon this based my action. Had such been the case, this number would have been sufficient. As it proved that this was not in good running order for some time after that date, it would have been better to have left more ambulances. I acted on the best information that could be obtained.

The number of our wounded, from the most reliable information at my command, amounted to 14,193.(*) The number of Confederate wounded who fell into our hands was 6,802, making the total number of wounded thrown by that battle upon this department 20,995. The wounded of July 1 fell into the hands of the enemy, and came under our control on the 4th of that month. Instruments and medical supplies belonging to the First and Eleventh Corps were in some m-stances taken from the medical officers of those corps by the enemy.

Previous to leaving Gettysburg, I, on July 5 and 6, ordered supplies to be sent to Frederick from Washington and Philadelphia, to meet the wants of the department in the event of another battle, which there was every reason to suppose would occur shortly after the army left Gettysburg. While at the latter place, I asked the Surgeon-General to have 50 medical officers ready to meet me at such a point as I should thereafter indicate.

On July 7, I desired them to be sent to Frederick. Late in the night of July 9, 47 reported. These officers were designed to make up, as far as possible, the deficiency of medical officers existing in consequence of the large detail from this army left at Gettysburg.

Tents were ordered by my request, and the corps supplied as far as their transportation would permit, and the remainder kept in reserve. It is not necessary to enter into a detailed list of the articles ordered and on hand ready for the anticipated battle. I have the orders in my office, and it is with pleasure I can state for the information of the commanding general that, notwithstanding the short time in which I had to make the necessary preparations, this department was, when near Boonsborough, fully prepared to take care of the wounded of another battle of as great magnitude as that which this army heat just passed through at Gettysburg.

It is unnecessary to do more than make an allusion to the difficulties which surrounded this department at the engagement at Gettysburg. The inadequate amount of transportation; the impossibility of having that allowed brought to the front; the cutting off our communication with Baltimore, first by way of Frederick and then by way of Westminster; the uncertainty, even as late as the morning of July 1, as to a battle taking place at all, and, if it did, at what point it would occur; the total inadequacy of the railroad to Gettysburg to meet the demands made upon it after the battle was over; the excessive rains which fell at that time-- all conspired to render the management of the department one of exceeding difficulty, and yet abundance of medical supplies were on hand at all times; rations were provided, shelter obtained, as soon as the wagons were allowed to come to the front, although not as abundant as necessary on account of the reduced transportation. Medical officers, attendants, ambulances, and wagons left when the army started for Maryland, and the wounded were well taken care of, and especially so when we consider the circumstances under which the battle was fought and the length and severity of the engagement.

The conduct of the medical officers was admirable. Their labors not only began with the beginning of the battle, but lasted long after the battle had ended. When other officers had time to rest, they were busily at work--and not merely at work, but working earnestly and devotedly.

I have not considered it necessary to give in this report other than a very general outline of the operations of this department at that time. To enter into a detailed account of them would, I presume, be more than the commanding general would desire.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Gettysburg: Meteorology of the Battle

Notes by Rev. Dr. Jacobs
The extreme weather during and after the Battle of Gettysburg played a role in the health hardships of those who fought. A math professor at Pennsylvania College, Rev. Dr. Michael Jacobs, recorded his meteorological observations during the battle. They were later published in 1885 in the "Star and Sentinel" by his son.
For the Star and Sentinel.


While reading, yesterday, the Comte de Paris' thorough account of the battle of Gettysburg, the reference which he makes to the increased heat on the third day, suggested the examination of my father's meteorological records. The results are such that they seem worthy of preservation, as affording data that should be considered in connection with the ever increasing attention given to the topography and incidents of those days. The entire period of the invasion is remarkable for being one of clouds, and, for that season of the year, of low temperature. From June 15th until July 22nd, 1863, there was not an entirely clear day. On the evening before the entrance into our town of Gen. Gordon's division, viz: June 25th, at 8 p. m., a rain began, which some may remember in connection with the arrival of the advance guard of the 25th Pa. militia, under Lieut. Hinkle, of the college company. This rain continued at intervals until Saturday, June 27th, at 7 a. m., the precipitation being in inches 1, - 280. At all the observations made on Saturday and Sunday, and until the nine o'clock observation of Monday night, the entire sky was covered with clouds. On the day before the battle, both at 7 a. m., and 2 p. m., the obscuration was again complete, with cumulo-stratus clouds moving from S.S.E. At 9 p. m., only four-tenths of the heavens were covered. During these days of sombre suspense, the records of the wind are those of almost an entire calm. The thermometer registers as follows during this period:
7 A.M. 2 P.M. 9 P.M.
June 25th, 59 51 63
" 26th, 60 63 62
" 27th 616367
" 28th636768
" 29th667269
" 30687971
FIRST DAY.-All through the first day, the entire sky was covered with clouds, viz: cumulo-stratus at 7 a. m. and 2 p. m.; and cirro-stratus at 9 p. m. A very gentle southern breeze, (2 miles per hour). Thermometer:
7 A.M.2 P.M.9 P.M.
SECOND DAY.-At 8 a. m., sky still covered, (cumulo-stratus). At 2 p. m., three-tenths are clear. At 9 p. m., there are cirrus clouds; wind as on preceding day. Thermometer:
7 A.M.2 P.M.9 P.M.
THIRD DAY.-At 8 a. m., sky again completely covered with cumulo-stratus clouds; at 2 p. m., only four-tenths of the heavens are covered, but with cumulus or the massive thunder-cloud of summer; at 9 p. m., seven-tenths cumulus. Wind S. S. W., very gentle. Thunder storm in neighborhood at 6 p. m. The thunder seemed tame, after the artillery firing of the afternoon. Thermometer:
7 A.M.2 P.M.9 P.M.
SATURDAY, THE FOURTH.-Rain in showers at 6 a. m., from 2:15 to 4 p. m., and at 4 a. m. of the 5th, aggregating 1.390. Thermometer:
7 A.M.2 P.M.9 P.M.
There were slight showers on the 5th and 7th; and on the 8th, a rain from 3 a. m. to 11:30 a. m., which measured 1.300.The maximum temperature for the month of July 1863, was 87(, at the time of Pickett's charge. Eleven days of the month, the maximum was in the seventies, and on one day (17th) it was but sixty-two.The low temperature was undoubtedly a great blessing to the wounded, as well as to all in both armies, in protecting them, in their forced marches, from dangers as fatal as bullets. The frequent rains cleansed the fields of much that would have caused disease. It is, however, for military men to determine what effect the atmospheric conditions had upon the conflict, and to conjecture what result might have followed had we had that year an average July, not to say one of such extreme heat as that through which we have just passed.
II. E. J.GETTYSBURG, July 30, 1885.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sophronia Bucklin Nurses the Wounded at Gettysburg

From: stevehblogdotcom.wordpress
“So you had a proposal of marriage did you Auntie? Well, it seems funny but I’m glad you had the grit to answer him as you did. Surely you do not need anyone else to take care of.”
“Auntie” is Sophronia E. Bucklin; the niece Grace N. Thorburn.
Bucklin died in 1902, in her 70s, never having married. Perhaps Thorburn was onto something; after her service as a Civil War nurse, Bucklin may just have had enough of men and their demands.
Though hardly as well-known as Clara Barton, Dorothea Dix and Louisa May Alcott, her sisters in the Civil War nursing sorority, Bucklin published “In Hospital and Camp,” an 1869 account of her “thrilling incidents among the wounded,” according to the memoir’s subtitle.
Beginning in 1862, she worked at hospitals and camps along the crowded corridor of war in Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, where she was one of first nurses to arrive after the Battle of Gettysburg.
Born in New York State, she was seamstress before the war, but put aside her knitting needles to serve the boys in blue.
“The same patriotism which took the young and brave from workshop and plow, from counting-rooms, and college hall…lent also to our hearts its thrilling measure, and sent us out to do and dare for those whose strong arms were to retrieve the honor of our insulted flag,” she wrote.
“Because we could not don the uniform of the soldier, and follow the beat of the stirring drums, we chose our silent journeys into hospitals and camps, and there waited for the wounded sufferer, who would escape from vital breath, from before the belching flames which burst forth amid lurid clouds of battle.”
The woman could sure sew words into a literary quilt.
Bucklin experienced some initial stage fright, but carried on.
“I had been eager to lend myself to the glorious cause of Freedom, and now, on the threshold of the hospital in which gaping wounds, and fevered, thirsty lips awaited me, telling their ghastly tales of the bloody battle, my cheek flushed, and my hand grew hot and trembling,” she recalled.
“Weak flesh and timid heart would have counseled flight, but a strong will held them in abeyance, and the doors opened to receive me.”
Her strong will came into play when dealing with doctors, too many of whom, she believed, took out their frustrations and fatigue on the nearest targets, nurses such as her.
She learned not to back down, even at one point succeeding in having a doctor dismissed for sexual harassment.
Neither was she very impressed with the Confederate wounded. She arrived at Gettysburg soon after the battle had ended and found suffering Rebels in abundance.
“More than half the wounded men in the hospital were rebel soldiers, grim, gaunt, ragged men – long-haired, hollow-eyed and sallow-cheeked,” she remember.
“It was universally shown here, as elsewhere, that these bore their sufferings with far less fortitude than our brave soldiers who had been taught, in sober quiet homes in the North, that while consciousness remained, their manliness should suppress every groan, and that tears were for woman and babes.”
What she saw at Gettysburg, she would never forget. Nor the soldiers who died.
“Every grave has its history, and thousands were there,” she wrote.
When the war ended, Bucklin returned to New York State and resumed work as a seamstress. She was a proud member of a national organization that honored her sisters in war, the Woman’s Relief Corps of the Grand Army of the Republic.

Gettysburg: This Consecrated Ground

After the battle, the Gettysburg area was a tragic place. Dead horses, the bodies of soldiers, and the debris of battle littered its trampled fields. Many of its buildings were damaged, its fences gone, and its air polluted with the odor of rotting flesh. Nearly 20,000 wounded and dying soldiers occupied its public buildings and many of its houses; Union and Confederate hospitals clustered at many of its farms. Medical authorities transferred the wounded to general hospitals in nearby cities as soon as practicable. Dr. Henry Janes, the surgeon in charge of medical activities at Gettysburg, established a general hospital along the York Pike a mile east of the town in mid-July. The last of the wounded did not leave Gettysburg until November 23—over four months after the battle.
Although the armies had hurried many of their dead before marching away, many bodies remained above ground, and heavy rains that began on July 4 washed open the shallow graves of others. Many Union dead were embalmed and sent to their homes, and survivors of a few purchased lots for them in Evergreen Cemetery. Confederate dead were buried as individuals or in mass graves near the places of their deaths. After the war, the bodies of some of the known Confederate dead were exhumed and taken to home cemeteries.
Most, however, remained at Gettysburg until the early 1870s, when southern Ladies Memorial Associations had the remains of 3,320 Confederate soldiers exhumed and taken south. They reburied 2,935 of them in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. Virginia.
Northern states with units in the battle sent agents to Gettysburg to look after their dead and wounded soldiers. Governor Andrew G. Curtin of Pennsylvania visited Gettysburg soon after the battle, saw its problems, and named David Wills, a Gettysburg attorney, as Pennsylvania's agent. Soon Wills and other agents decided that a cemetery should be established for the Union dead. With Curtin's permission, Wills soon purchased seventeen acres on the northwest slope of Cemetery Hill for a cemetery and hired the noted landscape architect William Saunders to create a cemetery plan.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Cornelia Hancock volunteers at Gettysburg

Cornelia Hancock was a 23-year-old woman from Hancock's Bridge, New Jersey, who sought to aid the war effort in some way. The battle at Gettysburg offered her the opportunity, and she made her way to the field, arriving on July 7th. She described the scene she encountered at the Union Second Corps hospital, where she served as a volunteer nurse.

Learning that the wounded of the Third Division of the Second Corps, including the 12th Regiment of New Jersey, were in a Field Hospital about five miles outside of Gettysburg, we determined to go there early the next morning, expecting to find some familiar faces among the regiments of my native state. As we drew near our destination we began to realize that war has other horrors than the sufferings of the wounded or the desolation of the bereft. A sickening, overpowering, awful stench announced the presence of the unburied dead, on which the July sun was mercilessly shining, and at every step the air grew heavier and fouler, until it seemed to possess a palpable horrible density that could be seen and felt and cut with a knife. Not the presence of the dead bodies themselves, swollen and disfigured as they were, and lying in heaps on every side, was as awful to the spectator as that deadly, nauseating atmosphere which robbed the battlefield of its glory, the survivors of their victory, and the wounded of what little chance of life was left to them.
As we made our way to a little woods in which we were told was the Field Hospital we were seeking, the first sight that met our eyes was a collection of semi-conscious but still living human forms, all of whom had been shot through the head, and were considered hopeless. They were laid there to die and I hoped that they were indeed too near death to have consciousness. Yet many a groan came from them, and their limbs tossed and twitched. The few surgeons who were left in charge of the battlefield after the Union army had started in pursuit of Lee had begun their paralyzing task by sorting the dead from the dying, and the dying from those whose lives might be saved; hence the groups of prostrate, bleeding men laid together according to their wounds.
There was hardly a tent to be seen. Earth was the only available bed during those first hours after the battle. A long table stood in this woods and around it gathered a number of surgeons and attendants. This was the operating table, and for seven days it literally ran blood. A wagon stood near rapidly filling with amputated legs and arms; when wholly filled, this gruesome spectacle withdrew from sight and returned as soon as possible for another load. So appalling was the number of the wounded as yet unsuccored, so helpless seemed the few who were battling against tremendous odds to save life, and so overwhelming was the demand for any kind of aid that could be given quickly, that one's senses were benumbed by the awful responsibility that fell to the living. Action of a kind hitherto unknown and unheard of was needed here and existed here only.

From the pallid countenances of the sufferers, their inarticulate cries, and the many evidences of physical exhaustion which were common to all of them, it was swiftly borne in upon us that nourishment was one of the pressing needs of the moment and that here we might be of service.

Our party separated quickly, each intent on carrying out her own scheme of usefulness. No one paid the slightest attention to us, unusual as was the presence of half a dozen women on such a field; nor did anyone have time to give us orders or to answer questions. Wagons of bread and provisions were arriving and I helped myself to their stores.

I sat down with a loaf in one hand and a jar of jelly in the other: it was not hospital diet but it was food, and a dozen poor fellows lying near me turned their eyes in piteous entreaty, anxiously watching my efforts to arrange a meal.
... It seemed as if there was no more serious problem under Heaven than the task of dividing that too well-baked loaf into portions that could be swallowed by weak and dying men. I succeeded, however, in breaking it into small pieces, and spreading jelly over each with a stick. I had the joy of seeing every morsel swallowed greedily by those whom I had prayed day and night I might be permitted to serve. An hour or so later, in another wagon, I found boxes of condensed milk and bottles of whiskey and brandy. I need not say that every hour brought an improvement in the situation, that trains from the North came pouring into Gettysburg laden with doctors, nurses, hospital supplies, tents, and all kinds of food and utensils: but that first day of my arrival, the sixth of July, and the third day after the battle, was a time that taxed the ingenuity and fortitude of the living as sorely as if we had been a party of shipwrecked mariners thrown upon a desert island.

"Charge of the Pennsylvania Reserves"
By Tillie Pierce
The Confederates faced toward them, fired, halted, and then began to retreat. I saw them falling as they were climbing over a stone wall and as they were shot in the open space. The fighting lasted but a short time, when the Confederates were driven back in the direction of Little Round Top. I think they passed between the Round Tops.
On this evening the number of wounded brought to the place was indeed appalling. They were laid in different parts of the house. The orchard and space around the buildings were covered with the shattered and dying, and the barn became more and more crowded. The scene had become terrible beyond description.
That night, in the house, I made myself useful in doing whatever I could to assist the surgeons and nurses. Cooking and making beef tea seemed to be going on all the time. It was an animated and busy scene. Some were cutting bread and spreading it, while I was kept busy carrying the pieces to the soldiers.
One soldier, sitting near the doorway that led into a little room in the southeast corner of the basement, beckoned me to him. He was holding a lighted candle in his hand, and was watching over a wounded soldier who was lying upon the floor. He asked me if I would get him a piece of bread, saying he was very hungry. I said certainly, ran away and soon returned. I gave him the bread and he seemed very thankful. He then asked me if I would hold the light and stay with the wounded man until he came back. I said I would gladly do so, and that I wanted to do something for the poor soldiers if I only knew what.
I then took the candle and sat down beside the wounded man. I talked to him and asked if he was injured badly. He answered:
"Yes, pretty badly."
I then asked him if he suffered much, to which he replied:
"Yes, I do now, but I hope in the morning I will be better."
I told him if there was anything I could do for him I would be so glad to do it, if he would only tell me what. The poor man looked so earnestly into my face, saying:
"Will you promise me to come back in the morning to see me."
I replied: "Yes, indeed." And he seemed so satisfied, and faintly smiled.
The man who had been watching him now returned, and thanked me for my kindness. I gave him the light and arose to leave.
The poor wounded soldier's eyes followed me, and the last words he said to me were:
"Now don't forget your promise."
I replied:
"No indeed," and expressing the hope that he would be better in the morning, bade him good night.
FROM: "At Gettysburg, or, What a Girl Saw and Heard at the Battle"

Camp Letterman, Gettysburg

Camp Letterman was a large, temporary general hospital established at Gettysburg on July 20, 1863. The first mention of establishing a general hospital at Gettysburg was contained in a circular from the Headquarters of the Army of Potomac dated July 5, 1863. The prime focus of the circular dealt with troop movements and accompanying supplies for the pursuit of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s retreating forces; however, care of the wounded was systematically covered in general terms. Assistant Adjutant-Gen. Seth Williams indicated, “The medical director will establish a general hospital at Gettysburg for the wounded that cannot be moved with the army.” Thus, surgeon Jonathan Letterman, the medical director for the Union Army of the Potomac, appointed members of his command to comply with the circular.

Dr. Henry Janes, surgeon for U.S. Volunteers, was left in charge of the various field hospitals at Gettysburg. Most of the field hospitals were in churches, schools, private homes and at the farms scattered over the surrounding countryside of Gettysburg. The Union (U.S.) field hospitals were clustered south and southeast of the town, generally between the Hanover and Taneytown roads. The Confederate field hospitals extended northeast, north, west and southwest of Gettysburg. Janes and his staff faced a daunting challenge as they began the process of moving and consolidating the wounded from the field hospitals. The wounded in the charge of Janes numbered 20,995, with 14,193 Union and 6,802 Confederate. The wounded, if they had recovered sufficiently enough to travel, were moved to the railroad depot and then transported home or to more permanent military hospitals in or near large cities in the east. Those that remained, approximately 4,200, were moved to Camp Letterman, as they were in no condition to travel.

The site selected for establishing the hospital was east of Gettysburg along the York Pike. The site was on elevated ground that was well drained. It had a large stand of trees, providing fresh air, cooling breezes and shade. The railroad was close by, along the York Pike, which facilitated the movement of the wounded to the railroad cars. A natural spring was located on the site, providing a good supply of clean, fresh water. The land was on part of the George Wolf farm. Before long, the general hospital became a model of a clean, efficient and well-managed medical care facility. At the height of its operation, the hospital had more than 400 hospital tents, placed in rows, about 10 feet apart. A tent held up to 10 patients. In the cooler autumn, each tent was heated by a Sibley stove. Each medical officer assigned was responsible for 40 to 70 patients. By the end of August 1863, the patient population had dropped to 1,600 and fell to 300 by late October, with only 100 on November 10, 1863. The general hospital site included a cook house, dining tents, operating tents, tent quarters for support staff and surgeons, quarters and tent stations for the U.S. Sanitary Commission and U.S. Christian Commission, the dead house, embalming tent and hospital graveyard.

Sophronia E. Bucklin, the first of some 40 female nurses to arrive at Camp Letterman, recalled “that of the 1,200 graves in the camp cemetery, over two-thirds were Confederates.” The general hospital closed on November 20, 1863, the day after President Lincoln dedicated the Soldiers’ Cemetery. Nurse Bucklin further recalled how “the hospital tents were removed—each bare and dust-trampled space marking where corpses had lain after death-agony was passed, and where the wounded had groaned in pain. Tears filled my eyes when I looked on that great field, so checkered with the ditches that had drained it dry. So many of them I had seen depart to the silent land; so many I had learned to respect …”

Author’s Note: Camp Letterman was situated east of Gettysburg along the south side of York Pike on the present-day site of the Giant Food supermarket and parking lot.

Tillie Pierce's Gun

By Matilda "Tillie" Jane Pierce
Teenage Eyewitness and Nurse at Gettysburg
Some weeks after they had left, a Provost Marshal was sent to the town, to collect all arms and accoutrements belonging to the Government.
Some one informed him, that there was a gun at our house, for it was not long before two soldiers called. I suppose I had been bragging too much about my relic.
On going to the door, they asked me whether we had a musket about the house.
I said: "Yes sir; but it is mine."
They replied that the Provost Marshal had sent them after it, and that they would have to take it.
I told them what the soldier who gave it to me had said; whereupon they expressed their sorrow, but added, that they would have to obey.
In my indignation at this treatment I said:
"If they are mean enough to take the gun they can have it; but it is my gun."
They seemed sorry as they rode away with my highly prized treasure, and I have no reason to doubt their sincerity.
About two hours after this, I happened to go to the front door, and on looking up the street, I saw the same two soldiers returning on horse back, one of them having a gun on his shoulder.
I ran into the house, and told my sister that I actually believed they were bringing back my gun.
Instantly the bell rang, and I told her that I was ashamed to go to the door, after talking to them the way I had.
So my sister went; but the soldiers said they wanted to see me.
I went to the door and found these same men looking quite pleased as they said to me:
"The Provost Marshal heard you were such a good Union girl, he has sent back your gun, and we are very happy to return it to you."
After attempting to apologize for the way I had addressed them, they said they did not blame me in the least for they knew how I must have felt at losing a gun obtained in the way I had this one. I still have it. On its stock are cut the initials P.L.W.T., a custom quite prevalent in the army. I need hardly state how greatly I prize this relic.
I have also in my possession an officer's sword and scabbard which were presented to my sister just after the battle, by a soldier named Barney M. Kline of Company C, 55th Ohio Regiment. The scabbard must have been hit by a bullet or piece of shell, as it was almost broken off near the middle. This sword and scabbard he picked up in our orchard along the Taneytown road, which place is now embraced in the National Cemetery.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Seminary Ridge Museum at Gettysburg

By Macrina Cooper-White, Associate Editor, HuffPost Science
When you think about the American Civil War, you might picture thousands of casualties out on the battlefield. But have you ever thought about the aftermath of treating the wounded, and what it would have been like for those soldiers and the people who cared for them?

In the three short days from July 1-3 in 1863, of the 165,000 soldiers who arrived to fight in Gettysburg, 51,000 ended up dead, wounded, missing or captured -- the largest number of casualties in any U.S. battle.

The new Seminary Ridge Museum at Gettysburg, which opened its doors to the public on July 1 in commemoration of the battle's 150th anniversary, highlights the untold stories of the people who tended to the wounded.

"Frequently devoid of supplies or robbed of their surgical instruments by the enemy, medical practitioners had to improvise and experiment in order to save soldiers' lives," said Rev. Michael Cooper-White, President of the Lutheran Seminary at Gettysburg, and coincidentally enough, my Dad.
The museum building, constructed in 1832 for students at the Gettysburg Seminary, was used as a field hospital during the Civil War. Its most iconic feature is its cupola, from which Union General John Buford surveyed the Confederates approaching before battle began. The building was restored and turned into an educational museum as a joint collaboration between the Seminary and the Adams County Historical Society.

Several medical artifacts, including surgeon tools and embalming kits, are on display on the museum's third floor. Human mannequins in bloody, life-like exhibits illustrate how medical practitioners would have used these tools to treat 600 wounded soldiers -- both Union and Confederate -- at the hospital through September of 1863.

Medicine during the Civil War may have been crude -- it's a bit frightening to look at the saws in surgeon kits and imagine them being used on an arm or a leg -- but it paved the way for important medical advancements, like improved prosthetics, better pain management, and the triage system, as reported by Discovery News.

But the museum is about a lot more than cool artifacts and gruesome scenes. It uses photographs and first hand accounts to tell the stories of individual soldiers and healers who passed through the building. How did nurses, like Gettysburg wife Sarah Broadhead, react when they arrived to clean and bandage the soldiers' wounds?
"Worse horrors met my eyes on descending to the basement of the building. Men, wounded in three and four places, not able to help themselves the least bit, lay almost swimming in water..." Broadhead wrote in her privately published The Diary of a Lady of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, from June 15 to July 15, 1863.

Another exhibit tells the story of Lt. Col. George McFarland, whose leg was amputated on July 3rd, and who was the last patient to leave the Seminary hospital on September 16th.

Visitors can hear from the Ziegler family -- including 13 year old Lydia and 10 year old Hugh -- who resided in the building and assisted in caring for the soldiers in the field hospital.

And although not there during the time of the battle, Bishop Daniel Alexander Payne attended Seminary in the building from 1835 to 1837. He was born a free man in South Carolina and became the first African-American college president.

The museum educates and unveils untold stories of the past, but it also emphasizes the role of history in informing the future. Back in the 19th Century, Americans fought over political and moral debates, and the exhibits encourage visitors to consider what injustices remain in the world today. A wall poses this question: "What do you think is the unfinished work of freedom?" A pad of sticky-notes sits beside it, and anyone can post their opinion.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Blue Pills

From The Denver Post
At Robert Fox's pill manufacturing station, blue mercury pills are formed and cut by hand, during a living history display of Civil War medicine at the Confederate Field Hospital on Daniel Lady Farm on Wednesday, July 3, 2013 in Gettysburg, Pa. The pills were used to cure a wide range of ailments, including sexually transmitted diseases. Jeff Lautenberger for the Evening Sun

Using a Field Tourniquet to Assist in Amputation

From The Denver Post
Robert Sonntag of Orlando, Fla., uses a field tourniquet to assist in a recreation of a leg amputation during a living history display of Civil War medicine at the Confederate Field Hospital on Daniel Lady Farm on Wednesday, July 3, 2013 in Gettysburg, Pa. Sonntag described the difficulty and length of time it often took for a wounded solider to get from the battlefield to the hospital. At the time, amputations were the most common surgery. Jeff Lautenberger for the Evening Sun

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Confederate Wounded and Withdrawal

By Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein
The care of the wounded was complicated by the Confederate withdrawal. The Southerners took as many of their wounded as they could in a train of 1,200 unpadded wagons that stretched for miles, traveling as rapidly as possible through mud and rain in order to avoid capture.
Many patients suffered severely from lack of food and water for thirty-six hours as well as from the pain caused by the lurching wagons. In addition, they had no medical care at ll since only guards and drivers accompanied them.
The 6,802 more severely wounded Confederates remained behind with some medical officers in field hospitals to the west of Gettysburg. The Union military and relief agencies provided supplies for their care as well as for the 14,193 Union wounded. Doctors on both sides worked themselves to exhaustion treating the wounded and performing amputations for four or five days.
Excerpted from: "The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine"

Gettysburg is Overwhelmed

By Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein
Wounded and dead soldiers overwhelmed the town of Gettysburg and its environs, At least 160 locations served as hospitals, including the courthouse, college and seminary buildings, businesses and warehouses, hotels, churches, schools, forty-five homes in town, barns, farmhouses, and outbuildings.,
Yet many wounded soldiers remained lying in the open air in the rain. The Union fores were initially handicapped because, despite the protests of his medical director Jonathan Letterman, [General George G.] Meade had ordered the medical supply wagon trains to park near Westminster, Pennsylvania, about twenty-five miles from the fighting, so that ammunition transport would not be obstructed.
As a consequence, all but the Twelfth Corps (which somehow did not receive or obey the command) had only their ambulances and medicine wagons, no hospital tents, food, clothing, utensils or other supplies needed for the wounded. No tents arrived until July 5.
Excerpted from: "The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine"

Tillie Pierce, Teenage Nurse at Gettysburg

From The National Park Service

This 15-year-old left town with her family to escape the battle only to find herself, in the end, nursing the sick and injured at the J. Weikert farm south of town. She continued caring for wounded soldiers upon returning to the family home on Baltimore Street. Among those she nursed was Colonel William Colvill of the 1st Minnesota Infantry. Tillie later wrote about her experiences in an article, "What a Girl Heard and Saw at the Battle."

Elizabeth Salome (Sallie) Myers

Nurse at Gettysburg

From The National Park Service
With little warning, this 21 year-old Gettysburg schoolteacher was suddenly thrust into the role of a nurse, tending to injured soldiers at her father's home and in the Catholic Church where hundreds of wounded Union and Confederate soldiers were hospitalized. She later contributed food and nursing assistance at Camp Letterman General Hospital east of town. Despite her claim that she could not stand the sight of blood, Sallie courageously contributed her time in the hospitals at Gettysburg with little recognition for her efforts.

Casualties of the Weather at the Battle of Gettysburg

By Samantha-Rae Tuthill, Staff Writer
The Battle of Gettysburg is said to be the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War. Fought in Gettysburg, Pa., July 1 through 3 in 1863, historians put the number of causalities and missing Union and Confederate soldiers at 46,286. Bayonets, rifled muskets, cannons and infections all contributed to the carnage that took place 150 years ago today. The weather, however, created some causalities as well.
A Gettysburg man by the name of Rev. Dr. Michael Jacobs, a math professor at what was then called Pennsylvania College, had a strong interest in weather and recorded his observations three times a day, every day, even during the battle. As a result, the "Meteorology of the Battle", was published, and it gives very specific details on the weather at the Battle of Gettysburg and the role it may have played in battle.
Ben Neely, Executive Director at the Adams County Historical Society, emphasized that the most damaging aspect of the weather for this event actually occurred on July 4, the day after the battle had ended. Rain fell across the area for most of the day; Rev. Dr. Jacobs put the total at 1.39 inches. While wounded still lay on the field, some may have felt welcomed by the break in action. Some wounded soldiers had still not been moved from low-lying areas by the Plum Run Creek, however, which overflowed its banks. Those stranded near the flood waters, reportedly all Confederates, drowned.
According to AccuWeather's Vice President of Marketing and Civil War historian Dr. Lee Rainey, an even larger issue that was faced as a result of the rain was the retreat attempts made by the Confederate Army on July 4.
"They had to move a 17-mile-long train of wagons filled with wounded soldiers over the dissolving dirt roads back to Virginia," he said. "And the rains caused the Potomac River--easily fordable on the march north--to flow so high that the army was trapped on the north side with the Union forces in pursuit. The Confederates dug in for a desperate battle, but in the end were able to escape across the river on the 13th, the day before Meade's planned attack."
The days leading up to that point were not without tragedy as fighting consumed the fields of the Pennsylvania town. For its part, the weather was more cooperative at the battle's start. July 1, the first day fighting began, had a sky covered by cumulostratus clouds all day, according to Rev. Dr. Jacobs' detailed reports. The breeze was typically southerly at only 2 mph; the afternoon temperature was a comfortable 76 degrees. The second day started with similar cloud cover, but Rev. Dr. Jacobs wrote that the sky was three-tenths clear by the afternoon, when temperatures went up to 81. Likewise, the cloud cover started the third day and cleared considerably by the afternoon. The cloud cover that remained, however, was the "massive thunder-cloud of summer." A thunderstorm started around 6 p.m. EDT. "The thunder seemed tame, after the artillery firing of the afternoon," Rev. Dr. Jacobs wrote.
The temperatures were not as severe as they could have been. Current records from 1981 to 2010 put the average high for the area at 87 every day in July, but most of the Battle of Gettysburg was fought in the 70s. The cloud cover also offered a break from direct sunlight. Had these conditions been less favorable, there may have been even more casualties.
Lee Houser of the Civil War Heritage Foundation, Inc., said that heat stroke and heat exhaustion would likely have affected many soldiers, particularly Union soldiers. Union blue uniforms were primarily wool, but the Confederate's gray uniforms may have used some cotton, which is lighter. After marching, some for over 30 miles, even in lower-than-average temperatures, it would have taken a physical toll on soldiers. Add in the thick uniforms, supplies, heavy machinery and weapons that had to be carried along, and it would have been a lot of strain on their bodies. When the temperatures did climb, some succumbed to the heat.
Dr. Rainey, who spent years as a Civil War re-enactor, expressed the discomfort of authentic Civil War uniforms worn in Gettysburg with July's heat and humidity. He added, however, that it was something the soldiers in 1863 would have been more used to.
Neely contends that while heat would have been damaging, conditions may not have been as bad as they seem from a modern-day perspective.
"They wore wool clothes every day," he said. "This was something they would have been accustomed to."
Records do indicate that the heat played a factor in the war by exhausting soldiers and causing heat stroke, but perhaps the hot conditions were not as damaging as they had the potential to be; not as damaging as the heavy rain that followed.
PHOTO: Charge of the 19th Regiment, Battle of Gettysburg. Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views, via New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building / Photography Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs.


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