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.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


By Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein

In both the North and the South, women with the title "matron" worked in general hospitals behind the lines. However, the two sides varied in their concept of a matron's duties.

The position of matron was established i the Confederacy by legislation passed on November 25, 1862. Each hospital was to have two chief matrons to supervise the entire "domestic economy" of the hospital. There were also supposed to be two assistant matrons in charge of the laundry and patients' clothing, and two ward matrons for each ward of 100 patients, who made sure that  each patient received suitable bedding, food, and medicine.

In practice, the number of matrons depended upon the size of the hospital and the willingness of the doctor in charge to appoint them. Their duties also varied, involving many kinds of hands-on hospital work in addition to their supervisory roles. Matrons often cooked for patients with special diet needs, making toddies, eggnog, or recipes that some soldier's mother used to make, in order to appeal to delicate appetites. Matrons sometimes fed the concoctions to the patients as well. In many hospitals matrons controlled the key to the medicinal liquor supply, dispensing whiskey only by proper prescription, Matrons sometimes did the same tasks as nurses, such as washing the hands, faces and wounds of patients. In addition, matrons comforted patients, offered spiritual counsel, sat with the dying, and wrote to patients' families to inform them about the soldier's location or, if necessary, his demise.

Matrons worked long hours, in some cases from 4:00 a.m. until midnight. Many matrons became ill from exhaustion, as well as disease, and had to leave the hospital to recuperate. Among the most famous of the Confederate matrons wee Phoebe Pember, at Chimborazo Hospital No. 2 in Richmond, and Ella Newsom, Fannie Beers, and Kate Cumming, who worked at various locations with the Army of Tennessee. Pember, Beers, and Cumming later wrote books about their experiences.

Officially, as of 1863, one Union matron was to be appointed for every twenty beds to perform the duty in hospitals that laundresses performed in the field. However, the term "matron" was also used in other contexts to apply to women working as nurses, cooks, chambermaids, or ward supervisors, a position similar to what Confederates meant by the term. Jane Woolsey, for example, seems to have served as a matron in the supervisory sense.

The position of matron evidently was more important and prestigious for the Confederates. Although some people objected to matrons, as they did to the presence of women in hospitals in any capacity, patients generally seem to have benefited from matrons' care.

IMAGE: Jane Stuart Woolsey

From: "The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine"

The Four Year Itch

By James M. Schmidt

“There were two things that stuck closer than a brother; that was the itch and body lice or greyback as they were politely called…I had a bad case of the itch… it became very bad; so much that my hands were swollen and my fingers stood apart. Sores and yellow blisters came between them and they ran corruption. I could scarcely touch anything, my hands were so sore.”-Pvt. Milton Asbury Ryan, Co. B, 14th Mississippi, CSA

In his recent article, “The ‘Army Itch’: A Dermatological Mystery of the American Civil War” (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, August 2006, Vol. 55, No. 2, pp. 302-8), Thomas G. Cropley, M.D., provides an excellent review of this chronic, painful, and epidemic skin condition that plagued Private Ryan and thousands of other soldiers, North and South. The article includes a chronology of the disease, extensive excerpts from the writings of period physicians who saw and treated the disease, and a description of the treatments used.

[Note that since the time this article first appeared in The Civil War News in October 2006, Dr. Cropley has authored another interesting article: "Dermatology and skin disease in the American Civil War," Dermatol Nurs, 2008 Feb;20(1):29-33.]

Dr. Cropley received his M.D. from the University of Virginia and completed his residency at Harvard University. (At this writing) he is currently Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and director of the school’s Dermatology Residency Program. In addition to his own clinical and teaching work, Dr. Cropley is also deputy editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Earlier this year at their annual meeting, the History of Dermatology Society awarded him its Samuel J. Zakon Award (First Prize) for his research and paper on army itch.

Dr. Cropley (who is named “Thomas” after Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson) has been interested in the Civil War for a long time and his interest in Civil War medicine is an outgrowth of his interest in medical history in general. “I grew up in West Virginia, very close to the battlefields of the 1861 Kanawha Valley campaign,” he told me. “My grandfather, an unreconstructed ‘Reb,’ used to take me out hunting for artifacts like Minie balls and the like.”Dr. Cropley also speaks a number of foreign languages (including Gaelic!) and plays the bagpipe competitively.

Army itch, referred to as “camp itch” in the Confederate army, was a disorder that baffled military physicians of the day. The “mystery” is that medical opinion at the time was divided over the true nature of the disease: some thought it to be epidemic scabies, others thought it a unique malady, and still others considered it to be a mix of the many skin conditions that plagued the armies due to poor hygiene. There was no dispute over the seriousness of the itch: at best it was a nuisance, but Cropley notes that it often reduced the effectiveness and morale of afflicted troops to a dangerous degree.

In the main, Dr. Cropley’s paper includes accounts on army itch drawn from the writings of nearly twenty army surgeons and civilian physicians. The excerpts are drawn from period publications such as Medical and Surgical Reporter and the Confederate States Medical and Surgical Journal. Reading the accounts gives witness to several important characteristics of the disease: first, the itch was debilitating – in addition to painful lacerations, the incessant itching was exhausting in itself; second, many of the physicians noted that the disease spread to the local population after an army passed through; third, most soldiers waited too late to approach their medical team about the disease.

“We see this nowadays, too,” Dr. Cropley told me. “Scabies is insidious. The itching is tolerable at first, and patients generally do not seek medical attention. Later, the itch becomes maddening, and it is at that point that patient seeks care.”He suspects that many soldiers with itch did not report for surgeon's call, as they were unlikely to be relieved from duty or treated in many cases.

In the article, Dr. Cropley notes some of the treatments for the itch, including sulphur-based alkaline ointments or washes, to which were added cooling or astringent compounds. Arsenicals and mercury were also used, and while effective were almost certainly toxic. Short on sulphur due to its use in the manufacture of gunpowder, the Confederates established an interesting clinical experiment at Richmond’s Chimborazo Hospital to evaluate alternative treatments. Topical application of strong decoctions of native plants such as poke root, broom straw, and slippery elm were found to be helpful.

Dr. Cropley also told me that the military’s itchy encounters did not end with the Civil War. “Epidemic scabies always follows the population disruptions of wartime,” he said. “The United States Army has had an ongoing scabies eradication program in Kosovo and Bosnia for the last 10 years or so. I have heard from colleagues that Afghanistan and Iraq have significant scabies as well.”Dr. Cropley added that these modern outbreaks are mostly in the local population and not in military personnel, but they still require the attention of Army dermatologists attending to civilians.

Dr. Cropley told me there are many other interesting dermatological mysteries to be found in studying the Civil War. To him, one of the more interesting stories regards General Henry W. Halleck's itchy elbows. “Halleck apparently had the disconcerting habit of rubbing his elbows, especially when under stress,” he told me. “Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles in particular found this annoying and even commented on it in his diary.”

So why did Halleck rub his elbows? “Itchy elbows can be due to a number of causes, and the scratching behavior can be a habit rather than a response to an actual itch,” Dr. Cropley told me. He added: “Halleck's medical record is pretty short, but the thing that caught my eye was his statement in a fall 1864 letter that he was having his annual trouble with itchy, watery eyes.”

Dr. Cropley believes that Halleck might have been suffering from seasonal allergic keratoconjunctivitis (“hay fever”). “Hay fever is an atopic disease and is frequently accompanied by atopic dermatitis,” he told me. “Atopic diseases often worsen under stress, so I think, but I can't prove, that Halleck had atopic dermatitis as the cause of his itchy elbows.”

Learning more about Halleck’s mysterious condition sounds like a historical itch that Dr. Cropley is destined to scratch, and I’m predicting another award-winning paper about a Civil War-related dermatological story in his future.

[Many thanks are due to Mr. Michael Gay, Ann Arbor, Michigan, for kindly granting permission to use the opening quote, which appears in his great grandfather’s unpublished memoir, “Experience of a Confederate Soldier in Camp and Prison in the Civil War, 1861-1865.”]

FROM: The Civil War News – “Medical Department” – October 2006

Women Nurses in the Civil War


Before the Civil War, most nurses in the United States were male. Women in
the U.S. knew of Florence Nightingale, a British nurse who successfully served
on the battlefield, but social taboos prevented well-to-do women from working
outside the home. A "working woman" was an object of pity or scorn in Victorian

At the beginning of the war, Union Army leadership realized that they needed
more medical staff and decided to accept women nurses to fill the gap. Dorothea
Dix was chosen as the first superintendent of U.S. Army nurses in June 1861. Dix
insisted that her nurses be between thirty-five and fifty years old, in good
health, of high moral standards, not too attractive, and willing to dress
plainly. Over three thousand nurses served the Union through Dix's appointments. 
Northern women also found ways to volunteer as nurses without going through
Dix. Regional aid societies would certify women as official nurses if they had
already proven their worth as volunteers in Union hospitals, regardless of Dix's
guidelines. Some experienced female nurses served, such as Catholic nuns, but
any matronly, responsible woman could qualify during the Civil War. The
escalating war required still more medical staff, and in 1863 the Union Army
allowed surgeons to choose their own nurses.

Army surgeons and other male staff were not always happy to see women
entering their domain. Without authority over hospitals or other medical staff,
women nurses found ways to accomplish their goals despite male resistance. When
they could not cajole, reason, or shame Army doctors into improving conditions
for the patients, the women worked around them.

In addition to providing medical care, the women nurses comforted and fed
patients, wrote letters, read, and prayed. They managed supplies and staffed
hospital kitchens and laundries. African-American nurses were often confined to
menial labor jobs, ordered to work among the most dangerously ill patients, or
assigned to care for African-American soldiers.

Female nurses in the North and South went bravely where few Victorian women
had dared tread. Many would consider their experiences to be among the
definitive ones of their lives, leading many to further social and political
service. Showing a high level of determination, knowledge, and emotional and
physical strength, these women succeeded in opening the nursing profession to
future women.

Visit to learn more about Civil War nurses.

Early Medical Education for African Americans


Early Medical Education
Prior to the Civil War, most African Americans were enslaved. Very few free African Americans were trained physicians or surgeons, and medical education was not open to people of color in the United States.  Those seeking medical careers as physicians most often received their medical education in Canada or Europe, and a few from medical schools in the North.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, African Americans seeking a medical education were faced with difficult prospects.  Few medical schools would admit black students regardless of their academic excellence.

Medical education for those seeking careers as physicians and surgeons was limited to a few black medical colleges including Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C. and Meharry Medical College, in Nashville, Tennessee both established by whites in 1868 and 1876 respectively, and primarily under the control of white physicians and administrators.

For those achieving a medical degree, specialized studies and hospital privileges were almost unattainable as few hospitals allowed black physicians access for training or to treat patients.  This continued into much of the 20th century, and although some black students were admitted into white medical schools and hospitals, they faced blatant racism, ostracism, and prejudice.

Segregation and Health Care
Organized healthcare for African Americans first developed as a result of the slave owners' need to tend to illness and disease within the enslaved populations on their plantations.

After the Civil War white communities gradually began to establish segregated, white owned and operated hospitals, primarily in the South, to care for the newly freed slaves.  Although they admitted only black patients, these “separate but equal” hospitals were often inadequate, provided substandard care, and rarely provided access for black physicians or nurses.  Segregated hospitals continued to exist well into the 20th century.

Making Their Own Way
As more African Americans obtained medical degrees, black physicians began to respond to racism in American medicine by forming their own medical institutions, teaching hospitals, and medical societies.

Provident Hospital and Training School in Chicago, the first black owned and operated hospital in the United States was established in 1891. Others soon followed including Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital and Training School in Philadelphia and Provident Hospital and Free Dispensary in Baltimore. These hospitals provided a higher standard of medical care to black patients and provided education and training for black physicians and nurses. They continued to serve the black community well into the 20th century.

Taylor Lane Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina was founded in 1901 by Dr. Matilda Evans and was the first black hospital in Columbia.  Dr. Evans, pictured above, was the first African American woman physician licensed to practice in the State of South Carolina and treated both black and white patients.  Taylor Lane Hospital was destroyed by fire and eventually established as St. Luke's Hospital and Training School for Nurses.

The National Medical Association was formed in 1895, in direct response to the exclusion of black physicians from the American Medical Association.

They were instrumental in leading the fight for better health care and greater opportunities in medicine to all enfranchised Americans. Today they continue to represent the needs of African American physicians across the country.

Even in the recent 20th century, African Americans have found a need to establish organizations to address current issues facing black physicians.  The Society of Black Academic Surgeons founded in 1989 was established to address the small numbers of African American Surgeons pursuing academic careers and to provide a forum for scholarship in collaboration with the leading departments of surgery in the United States.

Impact of Disease During Civil War

By Intisar K. Hamidullah

After studying medical records from the Northern Army and Civil War Veterans it was concluded that several hundred potential recruits were unable to join due to poor health history from childhood illnesses and slavery. Although, if one did pass the exam, they dealt with disease on crowded battle fields, trenches and encampments from frequent outbreaks of diseases. The ratio of the number of deaths from disease to wound-caused deaths was much higher for black soldiers than for white ones. The high death rate for blacks was attributed to men being weak and more susceptible to disease from poor living conditions, unhealthy posts, unbalanced diets, and indifferent treatment. Out of the seven diseases previously mentioned, diarrhea (caused by certain viruses and bacteria) was the greatest killer, accounting for 20 percent of all deaths caused by disease, followed by 14 percent pneumonia and 13 percent typhoid.

Socioeconomic background affected soldier's chances of survival during the Civil War in the areas of previous residency, occupation and skin color for blacks. The mortality of a white Northern solider was better if he was not a farmer and lived in the city because he was probably exposed to other infections and his body had built immunity to the disease. The mortality from disease for slaves formerly engaged in other nonfarm occupations such as house servants was as low as the death rate for those in elite occupations, but their advantages over field hands resulted exclusively from their lower probability of contracting diseases. Consequently, black soldiers with darker skin were more likely to die of disease. Since prior to joining the Civil War their bodies and immune systems were not prepared to handle the environmental stress of war.

In conclusion a recruit from a healthy background who had limited exposure to disease had a lower immunity to disease compared to a man from an unhealthy background. Additionally a person who had enlisted with better nutrition was advantaged over a man with poor nutrition, which left him prone to disease. As a result, a measles and small-pox attack would confer immunity and reduce the likelihood of contracting the disease in the future. Whereas a previous attack of TB does not have any influence on resistance to a future attack.

In addition to socioeconomic background affecting a soldier's susceptibility of acquiring a disease, living and sanitary conditions also affected their chance of survival. Some soldiers failed to wash their bodies and their clothes since they were used to being taking care of by either their mother or wife. Additionally camp regulations stated they were supposed to dig an eight foot trench for human bodily wastes and to cover it with six inches of dirt every night. However, most soldiers were disgusted by this so they relieved themselves in an open space instead. Doing this invited flies around the camp accompanied by diseases that spread to the men and their food rations which led to an unhealthy living environment.

 Not only did the soldiers have to endure an unhealthy living environment when they went to the field hospital, they were operated on by a surgeon who had blood and pus on his coat from the previous patient. Then while he was operating on his patient if he dropped his instruments he would pick it up, rinse it off and continue to work on his patient. In addition to the high number of soldiers affected by illness, many were also wounded from bullets. Due to the disproportionate ratio of soldiers to surgeons, the surgeon had to look at a soldier briefly and determine how he was going to be treated. If he was slightly wounded, in the interest of saving as many soldiers as possible, he was overlooked. However if he was wounded on a limb the surgeon would amputate
within ten minutes.

First the doctor would give the solider a dose of whiskey and then place chloroform on a cloth over his nose to place him in an unconscious state for the amputation. Coincidentally, there was a 75% survival rate for amputations if they did not succumb to fever.

Despite a high survival rate for amputees, if they were infected with one of the common deadly diseases their chance for survival rates was not as favorable. Since vaccinations were not available most surgeons and nurses depended on quinine, chloroform, opium, morphine and rhubarb to treat soldiers. When they did not have access to those drugs and chemicals they used natural remedies. According to a doctor's records for treating patients he noted white sumac, red elm, prickly ash and poke was mixed and applied to a syphilis rash. Then for stomach and bowel symptoms soldiers were treated by drinking a mixture of raspberry and whortleberry leaves. Usage of natural remedies was essential if the doctor was unable to secure necessary drug supplies.

Even if a soldier survived the Civil War he incurred lifelong health challenges. A fifty year old Civil War veteran of 1890 resembled his seventy five year old descendents of today. Additionally, Union soldiers were more likely to survive a wartime illness, but Southern soldiers lived several years longer after war. Consequently, the more infections a person is exposed to the greater likelihood of arthritis, heart disease, stroke and even cancer later in life.   

Excerpted From:


Abraham Lincoln and The Embalmer: Dr. Thomas Holmes


The assassination of Abraham Lincoln on April 15, 1865 shocked a nation still recovering from four years of bloody civil war.   Along with the hunt for his killers and the uncovering of the assassination plot against the President and several other members of his administration, there was also the logistic nightmare of his funeral and the need to transport the President's body by train from Washington D.C. to his final resting place in Springfield, Illinois.   Since the funeral train would retrace the route that Lincoln had traveled to Washington following his election,  the body would be viewed by millions of mourners along the way during the numerous planned stops.   All of which raised the question of how to keep the body preserved long enough to reach its destination.   Considering the fact that funeral embalming was a relatively new development at that time, some very special arrangements needed to be made.

Enter Thomas Holmes, the "father of American embalming"...

After graduating from Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1845, Dr. Holmes developed a keen interest in the proper preserving of cadavers for dissection.  He was also openly critical of the chemical preservatives that were commonly used and the possible health risks that they posed to medical students.   Considering that many of the popular preservatives used arsenic and mercury, he was likely right.   In searching for a better way to preserve bodies, he discovered that European anatomists had already begun experimenting with arterial embalming, i.e.,  opening up an artery in the cadaver, flushing out the blood with water and replacing it with a preservative (typically alcohol).    Through his research, Dr. Holmes developed a more practical embalming solution that he patented and sold commercially. 

Still, it was the outreak of the U.S. Civil War and the problem of preserving the corpses of thousands of soldiers to allow them to be sent home for burial that gave Dr. Holmes the chance to test out his improved preservation methods on a broad scale.    Although the corpses were typically buried at the battlefield sites where they were killed, families often demanded that the corpses be disinterred so they could receive "proper" burials.   Considering the lack of proper refrigeration or hermetically sealed coffins, the delivery brigades charged with shipping the bodies turned to Dr. Holmes and his embalming methods to keep the bodies from decaying long enough to be reburied by their families.   

After receiving a commission as a captain in the Army Medical Corps, Dr. Holmes was assigned to Washington, D.C. and managed to impress President Lincoln enough that the Quartermaster Corps was mobilized to use embalming on a wide scale to return the corpses of Northern soldiers to their homes (the Confederate army never adopted embalming for their soldiers).   Setting up battlefield embalming stations, Dr. Holmes trained numerous embalmers in his new technique and a new profession, the "embalming surgeon" quickly sprang up.    It is hard to say how many corpses Dr. Holmes and his assistants prepared for shipping, (he later claimed to have personally embalmed more than 4,000 bodies but this is probably an exaggeration).   The demand for embalming services became so great that some unscrupulous embalmers actually competed for corpses on the battlefield (the army offered an $80.00 fee for the embalmed body of an officer and $30.00 for a soldier).   By 1865,  the problem had become so bad that the War Department put out General Order 39 to ensure that only properly licensed embalmers would be allowed to offer services to the families of the war dead.  Once the war was over, Dr. Holmes` numerous trained assistants returned home and put their skills to good use. 

Following President Lincoln`s assassination, Mary Todd Lincoln personally requested that Dr. Holmes be placed in charge of her husband`s embalming.    She had been familiar with his work after seeing how effective he was in preparing the body of  Colonel Elmer Elsworth, the first casualty of the U.S. Civil War.  The Lincolns had been impressed enough to have Dr. Holmes embalm the body of their son, William Wallace Lincoln, when he died in 1862.    Embalming the President`s corpse for the long funeral train  was probably the best possible advertisement for the new arterial embalming technique since thousands of mourners were able to see  for themselves how effective it could be. 

Not that there were any actual "embalming surgeons" left for long.  Within just a few years after the end of the Civil War,  embalming was largely left up to professional undertakers.   There was not much of an  organized funerary trade at first (many new embalmers gained their skills from correspondence courses and conducted funerals out of their own homes).  Still,  the next few decades saw a tremendous rise in the funeral industry including the use of open-casket funerals and "wakes" (as opposed to burying the body as quickly as possible).   Dr. Holmes'  embalming fluid and his patented fluid pump were in high demand as more and more people began demanding that their loved ones be embalmed prior to burial.    There were still health risks involved since even the Holmes embalming fluid contained dangerous levels of arsenic (which continued to be used for embalming corpses until well into the 20th century when formaldehyde was adopted).    As for Dr. Thomas Holmes himself, his role as the "father of American embalming" didn't provide him with much success in life. 

Although Dr. Holmes tried to distance him from the embalming trade after the war, the money that he made from selling his embalming fluid was likely the only real business success he ever had.   According to Mary Roach and her excellent book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers,  Dr. Holmes tried different ventures including opening a drugstore,  running at health spa, and launching a root-beer business although he eventually managed to exhaust all of his savings.     He also became, well, strange in his old age (possibly due to the effects of long-term arsenic exposure gained from his embalming experiments).  Not only did he never marry or have children, but he filled his Brooklyn home with some graphic examples of his embalming skill. 

Those few visitors with the nerve to enter his home often encountered preserved bodies in closets and heads sitting on tables in the living-room (he was also a fan of phrenology).     Perhaps not surprisingly, he spent a considerable amount of time in and out of asylums whiile continuing to research new and better ways of preserving corpses.   He was also determined to profit from the funeral industry any way that he could.   Just a few years before his death in 1899, Dr. Holmes took out ads in mortuary trade journals with his latest invention:  a canvas body bag that could also double as a sleeping bag.   Sadly, this last innovation never really caught on (pity there was no eBay back then) and the "father of American embalming", for reasons known only to him, specificaly requested that his body not be embalmed before burial. 

While not as well known as other scientific pioneers, Dr. Thomas Holmes helped launch the funeral industry and, in turn, helped change attitudes concerning death.  He may have also created one of the first industrial hazards of the modern era considering the popularity of his arsenic-based embalming fluid.    As embalming became increasingly affordable and popular, the demand for embalming fluid and its principal ingredient, arsenic, meant a steady rise in arsenic contamination of local water supplies as decaying coffins (whether made of wood or metal) allowed embalmed remains to leak into the groundwater.  

In many cases, the presence of an old cemetery often endangered the health of people living in the surrounding area.  Although arsenic was eventually phased out in favour of formaldehyde (which was already available in Dr. Holmes's time), the thousands of embalmed corpses still remaining in cemeteries across the country have been shown by researchers to carry dangerous amounts of arsenic.   Since arsenic exposure can enter the bloodstream in different ways, people working around old burial sites need to take special precautions to prevent health problems.

Which is probably not the lasting legacy that Dr. Thomas Holmes had in mind.

The First Civil War Photographs of Soldiers with Facial Wounds.

Source: New York University Medical Center, New York, USA.


During the Civil War, for the first time in medical history, a large number of excellent photographs were taken of many wounded Union and (to a lesser degree) Confederate soldiers by photographers assigned by their doctors or surgeons, or by photographers employed by the Army Medical Museum. The majority of these photographs demonstrating facial, head, and neck wounds have not been published since the Civil War, except for a few minor exceptions. The actual art of printing photographs in medical journals, daily newspapers, and magazines did not even begin until the early 1880s--almost two decades after the Civil War [24]. Any photographs that could be found in certain rare medical and surgical books during and immediately after the War were actually pasted into those books by their printers.

The Maryland School for the Blind


In 1853, Franklin Pierce had just been elected as the 14th President of the United States, Abe Lincoln was still a young congressman in Illinois, and most people would scoff at the very suggestion that, in the very near future, Americans would turn against Americans in a bloody Civil War. It was also the year that our school, known as the Maryland Institution for the Instruction of the Blind, first opened its doors in downtown Baltimore.

Starting with a small group of students, the school had three superintendents in the first 11 years. The first superintendent was David E. Loughery who was a blind graduate of the Pennsylvania Institution for the Instruction of the Blind. It then settled into a period of tremendous growth under the direction of Fredrick Douglas Morrison, who was superintendent from 1864 to 1904. A national leader in his profession, instrumental in the founding of the American Association of Instructors of the Blind and an early proponent of a then controversial new system called "braille", Mr. Morrison lead the nation by example.

In 1868 he moved the campus to much larger quarters on North Avenue and changed the name to The Maryland School for the Blind. In 1872, when segregation was still the law of the land, he was a founder of The Maryland School for the Colored Blind and Deaf and served as the superintendent of both schools. John Frances Bledsoe became superintendent in 1906.

In 1908 Mr. Bledsoe moved the school to its present location in the Northeast corner of Baltimore City. The leadership at The Maryland School for the Blind reads like a Who’s Who in Education for the Blind in America. Francis M. Andrews, Herbert Joseph Wolfe, and Richard L. Welsh were all internationally recognized innovators who moved the school forward into the 20th century.

Cardiology History 101: Lessons Learned from the Civil War

By Dr. Stephen Sinatra

I've had a longtime interest in the Civil War. In fact, some of my patients in Connecticut may recall how my waiting room was decorated with my collection of Civil War generals and battle scenes. So, this summer I was delighted to take in the annual Deep River Ancient Muster, a two hour event with fife and drum corps.

My wife feels strong ties to this town because it was her paternal grandfather's hometown, and he often brought her there to visit his family. Little did either of us realize that this sleepy little village hosts the largest fife and drum corps muster in the world! Its impact on me was palpable.

Decades ago my Civil War curiosity involved taking my kids to visit Civil War battlefields between New England and Atlanta, Georgia. But it took this summer's muster—and hearing the marching band music that originated as far back as the American Revolution—to help me envision the sounds on the battleground. I listened to the antique musket-fire, the fifes, the drums, and the cadence of the feet and imagined the call to arms, battle cries, the thunder of cannons, and cries of agony.  

That experience reminded me cardiology has some pretty impressive historical roots that date back to that sad time. What was then referred to as "soldier’s heart" was a set of symptoms very similar to what we know of as heart disease now. Some of those poor soldiers—many of whom were very young men, and even boys—had complaints that were at first written off as lack of sleep, or "bad food." They would report shortness of breath, fatigue with exertion, inability to keep up with comrades, palpitations of the heart, sweating, dizziness, and even chest pain.

This condition was eventually referred to as "Da Costa's Syndrome," named for Jacob Mendes Da Costa—the physician and surgeon who investigated and described the disorder back then. He worked in Union hospitals and observed patients with what he called an "irritable heart." Yet, they didn’t exhibit any of the physical abnormalities he expected to find with an irritable heart, such as an enlarged or dilated heart. In his 1871 report of 300 soldiers, he also described GI ailments, diarrhea, and high fevers in those with more advanced cases.

Moreover, Da Costa identified rapid heart rates that were extremely influenced by body position. This kind of "orthostatic intolerance" is also seen today in medical conditions such as mitral valve prolapse, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), and chronic fatigue. He also observed symptom relief in more severe cases when the soldier was removed from the stress. Da Costa’s Syndrome has been described as both an anxiety disorder and a neurological condition—known also as battle fatigue. It laid the foundation for what we call post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is a condition that affects many people today.

Yes, you may not know it, but the Civil War taught us a lot about the effects that chronic, unrelenting stress has on the heart. As I've mentioned before, the many forms of human heartbreak can also impact the heart catastrophically. Today, our soldiers continue to serve and remind us of the huge impact unrelenting stress can have on the body.

So, what’s the takeaway here? If you’re having any cardiac symptoms, and think stress has any role to play, take action. Do NOT underestimate the fact that stress can kill. Maybe you are at war with yourself. Maybe your battlefield is the office, or your home situation, finances, or a family member's illness. Remember, you don't have to be under as much stress as our veterans have experienced for your own heart to be affected. The first step is recognizing that it's a problem, just like Dr. Da Costa did, and see your doctor for a thorough evaluation.

Excerpted from:

IMAGE: Jacob Mendes Da Costa

School for Colored Deaf and Dumb Children

Excerpted from: and

Just before the Civil War, Dr. Platt H. Skinner, a pioneer educator of the disabled, operated three schools for African-American children who were blind, deaf, or both. An ardent abolitionist, Dr. Skinner was forced to move his school twice. The second school, the subject of this book, was located in Suspension Bridge, New York at a terminus of the Underground Railroad, on which Dr. Skinner may have been a conductor.

Significance: From 1858-61, Dr. P.H. Skinner and his wife Jarusha Skinner kept a school in Niagara City for African American children who were deaf, dumb, or blind. They specifically espoused ideals of equality and abolitionism. Students included several children born in Canada.

Description: No known image or verbal description of this site exists. Hints from the diary of Marcus Adams, local judge, suggest that it may have been located on the east side of Lewiston Avenue, just south of the Colt Block.

On January 4, 1858, Adams noted, “Deaf and Dumb school about to open in Glover Brick house.” The only Glover listed in Childs’ 1869 Director (the first directory for Niagara Falls) was Reuben Glover, who owned a cooper shop on Niagara Avenue in Suspension Bridge (shown on the 1875 Atlas). A note by transcriber Thomas B. Lovell, however, indicated that “Glover’s Hotel is what is now the United States Hotel opposite Silberberg’s block.” The 1869 directory noted that Silberberg had a readymade clothing store on Lewiston Avenue (now Main Street). In 1875, the Atlas showed Silberberg on Lewiston Avenue three doors north of Ontario Street. Across the street, on the northwest corner of Ontario and Lewiston, stood the Union Hotel. It is possible that this building was the original Glover Brick House and that it later became the United States Hotel.

The 1860 map of Niagara Falls, however, located the United States Hotel just south of the Colt Block on Lewiston Avenue. This location would be consistent with other clues in Marcus Adams’ diary. On November 7, 1854, he noted, “Col. Fisk has sold the two corner lots this side Glovers’ to the [sic] Mr. Colts for $3000.00. This is the most important sale that has ever taken place here.” On November 15, Adams added, “Loud complaints made about order of trustees to grade down Lewiston Ave. to a strait grade from R.R. to Glovers Hotel. But it is right in principle.” And on August 14, 1855, he noted, “Swan has bought the place next to Glover’s about which there has there has been so much contention.” Further research in directories, deeds, maps, and assessment records could probably pinpoint this site accurately.

Discussion: The Skinner School for Colored Deaf, Dumb and Blind Children is one of the most remarkable institutions in this whole survey, unique in the U.S. for focusing on African American children—many of them born in Canada—who were deaf, dumb, or blind. Michael Boston, from the State University of New York at Brockport, has done considerable research on Skinner and his school, and we are indebted to his publications for much of the background on this site. The 1860 U.S. census listed nine students living in a “School for Mutes.” Six were noted as “deaf and dumb”:

Samuel Brown, age 18; Isaac Brown, age 16; Jane Sly, age 14; and Christian Hartwell, age 13, all born in Canada, HannahPolk, age 17, born in New Jersey; and Eliza Wilson, age 5, born in New York State. Three were blind: James Smith, age 13, and Nancy Smith, age 10, both born in Canada, and Samuel Stevison, age 17, born in Pennsylvania.

They lived in a household headed by Platt H. Skinner, age 30, born in New York. Although the 1860 census listed him as blind, he was not. His wife Jerusha, age 29, was, however, deaf. Their son Henry, age 4, had been born in the District of Columbia. Mary Smith, age seventeen and a “teacher of the blind,” born in New Jersey, with personal property valued at $500, was herself blind. Donnelly Dunn, age 40, born in Ireland, a printer, also lived in this household, perhaps working on Skinner’s newspaper, The Mute and the Blind, “published for and by colored blind, deaf and mute students at a Niagara Falls school.”Marcus Adams’ diary gave a brief running account of this opening of this school in January 1858, complete with his almost immediate reservations:

Jan. 4, 1858. “Deaf and Dumb school about to open in Glover Brick house.”

Jan. 6. “Donation for Mr. Crittenden [Presbyterian minister] was quite an affair. Large company, but few from the stone [Congregational] church folks, none from the Falls, or the other side. Great abundance of refreshments. All our congregation present, with few exceptions. Mr. Wells made himself quite conspicuous. Mr. Wallace enjoyed it. Dr. Skinner, wife and baby were the main attraction as the wife was a mute. He introduced her with the sign language. Deaf and Dumb school opens soon.”

Jan.10. Sunday. Mr. Skinner, founder of the Deaf and Dumb school, came into the S.S. bringing a little colored girl whom he found in Canada. He made some nteresting remarks, and gave illustrations of sign language. (But fear him.)

Jan. 25. “Found an article in Frank Leslie’s newspaper which goes strongly against Dr. Skinner, as an imposter at Washington, and this Col. Fisk sustains in a letter to his wife. So our Deaf and Dumb sch. will probably blow out.

They lived in a neighborhood that included laborers, a jeweler, bead makers, a school teacher, a gardener, servants, a gatekeeper, a butcher, carpenters, joiners, a carriage maker, a grocer, gentlemen, two physicians and surgeons, blacksmiths, a custom house officer (Robert Trafford), several railroad agents, a milliner, a land speculator (James Vedder (with $15,000 of real estate), post master, and New School Presbyterian clergyman (John F. Severance). Neighbors had been born in various states in the U.S., as well as in Canada, parts of Germany, England, and Ireland.

To understand both why this school existed and why there were such immediate suspicions about Dr. Skinner, we need a little background. Platt Henry Skinner was born was born on March 11, 1824 in Clinton, New York. He moved at some point to Prattsburgh, New York, and attended Oberlin College from 1843-1846. On July 13, 1854, Skinner married Jerusha M. Hills, daughter of Allen and Ruth Benton Hills, from Fabius, New York. Hills was born deaf in 1831, along with three of her five siblings. Jerusha Hill had attended the New York Institute for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb, and Reverend E.M. Gallaudet officiated at their marriage. The Skinners had a son Henry, born about 1854, who could hear.

In 1856, Platt and Jerusha Skinner arrived in Washington, D.C., with five deaf children, all African American, all born in Canada. With the help of Amos Kendall, one of Jackson’s former cabinet members, whose deaf wife encouraged him to support deaf education, Skinner started a school for deaf children on the south side of G Street, between 20th and 21st. Beginning in June, the National Era, an antislavery paper in Washington, carried several articles on the Skinner school, including requests for trustees. By November 1856, Skinner was ready to share the burden: “Principal for said Institution is wanted, to fill the place of the present occupant of that situation. The salary is nothing; the duties are, incessant watchfulness, care, toil, and labor, night and day; the praise and glory are slander and contumely. Position given immediately.” E.M. Gallaudet, son of the famous educator for the deaf Thomas Gallaudet, answered Skinner’s plea. His mother, widow of Thomas Gallaudent, served as matron. “The reputation of Mr. Gallaudet is such, and the character of the matron and teachers is so high, that none need for to confide children to their care. They will enter a home, and become a part of the family of the superintendent,” noted the National Era on July 30, 1857. Directors of the school included Hon. Amos Kendall, President; William Stickney, Secretary; G.W. Riggs, Treasurer; William H. Edes, Judson Mitchell, J.C. McGuire, David A. Hall, and Byron Sunderland.9  On January 21, 1858, the National Era contained a note that “the Columbia Institution for the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind, will hold an exhibition in the old Hall of Representatives, this (Thursday) evening. Mr. Gallaudet, the Principal, will deliver an address.” Amos Kendall, president, chaired the meeting, and “the pupils were examined, with a view to show their proficiency in sign language. The blind also read from books printed with raised letters, and the evening passed off pleasantly, leaving an excellent impression upon the minds of the great crowd present.”

In June 1858, Congress appropriated $3000 to educated deaf, dumb, and blind children in D.C., most likely in direct support of the Skinner school. Meanwhile, Kendall and others accused Skinner of neglecting his charges. Skinner went to court at least twelve times to defend himself and get custody of the five children he had brought from New York State. He was being prosecuted, he argued, not for neglect but for being a northerner with abolitionist views. Eventually, his school was burned down, and he, Jerusha, their son Henry, and a teacher fled to Baltimore before settling in Niagara Falls in January 1858.

Skinner’s goal in Niagara Falls was to educate African American deaf children, those that had no other resources. As Michael Boston noted, quoting The First Semi-Annual Report of the School for the Instruction of the Colored, Deaf, Dumb, and Blind, It [the new school] is not intended to take any child whose education is provided for in any other way. The school was at first established for the children of fugitives; but, since its commencement, it has been thought best to open its doors to all such mute and blind colored children as are not provided for otherwise, as far as the means of the school will permit. The command given is, "Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." -- This command seems to reach the lowest of all God's creation. . . . The credentials which are necessary for admission into this school, then, are,
 1st. A dark face.
 2nd. Deaf ears and a mute tongue, or blind eyes.
 3d. That the state or county in which they live has not provided for their education.

Skinner traveled from church to church, all over western New York and eastern Ontario, taking some of his students with them to demonstrate their progress, including the use of Braille and sign language. The Congregational Church of Niagara City (Suspension Bridge) and Presbyterian churches in Niagara Falls and Lockport gave him their endorsement.

But stories about possible abuse followed Skinner from Washington, D.C. and help explain Marcus Adams’ concern. On December 26, 1858, the Syracuse Central City Courier published an article listing letters published by the Niagara Herald, critical of Skinner, from Rev. Byron Sunderland, Rev. P.H. Gurley, and Hon. Amos Kendall, all of Washington, D.C., along with criticisms from Sidney Dean, member of Congress from Connecticut, and Rev. L.M. Pease of the Five Points Mission in New York City. Finally, the elders of the Presbyterian Church in Niagara City cautioned that “in their judgment he is unworthy of the confidence and contributions of Christians and philanthropists.”

As Michael Boston has noted, Skinner used the Niagara Gazette to reply to the charges in the Herald. In eight articles published from November 1858 to January 1859, he argued that his attackers did not know him and acted simply as tools of Amos Kendall, opposing his efforts to educate black children. The charges had all been disproven in court, Skinner reported, and that should settle it.  By 1862, Skinner and his wife and son had moved to Trenton, New Jersey, where they continued to operate their school until Skinner’s death of typhoid pneumonia, age 42, on January 1, 1866. Jerusha Skinner and her son Henry H. Skinner moved to Elmira, where she lived until her death. Henry Skinner, who could hear, later married Margaret
Getz, who was deaf.

How do we evaluate Dr. Platt H. Skinner? Was he a dishonest scoundrel or a whole souled abolitionist, dedicated to improving the lives of the most forgotten Americans? Michael Boston summed up his legacy: In spite of his ability to evoke strong emotions in his hearers, Platt Skinner, with his wife Jerusha, “sincerely endeavored to educate their pupils, contributing toward making them more involved citizens. They were engaged in a self-sacrificing, unpopular task of assisting a much-despised race and an unfortunate and neglected group within that race. They should be commended and remembered for their labors.”

"BROKENHEARTED": Robert E. Lee's Last Hours

By James M. Schmidt

“October 11 – Evidently sinking; less observant; pulse 120; very feeble; respiration hurried. Still recognized whoever approached him. Refuses to take anything unless presented by his physicians. It soon became evident from his rapid and feeble pulse, deepening unconsiousness and accelerated breathing, that his case was hopeless.”

Those are the words of two physicians, Howard T. Barton and Robert L. Madison, both of Lexington, VA, detailing the last hours of their patient, none other than General Robert E. Lee, who died early the following day, October 12, 1870.

The lives of Drs. Barton and Madison, a review of the heart problems that plagued Lee since the spring of 1863, and finally (and most interesting), a detailed review of the symptoms, care, and circumstances surrounding Lee’s terminal illness, are the subject of an excellent article,,” "The Lexington Physicians of General Robert E. Lee" in a recent issue of Southern Medical Journal (August 2005, 98(8), pp. 800-4), by Drs. Richard D. Mainwaring and Harris D. Riley, Jr.

The authors drew on primary resources in the archives of Virginia Military Institute (VMI), the Museum of the Confederacy, and Washington and Lee University, as well as period newspaper and medical journal accounts. The article also includes a heretofore unpublished photograph of Barton.

Both of the authors had written about General Lee’s health before, but separately. Dr. Riley published an article entitled “General Robert E. Lee: His Medical Profile” (Va Med, July 1978, Vol. 105, No. 7, pp. 495-500), and Dr. Mainwaring co-authored an article entitled “The Cardiac Illness of General Robert E. Lee” "The Cardiac Illness of General Robert E. Lee" (Surg Gynecol Obstet, March 1992, Vol. 174, No. 3, pp. 237-244).

Dr. Riley obtained his MD from Vanderbilt University in 1948. He served in both WW II and the Korean War, with the Navy and Air Force, respectively. He is a pediatrician and Professor of Pediatrics at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and the Children's Hospital of Vanderbilt. Dr. Riley is interested in all aspects of the Civil War, particularly medicine, and has penned book reviews for The Civil War News.

Dr. Mainwaring is a pediatric cardiovascular surgeon in Sacramento, CA. He received his MD from  Duke University School of Medicine, and did residencies in adult and pediatric cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Virginia and the University of Pennsylvania. He was kind enough to answer my questions about his interests in General Lee and provided some additional information and opinions not included in the journal article.

Dr. Mainwaring began by telling me he did most of the research for his 1992 article while he was a general surgery resident at the University of Virginia. It was while doing that research that he first contacted Dr. Riley to see if he had any additional information. “Thus began more than ten years of on-again-off-again collaboration between Dr. Riley and myself,” he told me, adding: “We both felt that an article focusing on Barton and Madison would be worth publishing, partly because there did seem to be a lot of conflicting information out there regarding these two individuals.” Mainwaring found it interesting that new information about Civil War medicine continues to be unearthed even though the events occurred more than 140 years ago.

Barton was born in 1823 in Fredericksburg, VA, attended VMI, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania medical school in 1848, and then had a successful private practice in Berryville, VA. When the Civil War started, Barton organized a volunteer company and received the rank of captain. He was soon drafted into medical service where he served throughout the war, most notably as Surgeon-in-Charge of a hospital established at the Old St. Charles Hotel in Richmond.

Madison was born in 1828 in Orange County, VA, attended William and Mary College, and received his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in 1851. After a period in private practice, Madison was appointed to the faculty at VMI, where he also served as personal physician to professor and Major Thomas J. Jackson. Madison remained at VMI throughout the war, and was present with the cadets at the Battle of New Market in 1864.

Personal circumstances found both doctors in Lexington a few years after the war. Indeed, after his wife died in 1866, Barton courted Robert E. Lee’s daughter, Mildred. Both men were members of Grace Episcopal Church, where the Lee family also attended. They were in charge of Lee’s medical care beginning in 1869 when he began to complain of chest pains that had not plagued him since 1863. Barton, Madison, and at least nine other physicians diagnosed Lee as having pericarditis, an inflammation of the membrane that surrounds the heart and its major blood vessels.

In his 1992 article, Dr. Mainwaring proposed that this was an incorrect diagnosis. He suggested that Lee actually suffered a heart attack in 1863, and that his illness had a major influence on the Battle of Gettysburg. As for the chest pains Lee began experiencing in 1869, Mainwaring told me: “Lee’s symptoms are so classic for angina pectoris but were not recognized for what they were. We take for granted, in this age where atherosclerosis has become epidemic, not so long ago physicians were dealing with different diseases than we see now.” In other words, coronary artery disease was less common, maybe even rare, at that time, and Barton and Madison did not recognize the symptoms of angina or stroke as doctors would today. Mainwaring isn’t sure that a more correct diagnosis would have changed Lee’s outcome, since treatment was not readily available in the 19th century.

One of the especially interesting circumstances mentioned in the present article is a severe storm that struck the Shenandoah Valley area in early October 1870, just days after Lee’s condition began to deteriorate. “That was a ‘storm-of-the-century’ type event,” Dr. Mainwaring told me. There was terrible flooding, and in those days it meant that Lexington was completely cut off and isolated, with no communication – in or out. The consequence for Lee was that Madison and Barton could not consult with other physicians and had to do the best they could on their own. He continued: “I am confident that if weather conditions had been more favorable there would have been a whole council of physicians at Lee’s bedside.”

Dr. Mainwaring contrasted the October 1870 storm with the recent storms that have struck the Gulf Coast, telling me: “Today, with the hurricane season having wreaked havoc, we see how nature can change all of the best-laid plans. One big difference is the fact that modern communications have taken away the isolation effect, so that even when roads, bridges, and even airports are closed, information is still available.”

In the main, the article concentrates on the care the doctors gave Lee in his last weeks. They quote extensively from an article that Barton and Madison published in the Richmond and Louisville Medical Journal in late 1870, in which they reported their observations and treatment in detail. While reading the excerpts, I was intrigued that they felt so free to share such private and possibly sensitive information. It is in great contrast with the modern emphasis on privacy, especially concerning medical records. Given Lee’s popularity, perhaps we can compare it with the attention given to the Vice President’s heart condition or other celebrity health news.

Dr. Mainwaring suggested an interesting, if practical, reason as to why Barton and Madison published an account of their care of the General, telling me: “Perhaps they wanted to exonerate themselves since they did not have the opportunity to call for consultants. They must have been mortified at the thought that they had ‘lost’ their famous patient.”

Nevertheless, Drs. Mainwaring and Riley conclude their article with the judgment that Drs. Barton and Madison “were keen observers and dispatched their responsibility faithfully,” adding “we are indebted to them for documenting [General Lee’s] clinical course and their care.”

FROM: The Civil War News – “Medical Department” – December 2005

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Jewish Hospital in Philadelphia

Excerpted from:
By Mark I. Wolfson

During the Civil War, Rev. Isaac Leeser, the Minister of Mikveh Israel, was very concerned about the wounded Jewish soldiers in the army hospitals. He obtained a hospital pass from his friend General Charles Collis, who was married to Septima Levy, formerly of Charleston. Sulzberger would accompany Leeser on hospital visits to the Jewish wounded. During the annual meeting of the Grand Lodge No. 3 of the B'nai B'rith on August 14, 1864, Sulzberger, in calling attention to the fact that three Jews within the previous six months had died in various area Christian hospitals, offered resolutions asking for the appointment of a committee to consider the subject of organizing a Jewish Hospital.

That committee was established and included Sulzberger, Rev. Isaac Leeser, Samuel Weil and others. Within a few days a circular was sent to every B'nai B'rith Lodge and all of the congregations and Jewish societies in the area requesting appointments for committees. On December 4, the first meeting of this joint convention was held during which a plan was prepared, and a constitution and by-laws were framed and presented. On Sunday February 19th, 1865, these were ratified by a large meeting of the area Jews at a meeting held at the National Guard's Hall on Race Street below Sixth. Officers and managers were appointed, including President Alfred T. Jones, Vice President Isadore Binswanger, Treasurer Samuel Weil, and Secretary Mayer Sulzberger. Sulzberger's home at 977 North Marshall Street became the temporary headquarters of the provisional committee for the hospital.

The Association was incorporated on September 23, 1865 and a lot was soon purchased at 56th Street and Haverford Road in West Philadelphia for $19,625. The hospital opened the on August 6, 1866 along with a home for the aged. It started with 22 beds and linens donated by philanthropist Moses Rosenbach. During the first year 71 patients were treated and 5 people were admitted to the old-age home. In 1873, the hospital moved to greatly expanded facilities at Old York Road and Olney Avenue. In 1952, after merging with Northern Liberties Hospital and Mount Sinai Hospital to form a single medical center, it evolved into the Albert Einstein Medical Center. It was very appropriate that Einstein granted permission to use his name for the non-profit organization, as Sulzberger's wife Sophia descended from the same Einstein family.

IMAGE: Mikveh Isreal Congregation

The Jews' Hospital of New York

Excerpted from:

Before it became standard practice for governments to fund public hospitals, most hospitals were under religious auspices. (Thus the heroes of historical fiction are often cared for by sympathetic nuns.)

Because of both religious discrimination and the specific needs of the community, it was not uncommon to find specifically Jewish hospitals in major cities. One excellent example of the development of Jewish hospitals in America is The Jews’ Hospital of New York (now known as Mount Sinai Hospital), which was founded in 1852. 

Although there were nine representatives of Jewish charities who agreed to the creation of a charity hospital for Jews, the name most closely aligned with the launch of The Jews Hospital is Sampson Simson (1780-1857), an American born Jewish philanthropist. Not only did Simson donate the land on which the hospital was built (West 28th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues), but he served as the first president of the Board of Directors.

The Jews Hospital of New York accepted its first patient on 19th Sivan (June 5) 1855. While people of all faiths were welcome, the majority of patients were immigrant Jews. With the outbreak of the Civil War, however, the demands for the hospital’s facilities greatly increased.

Having expanded its mission to accommodate the war, The Jews’ Hospital formally retired its sectarian charter in 1866 and renamed itself The Mount Sinai Hospital. The formerly Jewish hospital was, however, better able to care for the religious needs of its Jewish patients (kosher food) and offered opportunities that Jewish medical professionals might not have found elsewhere in those times when Jews were barred from certain professions and suffered academic quotas. 


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