Thursday, March 27, 2014

Health and Healing in North Carolina


Like many other states, North Carolina had very few hospitals at the outbreak of the Civil War. Unprecedented numbers of sick and wounded soldiers created a medical crisis. The state quickly established large military hospitals in Charlotte, Fayetteville, Goldsboro, Raleigh, Salisbury, Wake Forest, Wilmington and Wilson. Smaller, temporary hospitals sprang up along railroad lines. Hotels, churches and schools also served as makeshift hospitals. And some military camps established their own for soldiers who fell ill during training.

Dr. Edmund Burke Haywood, a Confederate Army major, established the state’s first Confederate military hospital in 1861. Because of its location, it was called the State Fair Grounds Hospital. In 1864 Haywood took over the administration of the new Pettigrew Hospital and the Peace Institute (College) Hospital as well. In spite of chronic shortages of medicines, food and staff, Haywood became known for his excellent management, medical skills and compassion.

However heroic the efforts of doctors and staff, conditions in Civil War hospitals were grim and overcrowded, particularly after battles. Diseases spread rapidly, even though soldiers with contagious illnesses were separated from those who were wounded. Bug-infested bedding, an inadequate diet, depression and boredom made most soldiers eager to leave the hospitals as soon as possible.

Image: Dr. Edmund Burke Haywood


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