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.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The U.S. Army Veterinary Corps

By Andy Watson, AMEDD Regimental Historian

Veterinarians officially and unofficially have been a part of the Army since its inception. Reliance on animals for transportation, nutrition, and commerce were essential to early army operations and logistics. While there were farriers and other “horse tenders” attached to the American Army from the time of the Revolutionary War, medical expertise and official recognition did not occur until much later.

Veterinary medicine, similar to other scientific disciplines in the United States slowly made gains during the 19th Century.

A few civilian veterinarians were hired to support the Army during the War with Mexico (1846-1848). Later, the rank of veterinary sergeant existed briefly at the beginning of the Civil War in order to support some cavalry regiments, but the position was dropped in 1862. In 1863 each regiment of cavalry was authorized a regimental veterinary surgeon with the rank commensurate of a regimental sergeant major. Experience and field observation often overrode the lack of fixed standards in veterinary care; hence there were very few graduate veterinarians. To supplement the need for assistance civilian veterinarians were again hired, this time in greater numbers.

After the Civil War the smaller army still had mobility requirements and increased standards of its veterinary care. Existing cavalry regiments (6) were still authorized one veterinary surgeon and newly formed cavalry regiments (4) were authorized two veterinary surgeons, one of which would be designated the “Senior Veterinary Surgeon”. Army General Orders of 1879, later included in Army Regulations of 1881 provided that all appointed veterinary surgeons “be graduates of established and reputable veterinary schools or colleges.” Congressional legislation in 1899 improved the status
of senior veterinarians in the cavalry regiments, when they were accorded rank between cadet and second lieutenant.

The turn of the 20th Century in “Progressive Era” America and a desire to improve quality of life led
An investigation of “embalmed meats” at the close of the Spanish-American War (1898) mirrored the spirit of the time (The Jungle, foundation of the FDA) and established the use of Army veterinarians for food inspection.

From 1901 to 1906 a handful of veterinarians were detailed from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the Subsistence Department of the Army for meat inspection. Later, post commanders were able to utilize veterinarians to inspect locally purchased beef.

Even before the build-up of the American Army for World War I, early planners saw the wisdom of increasing the size and permanency of the Army Veterinary Service. On 3 June 1916 the National Defense Act in Section 16, specified the appointment, duties, and implementation of veterinarians in the Army. This act also provided for an official Veterinary Corps with officer rank and a promotion structure.

Due to the reliance on animal transportation, many times over newer mechanical conveyances, the U.S. Army veterinarian gained status within the American Expeditionary Force. Similarly their efforts in “remounting” and treating horses and mules assisted the war effort in Europe, where animal stocks had been greatly depleted.

The veterinarians would also begin a mission magnified in later years as they enhanced of camp conditions through better sanitation.

While World War I may have been the high-point for animal transportation care, World War II served as the standard for food inspection on a massive scale. Although animal care was provided for military working dogs, horses, and mules; food inspection served as 90% of veterinarian’s job during WWII. To supply the enormous Army, 142 billion pounds aggregate of meat and dairy products were inspected from 1940 through 1945. Complimenting this task were 11 labs in the United States and 23 units or labs overseas.

Within weeks of the invasion of South Korea by North Korea in June of 1950 Veterinary Service Units arrived to provide support. Their duties consisted largely of food inspection and also provided animal care for local livestock and military working dogs. In some cases the “fluid” battlefield found Army Veterinarians on the move and frequently in harm’s way.

In the 1950s the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Agricultural Research Service working with a U.S. Army medical unit with suitable x-ray equipment and Veterinary personnel, assisted in the trial irradiation and ultimately eradication of screw worms.* (Cochliomyia hominivorax) The fly larvae, once a scourge to livestock and some humans in the Americas, enters its host through open wounds and then consumes portions of the host’s flesh.

During the Vietnam War, U.S. Army veterinarians worked with the local populace to help curb a rabies epidemic within the country. Other challenges included not only food procurement, but also ice as well. Increasing numbers of military working dogs and mascots caused another shift in veterinary care as several small animal clinics and dispensary detachments were established for U.S. Forces in Vietnam.

More recently Army Veterinarians have been integral to military efforts in Afghanistan by maintaining animal health in an agrarian society. Similarly, the numbers of military working dogs in theater have increased as have certain threats such as rabies. Food safety also remains a constant task of importance. Continuous testing, service in the field, and research allow the Veterinary Corps to preserve public and animal health.


Image: Traveller Skeleton

Herman Faber, Artist and Medical Illustrator


Birth: 1831, Germany
Death: Dec. 10, 1913
Philadelphia County
Pennsylvania, USA

NOTE: I used the birth information which is on his Death Certificate. Other sources give January 26, 1832.

He died at home: 648 Chelten Avenue

Buried on December 13, 1913.

His parents were Ludwig Faber & Mary Goss.

His first name often appears as Hermann.

Famous artist. He is considered a founder of medical illustration in America. During the Civil War, he did many illustrations for the U.S. Army's 6-volume "Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion".

His most famous single work is his pencil drawing of President Lincoln's deathbed. Known for its accuracy, he was an eyewitness & did it on-site.

He was also a noted etcher of animals.

Article on his death: "New York Times", December 12, 1913 - Page 11

Family links:
  Ludwig Ernest Faber (1855 - 1913)*

*Calculated relationship

Woodlands Cemetery
Philadelphia County
Pennsylvania, USA
Plot: N 1155

Isabella Fogg of Maine


In 1861 Isabella Fogg of Calais, Maine, asked herself what to do. The answer? Follow son Hugh and his regiment to Washington. There, she visited hospitals as a volunteer for the Maine Camp and Hospital Association. Soon, she and others realized the greatest need for help was in the field. Once there, they were horrified to find sick and wounded soldiers languishing in barns, sheds and tents. They offered what help they could with limited supplies.

Isabella Fogg
Berlin, Nov. 10, 1862
Mr. Hathaway,

Dear Sir,

I suppose Mr. W[atson] has given you some information in regard to how we were occupying our time in Frederic, so I will give you some account of our movements since. We left Frederic on Saturday, the 1st in company with Mr. Hayes, stopped at Middletown, and found them very comfortable, men happy, said the ladies were very kind, went on to Kedarsville [Keedysville], but what a painful contrast! There we found several Maine men, in a church and three other buildings occupied as Hospitals, lying on the bare floor with their coats for pillows. Their stores consisted of hard bread, beef and coffee, as we had no supplies with us, of course we could not relieve, they promised to apply to the commission on the day following.

We then went up to Smoketown Hospital, here we found 30 Maine men. This place is in a most miserable condition, the men complain very much, although Mrs. Harris and several Penn. ladies, with a great quantity of supplies were there. The effluvia arising from the condition of these grounds is intolerable, quite enough to make a man in perfect health sick, and how men can recover in such a place is a mystery to me. We then went to Bakersville, saw there 25 of the 5th Maine, left in a school house in care of the steward, without supplies; found him making every effort to keep them comfortable, we inquired why he did not call on the Commission, he replied, he had always found so many difficulties in obtaining them from this source he preferred purchasing himself. We told him, we would go to the Commission; and have what he required put up for him, here, we opened your box of jelly.

We then came to Sharpsburg, the Maine troops had crossed the river, only five Maine men were left here, also Capt. Hill of the 20th in a private house. We did what we could for his comfort and then proceeded to Harpers Ferry. Here the sick are in a fearful condition, in every old house and church and hundreds on the ground. You no doubt think your ladies in Washington are doing a great work, but I can assure you, if they were here, they would find the stern reality of want, privation and extreme suffering.

We visited the sick of the 19th in care of Dr. Hawes, asst. surgeon, he has upwards of 50, does all in his power for their comfort. At Gen. Slocums request we went over to Loudin Valley to learn the condition of several hundreds, who had been sent the day previous without any preparation. We found them lying on the ground, in all directions, many convalescent, but a great many very low. At this time no surgeons, nurses or cooks were on the ground and hard bread their only food. Fortunately, we had that morning obtained a few supplies from the Commission, after much pleading, for they actually appeared as if they were contributing out of their own pocket and for our personal wants, however, we went to work to administer to the wants of the sick, Mrs. E[aton] to wash and clean them, which they stood greatly in need of, while I prepared food for them. Mr. Hayes went in search of Maine men, but found none, we however found famishing soldiers.

After feeding every one who could not help themselves, we left for Berlin, and here the misery and suffering beggars all description, the heart sickens at the sight. We visited the Hospital of the 10th Maine, found them more comfortable than many others, but yet very much can be added to their comfort. Taking a stroll through the town, we searched every old school house, log cabin &c for the poor men who had been left behind, as our army moved on. In an old hut destitute of doors or windows and minus a part of the roof, we found 7 men, who had slept in the woods the night before, had crept in there, for the miserable shelter the place afforded. - Our inquiries were for Maine men, and although these were not from our State, they claimed our sympathy. - Conversing with one of them, he told us he was sick, thought he had the measles, on this point, our opinion did not coincide with his, we supposing it to be a case of small pox, which of course required immediate attention.

With no little difficulty we at last succeeded in finding the surgeon of the district, who coroberated our opinion, our next step was to report to Col. Fillebrown, who expressed earnest thanks for our attention to the case. - In a dilapidated school house, without fireplace, we found a man sick and old, who had enlisted in the Maine 12th. He was now 57 years old, had been left, injured in the spine, at Fortress Monroe, then knocked about from one Hospital to another, thrust into a New York regiment till at last all discouraged, he knew not what to do. Measures have now been set on foot by Mr. Hayes for his discharge. - Learning there were men left from Franklins Corps, left in a very destitute condition at Hagerstown, and feeling anxious to furnish some supplies for those we had seen the week previous in Kedarsville [Keedysville], we here separated, Mrs. E to attend to duties here, while I, in company with Mr. Hayes, who was anxious to find more of our men who were scattered all along the way, took an anbulance on route for Hagerstown.

While at Harpers Ferry, we had stated the suffering conditions of those at Kedarsville to Dr. McNultz, Medical Director in charge at Harpers Ferry, who expressed great surprize to learn that there were any there, he having had them all removed from that place a short time since;but of our sick and wounded men it may be said their name is Legion and almost as fast as an old ruined building is emptied, it is filled by other stragglers; however, through the information received from us, he had again caused their removal, and we were spared from again witnessing that scene of want and hunger.

Next visted the Russell Spring Hospital, found them comparatively comfortable with only three Maine men. - Again we went to Smoketown, hoping to find them in a more comfortable condition than when we were last there, but how sadly were we disappointed. - How I wish I could introduce you, and the Washington Com. to Smoketown Hos. in the midst of this driving snow storm! You could have seen the poor fellows huddled together, with their pallets of straw on the gound, their tents connected by flyes, the same as ***** in the heat of summer, many without walls and no stoves. Those who were able to creep out of their tents were crouched over fires, built in the woods, their heads covered with snow. And all I may say, almost without exception with thin muslin shirts on. - The exposure has been such that diptheria has broken out among them, and in nearly every case proves fatal.

One of our poor Maine boys who had been very diligent in looking up for us those belonging to Maine, at our last visit had been seized suddenly with diptheria, caused by exposure, and lived but two or three hours. - Distributing what few articles we had received from the Commission among them, we moved on, deeply regretting we had no winter clothing, as many of them were destitute of stockings. I cannot describe what my feelings were that I had no articles of woolen clothing to distribute especially as the chaplain told us, there were plenty to take their names but few to relieve their wants.

Next, we proceeded to the school house at Bakersville, where so many of the 5th had been left without supplies. Imagine our indignation to find that the requisition we had left for them with the commission at Sharpsburg had been cut off fully one half on every article. They probably were not expecting we should be on the track again. -We found the industrious steward, William Noyes of Saco, grating corn on a grater he had made from an old canteen, to furnish meal wherewith to make gruel for his sick men. This is only a sample of his expedients for his men, give his name a place in your reports for he is worthy.

At Hagerstown we found several Maine men, but in a more comfortable condition than we had expected. The citizens deserve great credit for their efforts in providing for the wants of the sick soldiers as there are nearly a thousand in that vicinity. But we found very many of our Maine men with muslin shirts on and some without any. Here we found three boxes for Maine Regiments, one of them of not much account, containing mostly old pillow cases, another chiefly muslin shirts, but the third, to our great joy, contained upwards of a hundred flannel shirts, with some other useful articles.

Imagine now, with what pleasure we retraced our steps to Bakersville and Smoketown! Could you have seen the happy faces and heard the thankful expressions of gratitude you would have felt that too much could not be done for their comfort. - We then came on to Burketsville, found many Maine men there and they likewise were without woolen shirts. We were able also to supply them and arrived home about 7 o;clock, after the tedious labor and hard exposure of three days. I should have written before but I suppose Mr. Hayes and Mr. Watson kept you informed of our movements. You may assured however we have not spent much idle time. It will not be necessary to reply to this, as we expect soon to report to you at Washington unless ordered otherwise by you.

Yours with very great respect.

I. Fogg"

General Longstreet's Children Die of Scarlet Fever

Original research by Longstreet Society member Jan Vanderheiden

In Richmond, VA during winter 1862, the three youngest children of General James and Maria Louisa Longstreet died from scarlet fever. This personal tragedy is mentioned in biographies and discussions of Longstreet the General. However events that happened, or did not happen in regards to little Mary Ann, James Jr. and Augustus Baldwin Longstreet following their deaths seem vague and troubled.  For many decades it was believed that in those dark hours James and Louise were too distraught to see to the children’s funeral arrangements, or even attend the services.

Longstreet’s friend Brigadier General George Pickett, who was in Richmond at the time with 16 year-old LaSalle Corbell, intervened. It was George and Sally (soon to be the third Mrs. George Pickett) who took care of all arrangements and attended for the grief-stricken parents. However, this long established tale rings false for some Longstreet scholars, especially since the only source for its authenticity is contained within a letter of condolence written by LaSalle herself to Longstreet’s  second wife, Helen, upon the General’s passing on January 4, 1904.

Cavalier Tales
After Pickett’s death in 1875 LaSalle began to write and lecture about her famous husband. Her tales of Pickett and the times he lived in were highly romanticized and unfortunately, also suspect in terms of their truthfulness. In the introductory pages of her biographical work, “General George E. Pickett in Life and Legend”, Lesley J. Gordon describes the difficulty of separating fact from fiction when attempting to study Pickett’s life, due to the writings of LaSalle. “Civil War historians have tried to tell George Pickett’s story without LaSalle and found it immensely difficult…Her fabricated and romanticized tales have become accepted parts of not only the Pickett legend but also Civil War canon,” Gordon bemoans, noting that famous Civil War historian Gary Gallagher “denounced her (LaSalle) not only as author of the published George Pickett letters but also plagiarizer of Walter Harrison’s history of Pickett’s division.” According to Gordon, LaSalle Pickett wrote at a time when “Public memory of the antebellum South and the Civil War focused on noble causes and honorable actions…” It would seem possible that her account of the Longstreets and their children’s death’s fit into this thought process. LaSalle’s exact words to Helen Longstreet, as taken from “Lee and Longstreet at High Tide” were: “My love and sympathy go out to the dear children whose mother was my beloved friend, whom I have held in my arms in childhood, and whose little brothers and sisters faded away before my loving eyes when their flower of life had not yet unfolded from the bud of their sweet infancy and the mortal casket was entrusted to General Pickett and myself to be laid away among the church-yard lilies when the jewel of the pure soul had been taken beyond.” If LaSalle’s words are to be regarded as something more romantic than actual, what did happen following the children’s deaths?

Dearth of Information
From the Richmond Daily Dispatch on January 27 - “In this city, on the 24th inst., Mary J and on the 25th inst., James, children of Maj. Gen. Longstreet, Confederate States Army. The former aged 13 months, the latter 4 years and 6 days. The funeral will take place this afternoon at 3 o’clock, from the Arlington House.” An obituary notice for Augustus, who died one week later, never appeared in the Dispatch. A search for its publication in another Richmond newspaper goes for naught, since copies for winter 1862 are missing. Information or photos of the Arlington House is elusive. Only one other mention of it in the Dispatch during the fall 1861/winter 1862 is found. In the advertisement column, it states simply, “Arlington House located at the northeast corner of Main and 6th Streets.” In “General James Longstreet, the Confederacy’s most controversial soldier”, Jeffry Wert says “Louise and the children boarded with friends in the capital” during that time, but does not mention the Arlington.  No data on it is readily available from the Library of Virginia, or the Richmond Historical Society. The Arlington could seem more ghostly than real if not for diarist Mary Chestnut. The Chestnuts were good friends of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his wife, Varina. Due to overcrowding they left the Spotswood Hotel, where the Davis’s temporarily lived, in favor of the Arlington House during August, 1861. Chestnut had high praise for her newest place of abode: “On the front steps every evening we take our seats and discourse at our pleasure. A nicer or more agreeable set of people were never assembled than our present Arlington crowd.” Were the Longstreet’s staying at or near the Arlington? Chestnut was away from Richmond during winter 1862, so doesn’t mention them. Nothing concerning Longstreet is reported in the Dispatch, nor is the epidemic that took his children’s lives even mentioned there, although its ravages seemed to have traveled as far north as Washington D.C. (A check of internet resources concerning the epidemic reveal the story of a Dr. Richard Stuart, who smuggled medical supplies from the Northern capital to the Confederacy. Stuart and his wife lost two of their children to the same scourge that claimed the Longstreet children’s lives.) If the Longstreet’s did not have the fortitude to attend their children’s funerals, what happened at the cemetery? From reading LaSalle Pickett’s words to Helen Longstreet, it would seem that the children were interred in Hollywood Cemetery ground during the winter when they died. However, it has since been discovered that the children’s bodies were placed in a vault owned by the John W. Davies family. Though it was supposed to be a temporary situation, the children remained there for eight years, along with numerous other bodies that awaited burial.  In April 1870 the president of the Hollywood Cemetery ordered all 29 unclaimed bodies in the Davies vault to be buried. During a check of records at the Hollywood Cemetery office, it was revealed that on June 29, 1870, James Longstreet purchased the lot where the children presently rest. The cost to him was $28, and his signature supposedly appears on the transaction. The children were interred at the site on August 18, 1870. Again referencing Wert, it can be seen that in 1870 James Longstreet held the position of surveyor of customs for the port of New Orleans, was appointed adjutant general of the state militia, and was named president of the newly organized New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad. The three positions earned him between ten and fifteen thousand dollars – “a very substantial sum for the times”, according to Wert. It can be surmised that with his comfortable earnings, if James paid for the burial plot, he also bought the headstone that marks the children’s grave. Whether or not James or Louise were present for the interment cannot be said at this point. The children’s grave can be found in the officer’s section of Hollywood Cemetery. It is located next to General John D. Imboden. The vault that served as a temporary repository for the children’s remains is still there, too. It is now the W.W. Pool vault. The structure is built into the side of a hill, and is adorned at its crown by a statue of a lamb.

The Cavalry Soldier


The cavalry soldier is apt to look with some contempt as he rides by the weary footman carrying his knapsack; but he should bear in mind how much he is dependent upon him, and how much of the confidence with which he rides to the front is due to the staunch columns of infantry he leaves in his rear, and how soon he may be compelled to seek refuge from the enemy’s sharpshooters and artillery in the rear of the same columns of infantry.

A cavalry soldier should not exceed in weight one hundred and sixty pounds, should be active and strong, physically sound, with a natural fondness for horses and experience in handling them. His duties are more arduous and severe than those of the footman. His first care should be his horse at all times. The two are inseparable, and one is of little account without the other. A dismounted cavalry soldier, leading a broken-down horse and trudging wearily along in the rear of the column, is a pitiable and ridiculous sight; whilst the perfect cavalry soldier, neatly dressed, arms and accoutrements in perfect order, his horse well fed and thoroughly groomed, and riding with ease, grace, and self-possession, is always an object of admiration.

The general duties of the cavalry soldier are the same as those of the infantry soldier, varying only on account of his horse and the difference in the character of the service.

Great care and attention are necessary to keep the horse in condition for service. The following hints are offered: —

The horse should always be used moderately, having much additional weight to carry. The habitual gait of cavalry is a walk, and it should not be increased, unless necessary or acting under orders.

Horses should never be watered or fed when heated, nor should they be used violently.

Immediately after watering or feeding. Heating food, such as corn or wheat, should not be fed in large quantities at a time, but divided into two or more feeds; and this is particularly necessary when hay or grass is scarce. They should be fed salt two or three times a week.

The horse should be carefully groomed. When heated, in cold or chilly weather, particularly in the open air, if required to stand still he should have a blanket thrown over him until he is cool; nor should he be washed or drenched with water, except when cool. If covered with mud, it is better to let it remain until the horse is dry, and then let him be groomed as soon as he is dry: it should not be permitted to remain any longer than necessary. If the mud is rubbed off when wet, it causes the sand to be rubbed into the skin, and is much more difficult to remove afterwards.

The back should always be examined after riding. Any evidence of soreness should be arrested by a judicious folding of blanket and care in adjusting the saddle, by shortening or lengthening the crupper. Any swelling or scalding from the saddle should be frequently washed in cold water, to check inflammation.

When halting on the march, horses have a disposition to roll, that frequently injures the saddle and accoutrements. This may be in a great measure prevented by removing the saddle and rubbing the horse’s back with currycomb, brush, or a whisp of straw or twigs. During such halts, every opportunity to let the horse graze a little, or feeding him on a handful of hay or grass, or other feed, gathered by the way, should not be neglected: the horse’s stomach is small in proportion to his size, and such care of him will keep him in good condition where without it he would break down.

When a horse gets sick, the veterinary surgeon should at once be consulted. Soldiers are not permitted to prescribe for their horses without permission from their company commanders.

The horse has been found to be demoralizing to the habits of the soldier. The cavalry service removes the cavalry-man more from the immediate control of his officers; he is enabled soon to become more familiar with the surrounding country, on his duties as messenger, orderly, foraging, reconnoitering, picket and outpost duty, his temptations to straggle and commit depredations are much greater, the chances of detection are less, and the violation of orders is attended with much less personal fatigue and inconvenience; and hence the irregularities peculiar to the cavalry service.

Cavalry-men, however, should bear in mind that these facilities are no excuse for misdemeanors or irregularities; and every soldier should have the interests of his own corps too much at heart to aid or abet in misconduct that gives to his arm of service such a disagreeable notoriety. He should labor to give his own corps as high a reputation for good conduct as the foot-soldier. He should not allow himself to be excelled in propriety by the infantry-man.

The arms and accoutrements of cavalry, being more numerous and subject to more wear and tear, require more labor and attention than those of infantry, but should not for that reason be any more neglected. This care is equally important, and the beneficial results of cleanliness and order are quite as satisfactory, as in any other arm.

Every article that is issued to the man has its use and importance. The articles should be frequently overhauled, and kept in repair. The sabre should be kept sharp, the arms clean and in order, the ammunition close and compact, to prevent rubbing, and secure against moisture. The straps should be kept repaired, well cleaned and oiled. The nose-bag and lariat-rope are not sufficiently appreciated. The health of the horse is dependent upon his being taught to eat his feed from the nose-bag, as feeding from the ground causes the horse to take up with his food great quantities of gravel and sand, thereby injuring his digestion. The lariat-rope is important for the purposes of forage— either for the transportation of forage, or picketing the horse out at night to enable him to graze, the opportunity for which should never be neglected.

An important article is a forage-bag, made like a saddle-bag with a slit in it. It should be at least a yard long and a foot wide, in which to carry one or two feeds, so that accident or delay will not deprive the horse of his regular feed. It can be readily made by any soldier out of an ordinary grain-sack.

Source August V. Kautz, Customs of Service for Non-Commissioned Officers and Soldiers (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1865), 55-60.

John Wornall House Museum


Built in 1858, the John Wornall House Museum is a unique Kansas City landmark and a significant educational institution. As only one of five remaining Kansas City Antebellum homes, this magnificent Greek Revival structure is listed on the National Historic Register. Most famous for its use as a field hospital for both sides during the Civil War’s Battle of Westport, the Museum also tells the stories of domestic life, culture, traditions, and key economic developments in the mid-to-late 19th century. The home remained in the Wornall family until 1964 whereupon the Jackson County Historical Society meticulously restored the home to its 1858 grandeur. Since opening its doors in 1972, the John Wornall House Museum has become synonymous with tradition, prestigious, and bringing history to life.

In 2011, the John Wornall House and the Alexander Majors House merged to form The Wornall/Majors House Museums, a nonprofit organization with a mission to “engage our community by bringing history to life through innovative, hands-on programs and experiences.” The Museums boast an impressive record of achievement, reaching thousands of visitors and program participants annually with an operating budget of nearly $300,000. Each historic House features hands-on tours, including popular “ghost” tours and Holiday festivities. Field trips by dozens of local schools introduce thousands of students to history and what it means to them. The grounds of both Houses are filled with children’s laughter during sold-out summer camp sessions and often bustle with activity as history buffs and educators reenact the lives of Civil War soldiers and civilians. Concerts and readings by regional authors and reenactors round out the Houses’ programs. For information about the hours, summer camp, or upcoming programs and events, please visit

The Confederate Hospital in Bristol


Bristol was a divided area when the Civil War began.  However, during the years that followed, Bristol became a confederate stronghold.  Although Bristol didn’t experience any battles, it served as a crucial point for soldiers in the area during the war.

The train depots located in Bristol were a stopping point for many soldiers traveling to the Deep South or northern Virginia.  During the years of the war, both train depots were burned down.  One occurrence was in December 1864 during (Union General) Stoneman’s Expedition into Southwest Virginia.

In the later years of the war, the trains bought soldiers to Bristol for medical attention.  The Exchange Hotel, which once stood in historic downtown Bristol, served as an Army hospital for the Confederacy.  The local residents made sure the hospital was supplied with food, medicine, bandages and fuel until the end of the war.  Many recuperating soldiers were placed in private homes when the hospital began to overflow with patients.

For the soldiers who didn’t make it, they were placed in the East Hill Cemetery.  A special section is dedicated to those who served.  Although most are confederate soldiers, union soldiers can also be found.

Built in 1920, the Confederate Soldier Monument was erected to honor those that fought for the Confederate Army from Tennessee and Virginia.  Today the monument can be found at Cumberland Square Park off of Cumberland Street.

 Among the many confederate and union soldiers that served from Bristol, was confederate Colonel John S. Mosby, who moved to Bristol with his wife in 1857.  During the war, Mosby was deemed the “Gray Ghost” because of his quick raids on Union strongholds and ability to vanish before being captured.

Bristol has many stories from the Civil War times.  Several that can be heard on the self-guided historic downtown walking tour.

Image: Confederate dead, East Hill cemetery, Bristol Tn

Sex and the Civil War

Written by: Doug Coleman

L.P. Hartley once wrote: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” And so it is with the Civil War and American sexual morality during the 1860’s. Things we outlaw, they tolerated. Things we tolerate, they regarded as monstrous crimes.

Start with the notion that Americans in the Victorian age were prudes. Not so, unless one is willing to overlook the large families of that age. Domestic terrorist John Brown managed to sire twenty children before Virginia broke his neck on the gallows for trying to start a national slave revolt.
Thomas P. Lowery relates in his The Story the Soldiers Wouldn’t Tell: Sex in the Civil War an incident occurring in Carlisle, Pennsylvania a few days before Gettysburg. It seems a North Carolina regiment captured a good supply of Yankee whiskey and were soon helping themselves to it. One of the Tar Heels reported “some of the Pennsylvania women, hearing the noise of the revel and the music, dared to come near us. Soon they had formed the center of attention and joined in the spirit of the doings. After much whiskey and dancing, they shed most of their garments and offered us their bottoms. Each took on dozens of us, squealing in delight. For me it was hard come, easy go.” “With malice towards none, with charity for all”, our friendly Pennsylvanians rattle the stereotype of Victorian prudishness…

Civil War soldiers, or at least the Yankees, had pornography and dirty books. We know this because the Federal provost marshal complained what a chore it was to have to burn the mountains of the stuff his postmasters intercepted. So, pornography was forbidden, but apparently it was okay to have the government go through your mail. We have all heard of bullets stopped by Bibles, but at least one soldier claimed to have been saved by a dirty novel concealed on his person.

Prostitution was more or less legal in Alexandria. The 1860 census reflects that Alexandria had seven “soiled doves” and two bawdy houses. Not surprisingly, business boomed in Alexandria once the war was on, our city being described as “a perfect Sodom” with perhaps 75 brothels and 2500 prostitutes. The Federal authorities tolerated the sex trade and generally speaking those arrested at bawdy houses were arrested as AWOL or for drunk and disorderly conduct, not for patronizing the girls.   In Richmond, on the other hand, humorless FFVs consistently cracked down on disorderly houses, at least according to the Dispatch.

When the army moved, the prostitutes moved with them. In 1863, these “camp followers” were given the nickname “Hooker’s Division”, ostensibly after the lifestyle of General Joseph Hooker, who had a reputation for keeping his headquarters well-stocked with whiskey and entertaining women.

Actually Hooker was not a big drinker, nor was he much of a womanizer. Similarly, the commonly held belief that “hookers” take their name from General Hooker is probably mistaken, as the term was already in use at least as early as 1845.

If Hooker had kept mistresses, he would not have been out of the mainstream. Confederate general Jubal Early allegedly kept two white mistresses having four children each, plus a mulatto child with a black woman. Custer is alleged to have had an ongoing relationship with his mulatto cook, an escaped slave who was pushed over a cliff in Custer’s carriage when captured by Confederates.

Custer’s letters between him and Mrs. Custer were also captured and raised Confederate eyebrows, being described as “vulgar beyond all conversation and even those from his wife would make any honest woman blush for her sex.” Even McClellan was alleged to have lived with a young mistress for the duration of his command. However, one doubts this story, at least for the time when he was in Alexandria headquartered at the Seminary, as an engraving pictures him in front of Cazenove family’s Stuartland with his wife and children in the background.

Occasionally ordinary soldiers would share their tents with their wives. In the Confederacy, Keith Blalock signed up with “Sam” Blalock, a good-looking sixteen year old boy, actually his wife Melinda. Melinda fought three engagements before she was wounded and found out by the regimental surgeon. Upon discharge from the Confederate army, they continued to soldier on together as Union partisans. In the Army of the Potomac, Kady Brownell and Mary Tepe joined their husband’s regiment as vivandieres, enduring all of the hardships of campaigning and both being wounded in combat.

The predictable drawback of all this sex was venereal disease, mostly syphilis and gonorrhea. Among the white troops, 73,382 cases of syphilis were reported and 109,397 cases of gonorrhea, giving a total of 82 cases of venereal disease annually per thousand men. Among the colored troops syphilis had an annual rate of 33.8 cases and gonorrheal infections 43.9 cases per thousand. The cures were scary enough to encourage chastity. For syphilis, first-line therapy was to cauterize the chancre with a caustic chemical. Secondary therapy might involve highly toxic mercury infusions, hence the phrase “a night with Venus, a lifetime with Mercury.” For gonorrhea, treatment consisted of urethral injections of nitrate of silver, sugar of lead or sulphate of zinc. Amazingly, in an era before penicillin, these therapies appear to have worked much of the time. Rudimentary condoms, made from sheep intestines called “skins” and secured with a little pink ribbon, were available, but it is anybody’s guess how much protection they afforded to disease.

The Union’s hospital service certainly appreciated the relationship between prostitution and venereal disease and took pragmatic steps to get ahead of the problem. One of these steps was to license working girls, the license being conditioned upon periodic examination by a physician. The other, hand in hand with the first, was to establish hospitals to take out of circulation and treat prostitutes found to be infected. The attached photo depicts such a hospital. And in fact these measures were effective, with Yankee “casualties” dropping off dramatically where instituted. As for the women, their lives were nasty, brutish and short. One physician following a group of prostitutes noted that their life expectancy was only about four years once they entered the trade, alcohol and disease being major risks.

On the deviant side, rape appears to have been relatively rare, with 335 courts martial being recorded. When found out, it often resulted in a hanging. A soldier who had raped a free black woman was hanged at Fort Ellsworth before all of the units camped around Alexandria so that everyone understood this. Twenty-two other soldiers were executed for rape over the course of the war.

Homosexuality was not much of an issue. There are not many recorded, probably because sodomy was regarded as an unspeakable crime. Though some reenactors a few years back “reenacted” a firing squad for two soldiers dressed in pink uniforms for “conduct unbecoming”, in fact there is no record of any soldier on either side being executed for the offense of homosexuality, or for that matter being disciplined for the offense. However, a handful of sailors were thrown out of the navy. Military law did not specifically outlaw sodomy until 1921. But we should not infer from this that homosexuality was previously accepted along the lines of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Keep in mind that at the time of the Revolution sodomy was punishable by death in all thirteen colonies. In 1779, Thomas Jefferson proposed a more lenient penal code under which homosexuals would be castrated and lesbians would have their noses pieced with half-inch holes; Jefferson’s proposal was rejected and sodomy remained a capital crime until 1831.

As recently as World War II, the usual sentence for sodomy in the United States Army was 85 years. William Manchester in his 1979 autobiographical Goodbye, Darkness describes the sensibilities of young marines in the 1940’s: “Youth is more sophisticated today, but in our innocence we knew almost nothing about homosexuality. We had never heard of lesbians, and while we were aware that male homosexuals existed – they were regarded as degenerates and called ‘’sex perverts,” or simply “perverts” – most of us, to our knowledge, never encountered one.” The attitude of the farm boys who fought in World War II is probably pretty close to that of the farm boys who fought in the Civil War.

But plaster saints these soldiers were not.

Image: Federal Hospital For Prostitutes. Hospital for Prostitutes, National Archives.


Boxers, Briefs and Battles

By Jean Huets, 11-25-12

Civil War soldiers carried many valuables: letters from home, photographs, and locks of hair from wives, sweethearts and babies. But they held a less romantic article much nearer to their hearts, and sometimes much dearer: their undergarments.
History favors epic battles, stirring speeches, presidents and generals and the economic and political forces that transform the lives of millions. Yet mere underwear has a story to tell, a story that covers the breadth of the Civil War, from home front to battlefield.

A full suit of mid-19th-century men’s underwear consisted of a shirt, “drawers” and socks. Like today, men’s underwear at the time, unlike women’s, did not provide structure to the body. Rather, cover, warmth and hygiene were the order of the day — though the hygiene part did not always work out. The term for undershirt was usually just “shirt”; shirts as we know them today were often called blouses or top-shirts. Undershirts were square-cut pullovers, voluminous and long. Buttons and sometimes laces at the neck fastened them.

Drawers, meanwhile, were sometimes knee-length, usually ankle-length. Two or three buttons closed a center fly. Lacing or a buckle at the back waistband adjusted the fit. Tape ties or drawstrings at the ankle (or knee) kept drawer legs from riding up. Possibly the drawstrings also functioned as sock garters. For many men of the period, shirt tails stood in for drawers. Ribbed and knit fabric primarily went to socks, which were nearly always woolen. When not hand-knit, the tubular body was knit at mills, with heels and toes added by hand.

Mills provided the fabric, which women pieceworkers assembled at home by hand and sewing machines. “In certain districts” of rural New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, reported one New England manufacturer, “the whole female population is employed, in spare moments, at this work.”

It’s nearly impossible to imagine rural women enjoying “spare moments” while running farms in the absence of men, in addition to housekeeping and child care. Women who relied solely on piecework struggled as well. One “smart operator” finished four pairs of drawers daily, breaking “long enough to make herself a cup of tea and eat a piece of bread,” reported The New York Times. For her 12-hour day, she earned 16 and a quarter cents. Women in mills might make even less. By comparison, a Union private earned about 43 cents a day, plus rations and clothing. Pieceworkers in New York and other cities organized, but contractors, or as The New York Sun described them, “fiends in the shape of men,” continued to reap huge profits while “driving ten thousand working women into the very jaws of hell.”

For subsistence, patriotism, love or profit, women North and South worked hard to supplement Army-issue underwear, sometimes ripping their own clothes apart for fabric. And many soldiers, especially those in the South, preferred their underwear homemade; wives, sisters and enslaved women stitched a variety of fabrics, especially canton flannel (cotton flannel fleeced on one side) and cotton-and-wool blend flannel, into drawers and shirts.

Recruits whose mothers never issued underpants could be fooled into wearing their new drawers on parade. They presented themselves in august company. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant himself once appeared in “parade uniform”: one night, when gunboats threatened the depot at City Point, Va., reported an eyewitness in The Century magazine, “the general came hurriedly into the office. He had drawn on his top-boots over his drawers, and put on his uniform frock-coat, the skirt of which reached about to the tops of the boots and made up for the absence of trousers.”

Underwear was always in short supply. Prisoners of war suffered most. Lincoln’s quartermaster general, Montgomery Meigs, stipulated that “from the 30th of April to the 1st of October neither drawers nor socks will be issued to prisoners of war, except to the sick.” A Union prisoner testified that hundreds of his fellow captives went “without even a pair of drawers to cover their nakedness.”

Such shortages made underwear coveted spoils of war. When Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s men raided a Union supply depot, “sumptuous underclothing was fitted over limbs sunburnt, sore and vermin-splotched.” A Confederate cadet spotted his own monogram on underwear worn by a Federal whose pants were cut open to tend a wound. The soldier confessed to looting a Lynchburg, Va., house where the cadet had stowed his trunk.

Getting fresh underwear by issue, mail or pillage was easier than laundering and carrying extra. One Confederate soldier, Carlton McCarthy, preferred to wear all his clothes “until the enemy’s knapsacks or the folks at home supplied a change. Certainly it did not pay to carry around clean clothes while waiting for the time to use them.”

Francis Ackerman, a volunteer from New York, gleaned fresh clothes from the fields at the Third Battle of Winchester, in September 1864. His account of finding a riderless horse mingles the grotesque tragedy of battle with the dry humor so characteristic of War memoirs. “I discovered a horse with one of his legs shot off, on his back a good outfit,” he wrote. “Feeling rather lively from life inside my clothes,” he “concluded to examine the wounded horse, and was rewarded by finding a clean full suit of underwear. I stripped on the battle field, and with thankful heart put it on, the first change I had in six weeks.” More fastidious men changed into clean underwear faithfully — once a week.

Regardless of how often one changed his drawers, the louse ruled. “It preyed alike on the just and the unjust. It inserted its bill as confidingly into the body of the major-general as of the lowest private,” wrote one memoirist. Laundering in boiling water didn’t rout the “gray backs”; instead, taking a page from their battlefield playbooks, soldiers relied on “skirmishing,” or painstaking search-and-destroy efforts to pick them off one by one.

In any case, boiling underwear could get a man into hot water. When Gen. Thomas Lanier Clingman of North Carolina wrote his mother to send drawers, she answered back, “I am certain that your flannel is injured by washing. It should not be put in very hot water or boiled at all,” and it should be washed in “moderately warm water with soap and rinsed in warm soap suds, which will keep it soft and free from shrinking. At least, you can direct your washer to do so.” General Clingman was 50 years old when his mom told him how to wash his underwear.

Even clean and vermin-free, underwear was rarely comfortable. Harsh laundering subtracted durability and comfort. Availability and cost, not fit or season, dictated cut and fabric. In summer a soldier sweltered in flannel or discarded his drawers and got chafed raw by rough, sweaty wool pants.

The manufacture and use of underwear reflects several aspects of the Civil War, and it holds a mirror to our own times. Labor was both empowered and exploited by the cascade of contract money that poured in for its production, which in turn helped usher in the corruption and wealth of the Gilded Age. Slavery and regionalism weren’t the only things that fractured our country. A chasm existed between the “dainty men” in their boiled shirts and the common herd in homespun plaid and flannel, between impoverished millworkers and pieceworkers — often immigrants — and women whose elegance was purchased by their husbands’ manufacturing enterprises.

Most of all, the humble suit of underwear highlights the Civil War soldier himself: his endurance and fortitude, his ability to make do with whatever conditions and supplies came along and his sense of humor, which pervades even the most dire accounts of battle and camp life.

Image: Wash day at camp: A pair of drawers hangs to dry on the log support behind the ax-wielding soldier on the right.



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