Field Hospitals

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huskerblitz

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Can someone enlighten us on the use of Field Hospitals?
Such as:
How far back of the main line of attack were they generally established?
Did they move forward as the army advanced or were they set until the entire battle was concluded?
Did each regiment have its own field hospital? Was it by brigade?


Here's a good primer on field hospitals. I haven't found a good, definitive thread on field hospitals. I'm sure there will be more questions but should function as a starting point.
https://www.essentialcivilwarcurriculum.com/civil-war-hospitals.html
 

huskerblitz

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@alan polk I read over that again last night. Basically what led me to post this thread was trying to figure out where the field hospital would have been located at Chickasaw Bayou. But even with this General Order I cannot say for certain where the field hospital would have been located in the first couple of days of that fight. I also found a newspaper article (one I hadn't seen before) that talks about Mrs. Lake's house being completely packed with wounded, which I found odd because Sherman was using the house as his headquarters. So not sure if he left it to the surgeons the night of the 29th or what exactly.

But good addition to this thread. Thanks for posting it!
 
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alan polk

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Well, from the report it seems that the assistant surgeons, steward and attendants followed the regiment onto the field of action, set up a hospital, then followed the unit into combat, attending to wounded on the spot. Then those who could be moved were then sent immediately to the position previously set up just to the rear of the firing line, about 200 yards.
 

lelliott19

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Wilderness Tavern http://vhs4.vahistorical.org/vhsimages/manuscripts/Mss5/SnedenDiary/Vol4/Mss5.1.Sn237.1.Vol4_0273.jpg - Wilderness Tavern served as Early's Division Hospital at the Battle of the Wilderness. The tavern is located near Locust Grove. Surgeon Edwin Phillips of the 6th Vermont, the surgeon left behind in charge of the Union wounded after the Confederate victory.

The most important thing about "Field hospitals" is they shouldn't be confused with "General Hospitals" established in cities and towns. The field hospitals were temporary. They were set up/organized by brigade and/or division. It was the usual practice for the senior brigade and division surgeons to select the locations for and set up the field hospitals. In my research, I have found field hospitals as close as 1 mile in the rear of the initial line and as far as 5 miles in the rear. Even then, sometimes 5 miles is not far enough to the rear ....depending on where the rear was and where it wound up being, as lines shifted. They were not moved forward - once set up, and the operations underway, they remained in place and usually, if overrun, the whole lot - patients, doctors, nurses, and stewards - were captured. Interestingly, Ive never run across mention of one being moved back either. I suppose once the enemy was that close, they just surrendered.
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Think of a Field Hospital as a makeshift treatment location which might have been a warehouse, a barn, a house, a few tents thrown up in haste - or worse. This is the Cunningham Farm which served as Field Hospital for Wofford's brigade at Gettysburg - located almost exactly 1 mile in the rear of West Confederate Avenue, where Wofford's brigade lined up on July 2, 1863.

Most any substantial building was suitable for establishing a field hospital. In most cases, the building itself was not the hospital, but the surrounding outbuildings, barns, grounds, etc. The main building may have been used as an "operating room" and housed a few of the higher ranking officers who were badly wounded, but the majority of the wounded would have been in tents (if any were available) and on the surrounding grounds. Where buildings weren't available, tents and shade trees were the norm. The presence of a spring of cool potable water and/or the nearness of the building to a branch of the creek were advantageous.

The regimental surgeons were usually with their respective regiments and rendered immediate aid on the field. At least until the number of injured required them to move to the field hospital to assist the brigade and division surgeons with operations etc. All the men (officers and enlisted) of the brigade who were wounded were initially treated at the brigade or division field hospital. Whichever side held the field evacuated their wounded as soon as the patients were stabilized enough to transport. Those wounded were removed to the various General Hospitals of that side - sometimes at great distance. Those that could not be transported were consolidated at one location and were cared for by their own surgeons, left behind for the purpose. Wounded prisoners fell into the hands of the enemy, along with a few medical personnel, left behind to care for the wounded as best they could.
 
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huskerblitz

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Well, from the report it seems that the assistant surgeons, steward and attendants followed the regiment onto the field of action, set up a hospital, then followed the unit into combat, attending to wounded on the spot. Then those who could be moved were then sent immediately to the position previously set up just to the rear of the firing line, about 200 yards.
I'm really surprised Dr. Stevenson didn't mention this in his letters as this was something he seemed to frequently mention in his letters to his wife.
 
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alan polk

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I'm really surprised Dr. Stevenson didn't mention this in his letters as this was something he seemed to frequently mention in his letters to his wife.
Yeah. He does, I think, talk about being within canister range at Port Gibson. I think he appropriated a slave there to help him carry his surgical equipment and talks about the slave disappearing during the fight and didn’t return until after the fight. So he was close up.
 
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lelliott19

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Well, from the report it seems that the assistant surgeons, steward and attendants followed the regiment onto the field of action, set up a hospital, then followed the unit into combat, attending to wounded on the spot. Then those who could be moved were then sent immediately to the position previously set up just to the rear of the firing line, about 200 yards.
Correct Alan. The regimental surgeon, asst surgeons (if any), stewards (if any) and stretcher bearers accompanied the regiment onto or just behind the line. The "aid station" was on the field as you describe, but the actual Field Hospital would have been in the rear.The aid performed on the field was mostly just bandaging the wound, administering stimulants, etc. Almost all surgical cases were sent back to the field hospital.

EDIT TO ADD: If they were curious and thought they could make it back to the Field Hospital quickly, the Brigade Surgeon, Division Surgeon, et al might have accompanied their brigade up closer to the lines at first. Or they might have remained back at the Field Hospital while all this was happening, making proper preparations for the arrival of the wounded. Either way, once the first surgical case came in, they were expected to be at the field hospital.
 
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huskerblitz

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Yeah. He does, I think, talk about being within canister range at Port Gibson. I think he appropriated a slave there to help him carry his surgical equipment and talks about the slave disappearing during the fight and didn’t return until after the fight. So he was close up.
He does! Even calls him a rascal, which I thought was humorous.

At Chickasaw Bayou, the distance from the mouth of the Yazoo and even Johnson's Plantation at best was a mile and a half to Mrs. Lake's House. And the skirmishing started before that point at least a half-mile further north based on the map I created. So the field hospitals had to be pretty close.
 
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huskerblitz

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@huskerblitz If you show me the map, maybe I can help. Does it show buildings and structures? And if the ground is yet undeveloped a google map link would be great.
Umm...I can show you the map but not sure it will be of much help. No structures remain from the time of the battles. What I did was take the driving tours GPS spots and placed them on a Google Map. I think only a cistern remains from the Johnson Plantation.

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lelliott19

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Where did the skirmish start? I mean where were your guys when it started? And where were the Rebs? The steamer may have actually been designated as your brigade's Field Hospital. Do you know where "White House" was? If the White House was Johnson's plantation, then I'd guess it was the only non-boat Field Hospital. Im guessing the Von Phul, City of Memphis, and John J Roe were there near the Plantation - there would have been a landing there? Were there any other landings in the area that you know of?
 
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huskerblitz

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Where did the skirmish start? I mean where were your guys when it started? And where were the Rebs? The steamer may have actually been designated as your brigade's Field Hospital. Do you know where "White House" was?
It's Site E but covered with the blue B that was measuring distance. Roughly Site D is where skirmishing started in regards to De Courcy's brigade.

I have the ledger files showing where bodies were located in 1867 for reburial, but this is hampered due to the fact that other soldiers who died later on were buried near and on the same grounds. So in actuality, you have one battleground and two burial sites on the map I posted.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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https://civilwartalk.com/threads/dr-augustus-hawkeye-hamlins-flying-hospital.151113/

It doesn't mention specific battlefields but ran into something called ' flying hospitals '. Sorry, the article is from a northern paper, no idea if the whole MASH concept was used in the Confederate army? Guessing where it was, whether the flying hospital or any hospital during a battle would be chosen by the doc in charge?

I've always had the impression there could be several field hospitals- look at Gettysburg. Someone probably has a list of them, Confederate and Union. Was there more than one at Chickasaw? Also, wouldn't burial grounds be a good indication of where they might be? Again Gettysburg, The Elliot Map is a good indication of where hospitals buried men who died in them. ( that famous image of hundreds of graves at City Point is the hospital cemetery albeit not a field hospital ). Does it make sense if there are numerous graves in one area, it would be near a field hospital?

I'm no expert, just going by different accounts I've run into.
 
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lelliott19

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I've always had the impression there could be several field hospitals-
Right @JPK Huson 1863 At Gettysburg, as far as I can tell, pretty much every Confederate brigade had an established hospital location and at least every Union division. That's a lot of field hospitals! Also in areas where there was heavy fighting resulting in numerous casualties, wounded were taken into whatever building was nearby - even if it hadn't been established as a hospital - like Rose's barn and the Lutheran church downtown. Eventually, some surgeon would be summoned or, perhaps just run across it by accident like happened at Rose's barn.
 
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