If Wards Could Talk; Beds Of Pain, Rows Of Healing

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JPK Huson 1863

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ward philly hosp illustr.jpg

Blown up from a colorized illustration, a packed ward in one Philadelphia hospital gives an indication of scope of care received. Any soldier here fought and had lain on a battlefield somewhere. Scooped up by stretcher and ambulance, a field hospital coaxed life into him before rail or steamer- or both, met another ambulance, at docks or station. It must have looked a lot like Heaven, despite their healing miles ahead.

ward gettysbur hosp 3 weeks post .jpg

Stretchers were hospital beds in this tent ward, at Gettysburg's 2nd Corp Hospital. Beds in wards changed- heal or die, the same. From here, a repaired and busy railroad took wounded to Philadelphia, Maryland and Washington.

With apologies to lelliot for cluttering up her forum, been on some ' nurse ' searches lately. Sidetracks lead all over the place. The medical forum tends to pay for it, when information needs to be siphoned off!

The thing is, anyone whose ancestor was wounded during the war has done their share of tracking- cannot just be me, tracking various relatives via ambulance, stretcher, steamers and wards. Nurses show up variously, filling in the blanks on what they endured by way of suffering, care received, buddies lost. Sanitary Commission records as well as Confederate army records give a glimpse of the ' where's ' although not all- especially in the South so many homes were used as hospitals you just know some homeowners still do not know of the men healing and dying where a family now grows and lives.

ward hospital evan luth church frederick maryldpart1.jpg

Please excuse the lack of Confederate documentation. It just isn't there, vanished, destroyed during the war, lack of resources making photos and artists more rare- or not found yet. Fredericksburg Evangelical Lutheran Church, like so many, contained front line wards. No knowledge if both sides were treated here- seems likely, with churches opening doors to wounded throughout the war. Francis Xavier, Gettysburg, famously opened to both but you know it was a shining symbol- wounded were welcome.

What was it like, in a hospital? Boy does it vary. Which hospital on what part of the journey? Written accounts tell us at length- seeing some, albeit only a handful, tell us a little more.

ward hosp  hilt head.jpg

Massive General Hospital at Hilton Head was only one of so many, you can't track them down. From here back to war, or on to a major city hospital.

ward at carver dc.jpg

Everyone's seen this image of Carver Hospital, Washington, DC. Long, long way from a ward in a hot tent, 2nd Corp Hospital, in Pennsylvania. Only using ' Gettysburg ' as an example because documentation is easiest to find.

We'd come a long, long way from Bull Run, where wounded pulled themselves into Washington streets, to be taken in by citizens.

ward hosp gen tys.jpg

Or from here, at Letterman. Nurses write that 100's of men were sent daily, from Letterman to the whitewashed wards in cities.

ward hosp harewood ward men.jpg

Harewood, not in existence in 1861, a ward of wounded made it this far. Crazy to think of each man's story, and journey there.

ward homer w.jpg

Of course Winslow Homer would leave us images from the wards- wish we knew where, a nurse writing home for a wounded man.


Too many reaches overload, next post, more wards, talking.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Only ward inside a Confederate hospital I've found- from Leslie's, pre- war. Charleston.
ward inside hosp conf1.jpg


ward k Armory sq hosp2.jpg

Another famous ' ward ' photo, from Armory Square, DC ' Ward K '

ward mcclellan hosp ward 12 2.jpg

McClellan Hospital, unsure which city- seems to be an officer's ward just opened- balloons from the ceiling?

ward union dc.JPG

Union, in Georgetown, which I think was Alcotts's assignment- pretty cool to put a picture to her story.

ward wash hosp inside.jpg

Seems to be Harewood again, although LoC did not say which, in this one.

ward conv camp alex.jpg

Alexandria's convalescent hospital, another famous image- soldiers would have been at least not as shattered, from here, home or the VRC.

280,000 Union men, wounded, 196,000 Confederate men, around those numbers- seems low given how violent was this war. Just a few, from their journey.
 

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Mrs. V

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Seeing the wards, and how tightly packed they are, you can see where the “don’t wear hoops” stories make sense. I do tell one, in my presentation. Then I show off my leeches. Heheh! NEver have found a good sub for maggots. I hate to say that there were good parts to the war, but the advent of skilled nurses, organized hospitals, artificial limbs, as well as accurate-ish records of the fallen were really innovations that may have waited entirely too long were it not for the war.

Still and all I look at those wards, and admire all who were able to work there. So many men...
 
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mofederal

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Those are sites to make you heart sick. I am sure many of them did not make it. We can only hope more lived than died. One thing no photo can convey is what the place must have smelled like. It is nothing we can imagine very well today. I am sure somehow one would have gotten used to it. Thanks for posting such a sorrowful thread.
 

lelliott19

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Thanks for this great post @JPK Huson 1863 a fabulous collection of images of Civil War hospital wards.

With the fancy, state-of-the art medical facilities we are all used to seeing, it's hard to imagine the challenges those doctors and nurses faced in providing proper treatment - crowded conditions, absence of disinfectant practices, insufficient and non-existent medical supplies, scarcity of medicines, inadequate medical and support personnel, lack of suitable transportation, etc. Sometimes something as simple as access to clean water prevented medical personnel from being able to provide lifesaving treatment. It's honestly a wonder that any of the sick and wounded recovered!
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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Sorry to have missed these replies- busy month! Yes, goodness, how medical staff coped is something we still do not know. I've read accounts where doctors were brusque, or seemed unfeeling but they were there- you just know asleep on their feet, emotionally shredded, overwhelmed, understaffed and never having to have faced so many cases they knew were hopeless. Just the fact they were there says it all.

I'm still tracking down names of nurses lost, because 100's died. Need to have a shot at how many doctors were lost, too. It's a little crazy we do not know. 2nd Corp hospital at Gettysburg was hit during the battle. According to Arabella Wilson, in her excellent book on the 126th New York, docs were killed. Who? No idea. We should know, along with those lost to disease.

We know how many horses and mules died during the war. Medical staff? Not a clue. @lelliott19 , if you wouldn't mind making note of any you come across, love to keep track.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Thanks so much for posting all this!!!!

Just wondering, what are the white sheet things above the bed in some of these pictures? e.g. at Harewood, I think? What is their purpose?

Guessing- have always assumed they were curtains the staff could drop down, giving some privacy to treatments? Alcott's description of doctors making the rounds included treatment at bedsides, not removing the patient elsewhere. Some are horrendous, wound probes, continuing to extract fragments and re-dressing appalling wounds. NO idea if I'm correct- surely no one wished an entire ward of patients , waiting their turn, to share these sights.
 

dixie1861

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Guessing- have always assumed they were curtains the staff could drop down, giving some privacy to treatments? Alcott's description of doctors making the rounds included treatment at bedsides, not removing the patient elsewhere. Some are horrendous, wound probes, continuing to extract fragments and re-dressing appalling wounds. NO idea if I'm correct- surely no one wished an entire ward of patients , waiting their turn, to share these sights.
I agree. That makes sense!!
 
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AnnaLee

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Then I show off my leeches. Heheh! NEver have found a good sub for maggots.
As a new nurse years ago, I was changing a dressing one night in the hospital and found maggots in the wound. I removed them, cleansed the area and applied a new dressing. I noticed that the wound was very clean. I called the doc and he asked: "Did they (maggots) do a good job in cleaning the wound?"
 

dixie1861

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As a new nurse years ago, I was changing a dressing one night in the hospital and found maggots in the wound. I removed them, cleansed the area and applied a new dressing. I noticed that the wound was very clean. I called the doc and he asked: "Did they (maggots) do a good job in cleaning the wound?"
Wow...just wow. That was an interesting shift, huh? :smile:
 

JPK Huson 1863

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As a new nurse years ago, I was changing a dressing one night in the hospital and found maggots in the wound. I removed them, cleansed the area and applied a new dressing. I noticed that the wound was very clean. I called the doc and he asked: "Did they (maggots) do a good job in cleaning the wound?"

Wish I could remember where this was done on purpose- using maggots to debride wounds? It was a more modern account, too, can you imagine? Also bumped into an account from the war, a prisoner credits maggots for his surviving being wounded and left in dreadful conditions. It's an appalling thought- but getting rid of infection must have saved him.
 
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AnnaLee

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Wish I could remember where this was done on purpose- using maggots to debride wounds?
Annie, according to FDA regulations, permission was granted in 2004 to:

"produce and market maggots for use in humans or animals as a prescription-only medical device for the following indications: For debriding non-healing necrotic skin and soft tissue wounds, including pressure ulcers, venous stasis ulcers, neuropathic foot ulcers, and non-healing traumatic or post-surgical wounds." Wikipedia.

I do think they have a place. Sometimes surgical debridement is far more harmful than using these disgusting creatures. I know the "Infection Control" committee was appalled and I had to complete pages and pages of questions (back in the 70's). During their "investigation" they found that a nurse on another shift had left off the dressing too long and assumed flies were able to lay their eggs in the wound.
 

GS

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You're right about the lack of Confederate photos and artistic images of hospitals. I found none, only a few brief blurbs from soldier diaries.
The same is true about Southern photos in general. I'm not sure if there were photographers and artists in the area, or if so, were any who supported the South enough to record the stories from their point of view, meaning the severe lack of everything that supported and sustained life... including medicine, hospitals and clinics.

If images ever existed, those who produced them would protect them, would not want them destroyed in spite of duress or pressure by heads of state. That's the nature or character of those who record truth for truth's sake.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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You're right about the lack of Confederate photos and artistic images of hospitals. I found none, only a few brief blurbs from soldier diaries.
The same is true about Southern photos in general. I'm not sure if there were photographers and artists in the area, or if so, were any who supported the South enough to record the stories from their point of view, meaning the severe lack of everything that supported and sustained life... including medicine, hospitals and clinics.

If images ever existed, those who produced them would protect them, would not want them destroyed in spite of duress or pressure by heads of state. That's the nature or character of those who record truth for truth's sake.

Yes, never been a fan of arresting those who smuggled medical supplies. Tell you what it would be great to find? Which medicines Southern women resorted to, when they went back to the folk medicine of their ancestors to replace what couldn't be had. I'm a little convinced we got rid of those too quickly anyway as modern pharmaceuticals became available.

Miller's 10 book series on the war has more Confederate photos than I've ever seen in one place but nothing on hospitals. You just know there are some, somewhere- one day someone will open a trunk in an attic, or empty a storage garage and we'll finally see more!
 
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