Brev. Brig. Gen'l
- Feb 14, 2012
- Central Pennsylvania
Cropped image from the " Sanitary Commission, Camp Convalescent, Alexandria " LoC photo below, nurse Amy Bradley, an officer and wife, seated nurse and other staff pose in front of a neat HQ surrounded by tents. Relief organizations like the Sanitary and Christian Commissions plus state efforts had an overwhelming task, no wonder Amy Bradley looks grim. This is the camp reported on by Julia Wheelock in a letter sent to include in the Annual report of the Michigan Soldiers' Relief Organization, 1863. She called it " A Depot of Misery ".
Tents, not the neat barracks of the future Soldier's Rest can be seen in the background of this deceptively peaceful image. Julia Wheelock found men at Camp Convalescent lying on the cold ground, no blankets and little food.
It's a puzzle whether to post some of these in Ladies Tea or Period Photos. Still, all CWT!
Julia Wheelock's " Boys in White " is a fairly well known book written by a Michigan relief ' agent '. Her brother was in uniform, 8th Michigan, wounded at Chantilly and died before the family could reach the Alexandria hospital where he'd been taken. ' Relief agent ', odd title for someone who nursed, hauled wounded back to life, buried more than she cared to remember, fed, clothed and heck, housed wounded and fought throughout the war against some brutal conditions and treatment of wounded men. " Boys in White ", her diary, is one of the more depressing tomes written by a nurse. Your sense is Julia became overwhelmed by the sheer scope of tragedy pervading her duties.
State relief organizations worked within the Sanitary Commission although do not ask me how they meshed. Julia's 1863 briefing is included in Annual report of the Michigan Soldiers' Relief Organization, 1863. Hadn't run across anything by her except the diary. Valuable stuff. Before the fairly famous soldier's rest hospital in Alexandria existed a ' convalescent camp '. No neat barracks here- as always, Julia Wheelock goes to bat for her men.
From the later camp, conditions still crowded but you can see some beds with the quilts and blankets of home, brought to the hospitals be women like Julia.
Medical staff did their best, surgeons, doctors and nurses spending their health working 20 hours on behalf of wounded but resources never caught up. Or were not considered important in the spending orgies on war materials. Relief organizations stepped in. They had to.
And the new camp,
".... a paradise compared with that of a year ago, yet there is always room for improvement " Julia Wheelock 1863
Too easy to miss stories behind some of the old treasures in archives, LoC gives us the image. Rest is up to us, if we're to remember what, exactly was this awful war.