Lines By a Wounded Soldier: A Patient at the St. Charles Hospital, Richmond, VA

lelliott19

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Main Street toward Church Hill circa 1856
"When on the afternoon of [May] 31st [1862] it became known that the engagement had begun, the women of Richmond were still going about their daily vocations quietly, giving no sign of the inward anguish of apprehension. There was enough to do now in preparation for the wounded; yet, as events proved, all that was done was not enough by half..."

The four-story St. Charles Hotel, located on the northeast corner of 15th and Main facing Main Street, was built about 1846. By July 1861, it was converted into a Confederate Hospital. In August 1862, all the hospitals in Richmond were re-designated with numbers and the St. Charles Hotel Hospital became General Hospital No. 8. The St. Charles Hotel continued to serve as General Hospital No. 8 through at least July 1863.

After the Battle of Seven Pines, Constance Cary Harrison (1843-1920) recalled a visit to the St. Charles Hospital:
To find shelter for the sufferers a number of unused buildings were thrown open. I remember, especially, the St. Charles Hotel, a gloomy place, where two young girls went to look for a member of their family, reported wounded. We had tramped in vain over pavements burning with the intensity of the sun, from one scene of horror to another, until our feet and brains alike seemed about to serve us no further. The cool of those vast dreary rooms of the St. Charles was refreshing; but such a spectacle! Men in every stage of mutilation lying on the bare boards, with perhaps a haversack or an army blanket beneath their heads,— some dying, all suffering keenly, while waiting their turn to be attended to. To be there empty-handed and impotent nearly broke our hearts. We passed from one to the other, making such slight additions to their comfort as were possible...​

Although Constance didn't seem to realize it at the time, the care provided by the women of Richmond had a profound impact on the patients. Private James A. Sutherland (D/19th VA) was one of those wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines. He wrote a poem accounting his treatment at the St. Charles Hospital. While he is no Frost or Longfellow, I haven't seen many poetic accounts of Confederate hospital experiences and am glad that he wrote his.

In the St. Charles I found a bed
Where I could rest my weary head,
The surgeon quickly came to me,
And cut the ball out from my knee.

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The nurses here are kind to me
And often bathe my wounded knee;
And Mrs. Terry is so neat,
That all things have to be complete.


I suspect but have no confirmation that this "Mrs. Terry" was the wife of then Colonel Wm R. Terry of the 24th Virginia. He was wounded May 7, 1862 at Williamsburg, the first and worst of several wounds he would receive during the war. He was shot in the face, but recovered and rejoined his regiment.

James A Sutherland's poem goes on to name a number of women who provided care to the wounded soldiers at St. Charles Hospital following the Battle of Seven Pines.

Miss Maggie Wren, a graceful queen
Beside our couch is often seen...
Her sister Nannie's smiling face
Has often lighted up the place...
Miss Lucie Berry, fair and bright
Just like an angel brought to sight....
Miss Betty Langly, where art thou?
I wish you were beside me now...

..God bless each sweet, angelic form,
Which visits us most every morn,
And don't forget at close of day
An evening visit us to pay.

The day glides sweetly o'er our heads,
Though lying wounded in our beds;
When cared for by those seraphs bright,
Tis sunshine all -- we have no night....

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James A Sutherland's poem was originally published in the Richmond Enquirer and reprinted, by request, in the Yorkville Enquirer., July 03, 1862, page 1.
 

bdtex

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In August 1862, all the hospitals in Richmond were re-designated with numbers and the St. Charles Hotel Hospital became General Hospital No. 8. The St. Charles Hotel continued to serve as General Hospital No. 8 through at least July 1863.
All good stuff in that entire post. This caught my eye. In my cemetery threads, I often run across hospital Registers in fold3 for soldiers hospitalized in general hospitals in Richmond with such designated numbers. I didn't know when that name and number system came into being or what any of those buildings were before they became hospitals. That was early war too when they were still very much learning on the fly.
 

lelliott19

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There's a really comprehensive website on Civil War Richmond that includes a whole section on Hospitals - an index of names/numbers; a map showing where they were; surgeons; and statistics. If you ever run across another listing in a CSR, you can find all that info here .

And here's a link directly to the page with the order dated August 1, 1862 outlining the existing names and the new corresponding numbers. The only General Hospitals that were not redesignated as numbers were Chimborazo, Winder, and Howard's Grove.
 

Mrs. V

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Very interesting piece. I imagine that the very act of writing this poem helped to while away the time and to distract the soldier from him pain. And as studies have shown, less pain means quicker healing. Thanks for sharing!
 

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