Travel time for hospital transport ships during the Peninsula Campaign


Oct 16, 2016
For those of you interested in transportation, logistics, and hospital ships, I have a question for you. How long would it have taken one of the hospital ships transporting Union wounded soldiers from Harrison's Landing on the James River to Alexandria, Virginia following the Seven Days Battles? The reason I ask is because I have an ancestor who was transported by one at the earliest, on June 30, but more likely July 1 or 2, 1862. He was severely wounded at Savage's Station, late afternoon or early evening, on June 29. We know for certain from the OR by his Captain, Rufus Pettit, Battery B, 1st NY LA, that he was "strapped to a caisson" for the very long march to White Oak Bridge during the retreat (across the swamp). This was likely an unconventional way to transport the wounded but the main hospital at the Station was in chaos and an estimated 2,500 wounded were left behind. More than likely, after they crossed White Oak Bridge my wounded ancestor was transferred to some other means of transportation to make the remaining few miles to Harrison's Landing, in part because Pettit's Battery unlimbered their guns and was heavily engaged for several hours in the battle defending the crossing and opposing Jackson's troops who were threatening to cross, etc., a part of the fight at Glendale.

The last important detail to my question: I have a letter written to my ancestor's father, by someone working at Mt. Pleasant Hospital, informing him of his son's wounds. (He stayed there for several weeks, recovering, re-joining his battery just in time for Antietam!) The letter is dated July 1, 1862. I can't help think that the writer wrote an incorrect date as it seems highly unlikely a transport ship could make that trip in less than 24 hours (down the James River, around the bay to Fortress Monroe, up the Chesapeake, to the Potomac and to Alexandria. I believe under normal conditions a steamer might average 5 miles an hour, but with a ship full of wounded soldiers, staff, and supplies that might be overestimated their speed. So, what are your own thoughts and calculations? Also, if you happen to know the names of the hospital transport ships leaving Harrison's Landing between June 29 and July 3, let me know. Thanks for listening.