Knapp Frederick N., Documents of the U. S. Sanitary Commission, Vol. 2. pp. 3-8

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U. S. Sanitary Commission. – No. 89

EXTRACTS
FROM THE
Quarterly Special relief Report
OF THE
U. S. SANITARY COMMISSION,
Washington, D. C., April, 1865,

CONCERNING THE REBEL HOSPITAL AT RICHMOND, VA., AND THE PROVISION MADE FOR THEIR PATIENTS, AS CONTRASTED WITH THE SUPPLIES FURNISHED TO UNION PRISONERS OF WAR IN REBEL HANDS.


WASHINGTON, D. C.:
PRINTED BY McGILL & WITHEROW.
1865.


[Extracts from the Report of Frederick N. Knapp, Superintendent of Special Relief, read at the quarterly meeting of the Board of the U. S. Sanitary Commission, Washington, D. C., April 20, 1865.]

…On Friday, April 7th, I left City Point, upon the Sanitary Tug Boar, “Gov. Curtin,” which was starting with stores for Richmond. We arrived at Richmond Friday evening, having been delayed on our way up two hours, at “Deep Bottom,” where we took on to the “Surtin” quite an amount of supplies from what had been the Sanitary Store-house of the 25th Army Corps; the sanitary wagons, - which you will recollect followed the troops into Richmond the morn- [5] ing it was evacuated, - though well loaded, were able to take but a share of the supplies.

Saturday morning, after passing by the smoking ruins, and getting sight of “Libby” and “Belle Isle,” – each bound in with its terrible history, - I went out to “Jackson Hospital,” one of the principal hospitals of the place, a mile and a half or two miles from the city; and here I saw that which, by contrast, made me feel ten-fold more fully than ever before how great had been the barbarity of that system of starvation and exposure by which the rebels, with slow and terrible death, had killed off our men, their Prisoners of War.

I found at that rebel hospital the evidence of thorough organization and wise system – a large generosity in all the provisions for the comfort of their patients; and testimony proving the fact that, as a general thing, there had been no lack of supplies there, but usually an abundance of all needed stores. As I looked on these well ordered methods, and the liberal provisions which had long been made by the rebels at that hospital, located within less than cannon-shot distance of Belle Isle, I felt that the thin screen of “ignorance” or of “inability,” with which some persons still seek to temper the barbarity of the rebels, must be at once and utterly swept away, leaving the inhuman cruelty of this slow murder to stand out clearly, and its true nature to be recognized, viz: a means systematically arranged and adopted, under a deliberate plan, as an engine of war, whereby to thin our ranks by death, precisely as the bayonet is used in battle, except that the bayonet is connected with bravery, while this instrument of death is the weapon of cowardice. For what could stand in stronger contrast with the boasted chivalry of the South, or with the undoubted valaor of her soldiers in the field, than this resort to a process of starving defenseless men by thousands, showing that the spirit of [6] slavery, which fomented and has guided this rebellion, is not only oppressive but base; since bravery – that virtue which all men praise – dies out under a system that created and thrives upon brutality and ungoverned passions? What, therefore, if not this meanest and most cruel method of getting rid of a dreaded foe, should forever be branded as cowardice?

Jackson Hospital, as established and conducted by the rebels, was excellent; in some respects, few military hospitals of our own surpass it. It was excellent in its general plan of organization; it is location and its arrangement of buildings; in its administration; in its thorough policing; in the exceeding cleanliness of its bedding, and in the very liberal provision made by the Rebel Government for the Hospital Fund.

Jackson Hospital comfortably accommodates 2,500 patients. Widner Hospital, which is near by, but which I did not visit, is said to be similar to Jackson Hospital in general arrangements and capacity, but inferior in its situation and it appointments. The buildings at Jackson Hospital are much like our usual wooden hospital barracks, well arranged adna well warmed and lighted, the floors nicely scoured, and the walls in many wards, covered with canvas, which was painted white. The bedsteads were only wood, but were kept very white, and on each was both a straw bed and a cotton mattress, and two feather pillows, with nice pillow cases. The sheets and blankets and bed-spreads were unusually clean, and bore marks of being carefully looked after. The cleanliness of the bed-linen was accounted for by the large laundry, where sixty (60) laundresses were constantly at work. The laundry was provided with a long row of fixed tubs, into which the water was brought by pipes, and ample provision was made for heating water, heating irons, &c., &c. [7]

This laundry had its tenements near by for the women employed there, where they seemed comfortable in their quarters, and neat in personal appearance. At the hospital, beside the medical corps and nurses, and the two Matrons to every ninety patients, there were in each section a Chief Linen-Matron, and Chief Culinary-Matron, with their two assistants. In each section was a kitchen for special diet, with four to six stoves – this besides the general kitchen attached to each section. The special diet list was posted in all the wards, and seemed liberal and aiming to secure variety. The Dispensaries were well fitted up, and the persons in charge said, in answer to my inquiry, that, excepting a deficiency at times in some few articles, their supply had been good. The Linen-rooms were kept in the neatest order, and seemed to have been unusually well filled. The Baggage-rooms were like the rest, clean and well arranged. The Dining-rooms of each section, where the convalescents ate, were also kept well, and the tables neat, and bearing marks of care and comfort, and convalescents who had been there some months assured me that their fare was on the whole excellent. There were no covered walks connecting the different buildings in the section with the dining rooms, nor were there any “tram-ways” from the kitchens to the wards; but the walks were hard and clean, and the drains deep and free. At the head of each section were neat buildings, one of which was occupied by surgeons, others by matrons and women assistants. These buildings, with the white-washed fronts and green blinds, and patches of grass, and a look of comfort. There was no general method of carrying water by pipes over the different buildings, consequently there was no provision for bath rooms in the several wards – a decided deficiency; but good water for ordinary use was furnished by wells. The water closets for [8] convalescents were located where a running stream carried off the deposits.

Within the hospital grounds and near by was an open grove of large trees, with grass beneath, neatly kept. At the further edge of this grove was one of the two large ice houses which supplied the hospital, each 30x30 feet, and 18 feet deep. They are both now filled solid with ice, well protected. A little way from the hospital on the other side are large sheds and a barn, also a dairy house, with the cold water of the melting ic of one of the ice houses flowing through it. At this dairy in summer they have had sixty cows (pastured near by) to furnish fresh milk, and at times fresh butter also, to the patients. The refuse from the barn yard goes to enrich the hospital garden of three or four acres, which, the surgeon formerly in charge told me, had become very productive.

Near the dairy house stands a large bakery, (at present not used) with capacious ovens where formerly, as the man in charge states, they turned out sixty thousand pounds of bread per day.

To the above memoranda is to be added this most important fact, viz: that the Rebel Government, in making provisions for the “Hospital Fund,” added one hundred per cent. to the usual army ration. Thus was furnished large means for purchasing extra supplies.

Such, roughly sketched, is the record of Jackson Hospital, as it had been during the past year of more; while near by, all the time, was Belle Isle, with its shelterless and starving thousands.

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