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November 25, 2012

Civil War anniversary: Confederate Hospitals in Dalton in 1863

As dawn broke on Jan. 1, 1863, there were more than 700 patients under medical care in the various Confederate hospitals in Dalton. Hundreds had passed through their doors, recovered and returned to their companies but others were not so fortunate.

Their remains were laid to rest in the Soldiers Cemetery located west of town.

The dreaded smallpox was on the wane and on Jan. 9, 1863, 20 of the 33 patients in the Pest House had sufficiently improved and were returned to the hospitals to complete their recovery. Because of efficient care and aggressive measures taken by a surgeon named Lunsford P. Yandell and staff, smallpox was no longer considered a threat at that time to the citizens of Dalton.

During this time, plans were being formulated for the construction of new and larger hospital buildings and their supporting facilities. On Feb. 1, 1863, contracts were drawn up and signed by W.A. Ayer, major and quartermaster of Dalton, and two local builders, the Rev. Archibald Fitzgerald and Archibald M. Jones.

The hospitals were designed for space, comfort and ventilation, with the number of buildings not to exceed 50 and of various dimensions.

Because of the abundance of fresh water and firewood, a site was chosen on the Hamilton Plantation for the construction of two large hospital buildings. Rachel Hamilton, widow of the late John Hamilton, voiced no objection, and in April and during their construction furnished 69 trees to be used as sills for the new buildings. (Today the old Crown Cotton Mill complex sits on this site.) The limbs were cut into cord wood and sold to the quartermaster department in large quantities.

In May of 1863, F.H. Evans, surgeon in charge of the hospitals at Dalton, asked the medical director for four or five additional medical officers to fill the slots in the soon-to-be-completed hospitals.

In early June of 1863, the Oliver and the St. Mary’s hospitals removed from their locations in town to the new facilities afore mentioned. Here the sick and wounded could disembark from the trains and go directly into the hospitals. This change in itself was quite an improvement.

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