By Marvin Sowder Dalton 150th Civil War Commission
In the days leading up to the Battle of Chickamauga the movements of the Union and Confederate armies affected many changes in Dalton. On Sept. 7, 1863, all the Confederate hospitals, their staffs and the 300 or so patients were evacuated from Dalton to other locations farther south in Georgia.
Many of the citizens of Dalton would follow suit, relocating in places considered more suitable for their families. Yet, when Confederate Gen. James Longstreet’s troops came to Dalton on their way to Chickamauga they were welcomed here in their overnight camps and were cheered on their way the next day.
The biggest change was yet to come. After the Battle of Chickamauga, Sept. 19-20, 1863, special arrangements had to be made to take care of the thousands of wounded being removed from the battlefield.
Medical Director Samuel H. Stout in one of his reports stated, “After the battle it became necessary to reopen hospitals in Ringgold and Dalton for the reception and shipment of patients.”
Ringgold was north of some burned bridges on the Western and Atlantic Railroad so many of the wounded were sent to Tunnel Hill and Dalton for the first three days after the battle and there placed in boxcars to be sent to hospitals further south.
Until about Oct. 1 the wounded were brought to the wood station near Catoosa Platform where they slowly but eventually were removed to hospitals for treatment. The hospitals that had been removed from Tunnel Hill before the battle were never reopened.
Among the first surgeons to arrive in Dalton was W.L. Hilliard. He arrived Sept. 18, 1863, from Knoxville, Tenn., and was placed in charge of the hospitals at the post there.
Surgeon R.P. Bateman was ordered back from Newnan to establish a receiving and distribution hospital (R&D) in Dalton. It was quickly set up in the Western and Atlantic Hotel and immediately began receiving hundreds of the wounded from the battlefield.
Surgeon James B. Murfree was ordered to gather up all the property belonging to the Asylum Hospital that had been in Knoxville and proceed without delay to Dalton. On Sept. 23, Murfree reopened the Asylum Hospital and treated patients for the next 69 days before moving to Madison.
On Oct. 28, Surgeon Samuel Meredith was ordered back to Dalton and placed in charge of the hospital operations. On Nov. 15, Surgeon Lunsford P. Yandell was ordered to move the Stout Hospital back to Dalton and report to Meredith for assignment.
On Nov. 28, after 30 days’ service in Dalton, Meredith was instructed to shut down the various hospitals in Dalton. Yandell was ordered to report to Gen. Stewart for assignment by Gen. Breckenridge.
With the exception of the R&D Hospital, all other hospitals in Dalton were closed and removed to other cities further south. TheR &D Hospital would remain in Dalton through the long cold winter until the end of April 1864, at which time it was removed to Griffin.
The living conditions in Dalton through September, October and November 1863 were somewhat chaotic, to say the least. Farmers and businessmen like John S. Oliver, the Rev. Arch Fitzgerald and W.J.M. Thomas and others were filing claims with the Confederate government for damages done to their properties by Longstreet’s troops as they moved through Dalton.
Rail fences were handy and were taken by the thousands and burned in the camp fires. Tens of acres of standing corn, wheat and sugar cane were confiscated and consumed as forage for the horses and the troops. Their claims for damages were proven and for the most part paid in full.
Foragers for the hospitals were traveling as far away as Fannin County to find subsistence. Times were difficult in Dalton and would remain so for several years to come.
This article is part of a series of stories about Dalton and life in Dalton during the Civil War. The stories run on Sunday and are provided by the Dalton 150th Civil War Commission. To find out more about the committee, go to www.dalton150th.com. If you have material that you would like to contribute for a future article contact Robert Jenkins at (706) 259-4626 or email@example.com.