Local News

October 28, 2012

Civil War anniversary: Confederate Hospitals in Dalton: 1862

As the events of 1862 began to unfold, very few people could visualize the dramatic changes that would take place in Dalton as a result of the war. In February 1862, Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River were captured and the cities of Memphis and Nashville were overrun and occupied. On April 6 and 7, the Battle of Shiloh was fought resulting in Confederate losses exceeding 10,000 men.

The Confederate medical system was unprepared to treat casualties of this number. Hospitals in Knoxville, Cleveland and Chattanooga in Tennessee, and in Atlanta, became overcrowded. Soon other towns in Georgia located along the Western & Atlantic and other railroads would become hosts to Confederate hospitals.

Immediately after the Battle of Shiloh, Confederate sick and wounded began passing through Dalton. Cpl. John S. Reynolds, Co. E, 20th Alabama Regiment, died on April 20, 1862, and may have been the first soldier buried in the Confederate Cemetery here. On June 15, James B. Luckey, assistant surgeon from Knoxville, was transporting 500 patients from the overcrowded facilities there to the hospitals in Atlanta. Their supper stop was made here but 22 of his patients could not continue their journey and were left at Dalton. Two days later, Cpl. John A. McBride died here and may have been one of the 22 soldiers being transported from Knoxville.

On July 18, 1862, Robert D. Spalding, a surgeon from Kentucky, addressed a letter from Dalton to Samuel Hollingsworth Stout, post surgeon at Chattanooga, reporting his success in the establishment of the first of several hospitals in Dalton. He wrote, “Since July 15, I have hired nine Negro men and two women for the hospital. Our kitchen is complete, grounds policed, sinks prepared, pillow ticks and most of the bed sacks are filled and some 200 spittoons made. No bunks are finished yet. — By Tuesday next we can receive patients. — Can you come down? — Respectfully, R.D. Spalding, Acting Post Surgeon, Dalton, Georgia.”

Samuel Hollingsworth Stout had his authority expanded by Gen. Braxton Bragg to take control of the hospitals at Ringgold, Tunnel Hill and Dalton and hereafter any other hospitals that might be established between Chattanooga and Atlanta. All subsequent hospital reports from Dalton and the other towns along the Western & Atlantic railroad would be directed to him.

In early August 1862, John S. Bond, a surgeon from Florida, arrived with orders to take charge of the hospitals being established in Dalton. On Aug. 14 he wrote, “Please pay to P.J.E. Clardy $7.75 for 62 pounds of beef and $.40 for soup bones for use of the sick in the hospitals in Dalton.” This was the first of 10 such requisitions for food issued over the next 17 days to R. H. Herbert, the captain in charge of the newly established Commissary Store at Dalton.

On Aug. 31, 1862, John M. Henson, a surgeon from Mississippi, was ordered to report to Surgeon Bond at Dalton and bring with him all the hospital stores and attendants from the hospital at Aberdeen, Miss. He arrived on Sept. 1 with his company and went about the task of fitting up and opening the newly established Oliver Hospital with a capacity to take in 300 patients. It occupied the Dalton Academy and the Baptist and Methodist churches.

During this same period Bonds and Spalding established a second hospital that would eventually occupy 40 rooms in the Western & Atlantic Hotel next to the depot. It was organized by Aug. 15 under their supervision and became known as the Cannon Hospital.

On Sept. 3, 1862, Faulkner H. Evans, post surgeon at Tunnel Hill, was ordered to relieve Surgeon Bond and assume the position of post surgeon of Dalton. Surgeon Bond then reported to Medical Director E.A. Flewellen for reassignment. He requested a leave of absence and for health reasons resigned his commission in February 1863. Surgeon Spalding likewise resigned his commission and was mustered out of service Dec. 20, 1862, at Clinton, Tenn.

Upon his arrival in Dalton, Surgeon Evans paid special attention to the operations of the hospitals under his care. In a report dated Dec. 14, he made the following observation: “The Cannon Hospital was certainly never abandoned.” The sick were all removed from it to another hospital but the furnishings remained. It was reoccupied on Nov. 1, and the capacity was doubled to 250 beds. It was on Nov. 1 that Daniel H. Morrison, a surgeon from Arkansas, arrived with orders to take charge of the Cannon Hospital. He would retain that position until its removal from Dalton in 1863.

Surgeon Evans was busy organizing yet a third hospital in Dalton that would occupy the Courthouse and possibly the Presbyterian Church. It also opened on Nov. 1 and became known as the St. Mary’s Hospital with a capacity of 200 beds. William J. Holt, a surgeon from Alabama, arrived and was placed in charge of this hospital.

On Nov. 18, 1862, Samuel P. Moore, surgeon general, ordered Evans to “give up without delay” the Dalton churches being used as hospitals and return them back to the several congregations for public worship. Evans argued that the churches were the very best accommodations he had for the hospitals and that only one pastor had asked for his church to be returned. Actually, Rev. James Albert Wallace, pastor of the Presbyterian Church, volunteered his services in caring for the sick and wounded in the hospitals until their removal from Dalton in 1863. Further research has revealed in a report dated March 19, 1863, that the Academy, Courthouse, the Western & Atlantic Hotel, nine privately-owned buildings and the four churches were still being rented and used as hospitals. A total of $639.50 was paid in rent that month. This would end in June 1863 with the opening of the newly-constructed hospital buildings on the Hamilton Plantation.

One other problem that would raise its ugly head that winter of 1862 was the dreaded smallpox disease. On Aug. 26, 1862, B.B. Brown, a local physician, addressed a letter to Gov. Joseph E. Brown requesting that he “send vaccine matter to Dalton as there was none to be had in the county. There is smallpox in Georgia and our people are greatly alarmed for fear of the spread of the disease!”

A Pest House was established in the Five Springs area south of Dalton and those who became infected with smallpox were kept there under quarantine until the disposition of their cases were determined. Some would not recover, but many did and returned to their regiments. A House of Prevention was established in an untenanted county residence with numerous outbuildings in the vicinity of the Pest House. Anyone that may have been exposed to the contagion was removed there immediately.

On Nov. 26, 1862, Lunsford P. Yandell Jr., a surgeon from Kentucky, arrived in Dalton and was placed in charge of the Pest House and the House of Prevention with the responsibility of treating those suffering from smallpox. On Dec. 10, 1862, there were 33 sick plus attendants in the House  of Prevention and the Pest House was fully occupied. By March 1863 the threat had been abated.

As winter approached, the problem of heating the hospitals was no easy task. On Dec. 1, 1862, Evans requested 178 cords of wood from Maj. W.A. Ayer, quartermaster at Dalton, stating that he had “750 sick at this Post and 100 fireplaces and stoves to supply.” In November and December, Merritt Russell of the firm of M. Russell & Brother had supplied one furnace, stove pipes, etc., as well as kettles, coffee pots, dippers, water buckets, bake pans, boiler pots for soups, tin dish pans and two bake oven doors. He was also paid for putting up stoves and pipes in the Archibald Fitzgerald Hospital, two stoves and pipes in the James Morris Hospital, two stoves and fitting pipes in the Christopher McCrary Hospital, and two stoves in the Oliver Hospital. The sick at this post were comfortably suited for the winter.

Evans closed out the year of 1862 by reflecting on the wishes of the surgeon general. “If he wants to call each of the wards a hospital, I would have 13 hospitals at this post.” Many more changes would occur during the coming year of 1863.

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-Whitfield Civil War 150th Commission. To find out more about the commission, 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 robert.jenkins@robertdjenkins.com.

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