|Mt Jackson Confederate Hospital|
Over the past few months, I have noticed a interesting trend: people really seem to like the chapter on Brigade Medical Care in General Lee's Immortals, my history of the Branch-Lane brigade. Dr. Jonathan M. Steplyk, in his review in Civil War Monitor, wrote: " Hardy’s work in the chapters on medicine and prisons is especially commendable. In many unit histories, men are lost to death, wounds, and capture, but, almost by necessity, the focus tends to fix on those men remaining to do the fighting. Hardy’s approach ensures that the stories of wounded men and prisoners do not disappear from the narrative." Gary Lee Hall recently wrote in a review in Confederate Veteran: "The chapter entitled 'Brigade medical Care' is particularly moving and provides light into the experience of those wounded and ill." And, this past Saturday, while signing books at the Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor Center, a patron told me the book/chapter was going to be used in the collection at Elmwood House as they build a new hospital exhibit.
So what about this chapter has captivated people's attention?
When I sat down to write General Lee's Immortals, I wanted to write more than a brigade history: I wanted to not only write a history of the Branch-Lane brigade, but also to explain how a brigade worked or, at times, did not work (I explain that in the introduction). That holds true for the chapter on brigade hospital care. While there are some great books on Civil War medicine and hospitals, I'm not really aware that anyone has ever tackled something on such a scale. Of course, I started with the regiment, explaining the roles of surgeon, assistant surgeon, and steward, examining how a person became a doctor in the mid-nineteenth-century South. The role of the regimental surgeon, et. al. is examined next, then sick call, followed by hospitals. Diseases come next, then an exploration of battlefield hospital care, battlefield burials, and PTSD. The best I recall, this chapter was somewhere around 10,000 words, before editing.
Besides a plethora of personal observations from members of the Branch-Lane brigade who were doctors, or who were sick or wounded, I relied on a few good sources to build this chapter: Cunningham's Doctors in Gray; Humphrey's Marrow of Tragedy: The Health Crisis of the American Civil War; Calcutt's Richmond's Wartime Hospitals; and Schroeder-Lein's The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine. There are others, but this is what I used, besides a few period texts.
Maybe, when I get Feeding the Army of Northern Virginia finished, it might be time to look at the medical history of the Army of Northern Virginia...