Patient life at De Camp

When my ill ancestor Arthur Bull debarked at Davids Island, he temporarily traded his Union Army regiment for a 20-patient ward commanded by the Stewards, Wardmasters and Nurses at De Camp General Hospital.

5971 hospital pavilions
Hospital wards and mess buildings at De Camp General Hospital in 1864. Source: Westchester County Archives

He took up residence with fellow convalescents in one of De Camp’s long, four-ward patient pavilions on 18 June 1864. There he recuperated for the rest of the summer.

A shorter building between the pavilions housed attendants’ quarters, a dining room and a kitchen. No-nonsense female agents from the U.S. Sanitary Commission and the U.S. Christian Commission regularly inspected to assure that soldiers received quality care.

Ambulatory patients were allowed to walk around the 80-acre island, which had a spring-fed pond and a number of shade trees, some forming a grove at one end. In 1864 various orders — including regulations for De Camp patients — were compiled into a book governing daily life there.

I like to think my great, great grandfather, a family man, would have readily followed the rules he could physically handle — such as rising at reveille, washing face and hands, dressing, reporting to his bed for examination when “sick call” was sounded, and going to sleep after “taps.”

But I have to wonder about his ward-mates when I read rules like No. 114: “No one will be allowed to spit on the floors or walls of the hospital…” Or No. 115, “No patient or attendant will be allowed to lie in bed with his clothes on, or sit or lounge upon the beds…”

How was Arthur’s illness treated? Did he have visitors?  And something my dad would want to know: What was on the menu at De Camp? New questions. More research. Stay tuned.

© 2014 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.



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