Bermuda Hundred patient

How was my ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull transported to Bermuda Hundred, Va., where he entered hospital on 3 Jan. 1865? And what was this new hospital like?

Researching to find answers, I discovered excerpts from an illuminating letter in a Bulletin of the U.S. Sanitary Commission.

Six months before Arthur arrived at Bermuda Hundred, Dr. Joseph Parrish, M.D. — in a 19 June 1864 letter — reported from the field on USSC facilities and staff operating near the James and Appomattox Rivers:
Hospital ship, Nashville (1861-1865). My ancestor Arthur Bull may have traveled to Bermuda Hundred, Va. on a hospital ship such as this, operated by the USSC Hospital Transport Service. Image: Library of Congress

The Commission has three stations in this department…at City Point, Bermuda Hundred and Point of Rocks. There are thirteen relief agents, who feed the wounded as they come in; and when they are not coming, visit different regiments and garrisons to ascertain the wants of the men and supply them, read and write for them, and hold religious meetings among them.

At Point of Rocks, there is a provisional and a depot Hospital…At Yorktown and Bermuda there are hospitals also…Each regiment has a hospital for the sick only, the wounded being carried from the front where their wounds are first dressed, to Point of Rocks. There they receive a second dressing, and are sent to Fortress Monroe.

Point of Rocks Hospital, Bermuda Hundred, Va. in (1861-1864). The US Sanitary Commission hospital network attended to ill/wounded soldiers, including my ancestor Arthur Bull. Due to lingering illness from the 1864 Overland Campaign, he was treated at three USSC  locations — Bermuda Hundred, Point of Rocks and Fortress Monroe. Image: Library of Congress

Since my great, great grandfather was ill, rather than wounded, I wondered how he was cared for. Dr. Parrish detailed the USSC protocol in the same letter.

I have referred to a provisional Hospital; the term may need some explanation. As the General Hospitals at Washington and other points become crowded for room, those who are in condition for it are sent to Convalescent Camps, where they remain in process of recovery, and as these in turn become crowded, such as are the nearest well are sent to provisional Hospitals, and kept till they are able to rejoin their regiments.

Being often feeble men, or men with wounds partially healed, scarcely sick enough for hospital or well enough for service, they frequently suffer from want of proper kind of supplies, and the Commission may be especially serviceable under such circumstances. This is one of the peculiar cases, of which but little is know by the public.

The USSC may also have been responsible for my ancestor’s transport to Bermuda Hundred in tandem with his regiment. The Commission operated a Hospital Transport Service — established at the request of the Union Army — to move ill, wounded and convalescent combatants from point to point.

I felt a sense of relief after learning more about how Union casualties were handled in the field — because the USSC had an established system for providing services to ill soldiers by the time my great, great grandfather reached Bermuda Hundred in 1865.

In particular, I was grateful to learn about their hospital network because Arthur ultimately spent time in hospital at three of the locations mentioned by Dr. Parrish — Bermuda Hundred, Point of Rocks and Fortress Monroe.

More on this future posts.

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