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Prisoners; Medicine

This slideshow contains 15 items
1
Views of Andersonville Prison, 1865

Views of Andersonville Prison, 1865

Item 84290 info
Maine Historical Society

Captured: POWs

Survival was a challenge for soldiers taken prisoner on either side of the conflict.

Prisons confined large numbers of captured soldiers in relatively small areas – conditions that meant disease was rampant.

Shortages of food, clothing, and often of shelter, were common.

Nearly 30 percent of soldiers – about 13,000 men – held at the infamous Andersonville Prison in Georgia died.

About a quarter of Confederate soldiers held at Elmira Prison in New York met the same fate.

The length of the war and the number of prisoners overwhelmed both sides.


2
Lt. John P. Sheahan, 31st Maine, ca. 1864

Lt. John P. Sheahan, 31st Maine, ca. 1864

Item 80497 info
Maine State Archives

Escape was on the minds of many POWs. Another alternative was being exchanged or paroled. Union and Confederate soldiers of the same rank – generally officers – might be exchanged.

Those who were paroled were released with the promise they not return to the war.

Lt. John P. Sheahan of Dennysville, a member of Co. E of the 31st Maine Infantry was taken prisoner on July 30, 1864 at the Battle of the Crater.

He was held at prisons in Virginia and South Carolina.


3
John P. Sheahan POW journal, 1864

John P. Sheahan POW journal, 1864

Item 64622 info
Maine Historical Society

Sheahan, who began his civil war service in the 1st Maine Cavalry in 1862, kept a journal that details his experiences as a prisoner.


4
Lt. John Sheahan on intent to escape, South Carolina, 1864

Lt. John Sheahan on intent to escape, South Carolina, 1864

Item 64618 info
Maine Historical Society

On Oct. 25, 1864, Sheahan wrote an affidavit stating his intention to escape from Camp Sorgum. He and several others did escape.

Sheahan's brother William, a sergeant in Co. F of the 6th Maine, had been killed at Rappahannock Station on November 7, 1863.

Two other brothers, Edmund and Henry, served in the 31st Maine and survived the war.

After the war, Sheahan became a physician and dentist and practiced in Washington County.


5
Brig. Gen. Neal Dow, 13th Maine

Brig. Gen. Neal Dow, 13th Maine

Item 4167 info
Maine Historical Society

Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia, held many Union officers, including Neal Dow of Portland, commander of the 13th Maine.

In his resignation from the army in November 1864, Dow wrote of his time at Libby, "My short rations in Richmond and particularly sleeping on the bare floor in cold weather … broke down my health so far that I am yet very weak …"

He was 59 years old when he was held at Libby for eight months in 1863-1864.


6
Neal Dow on capture in Louisiana, Portland, 1891

Neal Dow on capture in Louisiana, Portland, 1891

Item 79225 info
Maine Historical Society

In 1891, Dow recalled his capture as a prison when he replied ito a letter and newspaper clipping from John G. B. Simms of Conway, Arkansas.

Simms, who had served as a sergeant in the 17th Arkansas Regiment, noted that he had written a report of Dow's June 1863 capture in Louisiana when the general was recuperating from a battle injury.

Simms wrote that his former commander asked him to write the account, which then ended up in a newspaper. He sent it to Dow so the former Union officer could provide any necessary corrections or comments.

Dow commented that the major error in Simms' account was the statement that Dow had an engagement to play cards, which provided a convenient time for capturing him.

Dow wrote back that he had not played cards since he was a youth and did "not know a Jack from a King or Queen."


7
Fife

Fife

Item 6880 info
Maine Historical Society

"T. N. Coit" is crudely engraved on the fife. A note accompanying the instrument suggests that Coit exchanged it with M. M. Seay, while both were at Libby Prison in 1863.

Soldiers kept many other reminders of their POW experiences.

Col. Charles W. Tilden of the 16th Maine Infantry was taken prison on July 1, 1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg and sent to Libby Prison in Richmond.

On February 10, 1864, he escaped from Libby through a tunnel – where he picked pebbles that he saved.

He returned to his command at the end of March. Tilden was captured again at Welden Railroad in August 1864, and again escaped.


8
'Eva' doll, Washington, D.C., ca. 1865

'Eva' doll, Washington, D.C., ca. 1865

Item 84644 info
Maine Historical Society

Caring for Sick & Wounded

Soldiers commonly suffered, at one time or another, from diarrhea, deadly fevers, or other infectious maladies. Northern soldiers were in unfamiliar climates, often slept on the ground, lived in crowded conditions, lacked adequate sanitation, and often had inadequate diets.

Regimental surgeons and hospital treated soldiers who were ill, as well as those who were injured in battle.

Margaret Olson, a nurse in a Washington, D.C., hospital, made this doll with the aid of several wounded soldiers.

One soldier carved the hands from a soup bone and another gave money to purchase the China doll head. The clothes are made from hospital materials – gauze and muslin. A cobbler in the hospital made the shoes.

The nurse and patients named the doll "Eva" after "Little Eva," a character in Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin.

The doll was passed on to Olson's daughter, Wilhelmina Olson Simonton of Falmouth.


9
Rebecca Usher diary, 1865

Rebecca Usher diary, 1865

Item 1451 info
Maine Historical Society

Seriously injured or ill soldiers were sent to hospitals away from the battlefields for care. Many soldiers lost arms or legs, often succumbing to infection after surgery.



10
Rebecca Usher, Hollis, ca. 1900

Rebecca Usher, Hollis, ca. 1900

Item 4170 info
Maine Historical Society

Rebecca Usher of Hollis was invited to be a nurse at the U.S. General Hospital in Chester, Pennsylvania, a position she accepted in 1862.

She worked with other Maine women, including Ruth Mayhew and Louise Titcomb.

She continued working at various military hospitals until the war's end.

During some of her service, the Maine Camp Hospital Association, a Portland organization formed to help Maine soldiers, paid her.


11
Ruth Mayhew, Portland, ca. 1860

Ruth Mayhew, Portland, ca. 1860

Item 5198 info
Maine Historical Society

In 1861, Maine passed a law authorizing the governor "to accept the services of females as nurses in the army."

Maine native Dorothea Dix, Superintendent of Nurses for the Union Army, required that nurses be over 40 years old, an attempt to insure propriety.

Many Maine women worked for Dix in general hospitals, worked under private relief agencies, or served at battlefield hospital stations.

Ruth Swett Mayhew worked as a nurse, helping to run the Maine field hospital at City Point, Virginia.

She cared for ill soldiers in Washington, D.C., and worked as an agent for the Maine Camp Hospital Association, distributing supplies to soldiers.

Born in Orland, she grew up on the Cranberry Isles and in Surry. Her husband, the Rev. Andrew H. Mayhew of Rockland, had died in1856.


12
Charles Oleson surgical kit, ca. 1863

Charles Oleson surgical kit, ca. 1863

Item 84432 info
Maine Historical Society

Charles W. Oleson of Portland was 20 years old when he enlisted in the 1st Maine Mounted Artillery in 1862 as a private. He was promoted to hospital steward, and in 1863 became an assistant surgeon in the 14th U.S. Colored Troops. He was the battlefield surgeon at the Battle of Chattanooga in November 1863. After the war, Oleson went to Harvard Medical School.

The case holds five knives, a double-edged knife, a surgical saw, scalpels, tweezers, scissors, and other small instruments.

Civil War medicine is the stuff of legend – and horror stories – as injuries were numerous, many resulting in amputations.


13
Civil War hospital linen scraps, ca. 1861

Civil War hospital linen scraps, ca. 1861

Item 84648 info
Maine Historical Society

Crowded conditions and limited resources affected hospitals as they did other wartime facilities.

Relatives often sought to have ill or injured soldiers sent home to recover, where, they were sure, the soldier would heal faster.


14
Charles A. Davis, Rockland, ca. 1870

Charles A. Davis, Rockland, ca. 1870

Item 60666 info
Maine Historical Society

Charles A. Davis of Augusta was 19 years old when he became a substitute in Co. C of the 11th Maine on July 16, 1863. He moved up in rank from private to corporal, then to full sergeant.

Davis was wounded at Appomattox Courthouse a day before Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia. The regimental history gives details of Davis's service and notes, "Wounded at Appomattox, Va., April 8, 1865. Arm amputated." He was mustered out June 25, 1865 and later became a lawyer.

Amputations were so common during the war that a former chaplain, William Bourne, who published The Soldiers Friend magazine after the war, held a contest for right-arm amputees to send in hand-written stories, hoping to encourage them to practice writing with their left hands so they could get jobs as bookkeepers and clerks. Hundreds of men entered the contest.

John F. Chase, who had served in the 3rd Maine, entered the contest and sent in a photo of himself showing his naked stump, much like the photo of Davis.


15
Allen J. Maker war wounds, ca. 1870

Allen J. Maker war wounds, ca. 1870

Item 79492 info
Maine Historical Society

Allen J. Maker was 16 – but claimed to be 18 – when he enlisted in Co. I of the 4th Maine Infantry. A native of Northport, Maker was a skirmisher at the Battle of Chantilly, Virginia, September 1, 1862, when he was wounded in the arm, thigh, and back.

The sketch shows two wounds. On the back is printed, "young Maker received a wound in the lower part of the left arm, another in the thigh, followed by the third and disabling wound -- the one which the Government reports devoted a special description on account of its rarity.

"A conoidel ball passing through the left side fracturing the tenth rib and lodged between the transvers processes of the third and fourth lumbar vertebrae, the wound, according to the Medical and Surgical History of the Rebellion, part 2, page 9, is the only one of the kind that a man received during the civil war and recovered from."


This slideshow contains 15 items