Civil War Hospital Trains

by Sandra Merville Hart

Civil War soldiers wounded on the battlefield were first treated at tent hospitals or in local buildings. With a combined total dead and wounded at Gettysburg for both armies at over 40,000, wounded soldiers filled the courthouse, churches, homes, barns, and every available public building.

The overworked, exhausted surgeons at Gettysburg couldn’t keep up with the demand. As soon as a patient was able to survive a trip, he traveled by hospital train to a city hospital.

A typical Civil War era hospital train contained between 5 to 10 hospital cars and a passenger car for wounded soldiers able to sit. Additionally, there was a surgeon’s car for the medical staff, a kitchen car for the nourishing food provided to wounded, and a box car for supplies.

The outside car panels had “U.S. Hospital Train” painted in large letters. A yellow flag flew on the slow-moving engine. Three red lanterns hung under the engine headlight at night. Ten-car trains carried up to 200 patients.

Injured soldiers were carried on stretchers to a hospital car. Four India rubber rings hooked onto wooden posts to support the stretcher. There were 3 tiers of stretchers stacked in a 50-foot hospital car. A nice period sketch of these cars may be found at http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1864/february/hospital-train.htm.

Early in the war, a surgeon noticed the agony that sick and wounded soldiers suffered from the locomotive jostling over tracks. He suggested the above design for hospital cars, greatly increasing patients’ comfort while traveling to the general hospitals in the cities.

A Rebel in My House Book Blurb:

When the cannons roar beside Sarah Hubbard’s home outside of Gettysburg, she despairs of escaping the war that’s come to Pennsylvania. A wounded Confederate soldier on her doorstep leaves her with a heart-wrenching decision.

Separated from his unit and with a bullet in his back, Jesse Mitchell needs help. He seeks refuge at a house beside Willoughby Run. His future lies in the hands of a woman whose sympathies lay with the North.

Jesse has promised his sister-in-law he’d bring his brother home from the war. Sarah has promised her sister that she’d stay clear of the enemy. Can the two keep their promises amid a war bent on tearing their country apart?

A promise to her sister becomes impossible to keep …

Amazon

Book Trailer

Sources

Compiled by the editors of Combined Books. The Civil War Book of Lists, Da Capo Press, 1994.

“Hospital Trains,” Son of the South, 2021/03/23 http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1864/february/hospital-train.htm.

Wilbur, M.D., C. Keith. Civil War Medicine 1861 – 1865, C. Keith Wilbur, 1998.

 

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What Story Awaited Me in Gettysburg?

by Sandra Merville Hart

Something drew me yet again to Gettysburg. I had visited this battlefield before, but this time I knew there was a story waiting for me. I only had an inkling of an idea when I left my home that fall day—a Confederate soldier needs help from a Gettysburg seamstress. Not much to go on, is it? Sometimes novel ideas grow slowly and sometimes you know the whole story within an hour. A Rebel In My House swelled in my imagination as I explored Gettysburg.

My husband and I walked the battlefields. Ideas stirred when I found Tennessee troops with the brigade who began the fighting on the first day. Nothing solidified so I kept digging. I visited the museums. I discovered fascinating history at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at the Gettysburg Seminary Ridge Museum. Surely my story touched this place. Yet no ideas came. I trudged on.

I spent hours at the Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center, Gettysburg Museum of History, Gettysburg Railroad Station, General Lee’s Headquarters Museum, and The David Wills House where President Lincoln stayed. I learned captivating facts at the Jennie Wade House, Shriver House Museum, and “The Women of Gettysburg Tour,” an evening walking tour.

Ideas strengthened. My husband and I walked the town’s streets around the “Diamond” or the town square where the women and children suffered through a nightmare. Then we spent another afternoon and evening at the battlefield.

Three Tennessee regiments fought the beginning battle on July 1st. They didn’t fight again until they joined in Pickett’s Charge.

The sun sank low on the horizon as I stood alone on Cemetery Ridge. The expansive field crossed by Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863, captured my imagination. Though the land is peaceful once more, it still tells a story. My imagination soared while the sun disappeared.

I had to tell what the townspeople endured. What if a Gettysburg woman fell in love with a Confederate soldier? What if they both made promises to loved ones? Some promises are impossible to keep …

I reluctantly left the ridge because I had a story to write.

Book Blurb:

When the cannons roar beside Sarah Hubbard’s home outside of Gettysburg, she despairs of escaping the war that’s come to Pennsylvania. A wounded Confederate soldier on her doorstep leaves her with a heart-wrenching decision.

Separated from his unit and with a bullet in his back, Jesse Mitchell needs help. He seeks refuge at a house beside Willoughby Run. His future lies in the hands of a woman whose sympathies lay with the North.

Jesse has promised his sister-in-law he’d bring his brother home from the war. Sarah has promised her sister that she’d stay clear of the enemy. Can the two keep their promises amid a war bent on tearing their country apart?

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Dedication of National Cemetery Where Lincoln Gives Gettysburg Address

National Cemetery, Gettysburg

Rain and clouds that mark the Pennsylvania skies on the early morning of November 19, 1863, soon clear to give an exhilarating nip in the air in and around Gettysburg. After a lively evening in the crowded streets last night, folks are still entering town for the important occasion of dedicating the new national cemetery.

President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward take a carriage ride to the Lutheran Seminary grounds where fierce fighting took place on July 1, 1863, the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

They return in time to change for the dedication ceremony. Before 10 am, Lincoln emerges from David Wills’ home where he spent the night. He is dressed in black, wears a black frock coat, and carries white gauntlets. Sad. Serious. A wide mourning band adorns his stovepipe hat in memory of his son, Willie, who died of typhoid fever on February 20, 1862.

People press around him, shaking his hand even after he mounts his horse. They cheer for him. The marshals motion the crowd back.

The Marine Band begins the procession followed by a squadron of cavalry, two artillery batteries, and an infantry regiment. President Lincoln rides with several generals, nine governors, Cabinet members, and three foreign ministers among others.

Edward Everett, the main speaker, tours the battlefield and does not participate in the procession.

A 12’ x 20’ platform has been built for the occasion. Honored guests take their place on the three rows of ten chairs each. There are other chairs scattered on the platform and chairs at a table in back for reporters.

A tent stands at the east end of the platform—at Everett’s request and for his use. He emerges from this tent. David Wills, organizer of the event, and New York Governor Seymour escort him to his seat beside Lincoln in the middle of the front row.

Bright sun shines down on the spectators arranged in a semi-circle by the marshals. Many, like Lincoln, wear mourning.

The pleasing array of flags, banners, and costumes of those in attendance do not mask the signs of the recent battle, where the fields are still littered with broken muskets, canteens, and bits of gray or blue uniforms.

The Marshal-in-Chief Ward H. Lamon is not on the platform to begin the ceremony so his assistant, Benjamin B. French, signals the Birgfield’s Band. They play “Homage d’un Heroes,” a funeral dirge.

Lamon nods to Rev. Thomas H. Stockton to pray. The emotional prayer of the chaplain of the House of Representatives brings tears to many eyes, including Everett and Lincoln.

Next, Lamon calls on the Marine Band. They play Martin Luther’s hymn “Old Hundred.”

Lamon then introduces Edward Everett as the speaker of the day.

Everett speaks for about two hours. The President listens with kind, thoughtful attention. Lincoln rises and shakes Everett hand while some in the crowd applaud at the end.

The Maryland Musical Association sings “Consecration Hymn” that was written by Benjamin B. French for the dedication.

Lamon introduces the President of the United States.

National Cemetery, Gettysburg

Lincoln steps forward. He extracts a paper from his pocket. He puts on his spectacles.  The crowd is silent as they look up him.

The President gazes at the solemn mourners … at soldiers who will never forget the battle or their comrades. Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

Gettysburg Address at the Soldiers National Cemetery

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The crowd gives President Lincoln three cheers and then another three cheers for the Governors.

Birgfield’s Band accompanies a chorus of Gettysburg men and women.

Lamon nods to Rev. Henry L. Baugher, who leads those gathered to close the ceremony with a benediction.

Lincoln participates in the procession that leads back to David Wills’ home, where he eats dinner and then receives guests. He attends a service at the Presbyterian Church and then boards a train. It is time to return to Washington D.C.

Back at the cemetery, some mourners remain until darkness falls.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

Carmichael, Orton H. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, The Abingdon Press, 1917.

Gramm, Kent. November: Lincoln’s Elegy at Gettysburg, Indiana University Press, 2001.

Klement, Frank L. The Gettysburg Soldiers’ Cemetery and Lincoln’s Address, White Main Publishing Company, Inc., 1993.

 

The Day Before President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

Excitement fills the overcrowded streets of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday, November 18, 1863. It’s been a long time since residents had something to celebrate. President Abraham Lincoln and other distinguished guests will soon arrive for tomorrow’s dedication ceremony of the national cemetery.  Preparations  have taken weeks. Thousands come by train and in carriages, buggies, farm carts, and Pennsylvania wagons. Some ride horseback into town. Others walk.

At noon, a special train leaves Washington D.C. on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. President Abraham Lincoln, Secretary of State William H. Seward, Secretary of the Interior John P. Usher, Postmaster General Montgomery Blair, two foreign ministers, Lincoln’s private secretary and assistant secretary, army officers, Marine Band members, and newspaper correspondents are passengers.

An unusually quiet Lincoln sits in the last car. Sadness marks his face. Perhaps he reflects on the tragic loss of so many soldiers who died at the battle, a loss that reminds him of losing his precious Willie, his third son, a year earlier.

Gettysburg attorney David Wills, Ward H. Lamon (marshal of the event,) and Edward Everett (the dedication’s main speaker) are among those who meet the President’s train at dusk. They and the First Regiment of the Invalid Corps escort him to the Wills’ home where he will spend the night.

The Fifth New York Artillery Band plays and the crowd serenades Lincoln while he eats supper. They request a speech.

Lincoln appears at the front entrance of the home. He bows for the exuberant crowd yet refuses to give a speech. “I have no speech to make.”

The crowd laughs.

“In my position it is somewhat important that I should not say any foolish thing.”

“If you can help it,” someone yells.

“It very often happens,” Lincoln smiles, “that the only way to help it is to say nothing at all.”

The crowd laughs and the President soon goes back inside.

Inns and homes are full. Many visitors remain on the streets late into the night for they have no place to go. They shout and cheer and sing while bands take turns playing patriotic songs and hymns.

Inside, President Lincoln pulls out his speech for tomorrow’s dedication. A few lines are all they’ve asked of him. He must make those “few appropriate remarks” count.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

Carmichael, Orton H. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, The Abingdon Press, 1917.

Gramm, Kent. November: Lincoln’s Elegy at Gettysburg, Indiana University Press, 2001.

Klement, Frank L. The Gettysburg Soldiers’ Cemetery and Lincoln’s Address, White Main Publishing Company, Inc., 1993.

 

Gettysburg Attorney David Wills Prepares for National Cemetery

Over 7,000 soldiers died in Gettysburg at the Civil War battle that lasted from July 1st to July 3rd in 1863. While the Confederates under General Robert E. Lee retreated in the pouring rain on July 4th, some Southerners stayed to bury a small portion of their dead. The rest of the fallen were left for Union soldiers and Gettysburg citizens, who had their hands full caring for the wounded, to bury.

There was little time. Over 5,000 shallow graves were dug along fences, in the Wheatfield, beside the Peach Orchard, on Culp’s Hill, in the fields of Cemetery Ridge and other battle locations.

Gettysburg attorney David Wills wanted to purchase land for a national cemetery as a burial place for those killed in the battle. He requested approval from Pennsylvania Governor Curtin, who granted it. Curtin also requested that Wills write the other 17 Union state governors. Fifteen approved the plan.

Wills bought 17 acres next to the town’s cemetery. A monument was to be erected in the center of a semi-circle of graves. There are 22 sections: 3 sections for unidentified soldiers; 1 for regular army soldiers; and the remaining 18 sections were for the 18 individual Union states’ soldiers.

About 25% of the soldiers were from New York, so that state has the largest section.

They began transferring bodies to the new cemetery on October 27, 1863. Only 50 – 60 were reburied on a daily basis.

Wills wanted to dedicate the new national cemetery in a ceremony. Edward Everett, a well-known orator of the day, was invited as the main speaker. President Lincoln and his Cabinet received invitations. Some notable Union generals were also invited.

President Lincoln accepted. Wills then invited him to make “a few appropriate remarks” at the November 19th dedication ceremony.

History has overshadowed the gifted Everett’s two-hour speech for Lincoln’s two-minute Gettysburg Address.

No one predicted just how much Lincoln’s “few appropriate remarks” would inspire a nation—even today—and deliver a message the people attending desperately needed to hear.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

Carmichael, Orton H. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, The Abingdon Press, 1917.

Gramm, Kent. November: Lincoln’s Elegy at Gettysburg, Indiana University Press, 2001.

 

Klement, Frank L. The Gettysburg Soldiers’ Cemetery and Lincoln’s Address, White Main Publishing Company, Inc., 1993.

 

Sheldon, George. When the Smoke Cleared at Gettysburg: The Tragic Aftermath of the Bloodiest Battle of the Civil War, Cumberland House, 2003.

 

The Aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg

Ambulance outside Lutheran Seminary, Gettysburg.

On July 4, 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee began his retreat after the Battle of Gettysburg with an ambulance and wagon train that was about seventeen miles long. Nine Gettysburg men accused of spying or other suspicious activities went with them. Captured African Americans headed south along with thousands of military prisoners. Confederate sharpshooters continued to shoot at Union soldiers in town.

Confederates no longer controlled Gettysburg. The townspeople, who endured a nightmare during the battle, ventured outside their homes to a new ordeal. Their town didn’t look the same nor would it ever be the same.

Homes had been damaged by bullet holes and cannon balls. Soldiers’ discarded knapsacks, blankets, cartridge boxes, bayonets, ramrods, broken guns, food, and letters littered the streets and fields. Broken wagons, wheels, and unexploded shells remained after the battle.

Groans and shrieks from the wounded in churches, the courthouse, homes, and barns tugged at citizens’ hearts. Injured soldiers lay in tents in the fields and under blankets hung over cross-sticks.

Wounded from both sides lay on the battlefields, awaiting rescue. Some had waited since the first day of the battle.

Dead horses lay in the streets. Soldiers killed in battle needed to be buried. (Some 7,000-8,000 soldiers died—sources vary on exact numbers. See my article on Gettysburg’s numbers.) People, even in the stifling heat, closed their windows to block out the terrible odor. They treated the streets with chloride of lime. They cremated bodies of mules and horses with kerosene, adding to the smell.

The town mourned the loss of Jennie Wade, who was buried with dried dough on her hands. She’d been kneading dough when a Confederate bullet aimed at Union soldiers claimed her life.

General Lee left almost 7,000 men too wounded to travel. These soldiers ended up in area hospitals, and were transported to prisoner-of-war camps like Fort McHenry once they recovered.

Damaged rail lines were repaired about a week after the battle ended. About 800 men were then moved daily by train to larger city hospitals.

The Sanitary Commission gave food to several hospitals—10,000 loaves of bread, 11,000 pounds of poultry and mutton, 7,100 shirts, 8,500 dozen eggs, and more than 6,000 pounds of butter. The Christian Commission also gave out supplies.

Drinking water was in short supply.

The demand for food for so many extra people had local farmers charging steep prices. For example, a loaf of bread cost ten cents before the battle and seventy-five cents after it.

On July 7, 1863, Gettysburg resident Sarah Broadhead wrote, “I am becoming more used to sights of misery. We do not know until tried what we are capable of.”

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

Creighton, Margaret S. The Colors of Courage: Gettysburg’s Forgotten History, Basic Books, 2005.

McGaugh, Scott. Surgeon in Blue: Jonathan Letterman, the Civil War Doctor who Pioneered Battlefield Care, Arcade Publishing, 2013.

Sheldon, George. When the Smoke Cleared at Gettysburg: The Tragic Aftermath of the Bloodiest Battle of the Civil War, Cumberland House, 2003.

Slade, Jim & Alexander, John. Firestorm at Gettysburg, Schiffler Military/Aviation History, 1998.

Thomas, Sarah Sites. The Ties of the Past: The Gettysburg Diaries of Salome Myers Stewart 1854-1922, Thomas Publications, 1996.

 

Confederates Capture Gettysburg Before the Battle

View from Lutheran Seminary cupola, Gettysburg.

By mid-June of 1863, Gettysburg citizens had heard so many rumors of Confederates approaching their town since the war started that many wondered about the truth.

This time it was true. Multiple rumors over the war’s duration were about to become reality.

The Rebels were coming.

Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtain’s earlier warning about a possible attack prompted the formation of the 26th Pennsylvania Emergency Infantry Regiment, which some local men joined. They arrived in Gettysburg amidst cheers the morning of June 26, 1863. After townspeople fed them, they marched west toward Cashtown.

Soldiers from Confederate General Jubal Early’s Division captured forty of them. The rest of the 26th Pennsylvania troops fled. They reached Gettysburg with warnings of approaching Confederates and then left town.

Stores closed. Schools dismissed early. Local officials had already left town. Businesses had sent their merchandise away. The banks had sent its money out of Gettysburg.

The 35th Virginia Cavalry arrived about 3 pm. Shouting, cursing, and shooting their guns in the air, they galloped toward the town square. About a half hour later, Early marched in with about 3,000 Georgian troops from General John B. Gordon’s Brigade.

Early’s requisition for supplies to Gettysburg couldn’t be met. David Kendlehart, president of the borough council, told General Early that the stores were open for Confederates to take supplies.

His men, being ordered not to loot, paid Confederate currency and script, which was worthless to Northerners. They searched citizens’ homes for horses, clothes, food, and supplies.

Many black residents had left town. Some who didn’t leave were captured. A few escaped. Townspeople hid others until the soldiers left.

The first Union soldier killed in Gettysburg was George Sandoe, an Adams County resident. He was with a small group of soldiers near Gettysburg when the Southern soldiers approached. He tried to escape with the others and was shot and killed about 2 miles from his home.

With a Confederate flag now waving in the town square, known as town diamond, their regimental bands serenaded the Northerners with Southern tunes like “Dixie,” “Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag,” and “The Stars and Bars.” Some soldiers stayed in the courthouse that night.

The town was under Confederate control.

Sallie Myers Stewart wrote in her diary that she and her father had a conversation with some Confederate soldiers. They stood at their door on West High Street and talked of the war and Southern rights for two hours. She found the men reasonable and interesting.

CONFEDERATES PASS THROUGH GETTYSBURG was the heading on the June 27th edition of Star and Sentinel. They reported that, during the night, the Confederates moved 17 railroad cars about a mile from town and burned them. They cut telegraph wires and tore up tracks. They burned the Rock Creek bridge. They paroled 36 prisoners from the 26th Pennsylvania. By 8 am on June 27th, the Southerners had marched toward York.

That morning, Gettysburg citizens must have heaved a sigh of relief.

But the worst was still on the horizon.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

Creighton, Margaret S. The Colors of Courage: Gettysburg’s Forgotten History, Basic Books, 2005.

“Jubal Early,” Wikipedia.com, 2019/06/14 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jubal_Early.

Sheldon, George. When the Smoke Cleared at Gettysburg: The Tragic Aftermath of the Bloodiest Battle of the Civil War, Cumberland House, 2003.

Slade, Jim & Alexander, John. Firestorm at Gettysburg, Schiffler Military/Aviation History, 1998.

Thomas, Sarah Sites. The Ties of the Past: The Gettysburg Diaries of Salome Myers Stewart 1854-1922, Thomas Publications, 1996.

 

 

Before the Battle of Gettysburg-Rumors

View from Lutheran Seminary cupola, Gettysburg.

On June 12, 1863, Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtain warned citizens of his state to prepare for an attack. His warning fanned the fear of Confederates coming to Gettysburg.

Sallie Myers Stewart, who lived in Gettysburg, wrote that businesses stopped operating. Merchants sent their goods to cities like Philadelphia. Bankers sent money out of town. Folks stood on street corners in groups, talking about the danger. Any news attracted crowds.

Dread hung in the air as worry mounted among residents.

Sallie’s compassion went out to the town’s 300-400 black citizens. Many packed the possessions they could carry and fled to the north. They feared that staying meant risking capture by Confederate soldiers—and slavery in the South.

Townspeople hid their horses in the hills or near the Susquehanna River. A number of men left town, leaving their wives and daughters in Gettysburg. Fannie Buehler, whose husband was an editor and postmaster, packed a bag for him, believing him to be a marked man.

Some townsmen joined seminary and college students traveling to Harrisburg. They and others united to become the 26th Pennsylvania Emergency Infantry Regiment.

On June 20th, a Union officer came to town. He warned citizens to arm themselves.

The next day, groups of men carried axes toward South Mountain to chop down trees and block roads and passes.

Multiple rumors over the war’s duration were about to become reality.

The Rebels were coming.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

 

Creighton, Margaret S. The Colors of Courage: Gettysburg’s Forgotten History, Basic Books, 2005.

 

Sheldon, George. When the Smoke Cleared at Gettysburg: The Tragic Aftermath of the Bloodiest Battle of the Civil War, Cumberland House, 2003.

 

Thomas, Sarah Sites. The Ties of the Past: The Gettysburg Diaries of Salome Myers Stewart 1854-1922, Thomas Publications, 1996.

 

 

 

Battle of Gettysburg-Railroad Station

The railroad station in Gettysburg had been completed in May of 1859. It had a covered platform for passengers to enter and exit the train. As was the custom of the time, women and children had their own waiting room and men had another. A large brass bell in the cupola rang when trains departed.

Soldiers used the train almost daily throughout the war. The 10th New York Cavalry used the second floor of the station while stationed in town during the winter of 1861-62.

Teenager Daniel Skelly remembered that the last train out of Gettysburg until after the Battle of Gettysburg reached Hanover about 5 pm on June 26, 1863. Residents had received advance warning that Confederate Jubal Early’s troops were headed to town. Revenue officers, clerks, and those holding government office jobs left on that last train.

Early’s troops burned freight cars and destroyed the Rock Creek railroad bridge.

The station was one of the first buildings to become a hospital as the battle raged on July 1, 1863. Wounded from the 6th Wisconsin, part of the famous “Iron Brigade,” were among those receiving care at the station.

Gettysburg women like Sarah Montford and her daughter, Mary, nursed those at the railroad station. Patients remained there during the Confederate occupation of the town. They were moved to other hospitals beginning July 4th.

Patients able to climb to the train cupola observed the fighting from there during the battle. Private James Sullivan, 6th Wisconsin, was among the ten to fifteen men on the station roof who watched the Union win after Pickett’s Charge.

Train service was restored on July 10th, but the government controlled the rail for six weeks. Inbound were medical supplies, folks coming to help with wounded, and family members searching for loved ones. Outbound trains held wounded traveling to large city hospitals. By the end of July, almost 15,000 injured soldiers had been transported away by train.

The U.S. Government controlled the station and railroad line almost exclusively for the rest of the summer as the aftermath of the battle continued.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

Bennett, Gerald. The Gettysburg Railroad Station, Gettysburg Railroad Station Restoration Project, 2008.

 

Sheldon, George. When the Smoke Cleared at Gettysburg: The Tragic Aftermath of the Bloodiest Battle of the Civil War, Cumberland House, 2003.

 

 

Civil War Women: Mollie Bean, Confederate Soldier

Confederate Army of Northern Virginia cannons at Gettysburg Battlefield

On February 17, 1865, the train guard on the railroad cars between Danville and Richmond demanded to see the papers of a soldier dressed in light-colored corduroy pants, Yankee great coat, and fatigue hat dipped at a jaunty angle, almost touching the wearer’s right ear. The delicate soldier didn’t have any papers signed by the Provost Marshal nor did he seem concerned about the lack of documentation allowing him to ride the cars.

The soldier was arrested and taken to the chief of police. Rigorous questioning revealed an astonishing fact—the soldier was a young woman.

Mollie Bean claimed to be a soldier with the 47th North Carolina State troops. She’d served with them for two years and been wounded twice. Her wounds didn’t give away her disguise so they probably were minor wounds to the head, arms, or legs.

Mollie was taken as prisoner to Castle Thunder.

The reporter of the Richmond Whig didn’t believe her story of being with the 47th North Carolina for two years.

The Charlotte Daily Bulletin called her Mollie Bear, but the other papers noted referred to her as Mollie Bean.

Mollie’s regiment was in winter quarters near Hatcher’s Run when she was arrested.

Her regiment was part of Pickett’s Charge under Brigadier General James Pettigrew at the Battle of Gettysburg. They were at Cold Harbor. They took part in the long Petersburg siege, so Mollie surely experienced difficulties in her two years with the Confederate army.

There’s no record of how long she was held at Castle Thunder or what happened to her when she was released. Who she was and what happened to her remains a mystery.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

“47th Regiment, North Carolina Infantry,” National Park Service, 2019/03/18 https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-battle-units-detail.htm?battleUnitCode=CNC0047RI.

“Historical Sketch and Roster of the North Carolina 47th Infantry Regiment,” Amazon, 2019/03/18 https://www.amazon.com/Historical-Carolina-Infantry-Regiment-Regimental/dp/1517383056.

“Mollie Bean,” American Civil War Forum, 2019/03/18 https://www.americancivilwarforum.com/mollie-bean-2248424.html.

“Mollie Bean,” Soldier-Women of the America Civil War, 2019/03/18 http://civilwarsoldierwomen.blogspot.com/2011/01/mollie-bean.html.

“Mollie Bean,” Wikipedia, 2019/03/18 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mollie_Bean