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The Clarysville Civil War Hospital Digital Collection

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
September 22nd, 2015

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Digital Projects and Outreach Archivist, WVRHC.


Over the summer, staff at the WVRHC and WVU Libraries completed work on the Clarysville Civil War Hospital Digital Collection.  The online collection features over 750 hospital bed cards from the U.S. General Hospital located at Clarysville, Maryland during the American Civil War. 


As the name “bed card” indicates, these cards would have been placed bedside to identify patients. The cards date from 1864 to 1865 and were all signed by the attending physician, Acting Assistant Surgeon S. B. West.  They contain the name, age, place of birth, marital status, residence, address of wife or nearest relative, rank, regiment, date admitted into hospital, diagnosis, where or how wounded, nature of missile or weapon, treatment, and result (with date). They reveal the kinds of injuries and ailments suffered by soldiers and document medical practices during the Civil War. They may also provide family and personal information of interest to genealogy researchers.


Front and back of a Clarysville Hospital bed card

A bed card for Ferdinand Timmel of Spencer, Roane County, Virginia (now West Virginia).  Timmel suffered from a gunshot flesh wound to his right thoracic parietus [sic].  He was struck by a musket ball in battle at Winchester in July 1864.  He was treated with simple dressings and returned to duty in November that same year.  


Clarysville Hospital was established on March 6, 1862 and was in operation until September 30, 1865. Located in Allegany County in western Maryland, the hospital developed out of the need for suitable accommodations for sick and wounded soldiers who were being treated in makeshift facilities in nearby Cumberland. As early as June 1861, patient soldiers had been taken to Cumberland and were placed in hotels, warehouses, and engine houses. Both military and local physicians attended to their care.


The area was not in the midst of any large battlefields but was located central enough to fighting that sick and wounded could be easily transported there after treatment at a field hospital, probably thanks to the nearby Eckhart Branch Railroad.  The conditions at the provisional spaces in Cumberland were generally unacceptable for patient care, so the Army moved most of the patients to Clarysville, with the Clarysville Inn as the center of the facility.


Postcard showing location of Clarysville Hospital

The only known image of the Clarysville Hospital during its existence is this lithograph that was used on postcards. Note the Clarysville Inn in the center of the image.


In August of 1862, the Clarysville hospital and the Cumberland facilities were consolidated for official purposes. The sites were called the “United States General Hospital.” References to the U.S. General Hospital could mean either location, but the majority of patients were at Clarysville. The hospital served 1000 to 2000 patients at any given time during its existence. A total number of patients treated during the War is elusive, but the facility remained at capacity at all times. Read more about the facilities, staff and patients at the Clarysville Hospital in the About section of the digital collection.


Acting Assistant Surgeon, Dr. S.B. West’s appointment letter

Acting Assistant Surgeon, Dr. S.B. West’s appointment letter.  Army physicians were called surgeons whether they performed operations or not.


The bed cards are the only part of A&M 3509, Clarysville Hospital Collection that is available in digital format. In addition to the cards, the collection contains correspondence to and from Assistant Surgeon S.B. West who served at the Clarysville Hospital. The collection also contains Medical Descriptive Lists for 105 patients. These lists include detailed notes regarding all medical activities for each patient.  Interested researchers must visit the Center to view and use the materials from A&M 3509 that have not been digitized.


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