Tuesday, January 05, 2010

New on the Personal Bookshelf--- Chimborazo: Confederacy's Largest Hospital

Chimborazo: The Confederacy's Largest Hospital, Carol C. Green, University of Tennessee Press, 200 pp., notes, bibliography, index, illustrations, paperback, $21.95.

A long time on the wishlist, Chimborazo was added to the personal bookshelf when I finally got to Chimborazo Hospital's site in Richmond. While staying at Williamsburg, VA my GPS spoke to me: "Richmond is onlyh 45 minutes away!" So the next day on to Richmond's American Civil War Center, The Tredegar Ironworks, Chimborazo Hospital, and the Edgar Allan Poe Museum! Blue skies and 45 degrees and cruise control!

The former headquarters building for the NPS's headquarters for the Richmond Battlefield Parks, the building marking the Chimborazo Hospital site did not exist during the Civil War. Though small, the building has a 2001 film and a very fine diorama of the hospital. Several of the items in the bookstore begged to be taken to my house but I limited myself to one but wrote down three titles to add to the wishlist. The Confederate States Medical Journal, published in 1864 and 1865 is once again in print and is priced at $95.

"Chimborazo covers the organization of the Confederate Medical Department of Chimborazo Hospital, staff leader Dr. James B. McCaw, the surgeons, staff and patients. Medical treatment and supplies is covered as is the closing of the hospital. The author offers an evaluation of the hospital.

Opened in October of 1861, the hospital covered over forty acres and operated between 75 and 80 wards grouped into five separate divisions Each ward was a hut made of whitewashed pine boards that housed up to forty patients, giving the entire hospital a capacity of over 3,000. Every division had its own laundry, kitchen and bathhouse, and a central bakery and dairy serviced the entire facility, making Chimborazo one of the Confederacy's best-equipped hospitals as well as one of the largest. Directly outside the grounds were the J.D. Goodman brewery and the city's Oakwood Cemetery.

More than 76,000 Confederate sick and wounded were treated here. Chimborazo had a patient mortality rate of 20 percent; dismal by today's standards, but quite good in terms of nineteenth century medicine, before the days of antibiotics, antiseptic surgery and widespread understanding of germ theory. Indeed, it was viewed by Confederate leaders as one of the finest hospitals their new nation possessed.

Chimborazo hospital was innovative, pioneering several new techniques in medicine. Its use of separate wards allowed patients to be grouped together by state - a forerunner of the ward system in modern hospitals." (1)

(1) Richmond National Battlefield---Chimborazo

No comments: