Wednesday, April 9, 2014


by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

(Kathy’s A to Z blog posts are tidbits of fact gleaned from her research for her historical fiction novel LIKE A RIVER.)

During the American Civil War, hospitals were set up where they were needed, close to the battlefield. Surgeons’ tents were kept busy, and cities of tents sometimes sprung up to house the wounded.

Armies also took over churches, schools, and even private homes to tend to the wounded. After a huge battle like Gettysburg, nearly every building in town sheltered wounded from one army or the other.
A private residence appropriated to house injured and sick soldiers.

Amputations were frequent. It was the only known way to deal with severe wounds 150 years ago. Without knowledge of germs as a cause of infection, the same surgeon’s tool was used on dozens of patients without being cleaned. Many amputees died as a result, but 50,000 survived.

The hospital in my novel was inspired by Confederate Colonel Alfred Shorter’s home in Rome, GA. Originally used as a hospital for Confederate wounded, the Union Army used the mansion for their own wounded after they invaded Rome in spring of 1864.

When I toured the mansion, it was a school. Plans were being made to restore parts of it to its antebellum state. I’d like to make a return trip to see how it looks now.


  1. Hi Kathy - it's awful isn't it .. that war spawns cities .. of added needs - hospitals, admin, orderlies, etc etc .. and yes - hospitals become huge .. the thought of having an amputation more than 100 or so years ago .. must be just dreadful .. but I guess they just got on with it ..

    I hope you can get back to have another visit .. it'd be interesting to find out ..

    Cheers Hilary

  2. Thanks, Hilary. One of the adventures of delving into history is learning how primitive life was compared to today's standards. But war is horrific in any time period.

  3. Love the building.

    I have to say... hospitals must have been horrific places, even if they did help people.

    And thing is, without being about to treat infections etc. more people would have died without the amputations too.

    Still... grizzly.

  4. Before we knew about bacteria and viruses, medicine was iffy at best. I can't wait to read your novel, Kathy.

    1. Thanks, Ann. They tell me it will be on the Spring 2015 list.