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Andersonville Hospital Conditions

author: Capt. H. R. Hubbard
published by: The Mendon Dispatch, March 3, 1904
synopses: Personal accounts of Andersonville Prison by Capt. Hubbard
personal subject: Hospital Conditions + Death Totals [graphic subject matter]

After the arrival of wounded prisoners from the battlefield of Atlanta, July 22, '64, I was put in charge of a ward in the hospital. This was an enclosed field south of the main stockade furnished with tents—a small cook shed, (presided over by "Ned Corrigan" and some other prize fighters), an operating table and some surgeons; no bedding, no clothing, no bandages, no medicine and but little food. Many undressed wounds were fly-blown and swarming with maggots. This the Confederate surgeons said was good for the wounds—assisting nature in the removal of effete matter, I suppose. But the prisoners disliked being eaten by worms before death, and preferred heroic treatment with crude turpentine, which caused a temporary exodus of their tormentors.

The Confederate surgeons were very ready to amputate. One day a lot of medical students were visiting the hospital, and a grand demonstration of anatomy was arranged for their benefit. Subjects were plentiful. One of the, a man from Illinois with gangrened ankle, endured three operations before he died. They first removed the lower part of the limb between the knee and ankle, and was a rough job; a clever butcher could have done better. The second set of operators took off the leg just above the knee, so near the joint that there was not skin and flesh enough to form a flap to cover the stump. The final operation was above the middle of the thigh and was very well done, but the victim's strength failed and he died before he was removed from the operating table.

A part of my duty as wardmaster was each morning, and at intervals during the day, to drag out the dead men from the tents of my ward to the street, where they could be gathered up in big wagons, from forty to fifty at a load, with six mule teams, hauled out to the trenches, six feet wide, five feet deep and long enough to contain one thousand laid side by side, touching elbows, as in life, without coffins, shrouds or ceremonies.

Out of a little more than forty thousand men imprisoned there in 1864, thirteen thousand six hundred and forty-seven are buried there—fully one-third. As many more are buried in other prisons to which they were removed from Andersonville, such as Florence, Millen and Charleston, and in hospitals, where they fell be the wayside after exchanged, and before they reached home. The survivors looked death in the face; not for a glorious hour or day of battle such as all soldiers look forward to, but for days, weeks and months, until familiarity bred contempt, and death had less terror than life in Andersonville.

A few days after my transfer to the hospital as wardmaster, I came across the remains of "Bob" Macomb, a former messmate [sic]in Co. G, 1st Illinois cavalry—at that time belonging to the 14th Illinois cavalry. I say "remains" advisedly, for he was as bald and toothless as a new born babe and had lost at least one hundred pounds of his former weight. His appearance was that of a very feeble old man of seventy or eighty. His wrinkled skin was about all he had to cover his bones with.

He had wintered on Belle Isle and summered in Andersonville, and in one year was changed from a strong and healthy young Irishman to the pitiful wreck of a man whom I could scarcely recognize when he called me by name and told me who he was. Near him was Wm. Lewis, of Co. L, 2nd Illinois cavalry, with whom I spent the winter of 1861-2 at Fort Holt, Ky. He was a lovable young man from the same part of the country that I was raised in. Both of these men died within a few days, and I have never felt like giving their friends and families an account of their condition and surroundings during their last days.

I have never wished to harrow the feelings of surviving relatives by telling the whole truth in regard to some individuals who dies there. In fact, I have suppressed the truth rather than exaggerated it in any statement I have ever made in regard to the condition or treatment of the unfortunate prisoners in Andersonville.

It is now nearly forty years since these things took place, and I have none but the kindliest feelings for the survivors of the "Lost Cause." But I must say that the treatment of the prisoners of war by the Confederate authorities was damnable, un-Christian [sic] and possible only from an uncivilized people; a people whose civilization was at least one hundred and fifty years behind that of the rest of the world.

About the H. R. Writings

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#1 photo of H. R. Hubbard (shown)

#2 photo of H. R. Hubbard