Showing posts with label Winder Hospital. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Winder Hospital. Show all posts

Thursday, June 5, 2014

No Place for the Sick

It was no place for the sick or injured.  Damp, cold, lacking in blankets and tents,  the Georgia 53rd Company C,  "Fayette Planters,"  camped in a wooded area just outside of Fredericksburg, Virginia.  It was December of 1862 and it had already proven to be a bitterly cold winter.


Surgeon at work during Civil War
Library of congress 
It had only been eight months since David Ganus had enlisted in the same regiment of the Confederate Army as his two brothers-in-law, James Blackmon and Burton Cook.  He left behind his young wife, Malinda, and three small children, in order to fight for the southern cause. Many had thought the war would be short  and expected to return home to their families soon.

David's regiment fought in many of the historic battles and he managed to come through each without injury, but in the month of December, while his regiment was in Fredericksburg,  David became extremely ill.

David's service records indicate that early in December he became ill with the all too common typhoid, while other records show that he suffered exposure and pneumonia.  Whether he suffered from all three or there was confusion due to the extent of his illness or possibly lack of knowledgeable medical personnel to properly diagnose his illness, we get the picture of a man that was extremely ill. David's best chance for survival was to be transferred out of camp to the nearest hospital, which presented yet more challenges.

Bringing wounded soldiers to the cars
Library of Congress 
Initially there was no organized way to transfer the sick and the injured to hospitals.  Recently when we visited the Chimborazo Medical Museum in Richmond, Virginia, we learned about some of the heart wrenching conditions endured by the soldiers.   There we saw some of the crude and primitive medical instruments used in the treatment of the soldiers and watched a short video about the civil war hospitals of the area.

Eventually the military came up with a system where soldiers were transported from their camps to the hospitals, but the trip was often very difficult for someone whose health was already compromised.

The sick or wounded soldier was first taken in the back of a wagon over rough and bumpy dirt roads to a location where he could be loaded onto a train and he would then travel the rest of the way by rail. Miserably hot in the summer and bitterly cold in the winter,  void of even the simple comforts,  the rough trip was often excruciating for a soldier already in pain and misery.  David had to make the nearly sixty mile trip to Winder Hospital in cold, frigid December temperatures while suffering symptoms common to his illness that could have included fever, nausea, diarrhea, coughing, aching and fatigue.  However long the trip took, I am sure that for those in such desperate circumstances, it felt like eternity.

Hospital Ward Alexandria
Library of Congress 

Had David's brothers-in-law, James and Burton helped to load him onto the wagon?  Had they worried and tried to help as they watched their wife's younger brother grow increasingly more ill?  Did they write home to tell of his condition?

After about a week at Winder Hospital and just two days before Christmas, on December 23, 1862, twenty-six year old David Ganus passed from this life.  He died as most soldiers died, without any family at his side and far from home.  His body was taken to nearby Hollywood Cemetery where he was buried alongside many other Southern soldiers.

While sadly Winder Hospital no longer stands,  I knew that our Virginia trip would not be complete without a visit to Hollywood Cemetery to see David's final resting spot.


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014


For more of David's story, see this earlier blog post .







Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Walking the Sunken Road

As we walked the "Sunken Road" beside the stone wall at Fredericksburg,  I surveyed the field below. I could envision in my mind's eye  the brutal battle scene often portrayed in Civil War documentaries and movies.  But the field, once war torn, showed few scars and instead stood peaceful and serene.  It felt surreal to actually be there and to stand on the very site where so many men had lost their lives.


Present day "sunken road" and the rock wall

My husband and I had traveled to Richmond, Virginia to attend the National Genealogy Society's 2014 Conference.  Afterwards, we visited a few of the many historical sites in the area, including the battlefield at Fredericksburg, Virginia.  While I loved knowing that at one time, my ancestors had been there, I hated knowing why.


Our visit was in May and as is typical for the season, the air was warm and humid.  A few songbirds sang in the trees surrounding the fields, but otherwise the air was still and quiet,  a sharp contrast to December of 1862.  That December, as troops converged on the battlefield, the bitter cold, snow and mud added to the misery of the war.  While cannon balls took out lines of men,  bullets riddled the smoke filled air,  killing many who courageously fought, and yet they were not the only enemy.  Lack of good food, few tents and a shortage of blankets, along with rampant disease and inadequate medical care,
took the lives of many.

Gallant Charge of Humphrey's Division
at the Battle of Fredericksburg
Library of Congress

David Ganus, Burton Cook and James Blackmon were all at Fredericksburg.  David Ganus was born in 1836 in Fayette County, Georgia to James (Gur)Ganus and Elizabeth McCluskey.  David was a younger brother to my 3rd great grandfather, John Monroe Ganus. Burton Cook was married to David and John's oldest sister, Mary, and James Blackmon was married to their sister, Margaret.  David, Burton and James were among the thousands of Confederate soldiers present for the historic battle at Fredericksburg.

Cobb's and Kershaw's Troops
behind the stone wall
Library of Congress



As I paused to read the historical markers, I felt a flood of emotion as I imagined David, Burton and James, standing shoulder to shoulder with each other, their neighbors and friends. Given the number of soldiers there,  it is doubtful that David was even aware of the presence of other more distant relatives, such as Florida cousins, Willis and Moses Gurganus.   As regiments from multiple counties and states joined together at the various battles, brothers, uncles, cousins, sons and fathers all fought, sometimes side by side and sometimes on opposing sides




Part of the original rock wall today,  built by Confederate Soldiers

I was grateful that we practically had the park to ourselves that day because I wanted to feel and to think, without the distractions of a noisy crowd.  I wanted to reflect on what I knew about the men that I have researched and grown to love and to pay honor to them as I walked along the road where they had once been. As we walked along the Sunken Road behind the rock wall and at the base of Marye's Heights,  I felt a solemn reverence for the significance of that site,  as it had offered significant protection from the oncoming Union troops.  According to "The Dorman-Marshbourne Letters" by John W. Lynch, the Georgia 53rd was posted on the road below Marye's Heights on December 14th and 15th of 1862.

Luckily David, Burton and James all survived the battle at Fredericksburg, but David developed pneumonia and a few weeks later he was sent to Winder Hospital in Richmond.  With that,  I knew where our next stop would be.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014