Davids Island, Long Island, New York: De Camp General Hospital, August, 1863. Envelope or Cover. This three-page letter was sent from a wardmaster at De Camp General Hospital on Long Island to a wardmaster at the U.S. General Hospital at Fort Schuyler, New York. It is enclosed in an envelope that was probably ‘favor carried’ as it bears no franking, stamps, or postal markings. Both in nice shape. A transcript will be provided.
The U.S. War Department established De Camp General hospital in 1862, and by the end of the year, it was the Army’s largest medical facility with a patient census of more than 2,000 Union soldiers. That changed following the Union victory at Gettysburg in July of 1863. Over 2,500 wounded Confederates were evacuated to the De Camp hospital for care. Most of the Southerners had recovered enough that by fall, they were transferred to prisoner of war camps.
In this letter, a Union wardmaster (a senior non-commissioned medical officer in charge of a ward) expresses both his reverent patriotism and distaste for caring for the Confederates. It reads in part:
“it is not the pleasantest occupation to be in waiting uppon those men that have caused our Country for to bleed. But there will come a day of gladness when the people of the Lord shall look personally on their banner which his mercy has restored I may live to see it when the patriot work is done and your heart so full of kindness will remember an old friend or through tears your eyes may see it with a sadly thoughtful view and may love it still more dearly for the cost it was you. We have three thousand rebs on the Island at present and expect to have two thousand more soon. . ..”. Very good. Item #009747
Following the war, Davids Island was converted to a major recruitment center and eventually a Coastal Artillery post named Fort Slocum in honor of General Henry Warner Slocum, whose commands played decisive roles at Gettysburg, in Sherman’s March to the Sea, and during the Carolinas Campaign. During World War One, Fort Slocum became the principal recruitment and assembly center for doughboys heading to Europe. Following that war is served at various times as an Army Air Force Base, a Nike Missile site, and the Army’s Chaplain’s School until it closed in the mid-1960s.
(For more information, see “The Army’s Century on Davids Island” at the Westchester County Archives, online.)
A scarce account from a Union wardmaster who grudgingly provided hospitalization for Confederate soldiers wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg. At the time of listing, the Rare Book Hub shows no auction sales of similar letters; neither does OCLC show any similar letters are held by institutions, however, a pass issued by the hospital is held by the New York Historical Society, and Gettysburg College holds a letter related to the hospitalization of Confederates at facilities near the battlefield. Nothing similar is for sale in the trade although a letter releasing a physician from his contract to care for patients (including Confederates) at the Camp Letterman Hospital at Gettysburg is available from on dealer.