New Haven’s Civil War Hospital

A History of Knight U.S. General Hospital, 1862–1865


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About the Book

As the Civil War’s toll mounted, an antiquated medical system faced a deluge of sick and wounded soldiers. In response, the United States created a national care system primarily funded and regulated by the federal government. When New Haven, Connecticut, was chosen as the site for a new military hospital, Pliny Adams Jewett, next in line to become chief of surgery at Yale, sacrificed his private practice and eventually his future in New Haven to serve as chief of staff of the new thousand-bed Knight U.S. General Hospital. The “War Governor,” William Buckingham, personally financed hospital construction while supporting needy soldiers and their families. He appointed state agents to scour battlefields and hospitals to ensure his state’s soldiers got the best care while encouraging their transfer to the hospital in New Haven. This history of the hospital’s construction and operation during the war discusses the state of medicine at the time as well as the administrative side of providing care to sick and wounded soldiers.

About the Author(s)

Ira Spar, M.D., is president of the Hartford Medical Society, a board member of the Society of Civil War Surgeons, a fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. He served as a U.S. Army battalion surgeon in the Vietnam War and lives in Farmington, Connecticut.

Bibliographic Details

Ira Spar, M.D.

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 268
Bibliographic Info: 23 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2014
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7682-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1434-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface 1
Prologue 3
One. Nineteenth-Century Medicine 7
Two. The Early Lives of Pliny Adams Jewett and Jonathan Knight 20
Three. Dr. Timothy Beers Townsend 31
Four. Doctor’s Apprentice 40
Five. The War Governor and His Agents 52
Six. Regimental Surgeon 70
Seven. The Elm City 87
Eight. Building a Hospital 92
Nine. Medical Staff of Knight U.S. Army General Hospital 124
Ten. Hospital Steward 137
Eleven. Nurses 143
Twelve. Provost Marshal and the Patient 149
Thirteen. Medicine and Politics 169
Fourteen. Private Pliny Adams Jewett 192
Fifteen. The Hospital Closes 207
Sixteen. To South Carolina and Back 220
Epilogue 231
Appendices 234
I. Townsend’s Charges 234
II. Surgical Class of Timothy Beers Townsend Reported in MSHWR 235
III. Graduates of Yale Medical School Dying in Service 236
IV. Surgical Cases of Dr. Charles Lindsley Reported in MSHWR 236
V. Surgical Case of Dr. Timothy H. Bishop Listed in MSHWR 237
VI. Surgical Cases of Dr. William B. Casey Listed in MSHWR 237
VII. Surgical Cases of Dr. Henry Pierpont Listed in MSHWR 238
VIII. Surgical Cases of Frederick Levi Dibble Listed in MSHWR 240
IX. Reports from Hospital Steward 241
X. Knight U.S. Army General Hospital Statistics 1863–65 241
XI. Union Mortalities by Means and Race 242
XII. Mortality Statistics in Five Military Conflicts 242
Notes 243
Bibliography 251
Index 257

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “gives the reader an excellent insight into the trails and tribulations of creating a national health care system on the local level and is highly recommended”—Journal of Civil War Medicine
  • “there is much excellent research on the medicine of the time. There is a superb bibliography that would be an excellent resource for scholars of the era. All Civil War historians have much to thank Dr. Ira Spar for his superb scholarship and interesting story of the Knight US General Hospital in New Haven. This excellent book can make Civil War enthusiasts of us all.”—Connecticut Medicine