American Sisters of Charity recall Civil War hospital

Nurses and staff

Nurses and staff

As America begins to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, the Sisters of Charity are recalling their work at Satterlee Military Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,  one of the largest Union Army hospitals of the conflict.
The sisters ministered to thousands of wounded and dying Civil War soldiers from 1862 until the hospital closed in 1865.

Satterlee was the second-largest hospital in the country, with 21 wood-frame wards and hundreds of tents containing 4,500 beds. The hospital featured a library, reading room, barber shop and a printing office that printed its newspaper, The Hospital Register.

It was commanded by Dr Isaac Israel Hayes, surgeon, CSV and famed Arctic explorer. Nursing was carried out by the Sisters of Charity, who lived in a convent on the grounds.

Initially, the hospital was fairly ill equipped, and the sisters accommodation was extremely basic.  Drinks were served in wash pitchers and the food in basins. The sisters ate their meals earlier than the officers, sharing just four eating utensils reserved for officers’ use. The chapel was so small that some sisters had to leave the room so others could enter and receive Holy Communion.

By May 1864, Satterlee had treated more than 12,000 patients and suffered only 260 deaths, a remarkable accomplishment considering the sanitary conditions of the day.

After the war ended in 1865, the hospital was closed and the buildings razed. In the 1890s, much of the site was covered with residential housing. The lower portion of the hospital grounds survive as Clark Park.

For more information see: Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Record Center website:

Source: Sisters of Charity/Famvin/Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Record Center

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