Thursday, January 29, 2015

Harris: "THE CONFEDERATE HOSPITALS OF MADISON, GEORGIA: their records & histories 1861-1865"

[The Confederate Hospitals of Madison, Georgia: their records & histories 1861-1865 by Bonnie P. Harris (Author, 2014). Cloth, maps, photos, illustrations, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. 587 pp. ISBN:978-0-9911125-4-8 $45]

Civil War students are demanding readers and legions of thick reference tomes dedicated to feeding the voracious informational appetites of specialists and enthusiasts alike have been published. Bonnie Harris's The Confederate Hospitals of Madison, Georgia: their records & histories 1861-1865 certainly fits into this group. The four hospitals under the microscope — Asylum, Blackie, Stout and May — served the CSA's Army of Tennessee and relocated when required to do so by the fortunes of war. The first three hospitals listed above eventually settled in Madison, Georgia, a town useful for its rail connection, good water, and suitable buildings. These hospitals would have to leave again on the approach of Sherman's army. With the transit of Union forces out of the region, the May Hospital would move into Madison from Augusta in 1865 and stay open for the rest of the war. The overview history of these four medical institutions is related in the first section of the book as is more general information about the citizenry and town of Madison.

Each hospital is given its own chapter consisting of a brief narrative supported by a large collection of official documents related to staff and patients. These archival transcriptions include every conceivable category of surviving pieces of history, including military orders, forms, staff reports, inspection reports, muster rolls, supply acquisition papers, weekly hospital property reports, returns, patient admission registers, discharge lists and more all arranged in easy to read format. There's a surgeon application questionnaire (with answers) that offers readers great insight into the medical knowledge and expertise expected from qualified army physicians. For May Hospital, Harris includes the entire medical examining board register consisting of 1,133 soldier records in two parts. Maps, photographs, diagrams and tables are also sprinkled throughout.

Morning reports comprise another chapter. Comprised of daily listings of patient admissions, furloughs, transfers, discharges, these were required from the head surgeon of each hospital. Soldiers deemed well enough to return to duty where examined by a local board and these certificates and records are also contained in the book. Payment vouchers to local suppliers of goods and services provide insights into the material and labor needs of Civil War hospitals. Harris also assembles a graves register complete with marker photographs, diagrams, and maps. The Army of Tennessee's Receiving & Distribution Hospital obtained from their field hospitals information about thousands of sick and wounded soldiers and an extensive mass of records from this system is also contained in the book as are some patient General Registers, which were logbook consolidations of daily and weekly reports overseen by the Army of Tennessee's Medical Director of Hospitals.

Appendices are comprised of a map of Madison, GPS coordinates of important sites, sets of definitions for medical terms and medicines, a roster of local Madison soldiers that were either patients of staff of the local hospitals, and other bits of supplementary data and information. Sources for the text and documents in the book are duly referenced in both the main text and endnotes. The bibliography boasts an impressive range of archival research and it's easy to see why the author was awarded a Georgia Archive Award for Excellence for her prodigious efforts in digging up manuscript material. A noteworthy feat of historical detective work and documentary compilation, The Confederate Hospitals of Madison, Georgia will be a immensely useful reference tool for researchers and genealogists seeking information about the sick and wounded soldiers of the hard luck Army of Tennessee. Harris's book is also an invaluable resource for those studying the day to day operations of a Civil War military hospital and all the human and material management minutiae that running such a massive operation entailed.

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