Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Review - "A Place of Rest for our Gallant Boys: The U.S. Army General Hospital at Gallipolis, Ohio, 1861-1865" by Christy Perry Tuohey

[A Place of Rest for our Gallant Boys: The U.S. Army General Hospital at Gallipolis, Ohio, 1861-1865 by Christy Perry Tuohey (35th Star Publishing, 2022). Softcover, photos, illustrations, appendix section, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:xv,94/204. ISBN:978-1-7378575-3-2. $18.95]

Though the troops involved on both sides were small by later Civil War standards, 1861 military operations in western Virginia proved strategically significant. The immense territorial gains secured by Union forces during those early months of fighting permitted the foundation of the new state of West Virginia (formally admitted to the federal Union in 1863). Situated near the confluence of the Ohio and Kanawha rivers, Gallipolis, Ohio was perfectly placed to serve as a forward logistical base. In addition to supporting federal thrusts into the trans-Appalachian counties of Virginia, the river town was also a receiving point for sick and wounded Union soldiers as well as Confederate prisoners. The history of the hospital facility constructed there is the subject of Christy Perry Tuohey's A Place of Rest for our Gallant Boys: The U.S. Army General Hospital at Gallipolis, Ohio, 1861-1865.

The U.S. Army general hospital at Gallipolis complied with regulations that patient wards be of the ridge-vented pavilion style. Period drawings show wards and supporting structures clustered together in close proximity, with parts of the complex arranged in somewhat irregular fashion. Other army general hospitals were more creative in architecture (ex. with ward buildings radiating out from a central hub, like the spokes of a wheel, to facilitate ventilation and staff management), but perhaps the available ground at Gallipolis was only suited to a more stacked approach. While the Gallipolis hospital complex's layout is described along with details of daily operations, the larger focus of the volume is on the human interest stories of staff, volunteers, and patients.

Most chapters revolve around individuals, the book's description of their background and activities being well representative of the duties typically performed by persons filling those hospital roles. Thus readers are introduced to local teacher turned volunteer nurse Hannah Maxon, army surgeon James Bell, hospital steward Joseph Lunbeck, hospital chaplain Charles Blake, contract surgeon George Livesay, and many others. A host of patient stories are also sprinkled about. Some interesting side themes are raised, too, among them the use of army hospitals (such as the one at Gallipolis) as conduits for furloughing convalescents home to vote in vital late-war elections.

The volume is well illustrated with numerous photographs of individuals with connections to the Gallipolis hospital. No photographic images of the hospital itself can be found in the book (and perhaps do not exist), but, as mentioned before, there are several drawings included. Useful reference material is provided in the form of surgeon, staff, nurse, and patient rosters. Compiled from numerous sources, Tuohey's patient list of Union sick and wounded is quite extensive. Research for the book on the whole is based on a diverse collection of primary and secondary sources. The medical history of the Civil War continues to be a burgeoning field, and A Place of Rest for our Gallant Boys offers yet another meaningful contribution to Civil War hospital studies.

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