Under the Microscope: Wounded Soldiers at Hospital in Fredericksburg, Virginia

Beginning in June 2017, the “Under the Microscope” series looks deeper into the details of Civil War medicine-related images. Click here to view all other posts in this series. 

Just days after the May 1863 battles of Chancellorsville and second Fredericksburg, one of the Army of Northern Virginia’s greatest victories, this photograph depicts wounded soldiers at a hospital in nearby Fredericksburg, Virginia. It is believed that all of these wounded troops in the foreground and background are Federal, as Fredericksburg was Union-occupied at that time until the start of the Gettysburg Campaign just months after. Although the photographer and his subjects are unknown, the details shown in the image can reveal a plethora of information about medical care and field hospitals during the Civil War era. Below, you will find close-ups and captions from this particular image.

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The full photograph, entitled “Wounded Soldiers at Hospital in Fredericksburg, Virginia.” Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Two Federal soldiers likely carrying on a conversation before posing for the photograph. The soldier on the left lost his right arm after sustaining wounds in combat, probably from the Second Battle of Fredericksburg. It is unknown if the young soldier on the right was wounded as well, but they may have known one another. Both have made seats on regulation blankets and chopped wood for comfort. A wooden side table with a slouch hat is just behind the two.

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A severely wounded soldier lays on a stretcher after having his mangled right leg amputated just below the knee. Using his sack coat or a blanket, this combat veteran made his own pillow to stay comfortable outside. His amputation of the leg had a serious chance of mortality due to the likelihood of infection. It is unknown if he survived.

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In the front, the image shows a Federal soldier with a bandaged right leg, not severe enough to amputate. However, the wound would need daily bandage replacement to prevent infection. He is also using a light linen as a pillow to rest his injured leg. The soldier lying behind him is shown with a forage cap with a corps badge (looks like the II Corps). His left sleeve is torn. Another interesting detail is the bucket, probably used to clean the first soldier’s leg wound.

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Three soldiers stand together, with one on a single crutch to support an injured right leg. We do not know if they were just chatting or if they are helping their friend with the crutch either stand or lay down.

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A wounded Federal soldier is seen laying down on a wool regulation blanket, using his canteen as a pillow. His right ankle seems to have been injured, shown with a bandage.

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