View Full Version : Lighting in Field Hospitals

David Meister
01-30-2009, 06:47 PM
Since the discussion of Lanterns has came up again on this forum. I will now ask what I dont think has been asked here as of yet. That is what kind of lighting was used in field hospitals? Lanterns? Candles? Both? and what kind of lanterns and or candles were used? Are the afore mentioned lanterns and candles reproduced for others and my reenacting use and or pleasure?

Jim Mayo
01-30-2009, 08:22 PM
From Greg Cocos book "A Strange and Blighted Land, Gettysburg the Aftermath of a Battle".

An account by Sergeant David E. Johnson of the 7th Va. who was wounded in Pickettís Charge on July 3. Items in [ ] added by me.

"About dark of July 4 I was removed by ambulance to the shed of a farmers barn [probably Francis Breamís Mill or one of the barns nearby] a mile or more away on Marsh Creek to where General Kemper had been removed. The shed in which I was placed was filled with the wounded and dying. Through out the night and until a little before dawn I spoke to no one and no one spoke to me. I never closed my eyes in sleep; the surgeons close by being engaged in removing the limbs of those needed to be amputated. All night long I heard nothing but the cries of the wounded and the groans of the dying, the agonies of General Kemper, who lay near by.

Everything in the barn was dark,but near dawn I discovered a flickering light advancing toward me...."

Coco's book is a great read and is full of first person accounts of what happened after the Confederate Army left Gettysburg. It is on the list of my top 10 CW books.

Want to find out what the flickering light was? Read the book.

"Doc" Nelson
01-31-2009, 03:15 AM
hmm . . I may just go and order that book. Thanks Jim for the info.

02-04-2009, 09:08 PM
Hi Jim,
I have the book-have read it through and have picked it back up a few times. I also agree with your assessment of it's caliber as a CW must-read.

Maybe my memory is failing-(no doubt it has....) I cannot recall what and where it answers this question- what page(s) are you referring to?

Could you please 'illuminate' the rest of us?

very truly your grateful pupil,

Rick McNutt

Jim Mayo
02-04-2009, 09:16 PM
"...it was borne by John W. Grubb of our regiment who had been sent by our surgeons to look after me. Comrad Grubb was very kind to me...."
Page 183

However it doesn't tell us what type of light was flickering, just that it was dark in the field hospital.

Pvt Schnapps
02-05-2009, 09:41 AM
William Grace's "Army Surgeon's Manual" of 1864 contains the Standard Supply Table. This lists, under Class No. 1 Furniture and Appliances, both "Lanterns, glass" and candlesticks. The number of lanterns varied by size of hospital, ranging from two for a hundred beds to six for a thousand. A regiment in the field warranted three. Since this was the allowance for three months, we can perhaps assume that more were used and that this just accounted for normal losses or breakage.

Far more candles were used. The table provides four candlesticks for a hospital of 100 beds and 72 for one of a thousand. Greenleaf's 1861 "Manual for Medical Officers" specifies sperm candles for field service.

Since all these were purchased by Medical Purveyors, there was probably no single standard. You would want to research lamps and lanterns in general to see what might be common. The manuals I cited, along with Woodward's manual for Hospital Stewards, are all available on Google Books and make interesting reading. The memoirs of doctors and nurses should prove useful, too.

As a side note, the Supply Table makes fascinating reading on its own. Along with medical instruments, drugs, & c., you find items like "pots, chamber, delft" and -- one of the few standardized items, apparently -- [pots] "inordorous, Army pattern."

Have fun!

Regular DOC
02-05-2009, 10:54 AM

Being from an "Ice Town" I always loved seeing Ice on the offical requests. When others have asked where did they get the Ice it lets me go into a 20 minute story on Ice Towns the Ice trade and Ice cartels.

As for the lighting it makes more sense to me that candles would have been used more often then laterns as the sticks and candles are easier to transport then laterns and oil. Having said that I break the rules since I find for safety tin laterns better then candles.