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bizzilizzit
09-24-2006, 08:46 PM
Were hospitals flags only yellow or was red also used? I read a period novel about a woman coming onto the battlefield at Antietiam and she mentions the numerous red hospital flags flying from almost every building.
Thanks.
Elizabeth

"Doc" Nelson
09-24-2006, 08:53 PM
Elizabeth,

The color of hospital flags and dressing station flags are often questioned, mainly because there was no "official" flags for either side until late in the war. At the beginning of the war, both the North and the South used a solid red flag to designate medical sites near the battlefield. Plain yellow was often used for more permanent hospitals located in nearby towns. By late 1862, the Union was using red or yellow or sometimes green. In January of 1864, an official hospital flag was adopted by the Union, yellow with a green "H." This flag was usually used for more permanent hospitals, not dressing station sites.

The Confederacy did not adopt an official flag, mainly using solid yellow or red to mark their hospitals. Yellow was used to designated an established hospital, and red a field hospital. The Confederacy did not use the yellow flag with the green "H".

I hope this helps.;)

Thanks,

bizzilizzit
09-24-2006, 08:59 PM
Thank you, Doc.
So the female author was not incorrect in writing that red flags marked the hospitals on the Antietiam battlefield?
Elizabeth

"Doc" Nelson
09-24-2006, 09:20 PM
Hey, no problem, Elizabeth. :) I had difficulty when I first started researching medical flags, so I understand. Now, the "red" flags would mark the Field Dressing Stations and the "yellow" would mark the Hospitals. Dr. Jonathan Letterman had "revamped" the Medical Corps after Antietam. The Medical Department wasn't prepared for the number of casualties resulting from battle (in specific, the Battle of Antietam). Dr Letterman restructured the care of the wounded into a "3-tier" operation (if you will). The first level of care was at the Regimental level, with a Field Dressing Station (or, Forward Aid Station), the next level was the Field Hospital (possibly a Brigade or Division) and finally, the third level was a Large-Fixed (possibly a Corps or Army) Hospital. He also organized the Ambulance Corps, to transport the wounded from the field of battle. And well, the Field Dressing Stations were not a place to "conduct" surgical operations (unless it was absolutely necessary). They were a triage area, for the Assistant Surgeon to assess and bandage the wounded. From there, the Assistant Surgeon would 'prep' the severely wounded for transportation to the Field Hospital.

Thanks,

bizzilizzit
09-24-2006, 09:24 PM
They were a triage area, for the Assistant Surgeon to assess and bandage the wounded. From there, the Assistant Surgeon would 'prep' the severely wounded for transportation to the Field Hospital.

Thanks,

Would "civilian" nurses (those coming from nearby towns to help) work at the traige stations or in the Field Hospitals only?
Elizabeth

"Doc" Nelson
09-24-2006, 09:29 PM
No ma'am, Nurses were not allowed onto battlefields. :sad: They were "assigned" to fixed hospitals. ;)

bizzilizzit
09-24-2006, 09:33 PM
No ma'am, Nurses were not allowed onto battlefields. :sad: They were "assigned" to fixed hospitals. ;)

Thank you again, Doc, in helping me determine the accuracy of period novels written by women during the war years.
Elizabeth

"Doc" Nelson
09-24-2006, 09:34 PM
No problem. I hope it helped some :) .

TimKindred
09-25-2006, 12:09 PM
Comrade,

I would also add that the Federal Army of the Potomac continued to use small red flags to mark the ambulances and the route(s) to the field dressing station/ambulance park, up until around 1864, when they, too, were replaced with the yellow flags with green borders.

Respects,

NoahBriggs
09-25-2006, 12:25 PM
Most women near a battlefield had common sense - if armies are moving through, it's time to hoof it. Your property can be replaced, but you and your children cannot.

There are exceptions to the rule. After Perryville, the whole town came out to help the overwhelmed staff handle the casualties. It was still a mess.

Likewise Gettysburg - yes, a few women attempted to insuinuate themselves in the field hospitals after the battle. Not many stuck around, though.

You will find women registered under Ms. Dix assigned to general hospitals in big cities, however. Louisa Alcott wrote extensively of her experiences after Fredericksburg (and I should reread that, too.)

Early war hospital flags tended to be red, then slowly shifted to yellow. The Federals included a green H in the middle in further attempt to idiotproof the ID of the flag.

catspjamas
09-25-2006, 09:03 PM
No ma'am, Nurses were not allowed onto battlefields. :sad: They were "assigned" to fixed hospitals. ;)

They might not have been "allowed" but they did go on the battlefield. Sarah Edmonds wrote in her memoirs about helping wounded off the battlefield and having bullet holes in her dress. Also, Juliet Ann Opie Hopkins was wounded and left with a permanent limp at the battle of Sevens Pines. She received the injury while helping casualties off the field. Just two examples of nurses on the battlefield.

Cats

"Doc" Nelson
09-25-2006, 09:40 PM
Cats,
You are correct. I was merely quoting military regs of the period. In fact, women did allot more than is often known or, for a better term: acknowledged. How many women served in the ranks disguised as men? We will probably never know the answer to that? Thinking about what Noah had stated about Perryville, where the "town folk" had came out onto the battlefield to help with the overwhelming casualties. No, it wasn't normally allowed, but did happen quite allot. Thank you for that bit of information ;). Please, feel free to post on here anytime.

Oh, could you say hi to Jim Mills for me. Thanks :).

Your Obedient Servant,

MDRebCAv
09-26-2006, 09:38 AM
I remember running across something quite different and interesting on hospital flags.

I seem to recall something about the 1st Maryland Regiment (as per Hartzler's book--"A Band of Brothers", I think) using a hospital flag that was white with a horizontally oriented "hour-glass" of red and blue. I don't own the book but I remember seeing it in a copy that is owned by a friend.

bizzilizzit
09-26-2006, 09:58 AM
[QUOTE=NoahBriggs]Most women near a battlefield had common sense - if armies are moving through, it's time to hoof it. Your property can be replaced, but you and your children cannot.

My questions were prompted by a period novel written by a lady - common sense had nothing to do with her motivations - romance and selling books did!
Thanks for the info.
Elizabeth

cwmed
10-17-2006, 05:57 PM
Dear Gents,

We had an article in the Society of Civil War Surgeons newsletter on hospital flags of the war. The reaserch that has been done shows that very rarely if not ever red hospital flags were used by the fedral field hospitals or "dressing stations". There is evedence that proves the use of the yellow flag with the green "H" was not adopted in the late Civil War but used in the Mexican War. However the yellow flag with the green trim was used only in the Civil War after the developement of the "Ambulence Corps" but the yellow flag with the green "H" was in fact used all throughout the Civil War by Federal hospitals and field hospitals the only difference in the two is the size. If it was a large hospital the flag was very large like the one on display in the Natonal Museum of Civil War Medicine. If it was the smaller version it was used for field hospitals.

Thanks,

Luke A. Castleberry

DrMcGuire
10-26-2006, 12:00 PM
Elizabeth,

The color of hospital flags and dressing station flags are often questioned, mainly because there was no "official" flags for either side until late in the war. At the beginning of the war, both the North and the South used a solid red flag to designate medical sites near the battlefield. Plain yellow was often used for more permanent hospitals located in nearby towns. By late 1862, the Union was using red or yellow or sometimes green. In January of 1864, an official hospital flag was adopted by the Union, yellow with a green "H." This flag was usually used for more permanent hospitals, not dressing station sites.

The Confederacy did not adopt an official flag, mainly using solid yellow or red to mark their hospitals. Yellow was used to designated an established hospital, and red a field hospital. The Confederacy did not use the yellow flag with the green "H".

I hope this helps.;)

Thanks,

Backing up what Doc Nelson said, when Dr. Hunter McGuire's ANV 2nd Corps field hospital was overrun at Waynesboro in 1864 they were still fying the solid red flag, which was captured by the Yankee invaders, as was Dr. McGuire.

unionmed
10-27-2006, 07:24 PM
Gentlemen,

How accurate is it that at reenactments the Surgeon is on the battlfield-during the battle tending to the wounded? I have read that Surgeons were too valuable and could not take the chance of being killed/wounded so they were behind the lines at the Field Hospitals. Stewards also would not have been on the battlefield (with the battle in progress) since they primarily did the pharmacy work, is this accurate?

(Our unit does not go onto the battlefield during or after a battle, we water the men before and after).

Regards,
Pat
8th Michigan Medical

hanktrent
10-27-2006, 07:50 PM
How accurate is it that at reenactments the Surgeon is on the battlfield-during the battle tending to the wounded? I have read that Surgeons were too valuable and could not take the chance of being killed/wounded so they were behind the lines at the Field Hospitals. Stewards also would not have been on the battlefield (with the battle in progress) since they primarily did the pharmacy work, is this accurate?

I think this brings up the whole problem of accurate handling of wounded at reenactments. Generally, there's not enough time, distance or transportation, so if medical reenactors are going to get involved, it needs to be immediate, close and quick, or the "wounded" will disappear.

There may have been specific historic times where it happened differently, but I think in general, you're right--wounded were not being tended at the same time and place as battle lines were actively engaged.

In real life, depending on the circumstances, the severely wounded wouldn't be going anywhere, and the walking wounded would be walking to well behind the lines, a half mile or more, to where, hopefully, a dressing station could be found. When it was safe to do so, hours later or the next day, ambulances could transport the severely wounded.

Unfortunately, to incorporate that at a reenactment, in real time and real distance, is extremely difficult, due to preferences of both reenactors and spectators (if any), not to mention land permission and vehicles for transportation. There have been times where it's been done well, and there are event organizers who support it and try to plan for it (Hi Kevin!) but I just don't see it as a high priority of the typical event.


(Our unit does not go onto the battlefield during or after a battle, we water the men before and after).

Along the same lines, how accurate is it for the medical department to be watering healthy men before or after a battle? Wouldn't getting men to a well or stream be the line officers' responsibility before, and afterwards the medical department would be focussed on the wounded, rather than men able to march off, who would again be the line officers' responsibility?

Maybe you've got more historic information on the medical department watering men who were fit for duty, and if so, I'd be interested in seeing it.

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

"Doc" Nelson
10-27-2006, 08:03 PM
How accurate is it that at reenactments the Surgeon is on the battlfield-during the battle tending to the wounded?

Actually, Stretcher Bearers would have been sent out onto the Battlefield to "pickup" the wounded or, as Noah stated in another "message", the wounded would walk (well, the ones that could walk on their own) to the Field Dressing Station (or, as it's sometimes called: Forward Aid Station, Field Depot, etc.). Here, an Assistant Surgeon would bandage them. Determine who could be returned to their units and continue fighting. Those too severely wounded, would be transported to the Field Hospital. Sorry, didn't mean to go on like this. The "Surgeon" wouldn't have been on the battlefield, as you see at most events.

NoahBriggs
10-27-2006, 10:55 PM
The surgeon would not be at the dressing station, but the assistant surgeon might be, with the orderly.

Robert A Mosher
11-14-2006, 02:19 PM
Michael Schaffner (aka Schnapps) posted a document elsewhere on the internet - "Statement showing the number of principal articles of clothing and equipage purchases at the depots of Philadelphia, New York, and Cincinnati since May, 1861" - found in the Official Correspondence. The copy that I printed off finally surfaced from the morass that is my desk so I can offer the following additional information on hospital flags.

The statement indicated that there were two kinds of hospital flags as well as ambulance flags. The line entries for each indicated the following:

General Hospital flags: 262 were purchased at Philadelphia; 101 at New York; and 200 at Cincinnati; for a wartime total of 562.

Post and field hospital flags: 698 were purchased at Philadelphia; 201 at New York; and none at Cincinnati; for a wartime total of 899.

A separate line entry for Ambulance flags indicated the following:

2,500 were purchased at Philadelphia; 401 at New York; and 1,750 at Cincinnati; for a wartime total of 4,651.

Now separately, I found in my copy (reprinted) of "Civil War Battle Flags of the Union Army and Order of Battle" originally published as 'Flags of the United States Army carried during the War of the Rebellion, 1861 and 1863", on page 40, the images of all three types of flag. They all feature the yellow field but otherwise have some differences in size and other design features.

The General Hospital Flag is 9 feet by about 4 and 1/2 feet (along the fly/staff edge). Centered on the yellow field is a large green H, about 2 feet high and about 18 inches at the base and the top.

The Post and Field Hospital flag is identical in appearance, but is about 6 feet 4 inches long and about 3 feet 8 inches along the staff and opposite edge. The green H is about 13 inches across and 1 foot 6 inches high.

The Ambulance flag and the guidon used to mark the way to the hospital(s) is yellow, about 30 inches long and about 15 inches along the staff - edged with a 1 inch green band on the three sides.

It is noted that these patterns date from January 1864. There is no information given regarding the patterns used before this date.

Robert A. Mosher

1863doc
02-01-2007, 04:38 PM
The research I have done, shows yellow flags with out a design or a red flag with out a design until about January 4th, 1864 when general order #9 provided: Hospitals will be distinguished by yellow flags with a green "H" in their centers, larger for General Hospitals, smaller for Field Hospitals and a smaller yellow flag bordered with green for ambulances. Prior to the January 4th 1864 order were orders of March 24 1862 General order #102 "hospitals will distinguished by a yellow flag" June 19, 1863 saw General order # 53 repeated General order # 102 of 1862. December 19, 1862 had General order # 91 which set the sizes of the hospital and ambulance depots, distinguished by a yellow flag, 3 feet square for the hospitals and the principle ambulance depot on the field of battle; 2 feet square for the lesser ones". This same order was repeated on April 25, 1863.

The above, so far is all I have found on the Internet. I am still looking and asking other reenactors who know more than me. So have we come to a conclusion? Yellow until 1864 then yellow with the green H? Even the confederates followed what the Federals did. As for women on the field of battle, they were discouraged but how does anyone keep a woman from doing something she wants to do? I bet women of the 1860's were the same as today. Just my opinion.

1863doc
gee ain't this fun?

verg
02-03-2007, 10:36 PM
Gettysburg Museum holds an Ambulance Guidon of the 1st Division, 2nd Corps. It is 26 1/2" wide x 13 1/4 " high. Yellow wool bunting field with a 1 " wide green border on three sides. The green-coloured hoist in 1 3/8 " wide. The yellow field is composed of 2 horizontal panels appox. 6 " wide with a central seam. There is a 4 5/8" high x 4 3/4" wide faded red trefoil in the center.

http://www.thefieldhospital.com/SM_amb_flag_get01.jpg

Winslow Homer depicts an ambulance flag in a Harper's Weekly.

http://www.thefieldhospital.com/Coolidge_WHomer01.jpg

http://www.thefieldhospital.com/SM_amb_flag_get01.jpg

http://www.thefieldhospital.com/Coolidge_WHomer01.jpg

John Novicki
The Field Hospital (http://www.thefieldhospital.com)

hta1970
10-10-2008, 06:18 PM
The Museum of the Confederacy has at least four hospital flags, all a simple red field. They vary slightly in size and were captured at the Battle of Waynesboro in March 1865. One of these can be seen in Echos of Glory page 276, which is 39"x 55" in size.

I just bought a red field hospital flag from Ben Tart. He did a great job! It is made of red bunting and is made of three pieces of bunting just like the original at the Museum of the Confederacy.

Other than the Museum of the Confederacy, are there any other sources for original flags upon which to base reproductions?

cjdaley
10-11-2008, 08:11 AM
Historical background for Yellow Flag:

The use of the color yellow in a hospital flag has it's origins in the middle ages. Yellow was the color used to distinguish houses which had be infected with the plague and indeed a yellow cross would be painted on the houses and the inhabitants would be forced to wear yellow clothing. This may have been derived from 'yellow fever', but who knows.

In the 14th Century, Venice decreed that all ships waiting to off load goods needed to be anchored off it's coast for 40 days and fly a yellow quarantine flag.

In 1789, British naval code demanded that any ship that was quarantined needed to fly a yellow flag to worn other ships. This is the first time the "Yellow Jack" is officially used in a military setting.

Use of Yellow Flag as Quarantine Flag in the American Civil War:

An Illinois soldier on his way through Atlanta just before the March to the Sea noted that several houses flew a yellow quarantine flag. He approached one house and the servant claimed the house was full of pox and they shouldn't come inside. This didn't have any effect, the soldier told them he wanted pox and invaded the house anyway and took the goodies he was after.

Regular DOC
10-12-2008, 04:57 PM
Historical background for Yellow Flag:

The use of the color yellow in a hospital flag has it's origins in the middle ages. Yellow was the color used to distinguish houses which had be infected with the plague and indeed a yellow cross would be painted on the houses and the inhabitants would be forced to wear yellow clothing. This may have been derived from 'yellow fever', but who knows.

In the 14th Century, Venice decreed that all ships waiting to off load goods needed to be anchored off it's coast for 40 days and fly a yellow quarantine flag.

In 1789, British naval code demanded that any ship that was quarantined needed to fly a yellow flag to worn other ships. This is the first time the "Yellow Jack" is officially used in a military setting.

Use of Yellow Flag as Quarantine Flag in the American Civil War:

An Illinois soldier on his way through Atlanta just before the March to the Sea noted that several houses flew a yellow quarantine flag. He approached one house and the servant claimed the house was full of pox and they shouldn't come inside. This didn't have any effect, the soldier told them he wanted pox and invaded the house anyway and took the goodies he was after.


In addition the Navy would fly the yellow flag from ships which had a yellow fever outbreak on board.