Scope and arrangement
The Hospital Directory Archives, 1862-1866, comprise the records of its administrative Central Office in Washington, and regional offices in Philadelphia, New York and Louisville.
The bulk of the records consist of each office’s hospital directory registers, which were created to record the hospital location and the condition of individual soldiers and others, as derived from U.S. Army general hospital reports and other sources. Each office was responsible for collecting information for hospitals in assigned geographical areas, as need arose during the war. Hospitals in war zones and those in northern urban areas are both represented. Patient names were entered in the volumes according to state regiment or other military unit. For that reason, the registers can also be used to analyze casualties and sickness by state volunteer regiment or other military unit in a particular region and time. Name indexes exist for some registers.
The directory registers were the primary source of information used by Hospital Directory staff to answer urgent inquiries from the public, made by letter, telegram or in person, concerning the location and condition of sick or wounded soldiers.
The Washington Hospital Directory records contain files documenting over 9,000 such inquiries, which may include letters from family members and others, Directory offices, USSC relief agents, Government offices, and Army chaplains, surgeons and regimental officers, as compiled by USSC staff during their investigations. Additional letters of inquiry are found in the New York and Philadelphia Hospital Directory records. Journals, registers and indices used by the USSC to track the status of inquiries are also present.
Washington Hospital Directory records also include general correspondence; letters and reports arranged by Directory office concerning the activities of each, most directed to superintendent John Bowne; and papers concerning the reporting of deaths at Andersonville.
Outgoing correspondence for the New York, Philadelphia and Louisville offices is represented only by letters and inquiry reports received by other Directory offices; no incoming correspondence has been found for the Louisville office.
In addition to the Directory registers, office records may include death and burial records, volumes used to track the receipt of hospital reports for entry in Directory registers, and directories of Army medical facilities and personnel. Records of the Louisville office also contain registers documenting the location, health and death of Union and Confederate prisoners of war, including Union prisoners at Andersonville. While Louisville’s records primarily document casualties and other losses in the Western Department, hospital and other records of men involved in actions in the southeast, particularly Georgia, are also found.
The Hospital Directory Archives provide a valuable example of the USSC’s ability to use its access to military records to serve multiple purposes. In this case, it used hospital reports not only for statistical analysis of loss and gain in the Army’s strength, but to extract information on the location and condition of particular soldiers to relieve the anxiety of their relatives, and to lessen the work load of Army clerical and hospital staff who typically answered such queries.
Directories can still be used, as they were then, to identify the presence of individual soldiers in particular hospitals, to track their transfer from one hospital to another, and to track the sick and wounded of particular regiments during particular campaigns or after major battles.
The Letters of Inquiry files are particularly rich in content and will support research in genealogy, military history, medical history, social welfare history, political history, and studies in race, gender, class, ethnicity, and religious culture. The records also illustrate patterns of emigration, migration, language and communication. Inquiries were sent by men, women and even older children from all stations of life, writing from Union and Confederate states and other points in North and South America and Europe. The constant characteristic of these letters is the expression of anxiety and anguish occasioned by a soldier's circumstances. The financial impact of a soldier's loss on his family is often mentioned. In this respect, the letters are a large and important body of documentation illustrating the trauma of the war. Responses from military personnel often provide background detail on camp life and military actions in addition to discussion of the inquiry at hand. Contemporary reactions to important events, including major battles, the New York City draft riots, the surrender of Lee and the assassination of Lincoln, are found throughout the Letter of Inquiry and correspondence files.
Taken in their entirety, the records of Hospital Directory offices show close collaboration among USSC offices, auxiliary branches, agencies, field relief agents, and Army personnel to provide accurate information to the American people.
Note: Any additions to letter of inquiry files have been arranged separately as noted in the container list; they are not presently described at the item level, nor are they indexed in the Library’s USSC Civil War Soldiers Inquiry Database, which reflects the 2004 arrangement of Hospital Directory letter of inquiry files. The Division has prepared a cross-walk by which the old box numbers listed in the Database can be correlated to the new numbers. Folder numbers remain the same.
The United States Sanitary Commission records. Hospital Directory archives are arranged in four series:
Washington Hospital Directory records, 1862-1866, consist of letters and reports, application records, hospital and death records, and general office records.
Letters and reports contain the combined general correspondence of the Washington and New York Hospital Directory offices, largely interoffice communications concerning administrative procedures, efforts to document the sick and wounded after major battles, and the status of inquiries. Outgoing correspondence consists of copies of letters sent by Washington office staff, mostly to soldiers’ relatives and friends concerning their inquiries. Reports on Hospital Directory activities, submitted to or written by John Bowne, are also present.
Application records comprise the combined letter of inquiry files of the Washington and New York offices, and the Washington Office’s related journals, registers and indexes used to record and track inquiry work.
Hospital directories for the Washington office, nearly 60 oversize volumes in number, and index volumes form the bulk of the Hospital and death records. Also present are materials relating to deaths at Andersonville prison, casualty statistics for Chancellorsville, plots of burials in two soldiers’ cemeteries in Virginia, as well as daily hospital reports, reports of deaths in hospitals, and reports of sick and wounded.
General office records are listings of Army hospitals and military personnel compiled by staff for reference purposes.
New York correspondence and inquiry files are not inclusive; see also New York Hospital Directory records, Series II.
New York Hospital Directory records consist of letters received (general correspondence); application materials, comprising letters of inquiry concerning soldiers, and journals and registers used to record such inquiries and their status; a record of daily hospital reports received; and the office’s hospital directory and index volumes.
Letters Received and Letters of Inquiry were incorporated into this record group from previously unsorted materials. Letters of inquiry found here are not represented in the USSC Civil War Soldiers Inquiry Database. Letters of inquiry are filed alphabetically by soldier surname. Additional New York Hospital Directory letter of inquiry materials are found in the records of the Washington Hospital Directory as originally arranged by the United States Sanitary Commission, as discussed in that series.
Philadelphia Hospital Directory records consist of letters received (disbound from six letter books), a register of applications (inquiries), and hospital directory registers and indexes. Letters received were originally bound in one chronological order. Their arrangement now follows that of the Washington and New York office correspondence. Letters of inquiry, which also include office or other reports on individual soldiers, are now separated from general office correspondence, which typically consists of letters received from other Directory offices concerning procedural matters, and reports on the status of multiple soldiers. Letters of inquiry are filed alphabetically by surname of the soldier in question; multiple inquiries are filed by the first surname listed. Letters of inquiry found here are not represented in the Civil War Soldiers Inquiry Database. Date spans for letterbooks were provided by John Wilson, Superintendent, and reflect the received date of letters. General correspondence, however, is filed by date written.
Philadelphia Hospital Directory’s letters received and register of applications (inquiries) were originally located in the Philadelphia Agency’s records (USSC Pennsylvania record group, MssCol 18781). They are now joined with their registers and indexes in the Hospital Directory records. Their outgoing correspondence is reflected in letters received from them by other Directory offices. No letter press copy books for the Directory have been found in the collection. Philadelphia Agency outgoing correspondence does not reflect local Hospital Directory activities.
Hospital Directory registers contain reports only on patients in Pennsylvania hospitals.
Louisville Hospital Directory records consist of hospital records; hospital directory registers and indexes, death and burial records; records concerning prisoners of war, and miscellaneous volumes.
Hospital records consist chiefly of hospital reports for U.S. Army General Hospitals, 1865, and Hospital Directory registers and index volumes, 1863-1865. Also present are a census of St. Louis hospitals, a list of names of patients received in Hospital No. 4, Louisville, Kentucky, and a list of hospitals reporting to the Louisville Hospital Directory.
Hospital Directory registers have a different arrangement of information than other Directory office registers. Louisville recorded patient information in register volumes primarily dedicated to volunteer regiments of a single state and all entries are in numerical order by regiment number. For volumes containing multiple states, all entries for a single state are grouped together. States may span several volumes. The Louisville Hospital Directory apparently did not number their registers; the listing of volumes follows the USSC’s 1878 arrangement. This may reflect the Directory’s original arrangement, since the sequence of states is similar to the geographical arrangement of records used by the Statistical Bureau.
Death and burial records are mainly Directory office registers recording the deaths, and occasionally burials, of individuals, by state. Also present are lists of burials at particular cemeteries in Tennessee. Prisoner of war records are largely bound lists relating to the transfer or death of both union and confederate soldiers held as prisoners of war. Miscellaneous volumes consist of hospital records and hospital directories recording the status of soldiers at an unidentified location or locations, with entries denoting a strong connection to Chattanooga and the Atlanta Campaign.
Louisville Hospital Directory records as originally arranged included records of the Western Department’s Chattanooga agency, which are now located in that record group. Many of their activities supported the work of the Louisville Hospital Directory and should also be consulted. Hospital and other records emanating from locations which could not be fully confirmed remain in this record group as Miscellaneous Volumes.