Friday, December 30, 2011

Book Review--A Sanctuary for the Wounded

Koontz, Hilda C. A Sanctuary for the Wounded: The Civil War Hospital at Christ Lutheran Church, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania*. Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Gettysburg, PA. 2009. 86 pages, b/w photos, bibliography. No ISBN. $9.95

As arguably the turning point of the Civil War it stands to reason that every aspect of the Battle of Gettysburg and the borough itself are written about. With over 45,000 casualties and more than half of these being wounded men, more than 150 local spots served as field hospitals. This book takes a look at one of these locations.

Located on Chambersburg Street, the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church served as a Union field hospital despite being behind Confederate lines. Taking in the patients on the first day of the battle the hospital was finally closed six weeks later. Upon closing patients were transferred either to Camp Letterman or the Lutheran Theological Seminary. 

This brief look at the church covers areas such as a brief history of the church, civil war medicine, use of the church as a hospital, and looks at several of the major players in the church/Civil War history. Most of these are not familiar names except to those with extensive Gettysburg knowledge. These are interesting stories however. By bringing life to men such as Horatio Howell, the chaplain of the 90th PA who was killed on the steps of the church, and women such as Martha Ehler and the book she penned, Hospital Scenes After the Battle of  Gettysburg, 1863, that describes the work of the Patriot Daughters of Lancaster the authors bring a human element to the horrors of the battle.

This is an interesting book that should be enjoyed by anybody with an interest in Gettysburg history. Those interested in Civil War medicine may also take an interest. Be advised however this is by no means a definitive work on the subject. The essays are brief and the research and writing vary by author. This appears to be a collective effort by church members and not historians. Still, this is an interesting work and supports a worthy cause.

For a more in depth look at the many field hospitals at Gettysburg I would recommend a copy of A Vast Sea of Misery written by Gregory Coco.

*If you are interested in purchasing this book I highly recommend contacting Battlefields and Beyond Military Book Shoppe. Look in the Gettysburg section for this and other great books.

1 comment:

  1. The Horatio Howell story is extremely interesting. He walked from the church and stood on the steps looking at the approaching Confederate soldiers. He thought being a chaplain would save him, but the man had a flare for dressing as a Union officer, complete with a sword. The approaching southern soldiers didn't realize he was a chaplain and shot him dead.