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University City Artist and Photographer Sylvia Barkan created this mosaic of architectural treasurers.




Satterlee Hospital

a Civil War Hospital in West Philadelphia


Paper by Adam Clements, Saterlee General Hospital. Written April 22, 2010 for "Handling History" at La Salle University. Adam Clements is a Graduate Student in the La Salle University Department of History.

full paper - pdf
bibliography - pdf

The goal of the paper is not to analyze the medical aspect of the hospital. The advances made and the treatment given by the surgeons will be discussed, but for the author, Satterlee’s story lies more with the people, rather than the science. The staff and the patients made Satterlee what it was; an innovational and inspirational medical facility during one of America’s most trying times.

The motivation was to answer the broad questions: Who created Satterlee Hospital? Why was it built here in Philadelphia? Were there people without the pomp or rank who provided exceptional service nonetheless? What were the thoughts of the patients during their stays at Satterlee? Did they contribute to the facility in any way? Was Satterlee a standard hospital, or did it possess traits that made it different from other period facilities?

Satterlee was a fully-operational hospital from 1862-65, the majority of the paper focuses on the first year of its existence. It was during this time that Satterlee made its mark on the medical world.


saterlee hospital grid

saterlee illustration

saterlee street grid

The present-day Clark Park is partly on the site of Satterlee, the Civil War's largest hospital, where many of the Gettysburg wounded were brought after battle. According to "West Philadelphia Illustrated," by M. Lafitte Vieira, Philadelphia, Pa.: Arden Press, 1903, pp. 178-179:

"Satterlee Hospital stood formerly at Forty-fourth street and Baltimore avenue. It contained forty-five hundred beds and was next to the largest hospital in the country. It was erected in 1861. The vicinity was then rich in sylvan beauty and is now quite a centre of West Philadelphia, and adorned by handsome houses and graced by the Clarence Clark Park.

"In Stewart Bulkley's reminiscences of Satterlee Hospital during the Civil War a most interesting account is given of the tenderness and devotion of Mother Gonzaga, who has passed away to her eternal reward, and whose care of the sick and the wounded will ever remain memorable. A veteran of the One Hundred and Forty-second Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers, said of the saintly Sister: 'Mother Gonzaga was a mother to about fifty soldiers in the Satterlee United States Hospital during the years from 1862 to 1865. No matter what the creed, her devotion was ever the same, and not a few soldiers recalled in after years the midnight visits of Mother Gonzaga--as she was called by the men--her silent steps after "taps" and in the dim gaslight were listened for, and with her white-winged head-dress she flitted from bed to bed to soothe and cheer the suffering soldiers.' She was one of the purest and loveliest of women, and the mention of her name with that of old Satterlee Hospital is only a fitting tribute to her gentle memory.

"On the twentieth of May, 1862, a requisition was made by Surgeon-General Hammond, through Dr. I. I. Hayes, for twenty-five Sisters of Charity to nurse the sick and wounded soldiers in the West Philadelphia Hospital, known afterwards as the Satterlee Hospital in honor of General Satterlee. Dr. Hayes, of Arctic exploration fame, was appointed surgeon-in-charge. The hospital grounds covered an area of fifteen acres.

"At Forty-second street and the Schuylkill, back of the Woodlands, there was, in 1862, a steamboat landing, where, during the Civil War, the sick and wounded were brought, and from there carried in carts and all manner of conveyances to Satterlee Hospital, and to a temporary hospital on Woodland avenue, where St. Vincent's Home now stands."

from an account of the time:

This is perhaps the largest and most complete Army Hospital in the world. It covers sixteen acres of ground. There are 21 wards, containing 4500 beds. The length of the buildings is 900 feet. There are altogether 7 acres of floors. It was opened for the reception of our brave sick and wounded soldiers, June 9th, 1862. Admitted up to May 27, 1864 12,773. Deaths, 260. Since the great battles of the Wilderness and Spottsylvania, there have been several hundred tents put up outside of the enclosure, as the accommodations are not sufficient for the large numbers of patients daily arriving from the field. The principal officers are:

I. I. HAYES, Surgeon, C.S.V., Commander.
W. H. FORWOOD, Assistant Surgeon, U.S.A., Executive Officer.
J. WILLIAMS, Acting Assistant Surgeon, U.S.A., Acting Executive Officer.
Charles P. Tutt, Acting Assistant Surgeon, Pathologist.
Capt. William Brian, Commander of Guard.
Chaplains, Nathaniel West, D.D., U.S.A., Alfred Nevin, D.D., U.S.A.

Officers of V. R. Corps on duty at this Post :
Capt. William Brian, 1st Lieut. Shields, 1st Lieut. M. Walter.
Quartermaster Steward, A. Berg, Hospital Steward, U.S.A.
Commissary Steward, J. L. Kite, Hospital Steward, U.S.A.
In charge of Dispensary, S. S. Frics, Hospital Steward, U.S.A.
Chief Clerk, Daniel W. Martin, Hospital Steward, U.S.A.
Post Master, William A. Bulkley, Hospital Stewart, U.S.A.
Police Inspector, Theo. St. Clair, Hospital Steward, U.S.A.
Chief Ward Master, E. S. Morell, Hospital Steward, U.S.A.
Chief Female Nurse, Sister Gouraga.
Chief Printer, Sergeant J. D. Lemmon.
Chief Carpenter, J. Fletcher.
Chief Engineer, M. McA. Field.
Baggage Master, Theo. St. Clair, Hospital Steward, U.S.A.

Visiting days, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from 2 to 5 P.M. Special passes, approved by the Surgeon in Charge, procured of the Executive Officer.

There are forty Sisters of Charity in this Hospital, who are ever ready to relieve the sufferings of its inmates. There is, for the accommodation of the patients, a large Reading Room, with a Library, Piano,; also, Sutler Store, Stationary and Newspaper Depot, Barber Shop and Printing Office, where there is published a very neat paper, called the Hospital Register, also a fine Band of Music.