Sunday, December 16, 2012

Letter #29 - Broad Street Hospital, Philadelphia Pa. -- December 16, 1862

A very long gap between this letter and the last one in November.  I suspect John was occupied with getting ready to transit to a rehabilitation hospital in Philadelphia...the Broad Street Hospital...and found little time to write.  It has now been over 3 1/2 months since his wounding...his "flesh wound", and the time it has taken so far to heal, is telling of the nature of his rehabilitation.  I have previously written about the state of soldier care during the Civil War and this is just proof that even a seemingly minor wound, could progress with a devastating result.

John describes his transit from Washington to Philadelphia and the date of his transfer.  December 13, 1862...the same date as the arrival of Walt Whitman at the train station in Washington during his efforts to nurse his wounded brother back to health.  Could they have passed in the train station?  Could Whitman have said a comforting word to a soldier like John W. Derr while passing by?  I guess we'll never know...but it is interesting to contemplate.

The Broad Street Hospital was located at the S.E. corner of Broad and Cherry Streets and opened in February of 1862.  It could accommodate 525 patients.

From Philadelphia in the Civil War (1861-1865) by Frank H. Taylor:

The Broad Street Hospital was opened February 2d, 1862, in 
the old station building of the Philadelphia and Reading Railway 
Company on the site now occupied by the Parkway Building. Branches 
of this hospital were afterward established in the old market house on 
Broad street below Race street and on Cherry street east of Broad 
street. Surgeon John Neill was appointed in charge, his staff including 
Surgeons Thomas Yarrow, Henry Yarrow, Harrison Allen, H. M. Bel- 
lows, Henry Eggleton and Thomas Eggleton; Medical Cadets James 
Tyson, George W. Shields, E. R. Corson, Edward Livezy, J. W. Corson 
and W. R. D. Blackwood. The ladies actively interested in this 
hospital were from the many prominent families then resident near by. 
This hospital was closed when the Mower Hospital was completed but 
was reopened for a short time after the battle of Gettysburg, the surgeon 
then in charge being W. V. Keating.

                                                                                                Broad Street Hospital, Philadelphia
                                                                                                December the 16 1862

My Dear Father,

                        I take my pen in hand to inform this few lines to you to let you know that I am well at present time and I hope that these few lines will find you in the same state of good health.  Further I let you know that I didn’t get that letter yet with them ten dollars which I wrote for.  Now I wish you would let me know whether you didn send it to me or not for I left Georgetown on the 13 of this month and I hadn’t it yet.  Then I now must write to Georgetown for it if you did send it to me. My wound hasn’t healed yet but very near now.  So I must come to a close for this time.  These few lines from your son.  Take the direction on the outside.

                                                                                                John W. Derr

Jim D.


  1. Thank you for sharing this. My husband's great grandfather John F Thompson, Pvt. Co.A 16th ME, Inf, Volunteers was wounded July 1,1863 at Gettysburg and sent to the General Hospital at Broad & Cherry St., later to Mower where he remained until it closed in 1865. The wound never properly healed and though he returned to work in Mass. he spent his last days at Togus Military facility in Augusta, ME. He died there 17 June 1903 at age 59 of the effects of his wounds.

  2. You are very welcome! Quite a bit of the information I obtain relative to my ancestors is from other people such as yourself who share their family histories. Thank YOU...for sharing.
    Jim D.

  3. Thank you for posting. I was wondering where this hospital was located, as my great-grandfather's uncle died there of a wound received in the Peninsula Campaign.

    1. Hi. Thank you for your question. The Broad and Cherry Street Hospital used by the North to treat sick and wounded soldiers was on the corner of Broad Street and Cherry Street in Philadelphia...about 2 blocks North of City Hall. On the site near the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.