Walking tour highlights vastness of Frederick’s Civil War medical effort

Evangelical Lutheran Church was quite a sight Saturday: A basic wooden floor had been installed over the pews, with men in hospital beds and medicine cabinets placed on top and hymnals cast in shadow below.

The scene was similar to the church’s appearance in 1862, when it was part of General Hospital #4, which was itself part of what is known as the “One Vast Hospital” network in Frederick.

The hospital network included seven sites and treated thousands of wounded soldiers during the Civil War.

The church operated as a military hospital from Sept. 15, 1862, until Jan. 1, 1863.

Several former hospital sites opened their doors Friday and Saturday as part of a self-guided tour organized by the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.

Volunteers in period dress were on hand at several sites, including General Hospital #1, the largest and longest-running military hospital in Frederick.

Sherry Porter and other women from the Frederick Ladies Relief Society, a living history group, greeted visitors at the entrance of General Hospital #1, now on the grounds of the Maryland School for the Deaf.

The women acted as they would for incoming soldiers, offering baskets of food, clothing and other comforts. Another group of women gathered in a convalescent tent set up to look like one of several that dotted the grounds during the conflict. They explained the role of women as nurses at the hospital sites.

Chris Neehim, who lives in downtown Frederick, stopped at General Hospital #1 to learn more about the site.

“You always hear about the churches, but I never knew there was a whole military hospital as well,” he said, looking at exhibits in the Bjorlee Museum.

Outside, John and Judy Goodman said they came to visit family in Frederick this weekend so they could attend the tour.

“We love Civil War history,” Judy Goodman said, listing the sites they had visited earlier in the day.

She said she appreciated the tour because it was different; they had already been to many of the battlefields in the area.

Scott McKnight, the Goodmans’ brother-in-law, and his wife are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and invited their relatives as soon as he learned about the event.

“This was just something totally new and more personal,” McKnight said, noting that the family often set up base in his Frederick home and then travels to historic sites.

In addition to the history, Judy Goodman said one more thing struck her during the event.

“I thought of how wonderful it was that so many residents of Frederick got involved in this to showcase what the city did then,” she said.

Tens of thousands of wounded soldiers passed through Frederick during the war, with more than 30,000 receiving treatment at the barracks site.

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