Following the cessation of the fighting at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in early July 1863, a huge issue emerged – how to deal with the thousands of wounded men left behind by the two armies as they left for Maryland and Virginia? Most houses, barns, churches, and public buildings in and around Gettysburg for several miles had become temporary field hospitals, but more permanent solutions were needed for those men able to be moved to formal hospitals in Baltimore, Washington, York, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and New York City. When the railroads damaged by the Rebels were repaired in the week after the battle, trainloads of wounded were taken from Gettysburg to Hanover Junction, PA, where they would be transferred to the north-south running Northern Central Railway for shipment to the designated hospital.
Representatives of the United States Christian Commission arrived in Hanover Junction and began tending to the comforts of the wounded men, as well as the throngs of relief workers headed into and out of Gettysburg.
Here are a couple of contemporary accounts from old books that shed some light on the workings of the USCC at Hanover Junction.
“July 28th, about the time of our removal to the General Hospital, a district committee was chosen, with R. G. McCreary, Esq., as its chairman, to look after the interests of the Commission in Gettysburg and that vicinity, and to decide cases of difficulty which might occur in the further prosecution of our work there. Another committee was chosen at York; and subsequent events have more than shown the wisdom of the appointment. Increased interest has been taken in the Commission, and its means of usefulness have been greatly extended.
When the wounded began to be removed in large numbers, Dr. [John M.] Cuyler, Medical Inspector, desired us to open a refreshment saloon at Hanover Junction; and here many thousands of soldiers were fed: the trains were halted for this very purpose; every man received suitable food and drink; lemonade was given to the stronger ones; to those weaker and needing a stimulant, a little brandy or wine. Thus no doubt many were enabled to bear the fatigue of the journey, who but for this would have sunk on the way.
At all stages of our work religious reading was distributed, though the amount circulated was far less than would have been required among an equal number of Tell men…
In times of necessity our chaplains and delegates have been directed to extend their labors beyond the limits of our own district, and all the members of the Committee have visited the following hospitals and camps : Gettysburg, Hanover Junction, Harper’s Ferry, Martinsburg, Winchester, Charlestown, Fortress Monroe, and Alexandria. In all these localities the labors of the Commission have been performed by delegates and agents, and from letters received and public notices in the newspapers, we have been informed of valuable services that have been rendered.”
And, later in the same book…
One of the busiest and most successful of the scenes of our labors in Maryland [actually Pennsylvania], was that which appeared in the establishment of a mission at Hanover Junction. All the wounded of both armies at the battle of Gettysburg, as they were able to endure transportation, were sent to the several hospitals of our district and to others in the Northern States. They all passed the Junction, where, in cars provided for the purpose, Mrs. Alph Hyatt, Mrs. Henry Stockbridge, Mrs. Gosnell, and other ladies, labored for several weeks in providing refreshments for the sufferers. By arrangement with the officer in charge of the department, the trains were stopped at the Junction, each containing from three hundred to eight hundred of the wounded, some of whom were very badly injured. To these the ladies ministered in the distribution of such hospital stores as were adapted to their condition. Thousands of gallons of lemonade, ginger- water, coffee and tea, with soft bread and biscuits, were distributed at this point, and many were the blessings that were invoked upon them for their kind intervention. Members of the Committee have been present and assisted in their benevolent work when large numbers were in transportation, and it required great activity to supply them all with the refreshments, which were abundantly provided for their use.”
United States Christian commission, for the army and navy. Work and Incidents. First annual report. (Philadelphia, 1863).
Another old book also briefly recounts the service of the USSC at Hanover Junction:
Two incidents in the operations of the Baltimore Committee deserve special mention, as showing the facility with which the Commission met the emergencies of the hour. After the battle of Gettysburg, such of the disabled as could at all endure it were transported to the hospitals at Baltimore and elsewhere. The journey was wearisome and painful. At the instance of Dr. Cuyler, Medical Director, the Commission established a refreshment station, in cars provided for the purpose, at Hanover Junction, thirty miles from Gettysburg and on the main line of railway. Here all the trains of wounded were stopped, and nourishing food and drink,–as lemonade, ginger-water, tea and coffee, soft bread, etc., with stimulants for those that needed,–were liberally distributed to the suffering men. This labor of love was for weeks in the hands of ladies from Baltimore, with such assistance from others as was requisite.”
Moss, Lemuel, Annals of the United States Sanitary Commission. (Philadelphia, Lippinscott, 1868). p. 322.