Grace Church General Hospital: First Person Accounts

William Wallace was a member of the 3rd U.S. Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry injured at the Battle of Cedar Run. He wrote three letters to his wife, on August 15, August 22 and September 1, 1862, from Grace Church Hospital.

Page updated on Mar 8, 2020 at 1:24 PM

Grace Church General Hospital

William Wallace, Hospital Patient

Wallace was later transferred to Camp Convalescent, so other patients could take his place at Grace Church. His letters to his wife, Sara, depict miserable conditions and his own worsening state of health.

Source: “William Wallace's Civil War letters: the Virginia campaign" Wisconsin Magazine of History. Volume 57, Issue 1, 1973-1974

William Wallace, August 15, 1862

Grace Church Hospital
Alexandria, Virginia
August 15th, 1862

My dear Wife,

I am still alive and kicking, as old Billy used to say. I am well except my fingers but they are doing as well as can be expected, for a ball wound is worse than a cut with a knife or any other edged tool, I did not have to get it off so I will be all right in a few weeks again.  All the wounded that could come from Cullpepper was sent here. All that got legs or arm amputated had to stay at Culpepper for the shaking of the cars would be bad on them. Anson Titus of Kekoskee and me is the only two out of our company in the hospital….I arrived here on the cars on the morning of the 13th. We had 30 cars in the train all loaded with the wounded and several other trains arrived previous to ours and still more to come.

I had to have the ragged portions of my fingers burned off with costic. It was mortifying for want of proper care. The doctor had not time to see to it, they were so busy amputating limbs. It is quite sore now when I am writing. I have to bear it up with the left one so you see I don’t make good writing. I can walk through the city every day. Our doctor is very attentive to us all. We have everything that we can wish for, each man has is own bed and plenty of attendance. The seats is all out of the church and the beds set in rows 2 feet apart. Every man has his bed numbered, the date of his division, company and reg’t, nature of disease, etc. at the head of his be. The number of mine is 1598. The bed steads is all iron. We have the gas burning al night and we can rise and lie down whenever we like.

…. When I came to the hospital, I was striped naked and put in to a cold bath and was then furnished with clean shirt and drawers etc. You need not trouble yourself about me for I am as well taken care of as I can be.

William Wallace, August 22, 1862

Grace Church Hospital
Alexandria, Virginia
August 22nd, 1862

Dear Sarah,

My fingers are healing up fast.…They keep me running errands so I have a chance to see the patients and am not bound up to the hospital like those who got their limbs hurt. I am going to try and get a pass to visit Washington. It is only 6 or 8 miles from here. We get plenty to eat of the good things of life. I occupy my spare hours in reading Baxter’s Saints Rest and it is a good book for any person to read. Religious books of various kinds is furnished the hospitals gratuitous. …

William Wallace, September 1, 1862

Grace Church Hospital
Alexandria, Virginia
September 1st, 1862

Dear Sarah,

My finger is nearly well…

A good many rebel prisoners is arriving here and the miserablest looking set you ever saw, but not-withstanding they fight desperate, though they get little for it in the way of pay…..