Camp Joe Holt, Joe Holt Hospital in Jeffersonville, Indiana (circa 1862)

The Indiana Historical Society provides the following information about Camp Joe Holt and Joe Holt Hospital in Jeffersonville, Indiana (c. 1862). Jeffersonville is across from Louisville, Kentucky on the Ohio River.

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The first military occupation at Jeffersonville, Indiana was in 1862 when two area regiments established a camp on a farm owned by Blanton Duncan. Lovell Rousseau, the organizer of the regiments, christened the camp “Camp Joe Holt.” The name was retained when it ceased to be a camp and became a hospital, called throughout the war “Joe Holt Hospital.” During the war, besides the hospital, the government also erected warehouses, shops, barracks, stables, blacksmith shops, a laundry, and a bakery.

Jefferson General Hospital “Joe Holt Hospital” opened 21 February 1864 and closed in December 1866. Located about one-half-mile west of Jeffersonville on land obtained from U.S. Senator Jesse D. Bright, the acreage reached down to the Ohio River, facilitating patient transfer from riverboats to the hospital. The health facility had 24 wards each radiating out like spokes on a wheel and all connected by a corridor one-half mile in circumference. Each ward was 150 feet long and 22 feet wide, and could accommodate 60 patients. Female nurses and matrons were quartered separately from the men. The third largest hospital in the country and a showpiece for the Union army, Jefferson General reputedly was one of the finest in the United States for the care of wounded and sick servicemen. During the almost three years that the hospital was in existence the institution cared for more than 16,000 patients and served more than 2,500,000 meals.

First person accounts of life at the Jefferson General Hospital can be found in two separate diaries at the Indiana Historical Society Library. One is the published book, Hospital Pencillings by Elvira J. Powers. A volunteer and employee at the hospital, she wrote of the conditions at the hospital and her experiences there. The second is the collection SC2742, Louis C. Webber’s Diary, 1864–1866, a soldier who was wounded three times and was a patient there for a while.

Sources:

Baird, Lewis C., Baird’s History of Clark County, Indiana. Evansville, Ind.: Unigraphic, 1972.

Eckerman, Nancy Pippen. Indiana in the Civil War: Doctors, Hospitals, and Medical Care. Chicago: Arcadia Publishing, 2001.

History of the Ohio Falls Cities and Their Counties. Evansville, Ind.: Unigraphic, 1968.

Here is a map clip showing where the hospital was located:

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A letter from a patient records the following about being in Camp Joe Holt:

Our hospital is situated on the banks of the Ohio River so I can set and watch the boats play up and down the river. Sometimes there is as many as twenty to be seen at a time. [end of page one]

Last night they looked very pretty with their lamps all lit up. I am in hopes that this letter will reach you before [Rable] starts from home for you wouldn’t like to send those Yankees to N[ewark] While I am here at Jeffersonville. I don’t know but this letter will be rather late. You need’nt send that box until I write again for here we have to get the consent of the Doctor before we can get any which thing in here. Maybe we won’t need it here. I don’t know whether we get any sanataries here or not. I will wait and see before I write for them.

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Map source: Defenses of Munfordville, Ky. Surveyed and drawn under authority of Maj. J.B. Simpson, Corps of Engineers, U.S.A. … by Corporal Chester M. Slayton … 1863. (with) Defenses of Camp Nelson, Ky., main line across neck of land from Kentucky River to Hickman Creek. Constructed under direction of … J.H. Simpson …, commenced by Capt. O.M. Poe … Finished by J.R. Gilliss … Surveyed and drawn by Geo. B. Nicholson. August, 1864. (with) Louisville and its defenses. Office U.S. Engineers, Cincinnati, O., June 1865. Official: J.H. Simpson … Julius Bien & Co., Lith., N.Y. (1891-1895)

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