December 26, 2012 - Anniversary of the Commissioning of a Hospital Ship

The Red Rover was a side-wheel steamer that was purchased by the Confederacy during the Civil War. She was what was called a “barracks ship,” a ship that specialized in serving as temporary housing for soldiers.

(Did you know that ships are referred to with feminine pronouns like “she” and “her”?)

The ship was seized by Union forces in 1862, and she was repaired and refitted to be a hospital ship. An operating room was installed, and there were separate kitchen facilities for the medical staff and for patients. Some rather up-to-date (for then) features included a steam boiler for the laundry, bathrooms and water closets, an elevator, and gauze window blinds to keep cinders and smoke away from patients. Separate quarters were set up on barges for those with contagious diseases.

You may be picturing Red Rover as going up and down the Atlantic Coast, but actually she steamed her way up and down the Mississippi River. The medical staff included 30 surgeons and male nurses plus four nuns, and the patients numbered more than 2,000. The ship was commissioned on this date in 1862 and was decommissioned in November of 1865.

By the way, those four nuns that served as nurses made the Red Rover the first U.S. ship to have female nurses.


One of the most interesting things about touring the aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Midway was the realization that it was like a small town, with everything a town would need: restaurants and a church, recreation areas and a hospital, a laundromat and a dentist's office.

With 3 to 10 thousand aboard an aircraft carrier, there is plenty to keep the medical staff busy. The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower has a staff of 40, and they can do everything from removing moles to doing open-chest surgeries. Even though there is plenty of danger of injury (the whole ship is made of metal, and airplanes are constantly taking off and landing, and of course it is possible for a military craft to be in or near war zones!) and of illness (in such close quarters, keeping contagious diseases from becoming epidemics is difficult), the medical staff spends most of its time with preventative care.

Also on this date:

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