Image 1: Camp Convalescent, near Alexandria, VA. (Library of Congress.) Click here for larger image.
Image 2: Convalescent camp, near Alexandria, Va. (Library of Congress.) Click here for larger image.
Image 3: Convalescent Hospital, Alexandria, Virginia. This image, like the others, shows the second camp, in what is now Arlington. (Harper’s Weekly, February 13, 1864.) Click here for larger image.
Image 4: Camp Convalescent near Alexandria. (National Museum of Civil War Medicine.) Click here for larger image.
Quartermaster map of the second Camp Convalescent, in what is now Arlington County. Click here for larger image.
Detail of Quartermaster map showing the hospital, kitchen, dead house and sink (privy) at the second Camp Convalescent, in what is now Arlington County.
Detail of Quartermaster map showing barracks at the second Camp Convalescent, in what is now Arlington County.
The first Camp Convalescent, near Shuter's Hill, is located at the left side of the map. (Click here for a larger image.)
Near Shuter's Hill
Camp Convalescent was set up to house men not well enough to rejoin their regiments but not ill or wounded enough to take up a hospital bed. Known as Camp Misery, the poorly maintained camp was replaced in February 1863 with a new hospital camp, situated between Fairfax Seminary and Long Bridge in what is now Arlington County. The old Camp Convalescent was renamed the Rendezvous of Distribution and Auger general hospital, and was used to as a distribution center to send men fit for field service back to their regiments. A December 17, 1864 census of Washington area hospitals indicated that 403 of the 668 beds at this location were occupied.
The camp’s nickname, Camp Misery, perhaps tells it all. Soldiers wrote about its insufficient food and living conditions. When Clara Barton visited in October 1862, she referred to it as “a sort of pen into which all who could limp, all deserters and stragglers, were driven promiscuously.” The troops had insufficient fuel wood and food; in fact, they were often required to forage on their own. The tents had no ground coverings or bedding; Julia Wheelock, a Michigan relief agent, described the men pacing back and forth to keep warm at night, then trying to sleep when it was a little warmer the next day.
In February 1864, residents of the new camp (soldier/patients) and staff began to publish the weekly The Soldiers’ Journal, one of the first publications for troops that President Lincoln is said to have read. Proceeds (more than $2,000 by war’s end) went to the orphans of those who died at the camp. The papers included poetry and descriptions of life in the camp, as well as in the old "Camp Misery." According to an article in the first issue (February 17, 1864), “In October, ’62, there was some ten thousand men in the camp, unfit for duty in the field.” The men of the Old Convalescent Camp were quartered in tents near the new camp, until the barracks were ready. The Soldiers' Journal describes the new camp, opened in February 1863, as being situated between Fairfax Seminary and Long Bridge, with fifty barracks capable of accommodating five thousand men.
- Images of Civil War Medicine: A Photographic History. By Gordon E. Dammann, DDS and Alfred Jay Bollet, MD. Demos Medical Publishing, New York, 2008.
- Civil War Washington (website, civilwardc.org), edited by Susan C. Lawrence, Kenneth M. Price, and Kenneth J. Winkle. Published by the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities at the University of Nebraska, under a Creative Commons License.
First Person Accounts
There are no known historic images of the first Camp Convalescent, near Shuter's Hill. These Civil War era images are of the later Camp Convalescent, opened in 1863 near Alexandria in what is now Arlington County, near the present site of the Army/Navy Country Club and Glebe Road.
- Title: Convalescent camp, near Alexandria, Va.
- Photographer: Andrew J. Russell
- Image Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
- Image Date: Between 1863 and 1865
- Medium: Photographic print , albumen
- Library of Congress Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsca-07319 (digital file from original photograph, no. 60) LC-DIG-ppmsca-07320 (digital file from original photograph, no. 61)
- Library of Congress Call Number: LOT 4336, no. 60 [P&P] LOT 4336, no. 61 another version.
- Library of Congress Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
- Summary: Photograph shows the entrance to a military hospital facility known as "Camp Misery". There are two types of ambulances and a family carriage in front of the building.
- Title: Convalescent Camp, Alexandria, Virginia
- Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, February 13, 1864.
- Image Date: 1864
- Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
- Title: Another image of “Camp Convalescent” (sometimes called “Camp Misery.”
- Image Source: National Museum of Civil War Medicine.
- Image Date: Between 1863 and 1865
- Rights Advisory: Copyright National Museum of Civil War Medicine.
Quartermaster maps of Camp Convalescent show the later camp in what is now Arlington County.
Location and the Site Today
The first Camp Convalescent was located near Shuter’s Hill, but the exact location is not noted. The later camp, depicted in the Civil War-era images, is located in what is now Arlington County, near the present-day Army/Navy Country Club and Glebe Road.
- Click here to see the location of this hospital in relation to others, on a map prepared by Alexandria Archaeology.