Friday, February 15, 2013

Antietam: Crystal Spring Hospital tour

The original part of  the Geeting farm house dates to 1790, according to Troy Cool, the
 current owner. Other sections were added in 1820 and 1850, he said.
The farm was known as Crystal Spring Hospital, among other names, because of this
 spring near the farm house.
These inquisitive sheep served as tour guides.
After the Battle of Antietam, Dr. Jonathan Letterman's Army Medical Corps established large hospitals for the long-term care of an unprecedented number of Union wounded. One was at a nondescript speck on the map called Smoketown, on the Union right; another was on the Union left, at the Geeting Farm, near Keedysville and a couple of miles from the battlefield. Both hospitals handled patients whose wounds were too serious to consider for removal to nearby Frederick, Md., or elsewhere, according to Letterman. On Sept. 15, two days before the battle, the Union IX Corps, including the 8th, 11th and 16th Connecticut regiments, bivouacked on the farm. Days later, many Connecticut soldiers were among the wounded treated there, including 16th Connecticut corporal Richard Jobes (amputated left forearm) and 16th Connecticut private Henry Adams, whose right femur was shattered by a gunshot in John Otto's 40-acre cornfield. (Jobes was at the hospital for nine days, according to his pension records; Adams, eventually joined there by his mother, recovered at the Geeting farm during the winter months of 1862-63.)

The farmhouse basement includes this
 original fireplace.
Known as Crystal Spring, Locust Spring or Big Spring Hospital after the battle, the farm today encompasses a fraction of the area it did in 1862; a large chunk has been sold off to accommodate housing. But the core of the farm remains, including a beautiful farmhouse that dates to 1790 and a small white-washed outbuilding that may have been used as a morgue after Antietam. On Sunday morning, Troy Cool,  owner of the property, was gracious enough to abandon his hearty breakfast to show me and Antietam battlefield guide Bill Sagle around. As two inquisitive sheep and two excitable turkeys accompanied us, Cool pointed out the old spring that still feeds the property (hence the name Crystal Spring); the farm house basement, which includes the original fireplace; and the small outbuilding that may have been the morgue after Antietam. Used as a two-car garage by a previous owner, it appears to have the original, wide floorboards.

Inside the white-washed outbuilding that may 
have been used as a morgue. The floorboards 
appear to be original.
Dr. Truman Squire, a surgeon in the 89th New York, was in charge of Crystal Spring Hospital. His work was praised by Letterman in a letter to the assistant adjutant general of the Army of the Potomac.  "The inspections made of these hospitals from time to time were a source of great gratification," Letterman wrote, "as they made known to me the skillful treatment which these men received and the care with which they were watched over, and convinced me of the propriety of the adoption of this course in regard to them. ...  Great care and attention were shown to the wounded at the Locust Spring hospital by Surgeon Squire, Eighty-ninth New York Volunteers."

Off the beaten path, the site of Crystal Spring Hospital is seldom visited today. Consider a drive-by visit of this historical site -- and other Antietam hospital sites -- the next time you are in the area.

This small outbuilding near the farmhouse may have been used as a morgue when the farm
 served as a  large Federal hospital after the Battle of Antietam.

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