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March 27, 2013

NA BICENTENNIAL: The Civil War: The city’s medical contributions to the Union effort



Almost all the area buildings used for fighting the disease have long since fallen. Only Hospital Number Nine, the old opera theater along Main Street that now houses Auntie Artie’s Antiques, remains. 

Still, New Albanians at the time experienced the war firsthand through these institutions. Eckerman discussed the ways women of the town aided the sick and dying. As side-wheeler steamers pulled along our banks to unload the men, women of the town stood nearby to offer the soldiers drinks. It would not have been uncommon for these ladies to visit the hospitals and provide some friendship to the patients. 

Ladies of New Albany also contributed to the local branch of Indiana’s Sanitation Commission. Both money and supplies were gathered to be used at hospitals both here and abroad. An excerpt of Eckerman’s book even relates a request from a Kentucky hospital for the local women to send them any extra hospital flags they had available. Identifying the medical buildings, the flags were made of yellow fabric and with a giant capital green H centered in the middle. 

In addition to these places of healing, New Albany hosted two hospitals that treated black troops. Pam Peters mentioned these in her book “The Underground Railroad in Floyd County, Indiana.” Anti-black sentiments at the time, she explained in a footnote, made it difficult to house black and white soldiers under the same roof. 

“As it was, there was a good deal of controversy in New Albany about the sick and injured black soldiers and where they were treated,” Peters said.

But that didn’t stop New Albany from helping those soldiers in need. At the former Anderson College building along Main Street, Hospital Number 5, also known as the Hospital d’Afrique, exclusively nursed black soldiers back to health. Likewise, an “unseaworthy” docked boat called the Floating Hospital Ohio also treated only black patients. 

After recuperating, men went back either to their homes or to the battlefield. Some didn’t have either option. Many of the soldiers made New Albany their final resting place. Next week, we’ll examine how the city honored these men by setting aside some sacred ground for their burials. 

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