"The Sickness is Upon Us"
(During the Civil War, two railroads—the Manassas Gap and the Orange and Alexandria—intersected here. Manassas Junction was strategically important to both the Union and the Confederacy as a supply depot and for military transportation. Two of the war's great battles were fought nearby. Diaries, letters, and newspaper articles documented the war's effects on civilians as well as the thousand of soldiers who passed through the junction.)
In 1861, there were only 30 surgeons and 84 assistant surgeons in the U.S. Army; a third of them resigned to join the Confederacy. Few military hospitals existed, and little planning was underway. Once the fighting started, most soldiers were treated in field-hospital tents similar to those that were erected here before and after the First Battle of Manassas on July 21, 1861. Wounded soldiers endured heat, humidity, insects, mud, unsanitary conditions, and exposure to contagious diseases from fellow patients. Those treated in civilian homes often fared better that those consigned to field hospitals. After the battle, some regiments reported more than 75 percent of their men on medical rolls died not from wounds, but from measles, typhoid fever, and diarrhea in epidemic proportions.
Capt. Ujanirtus Allen, Co. F, 21st Georgia Volunteer Infantry, to his wife, concerning field hospitals near Manassas Junction:
"We have some very sick men, some that we fear will never recover. ... Seven eights of the sickness is bilious. We pay more attention to sanitary improvements than we ever did before. Our camp is swept out every day and the track and waste from the cook places is carried away. The tents are sunned whenever the weather permits." —Oct. 12, 1861
"When our men get the fever they seem to loose all spirit and linger along until they die. The doctors say this is the nature of camp fever. But I have no doubt much of it is the result of their situation, surrounded ... by sick and dying away from home and friends." —Oct. 19, 1861
"I am yet quite sick and have been ever since I wrote to you before. I can't say that I am improving very much, very little if any. I am at a private house and with a clever family. They do I guess all in their power to make me comfortable as possible. ... You need not fear but that I get as good attention, in the way of nursing as I could wish so far away from you." —Sudley Church, Nov. 10, 1861
Capt. Allen survived his illness but was mortally wounded at Chancellorsville, May 2, 1963.