THE SANCTUARY BECAME A SURGERY
On the day of the battle, August 30, 1862, the temperature hovered near 100 degrees. As the battle raged, ambulances drawn by sweating horses raced into the churchyard, bringing more and more casualties to Mt. Zion Church. By afternoon, this small churchyard was filled with men who were wounded, some dying, all awaiting medical attention.
Inside the church, where the doctors struggled to keep up with the flow of wounded, it was almost unbearably hot. In the sweltering church the doctors performed operation after operation, most of them amputations. The urgency of the battlefield and the state of medical science did not allow more sophisticated care. One Indiana soldier remembered seeing amputated arms and legs thrown from the south side rear window of this building to the yard outside.
Local residents, many of them members of the congregation, brought food and drink to the doctors and wounded at the church. All day, wagons came to the church. Some left filled with wounded men who were taken to local homes where they could recuperate. Others carried the bodies of the dead at the Richmond City Cemetery for burial.
THE DOCTORS WERE ILL PREPARED
Dr. Bernard J. D. Irwin, medical director, Union Army of Kentucky, was charged with insuring that each regiment had the medical officers and supplies that would be needed if the army went into battle. the medical situation of the Army of Kentucky's regiment was grim. On his arrival in Lexington in late August 1862, Dr. Irwin found the medical corps as inexperienced as the men who were marching for battle. "[The] few medical officers...had neither medicines, instruments, ambulances, tents, or camp equipage, to enable them to perform their duties. With three exceptions the medical officers were inexperienced in service and had but vague ideas as to the extent or sphere of their duties."