Hospital Steamers of the

Western Sanitary Commission


The steamboat, "City of Alton", as she appeared in 1864.
Image courtesy of John Hopkins University,
Lester S. Levy Collection.

     Due to the massive numbers of sick and wounded soldiers in the U.S. Army, the U.S. States Sanitary Commission was created June 13, 1861 to assist the Army Medical Bureau. However, following the Battle of Wilson's Creek, every hospital ward in St. Louis was filled, and humane care of the wounded was lacking.  As a result, the Union citizens of St. Louis with the help of Mrs. Jessie Benton Fremont and the St. Louis Ladies Union Aid Society made known their resolution to see that the government provide better health care of its sick and wounded west of the Mississippi.  As a result, the Western Sanitary Commission was established on  Sept. 5, 1861.

Not only did the commission increase the hospital space in St. Louis and elsewhere, but also outfitted hospital steamers which would provide care of the sick or wounded near the battlefields along the Mississippi and its tributaries.

     The following steamers were converted as floating hospitals and served as part of the Western Sanitary Commission hospital fleet : "City of Louisiana", set out on March 20, 1862, later renamed the "R.C. Wood";  the "D.A. January"; the "Empress"; the "Imperial"; the "Crescent City";  the "Red Rover"; the "City of Alton"; the "City of Memphis"; the "Nashville".

     The following transports were used for "conveying the sick and wounded": the "Ruth"; the "Glasgow"; the "Diana"; the "Nebraska"; the "Champion"; the "Baltic".

"City of Alton" being used as a troop transport. 22nd Indiana
Volunteers arriving in St. Louis. Lithograph by Jas. Guire of
the Harper's Weekly (Sept. 14, 1861)

Background Music:

"City of Alton Schottisch"
Dedicated to:

Capt. Flem. Calvert
P. W. Sheckley, Clerk

Composed in St. Louis, by Richard S. Poppen
Published 1864 by Endres and Compton, 52 Fourth Street,
Memphis and Cairo.
Midi File courtesy of Benjamin Tubb


St. Louis ALHN Webpage

The webpage created by Scott Williams of Florissant, Missouri. Copyright 1999, All Rights Reserved.