The Navy maintains, trains, and equips combat-ready naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression, and preserving maritime freedom. U.S. Navy personnel are experts in the operation of nearly every type of military equipment in the country’s arsenal, from Humvees to aircraft carriers. Did you know that they turned into a War ship hospital?
The USS Red Rover 1859 was a 650-ton Confederate States of America steamer captured by the US Navy. During the American Civil War, the Union refitted the ship and used it as a hospital ship.
The Story of USS Red Rover
The USS Red Rover was captured by the US Navy in early 1862 and converted into the Navy’s first dedicated hospital ship. She treated over 2,000 wounded and sick soldiers and sailors during her remarkable career. No other vessel in the Civil War treated as many patients and gained as much acclaim for her humanitarian efforts.
The Red Rover was created in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1857. She was 256 feet long, weighed 786 tons, and had a top speed of 9 knots.
On June 17, 1862, the Red Rover received its first battle casualties. The Mound City, which the Red Rover accompanied on the expedition, was hit by a Confederate shell. A boiler explosion scalded eight men, and another 43 died from other causes. In the aftermath of the Mound City disaster, the Red Rover accepted 37 patients.
The USS Red Rover was intended to support General Grant’s campaign but instead served as a hospital ship for the brown-water navy, as the gunboats and steamers were dubbed.
Because of her large holds, the Red Rover also supplied ice to the gunboats. It was also used in various medical treatments at the time, most notably in the treatment of fevers. Disease outbreaks were common in the swampy terrain along the Mississippi. During the spring and summer of 1863, many of those treated aboard were infected with malaria and yellow fever.
No one but those who have witnessed it can comprehend the sufferings our sick have been exposed to by the absence of proper accommodations on board the gunboats and by the necessity for frequent and sometimes hasty change of place. The arrival of the Red Rover will put a stop to all this.Charles H. Davis, Flag Officer US Navy
(Source: Civil War Med)
The First Hospital Ship in American History
Red Rover, who served in the Union Army and the Union Navy, relied on military and volunteer medical personnel. The Western Sanitary Commission began her conversion to a hospital boat in St. Louis, Missouri, and finished it in Cairo, Illinois, with sanitation and comfort in mind.
Red Rover was ready for service on June 10, 1862. Captain McDaniel of the Army’s Gunboat Service was her commanding officer. George H. Bixby, an assistant surgeon, was promoted to Surgeon in Charge.
On June 11, Red Rover received her first patient, a cholera patient, and an American Union seaman named David Sans from the gunboat USS Benton. She became the first patient taken aboard the first hospital ship in American history. (Source: Civil War Med)