USS Red Rover  

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Red Rover

(SwStr.: t. 786; 1. 256'; dr. 8'; s. 8 k.; cpl. 47; medical dept.
30+; a. 1 32-pdr.)

Red Rover, the Navy's first hospital ship, was a side wheel steamer built in 1859 at Cape Girardeau, Mo. Purehased by the Confederaey 7 November 1861, she served as C.S.S. Red Rover (see II, 560), a barracks ship for the floating battery Neu' Orleans. At Island No. 10, near New Madrid, Mo., from 15 March l 8fi2, she was holed during a bombardment of that island sometime before 25 March and abandoned as a quarters ship.

When the island fell to Union forces on 7 April, Red Rover was seized by the Union gunboat Mound City, repaired, and taken to St. Louis. There she was fitted out as a summer hospital boat for the Army's Western Flotilla to augment li~nited Union medical facflities, to minimize the hazards to sick and wounded in fighting ships, and to ease the problems of transportation—delivery of medical supplies to and evacuation of personnel from forward areas.

Steamers, such as City of Memphis, were being used as hospital transports to carry casualties upriver, but they lacked necessary sanitary accommodations and medical staffs, and thus were unable to prevent the spread oi disease.

Rapid mobilization at the start oi the Civil War had vitiated efforts to prevent the outbreak and epidemic communication Of disease on both sides oi the conflict. Vaccination was slow sanitation and hygiene u-ere generally poor. Overworked military medical personnel were assisted by voluntary societies coordinated by the Sanitary Commission founded in June 1861. But by 1865 typhoid iever, typhus, dysentery, diarrhea, cholera, smallpox, measles, and malaria would elalm more lives than gunshot.

Red Rover, serving first with the Army, then with the Navy drew on both military and voluntary medical personnel. Her conversion to a hospital boat, begun at St. Louis and eompleted at Cairo, Ill., u-as accomplished uith both sanitation and comfort in mind. A separate operating room was installed and equipped. A galley was put below, providing separate kitchen facilities for the patients. The cabin aft was opened for better air circulation. A steam boiler was added for laundry purposes. An elevator, numerous bathrooms, nine water closets, and gauze windou blinds ". . . to keep einders and

smoke from annoying the sick" were also included in the work.

Barges, housed over or covered with canvas, were ordered for the eare of contagious diseases, primarily smallpox, and were moored in shady spots along the river.

On 10 June 1862, Red Rover was ready for service. Her commanding officer was Captain MeDaniel of the Army's Gunboat Service. Assistant Surgeon George H. Bixby became Surgeon in Charge.

On 11 June, Red Rover received her first patient, a cholera victim. By the 14th she had 55 patients. On the 17th, Mound City exploded during an engagement with Confederate batteries at St. Charles, Ark. Casualties amounted to 135 out of a complement of 175. Red Rover, dispatched to assist in the emergency, took on board extreme burn and wound eases at Memphis and transported them to les6 crowded hospitals in Illinois

From Mound City, Ill., the hospital boat moved downstream again and joined the Western Flotilla above Vieksburg. Through the summer she treated siek and wounded of the flotilla and the Ram Fieet engaged at Vieksburg and along the Mississippi to Helena, Ark. While off the latter point, she caught fire, but, with assistance from the gunboat Benton, extinguished the blaze and continued her work.

In September 1862, Red Rover, still legally under the jurisdiction of an Illinois prize court, was sent to Cairo, III. to be winterized. On the 30th, she was purchased by the Navy

The next day, the vessels of the Western Flotilla, with their officers and men, were transferred to the Navy Department and became the Mississippi Squadron under acting Rear Adm. David D. Porter. The Navy Medical Department of Western Waters was organized at the same time under Fleet Surg. Edward Gilehrist.

In December Red Rover, used during the fall to alleviate crowded medical facilities ashore, was ready for service on the river. On the 26th, she was commissioned under the command of Acting Master William R. Wells, USN. Her complement was 47, while her medical department, remaining under Assistant Surgeon Bixby, was initially about 30. Of that number, three were Sisters of the Order of the Holy Cross. Later joined by a fourth member or their order and assisted by lay nurses' aides, they were the forerunners oi the Navy Nurse Corps.

The work oi these and other volunteers was ecordinated by the Western Sanitation Commission, which also donated over $3,000 worth oi equipment to the ship.

In December 1862 Fleet Surg. Ninian A. Pinckney relieved Fleet Surg. Edwald Gilc}lris1. The administration and strict standards oi day-to-day activities oi the department were so well run under Pinekney from his headquarters in Red Rover,that by 1865 he was able to write "there is less . . . sickness in the Fleet than in the healthiest portion of the globe."

On the 29th, Red Rover headed downstream. During January 1863, she served with the expedition up the White River. As thc expedition took the Port of Arkansas (Fort Hindman), she remained at the mouth of the river to receive the u ounded. On her departure, she was fired on and two shots penetrated into the hospital area, but no casualties resulted.

From February to the fall of Vicksburg early in July, she eared for the siek and wounded of that campaign and supplemented her medical support of Union forces by provisioning other ships of the Mississippi Squadron with fee and fresh meat. She also provided burial details and sent medical personnel ashore when and where needed.

Red Rover continued her service along the river, taking on sick and wounded and delivering medicine and supplies, until the fall of 1864. In October of that year, she began her last supply run; and, after delivering medical stores to ships at Helena and on the White, Red, and Yazoo Rivers, she transferred patients to Hospital Pinckney at Memphis and headed north. Arriving at Mound City on 11 December, she remained there, earing for Navy patients, until she was decommissioned on 17 November 1865. Having admitted over 2,400 patients during her career, she transferred her last 11 to Grampus on that date. On 29 November she was sold at public auction to A. M. Carpenter.