Perryville Report from US Sanitary Commission:
Dr. A. N. Read -Inspector, U.S. Sanitary Commission
The United States Sanitary Commission was a civilian relief organization that improved the hygienic standards of Union camps and helped wounded soldiers. After the Battle of Perryville, Dr. A. N. Read of the Commission took supplies to Perryville in order to alleviate the suffering of the sick and injured. The Sanitary Commission was of great help to the wounded and sick in Perryville, Danville, and Harrodsburg. The Commission eventually sent more than ten tons of supplies to Perryville, which had been stripped of food and forage by the contending armies. As the Union army was woefully unprepared for the aftermath of the battle, the Sanitary Commission played a major role in feeding the troops and nursing many soldiers back to health. The following is an excerpt from Read's Perryville report.
Immediately on the reception of the news of the late battle, I took such measures as were in my power for the performance of our duty in the relief of the wounded . . . I obtained at once three Government wagons, and the promise of 21 ambulances, to be ready the day following. The wagons were loaded with stores from the Louisville [Sanitary] Commission, and started the same evening for Perryville . . ..
We found the first hospital for the wounded at [Mackville]. This was a tavern, with sixteen rooms, containing 150 wounded and 30 sick, mostly from a Wisconsin regiment. Twenty-five were on cots; some on straw; the others on the floor, with blankets.
The surgeon in charge-P. P. White of the 101st Indiana-had authority to purchase all things necessary. Flour was very scarce; cornmeal, beef, mutton, and chickens, plenty. There was no coffee, tea, or sugar, to be had. The cooking was all done at a fireplace, with two camp kettles and a few stew pans. The ladies of the town, however, were taking articles home and cooking them there, thus giving great assistance
From this place to Perryville, some ten miles, nearly every house was a hospital. At one log cabin we found 20 of the 10th Ohio, including the Major and two Captains. At another house were several of the 92nd Ohio; and the occupants were very poor, but doing all in their power for those in their charge. The mother of the family promised to continue to do so, but said, with tears in her eyes, she feared that she and her children must starve when the winter came. As at the other houses on this road, the sick had no regular medical attendance.
. . .We reached Perryville after dark . . .
On our arrival we learned that we were the first to bring relief where help was needed more than tongue can tell. Instead of 700, as first reported, at least 2,500 Union and rebel soldiers were at that time lying in great suffering and destitution about Perryville and Harrodsburg. In addition to these, many had already been removed, and we had met numbers of those whose wounds were less severe walking and begging their way to Louisville, 85 miles distant. To these we frequently gave help and comfort by sharing with them the slender stock of food and spirits we had taken with us.
There had been almost no preparation for the care of the wounded at Perryville, and as a consequence the suffering from want of help of all kinds, as well as proper accommodations, food, medicines, and hospital stores, was excessive . . . .
There were, at this time, some 1,800 wounded in and about Perryville. They were all very dirty, few had straw or other bedding, some were without blankets, others had no shirts, and even now, five days after the battle, some were being brought in from temporary places of shelter whose wounds had not yet been dressed. Every house was a hospital, all crowded, with very little to eat. At the Seminary building there was some fresh mutton, and a large kettle in which soup was being made. I left at this house a box of bandages, comfortables, shirts and drawers, and a keg of good butter. Three days after, at this hospital, I found that the surgeons had improvised bedsteads, and had provided comfortable beds for all their patients from the stores of the Sanitary Commission leaving Dr. Goddard to superintend the further distribution of supplies, on the 12th I went with Mr. Thomasson to Danville. We here found the wants of the sick as urgent as those of the wounded at Perryville. The Court-House was literally packed; many had eaten nothing during the day, most of them nothing since morning . . . .
As there were many [of the sick] who were without shelter, I looked around to find some building where they might be carried, and, at last, have a roof over their heads. After some search, a carriage shop was found which would answer the purpose. This belonged to a Mr. J. W. Welch. At my solicitation he opened it, had the carriages removed, and placed it at my disposal. I then procured two loads of straw, which was spread upon the floor, and two hundred men were brought in and laid upon it
Returning to Perryville, I had the satisfaction of seeing the condition of the wounded considerably improved, thanks to the untiring executions of the surgeons in charge, and the stores we had placed at their disposal . . . They are still, however, far too crowded, and their condition, in many respects, is susceptible of improvement. At the Seminary Hospital, the best of the series, there were seventy-nine wounded . . . These were all badly wounded. . .