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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Revisiting Camp Hobson


Clara Barton

Earlier this week Douglasville Patch was so kind to re-run my column from 2011 regarding
Camp Hobson in Lithia Springs….a military camp used during the Spanish-American War.

While I strive to get the whole story with each and every column I write I often stumble across additional sources or bits and pieces of information after I’ve published something.   In this case I recently came across a mention of Lithia Springs in Clara Barton’s book The Red Cross in Peace and War.

Yes!   Clara Barton.   THAT Clara Barton you remember from your history classes!

Clara Barton was the founder of the American Red Cross in 1881.   The website for the Atlanta chapter of the American Red Cross advises…..Miss Barton’s most significant act during her closing years as head of the American Red Cross was to take Red Cross supplies and services to Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Miss Barton….went to Cuba with her nursing corps, medical supplies, and food.  Aid was given to the American forces, to prisoners of war, and to Cuban refugees. This effort was the first step toward the broad programs of service to the armed forces and to civilians during wartime that have become traditional in the American Red Cross.

The Atlanta chapter of the Red Cross per Ms. Barton’s book was also involved with providing meals at an emergency camp that was set up in Lithia Springs, Georgia.

Camp Hobson was set up to provide a place for patients to basically escape after Typhoid broke out at Fort McPherson early in August, 1898.  Camp Hobson was short-lived, but because it existed it may have saved the lives of the men who were sent there.

In her book Ms. Barton mentions a report that was sent to her regarding the camp.  Ms. Barton states:

At Camp Hobson, Lithia Springs, Georgia, a diet kitchen was also maintained under the direction of Miss Julia McKinley, assisted by the Atlanta Committee of the Red Cross, of which the following account is received:   The diet kitchen was opened here on Monday, August 9, and remained in operation three weeks; at the expiration of which time the camp broke up.  During the first week after the kitchen was established, when detachments from the Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Twenty-Fifth regiments were in camp, 1,176 meals were served.

The next week orders were received for the removal of the Eighth and part of the other regiments to Montauk Point, consequently the number of convalescents was reduced, but during the second and third week 2,066 meals were served, making a total of 3,242 meals served at the table and in the hospital during the time the kitchen was in operation.  The meals were furnished to convalescents in the hospital, men relieved from duty but not sick enough to be in the hospital, and to the hospital corps.  

The report then went on to describe the various foods served including many of the same things any hospital kitchen serves – breakfast cereals, milk, eggs, toast, bouillons, rice, etc. – before continuing:

The only paid help were two men and one woman, the latter lived near the camp and reported for duty at the first meal call and remained until dining tent and kitchen were in order. 

This last sentence confirms something I had wondered when I first researched the subject regarding the citizens of Douglas County…..if they helped or volunteered in some way.   I certainly would like to know the names of the individuals, but sometimes points of history are lost for all time. 

While the Douglas County workers are not named members of the Atlanta Red Cross Society were mentioned in the next portion of the report.

The other work in the kitchen was graciously done by Atlanta members of the Red Cross Society assisted by Mrs. Edward H. Barnes, Mrs. Loulie Gordon Roper (niece of General J.B. Gordon), Miss Emmie McDonnell, Miss Estelle Whelen, Mrs. George Boykin Saunders, all of Atlanta, and the ladies from the Sweetwater Park Hotel, who came over daily from the hotel, about half a mile distant from the camp, and assisted in serving table meals, also in carrying delicacies to hospitals and distributed flowers among the patients.

It affords us pleasure to acknowledge the uniform courtesy of the army officials, especially the commandant Major Thomas Wilhelm, Chief Surgeon Major E.L. Swift, Assistant Surgeons Street, Baker, and Johnson and Lieutenant Norman, Quartermaster.

Major Wilhelm had our kitchen built and fly ten for dining hall put up in a few hours after our arrival; detailed men to help wherever needed in kitchen and with finest courtesy assured us of his appreciation of what was done to add to the comfort of his sick and convalescent men.
Besides regular kitchen work at Camp Hobson, the Red Cross furnished for a short time to the hospitals one special nurse….Miss McKinley….and one trained nurse….Miss McLain, who remained until our last patients were sent to Fort McPherson General Hospital and went with them in the hospital train, ministering to their wants until they were transferred to their respective wards there.

In this connection we think proper to state that many of our Camp Hobson patients now in Fort McPherson Hospital, one of the best equipped and best managed hospitals in the country, assure us that they can never forget the unfailing kindness of Chief Surgeon Swift and assistants the faithful care of their Red Cross nurses, nor the delicacies furnished by the diet kitchen at Camp Hobson.

Even though I have looked at the pictures and visited with all of the historical documents and accounts through my research it is still difficult to realize that not only was Lithia Springs home to a magnificent hotel during 1898 but also played host to a military camp with a thousands of soldiers.

But...the hotel WAS there and so were the soldiers.  

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