To bring to the inmates cheer, comfort, and enlightenment on the news and personalities of the war, and the war activities in the City of Annapolis, The Crutch was published. During its entire existence three different men served as publishers and editors, Charles N. Burnham, Alonzo Colby, and Charles Boswell. Whether these men were civilians, doctors, chaplains, or army officers on duty in Annapolis, the writer has not been able to learn.
The first issue of this little sheet appeared on January 9, 1864, and it appeared regularly each week until May 6, 1865, seventy issues in all. Unfortunately the Library of Congress possesses only a broken file of this publication, their first number bearing the date of May 28, 1864. On the top of the front page of the December 10th issue in faded, almost illegible pencil writing are the words, "Office, U. S. Sanitary Commission." It is just possible that the Library secured their entire file from this office. There are likely to be stray numbers of the paper hidden away in attics in many places in the North, for its readers and subscribers hailed from every loyal state, but if there are such numbers the writer does not know of them.
On the front page of each issue above the date line appears a woodcut of an eagle with wings outspread, a banner in his mouth bearing the legend, "E Pluribus Unum." Under it in large block letters is the title The Crutch, each letter being embellished with the Stars and Stripes. In the first left-hand column the reader is advised that this is a
Weekly news and literary paper devoted to the interests of the Soldier. Published on Saturday each week at the U.S.A. General Hospital, Div. No.1, Annapolis, Md. Terms of subscription:
One copy, one year, $2.00; single copy, .05; any one taking five copies for three months will be entitled to an advertisement of three lines for one insertion.
Each issue gives the names of the medical and surgical staff, the names of the chaplains and directress of nurses, as well as information concerning weekly religious services, hours of outgoing and incoming mail, and regulations governing the admittance of visitors to the hospital. The head surgeon and medical director was Dr. B. A. Vanderkrift, the head chaplain was the Rev. H. C. Henries, and Miss Maria M. C. Hall was the head nurse. The hospital was divided into five sections of 38 wards in all, with a surgeon in charge of each section. A sixth section was maintained at Horn Point, now a part of the village of Eastport, and was used solely for patients sick with contagious or communicable diseases.
The Chaplain announced in each issue that he conducted religious services each Sabbath at two o'clock and again at seven, with a prayer meeting on Wednesday evening. On Thursday evening he conducted a Bible class. A library was maintained for the soldiers and was open each morning and afternoon, 10 hours a day. This library, by the way, had no connection with the Library of the Naval Academy, for the books of the latter had been boxed up and shipped to Newport with the midshipmen, where they were kept in the casemates of Fort Adams for the duration of the war. The hospital library was made up of books and magazines purchased for the use of the soldiers, and of which the Academy today possesses not a single trace. A smaller hospital was maintained at Camp Parole, a camp maintained for Union soldiers 3 miles west of Annapolis. Soldiers kept at this camp had all been at one time or another captured by the Confederates and paroled again into Union hands. This meant that the soldiers had been released from prison on the solemn promise of their government not to use them in warfare against the Confederacy until they had been regularly exchanged for an equal number of Confederate prisoners held in Northern prisons. Still another hospital was maintained at Annapolis Junction.
The paper abounds in poetry, essays, and editorials clipped from newspapers all over the North, as well as news and comment on the current war situation, and local activities. The name of each commissioned and noncommissioned officer admitted to or released from the hospital is listed as well as the names of all deceased, whether officers or privates. These unfortunates were buried in the National Cemetery still to be seen on the western outskirts of Annapolis. In many cases the friends of the departed sent for the body and it was buried in some home cemetery in the North.
The advertisements published on the last page of The Crutch are not the least interesting of its features, for they reveal the prosperous state of local trade during the war years and show the names and locations of some of the business houses of the day. Here are some examples:
U. S. Sanitary Commission Home at Annapolis, Md. on Tabernacle Street [now known as College Avenue] opposite St. Ann's Episcopal Church on the left leading from the R.R. Station to the State House.
(The U. S. Sanitary Commission performed a work similar in most respects to that of the Red Cross in the World War.)
Magruder & Brother, at their new stores, Conduit Street, opposite the City Hotel, offer to their customers and the public at large an well-selected assortment of Fancy & Staple Drygoods, Groceries, Boots & Shoes, Hats and Caps, Hardware, Stationery, Paints, Glass, China & Earthenware…They desire to call particular attention to their line of goods suited to military men.
B. Weile, dealer in City-made Boots and Shoes, Military Vests, Leggings, Pants, Overcoats, Caps, Pistols, Cartridges, Pipes, Tobacco, Segars. Main St., nearly opposite the City Hotel (next door to the American House) on the left hand Ride of the street going down.
J. Bernstein, Watchmaker and Jeweler, on the left or north side of Main Street, also Military Clothing, Boots and Shoes.
Look here!! the subscribers take pleasure in announcing to the soldiers and the public in general that they have for sale a quantity of letter paper with lithographed headings of 1). S. General Hospital, Divisions Nos. 1 and 2 and College Green Barracks. A great deal of pains has been taken to secure true and correct pictures. Persons desiring to send home to their friends pictures the above places can secure them by applying to Schwank & Schwab, No. 11 Main Street. P.S. Pictures of Camp Parole, large size and letter heading, will be ready in a few days.
Holland House Restaurant. Head of Main Street. Particular attention paid to getting up terrapin dishes.
Billiards and Bagatelle all Main Street, opposite City Hotel. Transparency in front of the building. Entrance in the rear.
But the prize ad of them all:
American House, Main Street, Annapolis. Everybody knows the American House is the best in the city. Everybody knows that you can get your meal there at any hour of the day. Everybody knows that at the American House you can get anything you want to refresh the inner man—all served in the very best style. Everybody knows that the accommodations of the American House are as good as any in the City. Everybody knows that the American House is the cheapest the City. Let everybody then come.
On June 9, 1864, the officers convalescing at the hospital held a mock presidential convention to while away the tedium of the hospital routine. The Republican National Convention that nominated Lincoln for the second time was then in session in Baltimore, and naturally was one of the chief topics of conversation among the soldiers, Not all the participants were physically able to attend the meeting so tellers were appointed to go from ward to ward to collect the votes who was nominated we do not know for at this point some unkind soul had dipped out the remainder of the news item.
For a time the editor maintained column known as the "Weekly Review." In the June 11 issue, a reporter writes in this column of sauntering outside the hospital gates one evening with the intention of feasting his eyes on some of the examples of colonial architecture still so prevalent in Annapolis. He found, instead, a long, low frame structure opposite the post office, and asserting his rights as a member of the press, entered and found in full blast a fair given by the women of the Presbyterian Church. The reporter found the "Eatables excellent, the ladies lovely, their ice cream was honest and genuine, each plate being graced with a conscientious allowance of strawberries. In the column he goes on to tell that
On Saturday two of the ladies connected with our Hospital called on President Lincoln and presented him with a copy of The Crutch, giving him a complete history of its origin and success. He seemed very much pleased, though strange to say, it failed to remind him of anything he had ever heard.
Perhaps the weary War President's failure to respond with a selection from his inexhaustible fund of stories was due to the bloody defeat of General Grant's army at Cold Harbor the week before, and the desperate situation of affairs filled his mind to the exclusion of less weighty matters.
The same issue of June 11 published the quarterly report of the Hospitals for Federal Prisoners furnished by the Surgeon General, C S. A.; 2,779 hospital cases were reported with 1,396 deaths. The editor waxed very indignant over the report, for there was a rising wave of indignation in the North over the appalling death rate in the prisons of the South.
A copy of a letter picked up in the Wilderness by a Union soldier sheds a little light on how the lukewarmness of Maryland toward the Southern cause was coming to be regarded in the Confederacy, It had evidently been written to a Confederate soldier by his sister. It reads in part:
At home, April 30, 1864.
Do send me a new song. I have worn "Dixie" all out, and we don't sing "My Maryland" now. I'm dying for something new…
Your affectionate sister,
On Monday evening June 13, Captain A. Calhoun of the First Kentucky Cavalry told of his escape with a large group of fellow-prisoners from Libby Prison by means of the famous tunnel. His talk or address was delivered at the State House before a large crowd. From this time on The Crutch frequently expresses deep indignation at the emaciated condition of ex-prisoners landed at the Academy wharf.
On Monday, June 20, the steamer Connecticut arrived from theJames River bringing 600 wounded. (Probably these men fell at Cold Harbor.) "The Stretcher Corps labored until four o'clock Tuesday morning conveying them to the various words." Some of the barracks at Camp Parole were converted into a hospital to accommodate 8,000 men. The North was preparing for long casualty lists in the fighting of the terrible summer of 1864.
On Wednesday (June 22) quite a stir was created in the literary world by the appearance of a new paper published in St. John's College Hospital, called The Haversack. It is stored with rich mental food adapted to all tastes, and if its future career is as brilliant as its debut, we predict for it unbounded success, popularity, and patronage.
If there is a single copy of The Haversack still in existence we would like to know of it. The Crutch never again mentions its rival.
An irreverent private, devoid of grace, from the 123d Ohio Volunteers furnished the following Biblical paraphrase to add spice and humor to The Crutch's pages: (It appeared in the issue of August 6):
Man that is born of woman and enlisted in the 123d Ohio is of few days and short of rations.
He draweth his rations the commissary and devoureth the same. He striketh his teeth against much hardtack and is satisfied. He filleth his canteen with applejack, and clappeth the mouth thereof upon the bung of a whisky barrel, and after a little while goeth away rejoicing in his strategy.
He covenanteth with the credulous farmer for many turkeys and chickens, also, at the same time for much milk and honey, to be paid for promptly at the end of each ten days, and lo! his regiment marcheth away upon the ninth day to another post.
His tent is filled with potatoes, cabbages, turnips, kraut and other delicate morsels of a delicious taste, which abound not in the Commissary Department, and many other things not in the "returns" and which never will return, and, yet of a truth it must be said of the soldier of the 123d Ohio that he taketh nothing that he cannot reach. He even playeth at euchre with the parson, to see whether or not there shall be preaching on the following Sabbath; and by dexterously drawing from the bottom a jack, goeth away rejoicing that the service is postponed.
The hospital maintained a hand for the pleasure of its patients, and a correspondent from the hospital at Horn Point tells of his enjoyment in listening to the stirring strains of music coming: over the Severn.
The issue of November 19 published an account of a great torchlight procession and Union meeting in Annapolis that took place on the evening of Monday, November 14. The procession was to celebrate the growing list of Union victories and the re-election of Abraham Lincoln. The enthusiastic reporter says that:
The inhabitants of the Ancient City probably never witnessed a display on so magnificent a scale since its inauguration and were doubtless (those patriotically and loyally inclined) jubilantwhile to the unpatriotic and disloyal it must have caused chagrin. The procession formed at the rifle-pits at the termination of West Street (the western outskirts of the city) at about six o'clock. A company of the Provost Guard led the column followed by staff officers from Camp Parole and the General Hospital.
There was a band, a fire engine, a long line of men from the hospitals, and another from Camp Parole. The line of march given in detail followed approximately the line of march taken by processions at the present day and wound up at Market Square, where a display of fireworks entertained the crowd, after which the meeting was called to order by Colonel Adrian Root, Military Commander of Annapolis. Addresses were made by number of the city's most prominent citizens.
On December 5, the
Largest funeral ever known in any hospital in the country, and the saddest spectacle ever presented; at ten in the morning the ambulances, thirteen in number, containing 43 bodies of paroled men, many of whom had died on the passage thither, drew up in line before the Chapel, attended by guards, all preceded by the Hospital Band, with muffled drums, playing a solemn dirge.
These unfortunates were all buried in the Army Cemetery on West Street. In December long lists of the names of men were published who had come to Annapolis from Savannah, Georgia, by flag-of-truce boats.
From this time on there is a tone of cheer in The Crutch. There was evidence in plenty that the long and fratricidal war was about over. The January 28 issue reports a visit by three of the officers who had made Union success possible. These men were General Grant, General Meade, and Admiral Farragut, with their staffs. The issue of February 25, 1865, records: "This past week has been one of unusual rejoicing over Sherman's triumphs in Georgia and the Carolinas and the restoration of the Stars and Stripes over Fort Sumter!” These events gave the sick and wounded veterans much cause for cheer and hope that soon they might go home to their families.
The April 15 issue reports the reception of the news in Annapolis of General Lee's surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia to General Grant at Appomattox.
Grant's magnificent campaign has ended in perfect success, The evening of the 12th (Wednesday) was an occasion of great rejoicing in Annapolis. The streets were thronged with soldiers jubilant as boys on the Fourth of July. The public buildings were illuminated and many private dwellings were transformed into fairy temples of light, in the midst of which St. John's College Hospital shone conspicuous like a brilliant chandelier pendant in the darkness. The bands from Divisions Nos. 1 and 2 played alternately while rockets were flying in all directions from the steps and balcony of the State House.
In this florid style The Crutch described the end of the conflict. The Crutch is the best source of information about hospital life at Annapolis that the writer has seen. It is known that President Lincoln visited the hospital late the war and talked with former prisoners from Andersonville and other Southern prisons. Diaries and memoirs of soldiers occasionally mention a brief stay at the hospital or at Camp Parole. It is known too, that two Russian warships, the Almaz and the Variag, visited the place in the late winter of 1864, where one of the Russian seamen was killed in a saloon brawl. His body is still buried in the National Cemetery. During the war the Navy Department became so concerned over the destruction wrought by the Army of the natural beauty of the Naval Academy grounds that a naval officer was detailed here to do what was possible to avert the work of destruction. During the summer of 1865, as it became possible to move the patients, the hospital was gradually evacuated. The Naval Academy's Journal of the Officer-of-the-Day, for October 28, 1865, records tersely the last act of the Army's occupation of the city, "The steamer Escort from Washington is alongside the wharf this day to receive the last of the soldiers."