Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas, 1864


On Christmas Day in 1864, this festive dinner was prepared for 4,500 Union soldiers at Satterlee General Hospital, then the largest army hospital in the country. Comprising rows of wood-frame wards and hundreds of tents, the sprawling 15-acre facility in Philadelphia included a library, a reading room, and a printing shop that may well have produced this menu card with an illustration of the hospital on the back, as shown below. Satterlee was bounded roughly by 40th and 44th Streets, near Baltimore Avenue, in a sparsely-developed area about a half mile west of the Schuylkill River. The holiday feast was provided courtesy of Dr. and Mrs. Milton Egbert, whose farm in northwestern Pennsylvania happened to be situated at the epicenter of the nation’s first oil-producing region. In 1859, these pioneer wells yielded only a few thousand barrels, but production quickly ramped up during the Civil War, making the lucky Egberts immensely wealthy. At the time, it was said that no parcel of land in the United States of equal size had yielded a larger financial return than their farm on Oil Creek. 

 A few months after the war ended in 1865, the hospital was closed and the buildings razed. During its four-year existence, more than 50,000 wounded soldiers were treated at Satterlee, where a remarkable record was achieved in saving lives. Thirty years later, the lower portion of the grounds was turned into Clark Park, a municipal green that now hosts Philadelphia’s largest year-round farmers’ market. 

1 comment:

deana sidney said...

Have a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. How nice that the farmer's new found wealth found a good cause and paid for the hungry soldiers to have a good Christmas dinner. That's quite a menu.