York’s U.S. Army Hospital
During the Civil War, Penn Park was the site of a regionally important U.S. Army Hospital, a sprawling complex of multiple wards, outbuildings, support structures, and a mortuary. A relief map depicting the camp’s general layout can be seen on a marker on the park’s northern edge along the sidewalk bordering Princess Street. Hundreds of wounded soldiers from Antietam and Fredericksburg occupied the beds over the winter of 1862-63, and a fair number of them were still in the hospital during the June-July 1863 Gettysburg Campaign. They had been joined by injured and ill soldiers from other battles.
Yorkers had decidedly mixed reactions to the presence of this hospital on Penn Commons. Many were ambivalent to neutral in their views towards the hospital and its contingent of Federal troops (the Patapsco Guards from Maryland) that protected it. There were several residents who warmly embraced the patients and helped care for their needs, while undoubtedly a few people resented the military presence.
Some patients later wrote about how they were treated – almost all of them positive in their remarks. One interesting tidbit comes from an unnamed soldier from the 23rd Pennsylvania (Birney’s Zouaves). Wounded at Antietam, he was still in the hospital when it was threatened by Confederates as they approached York in late June. He and many of his comrades left for Wrightsville, returning after the Rebels had departed York. He wrote, “The people of York were not of the Union loving kind before the rebs came, and the levies that were made upon them by the Confederates was rather a severe lesson to a sympathizer. If they did not relish the blue before, they did now, and we were heartily welcomed [upon our return to the hospital].”