York US Army Hospital patient wrote home 4 weeks before Rebels occupied facility
George D. Thomas hailed from Blair County, Pennsylvania. He joined the Union army on September 18, 1862, the day after the bloody battle of Antietam down in Maryland. Thomas mustered in as a private in Company H of the 110th Pennsylvania Infantry. He saw action at Fredericksburg later that year and again in 1863 at Chancellorsville.
He became a patient in the U. S. Army Hospital on Penn Common in downtown York, Pennsylvania. His father wrote him a letter, which he received on June 2, 1863, telling George that his mother had taken ill.
He responded the next day. He was trying to get a furlough from the surgeons (Dr. Henry Palmer and Dr. Alexander Blair) so he could go home to see his mom, but to no avail.
Here is the text of his brief letter to his father, courtesy of the Civil War Soldiers Letters and Diaries website.
I will inform you that I received your letter on the 2 and was glad to hear from you. I am about as usual but have to go to my Regt. I will leave here this week. I am sorry I can’t come home as mother is sick. I have been trying to get a furlough but can’t get one. When I go back to the field I expect to see some more fighting but will have to run my chances of the risks that a soldier is liable to have. I want you not to fret about me. I will try and come home safe. I will not write long lines this time but will write as soon as I get to my Regt. Nothing more this time but remain your affectionate son.
P.S. Please [do] not write again till you hear from me again.
It is not certain if George ever made it home to see his parents or not. He did rejoin his regiment in the field later that summer. His health continued to be rather poor, and on November 23, 1863, he entered the Columbian Hospital in Washington, DC, suffering from chronic diarrhea. He was assigned bed #6949.
His sister Rebecca Rigeal wrote him on February 1, 1864, stating “I have not much to write brother for I hardly know what to write to you as you are not well. We have been very uneasy for the last week for we have not heard anything from you since last Friday… If you are not able to write to us get some one to write for you.”
No return letter is known to exist.
Private George D. Thomas died of his disease on March 26, 1864, just one of some 700,000 casualties of the American Civil War.