Caring for the Wounded

From the Civil War's earliest days through its darkest hours, York played an important role in the Union cause. After turning the York Fairgrounds into a training camp during the opening weeks of the Civil War, the U.S. Army built temporary barracks on Penn Common to house the thousands of new volunteers. A year later, York's operations shifted from training raw recruits to treating the wounded. An army hospital was established at Penn Common and the first 19 patients arrived on July 1, 1862.

As the Confederate Army approached in June 1863, most of York's convalescents were moved to a temporary infirmary in nearby Columbia. Those too sick to travel remained with Dr. Henry Palmer, the surgeon in charge of the York hospital. The Army of Northern Virginia captured him and his patients as prisoners of war. Palmer managed to escape, and aided the wounded from the Gettysburg battlefield in York's army hospital.