Base Hospital 41

19 Aug

This week’s featured items have two unique features:

  1. They came to us from the other side of the world.
  2. They are the first items which were entered into our collection, and which we still have.

I’m going to level with you for a minute.  These items are being featured this week simply because they were at the top of the pile (see item #2 above).  Which isn’t to say that they aren’t interesting… in fact, quite the opposite.  I’m finding as I dive into the deep dark corners of collections storage that everything I touch has a story, and every story deserves to be told.  Whether it’s a rusty bolt, a child’s doll, or any of the million other varied items we have been charged with.  So in a state of overwhelming excitedness to share everything with you, I broke down and just grabbed the first thing I could find.  And it has an awesome story.

This first “thing” I could find was actually an entire collection, donated by Harry M. Wilson in the 1970s.  Wilson was from Charlottesville, enlisted with Base Hospital 41 during World War I, and after the war, donated a series of objects from his time in Europe to the Society.  These objects are quite varied, including French currency notes, a mess kit:



Shell shot casing:


And Shrapnel:



When I think of Charlottesville history, World War I is not the first thing that pops into my mind.   Nonetheless, two units from right here in little ole Cville played a part in the grand theatre of WWI.

The Monticello Guard, Charlottesville's other unit during WWI.

You see, after the United States entered World War I, Dr. William H. Goodwin proposed an organized unit of hospital workers from the University of Virginia to the Red Cross.  The proper authority was granted, and assigned the title of Base Hospital #41.  Dr. Goodwin soon learned he would be responsible for recruiting the doctors and nurses, as well as all supporting staff and necessary funds for this group.  The Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks stepped up, donating all the needed funds for this endeavor.

Troops of Base Hospital 41

Dr. William H. Goodwin selected 149 enlisted men and a handful of officers to serve in his troop, including our donor, Harry Wilson.  Of these numbers, 49 were UVA alumni or students.  In July 1918, after months of training, the group was sent to St. Denis, France (located near Paris) where they set up their work out of a school building.  Dormitories were converted into hospital wards, and by August they were fully functioning.  As time went on, the school-turned-hospital reached capacity and tent wards had to be established in the park outside the building.  In addition to dealing with the war-wounded, Base Hospital 41 had to contend with the influenza epidemic of 1918, during which both personnel and patients were attacked.  Finally, on November 11, 1918, the Armistice was signed, ending World War I.  At this time, nearly 3000 patients were in the hospital.  Within two and a half months, all the patients had been removed and the hospital was no more.  The unit was officially demobilized on May 1, 1919.

Further Reading

The Papers of Base Hospital 41, Accession #MS-17, Historical Collections, Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.


2 Responses to “Base Hospital 41”


  1. Charlottesville’s Last Ride (or “The Hungry Squirrels”) « - February 10, 2012

    […] might now be surprising, it is a pretty darn cool item.  Not everything can come all the way from France, guys… sheesh. Street Car Control Handle, 12" in height and 12" in diameter, wood […]

  2. The Monticello Guard, 1917 | Encyclopedia Virginia: The Blog - April 24, 2012

    […] second photo is undated but likely shows the same event. More on Charlottesville in the Great War here. (Holsinger Studio Collection, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University […]

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