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February 12, 2018

Saint Francis Xavier Church, Gettysburg, Serves as Hospital for the Battle of Gettysburg Casualties

Saint Francis Xavier church, Gettysburg, and other local churches served as temporary hospitals for casualties from the Battle of Gettysburg. Sisters of Charity from Saint Joseph College in Emmitsburg, Maryland, came to minister to the wounded and dying soldiers.

The sanctuary of the church served as the operating room for amputation cases. The injured lay on the pews, under the pews, and in the aisles. An entry from the annals of the Sisters of Charity describes the wretchedness: “The Catholic Church was filled with wounded, mutilated men …There was scarcely room to pass among them in the sanctuary and in the gallery. Their own blood, the water used for bathing their wounds, and all kinds of filth and stench added to their misery, for already gangrenous wounds had begun to infect the air.”

The church continued to serve as a hospital for several weeks in the aftermath of the battle. During these weeks Mass was celebrated in the home of a parishioner. A stained-glass window in the church pays tribute to the Sisters of Charity for their ministry to the battle casualties, both Union and Confederate.

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