Hospital & Mess Hall

Hospital & Mess Hall (HM88P)

Location: Philadelphia, PA 19153 Philadelphia County
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Country: United States of America
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N 39° 52.579', W 75° 12.684'

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ca. 1820

Report from the Fort
21 January 1802 · Major J. J. Ulrich Rivardi

Out of the fort is the hospital composed of three small rooms 12 feet by 25, it is a good wooden building, but too small.

Another two-room wooden building and an apothecary shop inside the fort also served medical needs at the time. An order for various medical supplies "to treat the sick at the fort" dated 10 May 1801 probably replenished stock at the apothecary shop. The medicines requested are listed below and have been linked with the ailments for which these natural substances were used.

Also requested were three demijohns, pots, black bottles, 6 yards of muslin, and one double steel spring truss. Such supplies show that medicines and bandages were prepared at the fort to suit the needs of the sick and injured.

A new hospital was built after 1819 following the submission of plans by both the surgeon and Major William Linnard, commander at the time. The first floor had three rooms, with separate entrances and fireplaces for the doctor, matron, and convalescents. The second floor featured two hospital rooms and a third room that was divided for a steward and dispensary. During the fort renovations of 1835-39, a one-room wooden kitchen wing with a large fireplace and built-in stoves to hold large vessels was added at the west end. This allowed for a dual usage of the building for both feeding the garrison and tending the sick.

In 1863 during the Civil War, Surgeon S. Murphey reported that he had 25 hospital beds with room for ten more. Twelve rebel prisoners were patients and nine soldiers were confined to the barracks with slight ailments.


Lack of good water for patients and soldiers was the doctor's biggest concern, and he suggested piping in fresh water.

The battle against rising or dirty water and to procure clean water was never ending. Wells on the mainland putrified, or were restricted, causing the river or moat to be the only water source. When stagnation, refuse, and privy runoff caused contamination of the water supply, dysentery and diarrhea became a common illness. Two incidents and a resolution were reported by Major Rivardi:

15 July 1801
Every officer in the fort has been more or less attacked with a kind of dysentery ascribed by the surgeon to the bad quality of the water which we are forced to drink. Please ? procure for the purpose of making a purifying machine for the use of the troops 500 feet of good two-inch pine plank, 25 feet long and 175 feet of pine boards.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Apparently this requisition to the superintendent of military stores was not fulfilled.

November 1801
I drank well water as well as the officer and we now are all laid up ? Should the Secretary of War disapprove the expenditure ? I shall cheerfully pay it myself ? I write in great hurry and with a violent headache - please therefore to excuse the inaccuracies and to believe me with great respect dear sir.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Major Rivardi succeeded in creating a water filtering system for his troops, but the drinking water problem was not resolved until a cistern was installed in the 1870s near the hospital.

The Mess Hall that was added to the end of the hospital by 1836 was probably put to immediate use. The laborers and craftsmen contracted by the army engineers to rebuild the fort lived on-site in the quarters available. Accounts for the renovation of the fort in 1836 identify the provisions and costs for the year. Unfortunately statistics on the number of people fed were not supplied.

38 LBS Flour $416.50
29 LBS Pork $577.50
1807 LBS Sugar $194.27
806 LBS Coffee $108.97
1 Sack Salt $2.37
503 LBS Rice $22.88
712 LBS Codfish $26.73
8 LBS Mackrel $65.45
1 Bu 10 LBS Malt & Hops $4.40
134 QTS Molasses $58.24
31 LBS Saltbeef $392.00
1220 LBS Fresh Beef $85.40
94 BU Potatoes $49.00
511 Pilot Bread $31.29
8 LBS Beans $21.69
79 GALS Vinegar $10.74
10.5 Oil $14.09

54 LBS Candles $6.53
132 LBS Soap $7.75
HM NumberHM88P
Placed ByFort Mifflin Historic Site
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Wednesday, October 1st, 2014 at 1:00pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 481922 N 4414051
Decimal Degrees39.87631667, -75.21140000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 39° 52.579', W 75° 12.684'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds39° 52' 34.74" N, 75° 12' 41.04" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)215
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 474-536 Fort Mifflin Rd, Philadelphia PA 19153, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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