This watercolor scene of a Confederate hospital ward features a woman in a straw boater reading to a patient to help lift his spirits, while another woman helps tend to the wounded soldier in the next bed. Both white and black women served as caregivers at Confederate hospitals. "I sometimes wonder if I am the same person who was afraid to look at a dead person for I have no timidity and hardly any sensibility left," Phoebe Pember, a matron at Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond, wrote to her sister in 1863. "After the Battle of Fredericksburg I stood by and saw men's fingers and arms cut off and held the brandy to their lips, washing the wounds myself." After witnessing the agonizing death of one wounded soldier at Chimborazo, the attending doctor wrote his official report on the patient, and then scribbled beneath it in heavy pencil, "War is Hell."
This watercolor, titled In the Hospital, 1861, was painted by the Confederate veteran and artist William Ludwell Sheppard.