4. “Campbell U.S. Genl. Hospital, Washington, D.C.,” Charles Magnus, hand-colored lithograph, image and text 30 x 43 cm., on sheet 36 x 55 cm. (Washington, D.C., c. 1864). Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts.Of the Washington hospitals Whitman visited and documented during the Civil War, Armory Hospital received the greatest attention. The hospital was proximate to the Seventh Street steamboat landing, as well as the Washington and Alexandria Railroad station, and, as Martin B. Murray notes, “took the most severely injured—and suffered the highest death rate of any area facility.” A letter Whitman wrote to his mother, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, on June 30, 1863, reads: “I devote myself much to Armory Square Hospital because it contains by far the worst cases, most repulsive wounds, has the most suffering & most need of consolation—I go every day without fail, & often at night—sometimes stay very late—no one interferes with me, guards, doctors, nurses, nor any one—I am let to take my own course.” In contrast to Armory, a “model” hospital built for the purpose it served, Campbell U.S. General (another hospital Whitman visited) had originally served as cavalry barracks. Situated at Florida Avenue and Sixth Street, the barracks were later adapted to serve as a makeshift hospital. Following the war, as Murray notes, the barracks “housed Freedmen’s Hospital, forerunner to the Howard University Hospital.”


Welcome to Commonplace, a destination for exploring and exchanging ideas about early American history and culture. A bit less formal than a scholarly journal, a bit more scholarly than a popular magazine, Commonplace speaks—and listens—to scholars, museum curators, teachers, hobbyists, and just about anyone interested in American history before 1900. It is for all sorts of people to read about all sorts of things relating to early American life—from architecture to literature, from politics to parlor manners. It’s a place to find insightful analysis of early American history as it is discussed in scholarly literature, as it manifests on the evening news, as it is curated in museums, big and small; as it is performed in documentary and dramatic films and as it shows up in everyday life.

In addition to critical evaluations of books and websites (Reviews) and poetic research and fiction (Creative Writing), our articles explore material and visual culture (Objects); pedagogy, the writing of literary scholarship, and the historian’s craft (Teach); and diverse aspects of America’s past and its many peoples (Learn). For more great content, check out our other projects, (Just Teach One) and (Just Teach One African American Print).


How to cite Commonplace articles:

Author, “Title of Article,” Commonplace: the journal of early American life, date accessed, URL.

Sophie White, “Trading Looks Race, Religion and Dress in French America,” Commonplace: the journal of early American life, accessed September 30, 2019,


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