Recreation and Rehabilitation
With over 600,000 people, Philadelphia was the southernmost northern metropolis, an industrial and financial powerhouse, and a major transportation terminus.
Philadelphia was host to tens of thousands of soldiers from throughout the northeast who came to Philadelphia for transportation south, by sea and by rail. Much as they had aided with recruitment, Philadelphians volunteered money, material, and time to establish the refreshment saloons where soldiers could relax and enjoy a hot meal. Our strong tradition of volunteer benevolent associations set the pattern, with male elites raising money and manning the boards of directors, and their wives doing the hands on labor. Soldiers praised the food and the hospitality and the efficiency of the female staff. The Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon often served up to 15,000 meals a day. The sick and the wounded also arrived here. Philadelphia was the nation’s major medical center and had over twenty hospitals in operation during the war years, from the eleven bed facility at the Cooper Shop Hospital to the 4,000-bed Mower Hospital in Chestnut Hill. About 157,000 men received medical care in Philadelphia’s hospitals.
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