When the soldiers arrived at Montpelier’s first hospital in 1863, the Sloan U.S. Army Hospital, they had just emerged from the fields of a gruesome Civil War. Suffering from infection, typhoid fever, malnutrition and other diseases, they had been living and dying in “tent cities” near Washington and Philadelphia.
Vermont Governor J. Gregory Smith was under political pressure to get these “tent-city” boys back home, so with the cooperation of the U.S. Army, three pre-fabricated hospitals were built in the largest Vermont towns. One of these was the 496-cot Sloan U.S. Army Hospital built on what is now the campus of the Vermont College of Fine Arts. At the time, local and army physicians traveled to Philadelphia and Washington and brought back those soldiers who were expected to survive the trip home.
Sloan Hospital, by all accounts, was not a pleasant place: no electricity, water, insulation or indoor toilets. Heat consisted of several wood stoves. Local and army physicians did provide what care was available. Before it closed just 16 months later, 926 soldiers were treated, 619 returned to duty. The rest either died or went home. Eventually, the Hospital was razed.
After Sloan closed, the area had no hospitals of any kind. Patients were treated at home by doctors who traveled by horse and buggy. Patients who could travel came to the doctor’s office – a room or two in the physician’s home. At that time, there were few effective treatments for diseases. Things improved, however, as large city hospitals began to print medical journals on more specific and effective treatments of diseases, better treatments for fractures, lacerations, obstetrical problems and a few survivable surgical disorders.
Finally, in the 1890s, the area got its needed medical facilities: Heaton Hospital and later the Barre City Hospital were born. Both were precursors to the Central Vermont Medical Center, standing today.