During World War I (1914-1918), Fort Sheridan was at the forefront of mustering and training soldiers. Much of that training focused on mastering trench warfare, since the frontline in Europe was cluttered with the trenches of opposing armies.
As wounded soldiers returned from the war, the Fort shifted its priority from training soldiers to caring for them.
Postcard of soldiers convalescing at one of the wards at
Fort Sheridan's General Hospital No. 28, Lovell General Hospital, circa 1919.
Many of the injuries treated at the Fort were caused by innovations new to warfare such as airplanes and poison gas. More than 30% of American casualties were from poisonous gases which ranged from disabling chemicals (tear gas and severe mustard gas) to lethal agents (phosgene and chlorine). Gases blistered exposed flesh and caused rapid or, worse, gradual asphyxiation. Those fortunate enough to survive needed somewhere to convalesce.
The hospital at Fort Sheridan was built in 1893.
Pictured here circa 1930. BBDM 92.24.1384
In 1918, the Post’s hospital expanded its operations and was dedicated as Lovell General Hospital for General Joseph Lovell (1788-1836), Surgeon General of the U.S. Army from 1818-1836.
The hospital became a multi-building complex, including the entire Tower complex, and temporary, wooden structures were constructed on the Post’s parade grounds. This was the largest military hospital in the United States to treat wounded and convalescent soldiers.
View of Fort Sheridan looking northwest, showing the Tower and temporary
buildings for Lovell General Hospital across the parade grounds.
Circa 1920. BBDM 95.32.1
The "Trackless Train" at Fort Sheridan moved wounded between
hospital wards for treatment. Photo from the Chicago Tribune,
March 8, 1919.
Even with Lovell General Hospital and other facilities throughout the country, there were more casualties than the system could handle. In addition to treating veterans of the war, Lovell accepted civilians suffering from the Great Flu Epidemic.
In 1919, the Hostess House of the Young Women's
Christian Association was built at Fort Sheridan using
salvaged material. General Pershing, commander-in-chief of American
forces in Europe, is shown visiting Hostess House. The facility
provided a library and tea room which served homemade
meals to the soldiers. BBDM 95.32.24.
Paul Steorp of Deerfield Township, Lake County, IL, wearing gas mask,
served with the U.S. Army Ambulance Service. BBDM 2003.0.16
The war prompted an enormous expansion of the Army Medical Department.
When the U.S. entered the war the dept. consisted of less than 1,000 personnel,
and numbered over 350,000 when the peace treaty was signed in November 1918.
In 1920, the temporary structures of Lovell General Hospital were dismantled and sold, and the parade field returned to an open state.
The memory of the horrors of WW I prompted changes in training soldiers for future conflicts, including mandatory gas mask training.
2nd U.S. Infantry training in tear gas at Fort Sheridan,
circa 1925. BBDM 92.24.1015.
Soldiers entering a gas chamber built on the Fort's Lake Michigan
shoreline. Circa 1935. BBDM 92.24.1761.
Overseas during wartime, military personnel, nurses and civilians were legally required to carry gas masks at all times. Members of the Womens' Army Corps trained in the use of gas masks in simulation chambers as part of their coursework on chemical warfare and some studied gas identification in
. Officer Candidate School
WACs emerging from gas chamber training
at Fort Sheridan, 1964. BBDM 92.24.1202
To this day, researchers work to increase protection for military personnel against greater varieties of biological and chemical weapons.
The Bess Bower Dunn Museum's (formerly the Lake County Discovery Museum) digitized Fort Sheridan Collection is hosted online at the Illinois Digital Archives.