Did You Miss the Latest Episode of 'Mercy Street'? Watch it Now!

Based on real events, PBS’s new Civil War drama Mercy Street follows a diverse and colorful cast of characters — doctors, nurses, contraband laborers and Southern loyalists — and brings to life the chaotic world of Union-occupied Alexandria, Virginia, and the Mansion House Hospital in the early years of the Civil War. Get caught up on Season 2 below and watch new episodes Sundays at 8PM on WSKG TV. Watch Season 2 | Episode 4

Watch Season 2 | Episode 3

Watch new episodes Sundays at 8PM on WSKG TV.

Historian James M. McPherson Discusses his Role as a Historical Consultant on 'Mercy Street'

Recently, noted Civil War historian James M. McPherson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Battle Cry of Freedom” (1988), visited Binghamton University to deliver the ninth annual Shriber Lecture. Professor McPherson sat down with WSKG History to discuss his career and Civil War history. In this clip from our interview, Professor McPherson discusses his involvement as a historical consultant on PBS’s Civil War medical drama MERCY STREET. MERCY STREET is currently in production on its second season. 

(The partial transcript below has been edited for clarity.)

Highlights from the interview
There were a half-dozen different historical consultants, each of them with a different expertise. My role was, as a Civil War historian, to make sure that they got the references to what was going on in the war… right.

PBS Announces Second Season of 'Mercy Street'.

In a press release today, PBS announced that it has given the greenlight to a second season of MERCY STREET, PBS’ first original drama in more than a decade. The first season, executive produced by Ridley Scott (The Martian, Gladiator, Thelma and Louise); David W. Zucker (“The Good Wife” and “The Man in the High Castle”) of Scott Free; Lisa Q. Wolfinger (“Desperate Crossing, The untold story of the Mayflower”) and David Zabel (“ER”), drew 5.7 million viewers for the January 17 premiere. Based on real events, MERCY STREET follows a diverse and colorful cast of characters — doctors, nurses, contraband laborers and Southern loyalists — and brings to life the chaotic world of Union-occupied Alexandria, Virginia, and the Mansion House Hospital in the early years of the Civil War. Season two picks up directly from the dramatic events at the end of the season one finale, continuing to explore the growing chaos within Alexandria, the complicated interpersonal dynamics of Dr. Foster, Nurse Mary and the Mansion House staff, the increasingly precarious position of the Green family and the changing predicament of the burgeoning black population. The season will introduce a number of new elements, taking us closer to the fight and into the halls of Confederate power, all set against the intensifying war, starting with the Seven Days’ Battle and culminating with Antietam. To ensure historical accuracy of the first season, the producers engaged a team of advisors headed by noted historian Dr. James M. McPherson and including leading experts on Civil War medicine, military history, African-American history, women in the Civil War era and more. The list of prominent historical advisors has been expended even further for the second season.

The Empty Sleeve: Amputees and the Civil War

Editor’s Note: WSKG has asked faculty and graduate students in the History Department at Binghamton University to explore the history behind PBS’s new drama Mercy Street. In today’s blog post, graduate student Erika M. Grimminger discusses the causes and effects of amputations during the Civil War. Note: this post contains a graphic illustration of gangrene. The Empty Sleeve: Amputees and the Civil War
In Episode 4 of Mercy Street, Ezra Foster , the brother of Union Doctor Jed Foster and a Confederate soldier, comes to Mansion House Hospital with a serious leg wound that requires amputating. Ezra Foster’s story represents the stories of thousands of soldiers who suffered though amputations during the American Civil War and returned home missing body parts. While these Union and Confederate soldiers luckily survived serious trauma, their reintegration into society and with their families after the war was, at best, a hard process of readjustment and, at worst, an almost impossible struggle.

Medical Care at Elmira Prison Camp

Editor’s Note: WSKG has asked faculty and graduate students in the History Department at Binghamton University to explore the history behind PBS’s new Civil War medical drama Mercy Street. In today’s blog post, graduate student Gary Emerson discusses the medical care at the Elmira Prison Camp. Medical Care at Elmira Prison Camp
Although medical care improved over the course of the Civil War, prisoners often received inadequate and sometimes negligent medical care in prison camps. When prisoner exchanges broke down in the summer of 1863, both the Union and Confederate armies began placing large numbers of captured men into prison camps. Both sides were unprepared for this turn of events, and what followed proved disastrous. In the summer of 1864, the Union established a prison camp in Elmira, New York to house captured Confederates.

The Battlefield is Hard on a Boy: Suicide in the Civil War

Editor’s Note: WSKG has asked faculty and graduate students in the History Department at Binghamton University to explore the history behind PBS’s new drama Mercy Street. In today’s blog post, Professor Diane Sommerville discusses the topic of suicide and the Civil War.  

Warning: this post contains spoilers. The Battlefield is Hard on a Boy: Suicide in the Civil War
In Episode 4 of Mercy Street, the daring escape of Confederate private Tom Fairfax ends with his suicide. Tom’s boyhood friend Frank Stringfellow spirits him out of Mansion House Hospital under cover of darkness and escorts him to nearby Confederate lines so that Tom can rejoin his regiment. As Frank prepares his departure, Tom begins muttering, looking pre-occupied and anxious.

Women, Abolitionism, and the Coming of the Civil War

Editor’s Note: WSKG has asked faculty and graduate students in the History Department at Binghamton University to explore the history behind PBS’s new drama Mercy Street. In today’s blog post, adjunct professor Kevin Murphy discusses the important role women played in the Abolition Movement. Women, Abolitionism, and the Coming of the Civil War
While the miniseries Mercy Street largely focuses on the practices of wartime medicine, the creative team behind the show also exposes viewers to the integral role women played in nineteenth-century reform. In the show’s opening scene, Mary Phinney (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a transplanted New Englander, is interviewed by Dorothea Dix (Cherry Jones), a leader in the fight to reform care for the mentally ill and the Superintendent of Army Nurses during the Civil War. To the middle-aged Dix, Phinney stands out as an assertive but uncontroversial figure, the perfect young woman to become head nurse at the Mansion House Hotel. Well, almost uncontroversial.

Invisible Wounds: PTSD, the Civil War and Those Who "Remained and Suffered"

Editor’s Note: WSKG has asked faculty and graduate students in the History Department at Binghamton University to explore the history behind PBS’s new drama Mercy Street. In today’s blog post, graduate student Jonathan Jones discusses how historians are just beginning to understand how PTSD may have affected Civil War veterans. Invisible Wounds: PTSD and the Civil War
The Civil War was the greatest health crisis in American history. Some 750,000 soldiers died, and another 500,000 were wounded or maimed. From violent bullet and bayonet wounds, results of poor medical care like gangrene and infection, or debilitating illnesses like dysentery and malaria, the bodies and minds of those who survived the Civil War were scarred in a myriad of ways. For decades after the war’s end, thousands of survivors carried reminders of their wartime experiences with them in the form of amputations.

The Civil War And Challenging the "Cult of True Womanhood"

Editor’s Note: WSKG has asked faculty and graduate students in the History Department at Binghamton University to explore the history behind PBS’s new drama Mercy Street. In today’s blog post, Binghamton alumnus, and WSKG producer, Shane Johnson discusses the 19th century concept of domesticity and how women challenged that notion during the Civil War. The Civil War And Challenging the “Cult of True Womanhood”
When Nurse Mary Phinney arrives at Mansion House in the first episode of Mercy Street, the camera circles around her as she tries to comprehend the overwhelming sights and sounds of a Civil War hospital. She has entered a new world. In many ways, the dramatized story of Nurse Phinney mirrors the stories of thousands of women who left their domestic worlds and enter the public sphere during the Civil War. In the process, these women challenged 19th century gender norms, the “cult of true womanhood,” and their acceptable place in American society at the time.

Dying a “Good Death” in the Civil War

Editor’s Note: WSKG has asked faculty and graduate students in the History Department at Binghamton University to explore the history behind PBS’s new drama Mercy Street. In today’s blog post, graduate student Melissa Franson discusses the 19th century concept of a “good death” and how the Civil War challenged that notion. Dying a “Good Death” in the Civil War
In the first episode of Mercy Street, we are confronted with the gruesome injuries and carnage that men inflicted upon one another during the Civil War. One of the most poignant moments in the series comes when a young soldier is brought into the hospital literally attached to the Union flag. Blood from the young soldier’s wounds has glued his hands to the flag. Having already lost his father in the war, the un-named soldier was unwilling and unable to relinquish his sole responsibility – making sure the flag did not fall. The young, scared soldier desperately tries to assert his masculinity while being comforted by the Army Chaplain, Harry Hopkins.