No. 227. Report of Asst. Surg. Elias J. Marsh, U. S. Army, of operations July 19-30.1
HEADQUARTERS SECOND CAVALRY DIVISION, OFFICE OF SURGEON IN CHIEF, February 16, 1865.
Bvt. Lieutenant Colonel T. A. McPARLIN, U. S. Army,
Medical Director, Army of the Potomac:
DOCTOR: I have the honor respectfully to render the following report of the operations of the Medical and Hospital Department and Ambulence Service of this division from July 19 to December 31, 1864.
E. J. MARSH,
Assistant Surgeon, U. S. Army, Surgeon in Chief of Division.
On July 19, 1864, I reported for duty as acting surgeon in chief of the Second Division, Cavalry Corps, in pursuance of Special Orders, No. 169, headquarters Cavalry Corps, July 15, 1864, Surgeon Phillips, First New Jersey Cavalry, the surgeon in chief of division, being absent on sick leave.
The division consisted of the following troops: First Brigade-First New Jersey, First Massachusetts, First Pennsylvania, Sixth Ohio, Tenth New York, and Battery A, Second U. S. Artillery; Second Brigade – First Maine, Second, Fourth Eighth, Thirteenth, Sixteenth Pennsylvania, and Battery I, First U. S. Artillery. The division was encamped between Light-House Point and City Point on both sides of the Telegraph road. With few exceptions all the troops were encamped in the woods, some on high ground, some on lower, but the long continued dry weather had exhausted all the moisture from the surface of the earth, and the extreme heat and dust made the shelter of the woods
almost absolutely necessary for both men and horses. The water was generally good, and rations regularly issued and abundant, except vegetable issues, which were rather scant. The sick-list was quite large, especially in the Second Brigade, as my first weekly report, on July 23, showed 232 men sent to general hospital and 227 remaining sick, out of an aggregate strength of 4,947 men. There had been no division or regimental hospital established and all serious cases were sent direct from regiments to the corps hospital at City Point. There was a full number of ambulances, medicines, and transportation wagons, but many of the boxes of the ambulances were not well filled, especially those of the First Brigade.
On July 26 we received orders to be ready to march in the afternoon. We were not to break camp, and consequently all the lighter cases of sickness were left there under charge of one medical officer for each brigade; the more serious cases,
thirty-six in number, being sent to City Point. We were ordered to take only five ambulances for the division, while the medical director of the corps had one army wagon with supplies for the corps (First and Second Divisions). We marched just before dark and then proceeded across the Appomattox to the James River, opposite Deep Bottom.
On the morning of July 27 we crossed the James and proceeded to Strawberry Plains, where we remained all day. I had made preparations to organize a field hospital, placing Surg. W. M. Weidman, Second Pennsylvania Cavalry, in charge, and detailing operating surgeons, assistants, and a corps of attendants. Before starting I had one of the ambulances loaded with medical supplies, and also placed a hospital tent fly in each ambulance.
On the morning of July 28 we were ordered to proceed out the New Market road to the Charles City road, but we soon came upon the enemy in force and had scarcely time to get one brigade in position before their infantry came charging upon us. The ambulances had been ordered to march in the rear of the division, and they were not up when the first wounded came in. I directed Assistant Surgeon Tuft, First Pennsylvania Cavalry, and Surgeon Weidman to select a place for the hospital, and for this purpose they took a house about half a mile back on the Malvern Hill road. Many of the wounded came in on horses or carried by their comrades until the ambulances arrived. The rebel infantry, coming in strong force, drove our dismounted cavalry and captured one of our guns, the horses being killed. They did not advance beyond this point, but were soon forced back again, leaving many of their wounded. We moved back by the Malvern Hill road, and, by the general’s orders, I had the wounded loaded again and taken to Malvern general’s orders, I had the wounded loaded again and taken to Malvern Hill. Here I selected a fine large house, in a beautiful situation, with abundant shade trees about it, good water, and also ice. The house itself was not used, the men being placed in the shade merely, and an operating room made of tent flies, where nearly all the cases were soon dressed and operated upon. Meanwhile I had gone back to the battle-field with the ambulance train and seen that such of our wounded as had been left on the field were removed, and also many of the rebel wounded. Late in the afternoon I was directed to take all the wounded back toward the river to Allen’s farm, on Strawberry Plains. Here the First Division had their hospital established. They made use of the house, by tour men were placed on the sod outside, and the tent flies put up to shelter them. They were all fed, and the remaining cases requiring operations attended to. Assistant Surgeon Du Bois, U. S. Army, acting medical director of the corps, made arrangements for
shipping them off that night on board a transport. For this purpose he borrowed ambulance from the medical director of the Second Corps, and by midnight they were all on board of the boat. Our register showed that 80 wounded had been admitted into hospital during the day, 12 of whom were rebels. The regimental reports gave a loss of 15 killed 81 wounded, 20 missing; total, 116.
On July 29 we remained in same position and there was no fighting, except that toward evening the enemy attacked the pickets of the First Maine, but were soon driven back; we had 3 men wounded. During the night we recrossed the James, bringing with us those last wounded and a few sick, in ambulances, whom we sent to City Point.
On July 30 we marched from the Appomattox to Lee’s Mill, on Warwick Swamp. The day was excessively hot, and the men and horses greatly exhausted by want of rest and water and the extreme heat. When we arrived at Lee’s Mill we found the enemy posted in a strong position on the opposite side of the stream; after a short time we flanked and dislodged them, but in the skirmishing we had 11 men wounded. They were taken to Lee’s house, a temporary hospital then established, and they were fed, wounds dressed, and the necessary operations performed.*
E. J. MARSH,
Asst. Surgeon, U. S. Army, Surgeon in Chief of Division.
*For continuation of report, see Vol. XLII, Part I.
- The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XL, Part 1 (Serial Number 80), pages 616-618 ↩