Numbers 10. Report of Surg. Thomas A. McParlin, U. S. Army, Medical Director, Army of the Potomac.1
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Before Petersburg, Va., December 26, 1864.
GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following, in continuation of the report of operations of the medical and hospital department of the Army of the Potomac, for the campaign of the year subsequent to July 31:
Extending from the Appomattox west, the Eighteenth Corps, of the Army of the James, and the Ninth and Fifth Army Corps, of the Army of the Potomac, in the order enumerated, occupied, early in August, lines of investment, breast-works, and fortified positions (the Second Corps at the time in camps in reserve) south of Petersburg and the Appomattox, in the area generally northward of the low grounds and rivulets tributary to the Blackwater. The season was generally dry. The soil contained clay sufficient to make the roads after rain almost impracticable for loaded trains. Attention to the enforcement of police and drainage became the more necessary. The location had known malarial influences, and personal movement and labor were restricted in the positions subjected to fire. Wells were dug and good water secured, both in camps and fort. The extension and use of surface railroad since September 14 made heavy trains in great degree unnecessary. The position occupied by the Ninth Corps at the front was exposed to continual picket-firing (often kept up in the night) and to sharpshooters, whose skill and vigilance severely taxed the energies and health of the men at the midsummer season. The Second Corps was encamped (in reserve) in the vicinity of the Deserted House. Their quarters and camps were superior in cleanliness and comfort to those of the previous month. The main hospital was near the Birchett house. The Fifth Corps occupied somewhat elevated ground on the left. Its hospitals were located near general headquarters and the Prince George Court-House road. They accommodated patients with every comfort compatible with the mobility necessary to a field establishment. Officers were in many cases treated in them.
The diet of the army has been at all times an object of especial attention, but in the summer the chief commissary (Colonel T. Wilson) secured an abundant supply of vegetables as soon as the new crop came in. Potatoes, onions, beets, cabbage, dried apples and peaches, turnips and pickles, were everywhere issued and appreciated.
A malarial type and periodic tendency were impressed upon most of the diseases treated. In the Ninth corps the cases responded less favorably to treatment, and many were sent away to depot hospitals at City Point. Cases of biliary disorder were frequent.
August 5 two divisions of the Cavalry Corps left this section for duty in the Shenandoah Valley.
August 9 occurred the severe injuries incident to the explosion of the ordnance barge at City Point.
From the 1st to the 12th comparative quiet obtained in the army, but at this last date movements were initiated having in view the seizure and destruction of the Weldon railroad. This was accomplished before the 25th by the Fifth Corps, when our lines were permanently extended to the left and the vicinity of the Yellow (or Globe) Tavern. As a preliminary, and to facilitate this object, diversion was made by movement of the Second Corps to the north side of the James, commencing on the 12th. The sick and wounded of that corps were sent by ambulance train to depot field hospital at City Point. The corps marched in the afternoon and camped at City Point at night, waiting transport vessels. The ambulance train arrived at 11 p.m., left those unable to accompany the command in depot field hospital, City Point, and resumed the journey to Bermuda Hundred, and the next day joined the corps at Jones’ Neck. The corps had embarked on the 13th, and reached Deep Bottom, north side of the James, on the 14th; it disembarked, advanced to the west of the New Market, road, and took position there. The day was excessively hot; the men had been exhausted, and many fell out of the ranks, some insensible or in convulsions; in many cases death resulted. Twenty ambulances to a division were crossed over the pontoon bridge from Jones’ Neck, and were at once occupied with these cases and those wounded by skirmishing. One medicine wagon and one army wagon (loaded with tent flies and cooking utensils) for each division also were crossed. A refreshing shower happily occurred in the evening. Hospitals were formed near the lower pontoon bridge, on the north bank of the river, where a landing place was constructed by which to send the wounded by boats to hospitals at City Point, and who were sent by quartermaster transports on the 15th.
Skirmishing continued on 16th, 17th, and on the 18th the enemy attacked, particularly the Tenth Corps line. One division of the Second Corps was transferred after this across the James, and proceeded to occupy the works just abandoned by the Fifth Corps, then massing for the movement on the Weldon railroad. The field hospitals of this (Second Corps) division were placed near the Deserted House. The other (Second Corps) divisions left the north side August 20, and proceeded to the Weldon railroad, where the Fifth Corps was engaged. Military considerations made it proper to take only ten ambulances to each division, the residue of the Second Corps medical train went into park in the vicinity of the Birchett house.
There were received in field hospitals from the affair on the north side 542 wounded; of these 35 officers; 23 deaths occurred in field hospital; the residue were sent to City Point.
On the 19th one division of the Ninth Corps was sent to join the Fifth near the Six-Mile Station, Weldon railroad, where an attack of the enemy had been received at noon of the 18th. The field hospital of the Ninth and Fifth Corps were relieved of their inmates by the ambulances of the Sixth Corps, running between them and City Point, and the train, increased to 110 vehicles, was afterward used exclusively by the Fifth Corps, which had need of all its ambulances to remove the wounded from the front on account of the terrible state of the roads. As soon as it was safe the hospitals of the Fifth Corps were advanced toward the Williams house. Those of the Ninth were
brought up later. On the evening of the 19th the enemy attacked the Fifth again, maintaining the struggle until after dark, when they were finally repulsed.
August 21 the Second Corps (from Deep Bottom), taking ten ambulances to a division, advanced to the position on the Weldon railroad occupied by the Fifth corps, and, facing southward, continued to destroy the roads as they went until the 25th, when, reaching Reams’ Station, they encountered the enemy. On the 21st the enemy attacked very determinedly the Fifth, but were repulsed, with heavy loss, leaving 160 of their wounded in our hands. the medical service was here performed under great exposure, but it was unavoidable, the position being exposed to converging fire. The labors of the ambulance service in the corps were severe-2 sergeants were killed, 6 men wounded, 19 captured, 7 stretcher-bearers killed; shells passed through two ambulances.
The Second Corps at Reams’ Station, also on the Weldon railroad, occupied a position quite as exposed to simultaneous attack from several directions on the 25th, and more distant from the permanent base and field hospitals. Its wounded were temporarily received in Reams’ Church, where the hospital staff of each division made a rendezvous. The field companions and ambulances furnished the required dressings and appliances. The cavalry division of General Gregg had with it a medicine wagon, which was very useful. The medical director Second Corps sent back for one also for his command, but it did not arrive; indeed, it only escaped capture by the sergeant in charge prudently returning it again to the park after observing the enemy (as he advanced) occupying the road. The church was far from being a place of security, and, indeed, there was none attainable. The line of defense described two-thirds the circumference of a circle, with a radius so small (reports the medical inspector, Asst. Surg. Charles Smart, U. S. Army) that bullets fired at the left coursed over the inclosed area and struck down men in position on the right.
During the more vigorous assault at 2 p.m., the ambulances, the wounded, medical officers, and attendants were retired about 100 yards to a shallow ravine, affording some shelter. The ambulances once filled were sent (via the Gary Church road) at some risk to the Williams house and empty vehicles were sent for. The forest trains reached the corps safely prior to the final assault made by the enemy at 5 p.m. This was so severe from all sides that the destroyed railroad and position at that point was relinquished. The ambulance officers succeeded in loading up with the wounded who could not retire; others were carried by stretcher men and aided by stragglers. While none of the wounded behind the breast-works were left those on the advanced wounded behind the breast-works were left those on the advanced picket could not be removed. Four medical officers, two hospital stewards, and ten strechermen were detailed to remain and care for them. From subsequent information it would appear that 66 of our wounded were made prisoners and 146 of our men were buried on the field. Assistant Surgeon Jewett, Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteers, Second Corps, received a severe shell wound. The train of wounded from Reams’ Station proceeded to the Williams house, aided by ambulances of the Ninth Corps, and after receiving necessary surgical attention the cases were sent to City Point. The Second Corps retired to positions near the Jerusalem plank road.
The Second Cavalry Division on the 23rd accompanied the Second Corps on the right flank and in advance, while the railroad was torn up on the way to Reams’ Station. On the Dinwiddie Court-House road, meeting the enemy, it suffered a loss of 40 wounded, who were taken
to Reams’ Church. After the necessary operations and attention they were sent in ambulances to City Point; ten ambulances remained with the cavalry as a reserve, after sending the others off. The Emmons house, near Reams’ Station, was first taken for hospital purposes, but being declared unsafe by General Hancock it was vacated; the property and personnel moved toward Reams’ Church. During the affair at Reams’ the Second Division Cavalry was posted on the left of the Second Corps, Colonel Spear’s brigade picketed on the right. One Autenrieth medicine wagon was attached to the cavalry in addition to the ambulances as before stated. The wounded of the cavalry division (General Gregg’s) amounted to 83.
Number of wounded brought to field hospitals at this period:
The position of the corps on the 29th was about as follows: The Fifth in advanced position on the extreme left, one division beyond the Weldon railroad, with flanks extended across the road, one division of the Ninth Corps connecting with right flank of Fifth, two on the left flank in two lines of works, one division of the Second Corps extending right flank in front and massing across the Jerusalem plank road. The subjoined sketch illustrates the positions and field hospitals:*
The operations of the cavalry in August on the north side are thus described by Asst. Surg. George M. McGill, U. S. Army:
On the 15th, still moving on the right of the Second Corps, the pickets of the cavalry division were attacked while the command halted and nine men wounded. These were carried back to the division hospital near the river, a distance of three miles, at which the required operations were performed. On the 16th the cavalry wounded, having received all the necessary attentions, were transferred to the hospital of the Second Corps to await their transportation to City Point, which was hourly expected. Supported by General Miles’ brigade, of the Second Corps, the Second Brigade of Cavalry on the 16th made a reconnaissance toward Richmond, advancing on the Charles City road as far as White’s Tavern, and losing so many wounded in the skirmish attending this advance that it became necessary to bring up the five ambulances attached to the First Brigade, thus using ten on the field. At White’s Tavern the brigade of infantry was advanced and became sharply engaged by a heavy force, and was finally driven back. Our forces fell back and all of the cavalry wounded were brought with them, many riding their horses. Such of the wounded of the infantry as there was room for were also carried. The enemy attacked in turn before our forces crossed what is called Deep Run-the stream from White Oak Swamp. In this attack of theirs our cavalry was driven in some disorder; 90 were wounded. After the enemy was checked from the south bank of Deep Run, the cavalry wounded were collected and speedily removed in ambulances borrowed from the Second Corps to the hospital of division, located near the Second Corps hospitals, in a pine wood near the James. Such of the infantry wounded as had been collected were at the same time carried to the hospital of the Second Division of the Second Corps; they numbered about 100. During the following night of the 16th-17th all these wounded men were thoroughly examined, carefully dressed, and well fed. Primary operations were performed at the same time, several resections; no injuries of very remarkable character were observed. One Pirogoff’s operation was performed, in which subsequently (ten days) secondary operation was found necessary.
*See page 190 for diagram.
It may be proper to mention more in detail the operations of the Fifth and Ninth Corps, more especially the Fifth, which was peculiar, occupying a point most essential to the enemy, which they could not give up without detriment to their line of supply. It being also far out on the flank it was improper and impossible (for military considerations) to advance much property to any convenient point until it was determined that the Fifth could hold the ground against all odds. The area was so limited and exposed to fire that the medical director (Surg. J. J. Milhau, U. S. Army) had necessarily a management that resembled that of the cavalry. On the 18th the Ninth Corps had not arrived our supported the Fifth. The enemy at one time swung in on the right of the Fifth, turned a part of the line, capturing prisoners, whom they carried off on their return to their own lines. At the earliest moment proper the Fifth Corps field hospital was advanced to the Williams house from the vicinity of army headquarters. In the absence of the corps director’s report, I have recourse to a memoir of the operations of that period prepared and submitted to me by Asst. Surg. George M. McGill, U. S. Army, acting inspector, Army of the Potomac.
The Fifth Corps reached the Weldon railroad at 11 a.m. August 18 (four hours before the rain of that day). The enemy attacked at noon. The hospital train had arrived, primary rendezvous were formed with the material at hand, patients being placed under tent flies. Orders were sent to proper officers with the main trains to re-establish field division hospitals on the Prince George Court-House road. A train of wounded was sent back from the Fifth at 11 p.m. Operators were sent back to the division hospitals in the rear, as it was found impossible to render without inconvenience, injury, and unwarrantable risk to the wounded, all the necessary attention and comfort they required. The rain made the locality a swamp; shelter was insufficient, the rendezvous hospitals were on a flat swept by the missiles of the enemy. The available ambulances were used for the train at 11 p.m. 400 were sent in and 100 wounded remained. The casualties were chiefly in the Second Division, but the surgeons of the other divisions at the Prince George Court-House hospital, where they were concentrated, assisted those of the Second. It rained all night. Two ambulances were next morning abandoned in the deep mud. The low ground being barely passable for horses, a new and shorter road via the Aiken house, Jerusalem plank road by Williams’ house, was made on morning of 19th. This second ambulance route became soon as bad as that by Temple’s, and proved a severe trial of ambulance discipline and perseverance.
On the 19th I ordered the Sixth Corps ambulances (then assisting to clear the Ninth Corps hospitals) to report to Inspector Winne, of the Fifth, to remove the wounded to City Point, where they were sent, having received all proper attention on that and the succeeding day. The ambulance service from the front was very severe, pioneer parties preceded the trains, but the labor became such that to avoid utter exhaustion of men and animals, it became necessary to advance on the division hospitals (then seven miles in rear), four miles toward the front, to a site near Finn’s (Williams’ house to the south), which was accepting an attendant risk, until a line of works or troops connected the old main line with that being gained at the Weldon railroad. The transfer of hospital and patients from Prince George Court-House locality, both ways (patients to City Point and the hospitals to the new site) was made as ordered. On the afternoon of the 19th the enemy assaulted again, the Second and Fourth Divisions losing heavily,and it was night before the enemy was repelled, increasing the difficulty of collecting the wounded, the darkness being extreme, and heavy showers of rain continuing to fall. A train leaving at 9 p.m. was all night on the road. Five hours were consumed in getting an ambulance train on the 20th from the Weldon position to the Williams house. On that morning, however, all the wounded were lodged in the hospitals and the field ren-
dezvous cleared. The day was well employed also in perfecting arrangements in hospital depots and trains. During the two days, 19th and 20th, the Ninth Corps was posted in support of the Fifth, the center opposite the Aiken house. One brigade of cavalry on the evening of the 19th was placed on the left of the Fifth. It had five ambulances, and they sufficed. The primary hospital rendezvous of the Ninth Corps were established (with canvas shelter for seventy to each division), First and Third Divisions at Gurley’s, the Second at Smith’s, and finally, on the 21st, that of the Fourth at the Williams house. The wounded at the Gurley house (including the wounded rebels of the 19th) were well lodged. The Second Division primary hospital was distant, approachable by a narrow wood road, open to approach by the enemy’s cavalry. The operators accompanied the primary hospitals. The more elaborate hospitals near army headquarters with their wells, ice-houses, convenient kitchens, policed grounds, raised bunks, latrines, and fenced areas were not abandoned until it was evident the corps was to occupy the new ground permanently. Surg. Otto Schenck, Forty-sixth Regiment New York Volunteers, Ninth Corps, wounded August 20, died on the 23rd. The division of his corps was at that time in rear of the Fourth Division of the Fifth Corps, on the Weldon railroad.
On the 21st (a.m.) the Fifth Corps sustained a very heavy attack (the Second Corps meanwhile making its movement in the direction of Reams’ Station), but being protected by breast-works its loss was about 150 wounded. The ambulance pickets and reserve trains on the immediate field were especially exposed as before stated, several officers and men wounded, and ambulances perforated by shot and shell. The exposure of officers and wounded was of course unavoidable and inherent to the position.
No further attack was made upon the Fifth Corps, and it remained undisturbed in possession of the Weldon railroad, and strengthened daily the position. The Ninth Corps was also stationary. The experience and exposure to which the wounded had been subjected induced the surgeon-in-chief of the Fifth to construct medical redoubts (as the were termed) in the vicinity of each division. A deep ditch was dug, the earth being thrown up around a stockade of logs or breast-works, furnished cover from horizontal missiles, while a rude roof protected the wounded inmates from shell. A medicine wagon could be drawn up at the entrance of the work convenient for use. After a time ditches were dug to dry the low grounds occupied by the corps and a very thorough system of drainage adopted. For a limited period whisky and quinine were issued to the command to obviate local malarial influences. The Second Corps had marched and countermarched so often, and so rapidly, as to arrive opportunely at opposite and distant positions, that it acquired the soubriquet of “Hancock’s cavalry.” Men fell out of ranks on these marches, and many were sent to City Point, unable to endure active duty, who were not seriously sick. In no one camp (says the medical director in report for September) did the corps remain four days at a time. The First Division was kept moving about for military reasons, now in rear of one front of the line, now supporting another, while the Second Division, on account of the cattle raid on our rear (September 16), was kept in a like state of activity in the neighborhood of Prince George Court-House. This continued until September 23, when the Second Division relieved the Tenth Corps in their position and works extending west from the Appomattox.
During September the hospitals of the Second Corps were at the Birchett and Deserted houses. The prevailing diseases were diarrhoea, dysentery, and fevers of the intermittent and typhoid type. The average number on the daily sick report was a little over 5 per cent. the surface railroad was continued from Cedar Level (Seven-Mile Station), on the City Point and Petersburg Railroad, to Warren’s Station (the point on the Weldon railroad seized and held by the Fifth Corps in August) on the 14th day of September, 1864.
About 28th of September preliminary steps were taken for a movement toward the South Side Railroad. The sick in field hospitals were sent to City Point. The cavalry made a reconnaissance to the left on the 29th, accompanied by a brigade of infantry. September 30 the troops advanced upon the Squirrel Level road beyond Poplar Spring Church, and position was taken by General Warren at the Pegram house, three miles from Yellow Tavern. Portions of the Fifth and Ninth Corps and the Third Division of the Second Corps held the left troops engaged. The Third Division of the Second Corps held the left against surprise on that flank, and had about 70 wounded. The Fifth received the brunt of resistance by the enemy, and the position was held and has since been occupied by us, compelling the abandonment of the Squirrel Level road to a great extent and the employment of a more circuitous route by the enemy between Stony Creek and Petersburg. The wounded were soon attended to near Poplar Grove Church (Fifth Corps) and Peebles’ house (the Ninth Corps), and sent to City Point. Rain continued on October 1 and 2 with cold weather, very unfavorable in the influence upon the troops and the road. The engagement not being general, the Second Corps advance hospital was not brought up nearer than its park at Yellow Tavern, the ambulances affording adequate means for the 70 wounded. At this time our works before Petersburg were occupied by divisions extended so as to fill the place left vacant by troops sent to the left. The movement was complete by the 6th of October, when quiet was established, with the exception of the artillery duels, sharpshooting, and skirmishes of pickets at different points, until October 26, when affairs were put in readiness for the movement to Hatcher’s Run.
The Fifth Corps division hospitals were established at Aiken’s house and Parke’s Station on surface railroad October 1, and the Ninth Corps hospital was also placed there on the 9th of October.
On the night of October 24 the Second and Third Divisions of the Second Corps were withdrawn from their position in front and massed for a movement, and on the 26th the Ninth Corps was prepared also. The sick of all the corps were sent to City Point on that day. Movement was commenced on the 27th, the Ninth passing along the Squirrel Level road beyond Fort Cummings, formed in line of battle two miles and a half in advance, its left being near the Clements house. The hospitals of this corps established at Peebles’ were sufficiently accessible, in excellent condition, and did not require to be moved. The Fifth Corps, on the left of the Ninth, also advanced and soon engaged with the enemy’s pickets. The transportation allowed was half the ambulances, one medicine wagon, and one army wagon to each brigade, and that was adequate to the small number of wounded in the Fifth and Ninth Corps. The picket ambulances of the Ninth Corps advanced to vicinity of an abandoned rebel fort and promptly carried back to field hospital all the wounded (some 75 in number). The Fifth Corps had half their ambulances at the front, the field hospital, material, and offi-
cers were brought up to Fort Cummins and a primary hospital formed in its vicinity (near the Smith house), where surgical attention was given to the wounded. On the 26th the Second Division of the Second Corps also had moved, with the medical transportation allowed, to Fort Dushane, and thence all but the fifteen ambulances to a division were sent back to the Gurley house to await orders from the front. This arrangement was made by the commander at night, in reference to all the transportation, that it might not interfere with the rapid advance of the troops over a country new to them and difficult to penetrate. The residue of the ambulances and wagons in excess of the allowance for the movement had already been sent back for security to City Point, looking to the possibility of the enemy penetrating and depredating rapidly upon some part of the section and lines left with limited protection. The medical property of the divisions of the Second Corps was thus in three points, viz, at City Point, at the Gurley house, near Fort Dushane, and forty-six ambulances with the advancing troops.
The Second Division, which had advanced on the Halifax road before dawn on the 27th of October, met the enemy at the crossing of the stream (Hatcher’s Run) and drove them from the earth-works. Application was made to send back the 80 wounded in the ambulances to the Gurley house rendezvous, with or without escort, and allow them to return again, but it was overruled by the corps commander on account of the road having become infested by the enemy’s cavalry. They were therefore carried with the troops along the Boydton road, where the enemy in force (Hill’s corps and Hampton’s cavalry) attacked the Second Corps division and Gregg’s cavalry division. Several attacks were made after 4 p.m. by the enemy, the casualties resulting being over 400 in the Second Corps and about 100 in the cavalry. The primary rendezvous for the wounded was first made at Rainey’s house, on the Boydton road, but as it soon came within even musket-range of the advancing enemy, and also seemed likely to be captured, the wounded were removed. Three medical officers (Surgeon Dudley, Fourteenth Connecticut; Asst. Surg. W. T. Hicks, Seventh Virginia Volunteers; Asst. Surg. W. J. Darby, Fifty-ninth New York Volunteers) volunteered to remain to receive wounded who should continue to be brought there under previous instructions given the stretcher-bearers. The ambulances were loaded and moved to a grove of pines on the east side of the open space, where the exposure was materially lessened. The assault ceased in the darkness, and after some hours it was ascertained that the struggle would not be renewed. Preparations were then made to withdraw. The ambulances were loaded to their utmost capacity, and, escorted by a regiment of infantry, proceeded to the field hospital park near Gurley’s, where preparations had been made for sending the wounded to City Point as soon as they had received the necessary surgical attention. Inspector Spencer (surgeon U. S. Volunteers) was sent by me to Warren’s Station to superintend their reception and transportation by railroad to City Point. For want of ambulances the wounded collected at the Rainey house (reports Medical Director McNulty) had to be left to fall next morning into the hands of the enemy. The medical officers who during the course of the afternoon had gallantly volunteered to remain with the wounded men were by order of the medical director empowered to do so. The number left at the house and on the field was estimated at 250. As no communication has been received from the officers they are supposed to be in the hands of the
enemy. The Second Corps withdrew slowly after 10 p.m. to the banks of Hatcher’s Run, near Dabney’s Mill, and bivouacked, resuming the march next day. It rained very hard during the night. The wounded reached Gurley’s early in the morning, and by night of the 29th were in hospital at City Point. The hospital park at Gurley’s was broken up, the property brought up from City Point, and the regular field hospitals re-established in their former sites behind the works south of Petersburg. During the movement to Hatcher’s Run, part of General Miles’ division, of the Second Corps, made a demonstration upon the rebel position in front of Petersburg.
Inspector T. R. Spencer reported that at Yellow Tavern (Warren’s railroad station), October 28, 100 wounded were sent early in the morning, and afterward the following were dispatched by him from thence to City Point on the railroad: Ninth corps, white, 57; colored, 53; of which 30 were sick; Fifth Corps, white, 48; Second Corps, Second and Third Divisions, 253; Second Cavalry Division, 82; total, 593. About 25 officers (wounded) were sent to City Point. The depot hospital, City Point, reports reception of 639 wounded men, 40 sick and wounded officers on morning report of 29th. Its reports for the 26th, 27th, 28th, and 29th are interesting to show the movements of sick and wounded on those days, attributable to the reconnaissance and operations about Hatcher’s Run. No further incidents of interest occurred in October; the army returned and reoccupied the camps and former positions generally.
In November no movement of the army occurred. The aggregate number of wounded during the month admitted to the field hospitals was 293. They were sent in due time to the depot field hospital, Army of the Potomac, at City Point, Va. Investigation into the cause of sickness in the regiments of the Ninth Corps (One hundred and seventy-ninth, One hundred and eighty-sixth New York, and Thirty-first Maine), where typo-malarial fever was reported, developed the fact that the men “burrowed” to some extent, their camps were on low ground near a swamp, and the issue of vegetables had been neglected. In order to secure vegetables in that corps two pounds of coffee in each 100 rations were dropped, and in lieu of this sixty pounds of potatoes and seventeen pounds onions were furnished. Fine bath-houses existed in all the hospitals and in many of the regiments. Among those especially mentioned by the medical inspector for excellency were the Thirty-fifth Massachusetts, Third Maryland, Ninth New Hampshire, First, Second, and Eighth Michigan. The troops in reserve on approach of winter adopted a nearly uniform system of huts. When posted in the forts, shelter-tents and bomb-proofs were used; covered ways connected the forts in points exposed to sharpshooters. The bomb-proofs consisted of long trenches roofed over and covered in on the aspect facing the enemy by means of heavy logs protected by a thickness of two or three feet of earth and sand-bags. Generally no attempt was made to thatch or make them impenetrable to rain. Fire places were built, two or three to each bomb-proof, along the open rearward side, and sleeping bunks constructed in them. The huts were generally six by ten feet, not less than five feet and a half to the eaves, roofed by shelter-tents, and intended for four men, but as one or more were absent on detached duty at a time, a less number occupied them at night. The division hospitals in the field were well supplied with funds, but no adequate facilities existed for making purchases.
The medical inspector Second Corps reports the hospital fund therein for November as follows:
The hospital fund in cash of the other corps, and at City Point depot field hospital, also amounted to some thousands of dollars. The capacity of the depot field hospital, Army of the Potomac, at City Point, this month was 6,419 beds. Five hundred barrels of apples, received from the patriotic merchants of New York (as per letter of Charles A. Righter, esq., dated November 26, 1864), were distributed to the hospitals.
In December I expended nearly $2,000 from funds in my hands in purchase of turkeys, celery and cranberry sauce, which were distributed and served throughout the army hospitals on Christmas day. The colored division of the Ninth Corps having left this army late in November, the hospital for such troops was broken up and discontinued thereafter. The divisions of the Sixth Corps returned to the Army of the Potomac at different dates early in December from duty in the Shenandoah Valley. They were promptly supplied with medical, hospital, and ambulance property, as their supplies could not be brought with them. At this time also (December 7) an expedition moved against the Weldon railroad, to the southward, composed of the Fifth Corps, four batteries, Third Division of the Second Corps, and General Gregg’s cavalry, one battery, with the bridge equipage of canvas boats. Men unable to to march were sent to the field hospitals, and a flying hospital organized to accompany the command according to previous usage. Medical Inspector C. K. Winne, of the Fifth Corps, and Surgeon-in-Chief E. J. Marsh, of the cavalry, detail the operations of their respective commands. Their reports accompany this. The total number of wounded admitted to field division hospitals of the army during this month was 390.
The forts and lines occupied by the Army of the Potomac in the siege of Petersburg are delineated in the accompanying map of the engineer department. To collect the sick and wounded from the front line, picket stations for ambulances were designated. In some corps almost one-third of the ambulances were sent out. Each ambulance when used returned to its park from the division hospital and was relieved by another. After a short stay in division hospital, if the cases were serious, they were sent by surface railroad to depot field hospitals, and thence, if no improvement was noticed in them, they were transferred to General were used exclusively, except when great emergency made it proper to send more rapidly than the regular medical steamers permitted. General Ingalls, chief quartermaster, in such cases promptly placed the quartermaster steamers at the disposal of this department.
The steamers conveying sick and wounded from City Point were the State of Maine, Surgeon Janes in charge, capacity 500 beds; Connecticut, Surgeon Hood in charge, capacity 400 beds; steamer Western
Metropolis, W. M. Hudson, acting assistant surgeon, U. S. Army, in charge, capacity 450 beds; steamer De Molay, Surgeon Seaverns in charge, capacity 300 beds; steamer Baltic, Asst. Surg. Thomas McMillan, U. S. Army, in charge, capacity 500 beds; steamer Atlantic, Surg. D. P. Smith, U. S. Volunteers, in charge, capacity 500 beds. The two last, ocean steamers, came only to Fort Monroe, where patients were sent for transfer to them. Steamers of more convenient draught of water and entirely seaworthy, such as the Ben De Ford, and S. R. Spaulding, were sent to City Point after their superiority became evident. Patients were sent direct from City Point to Washington, Point Lookout, Annapolis, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. In the depot hospital at City Point preparations were made for the winter by erection of stockade buildings with open fire-places. Many fine wards were thus added to it. The tents which were kept in use were supplied with frames and heated. In order to preserve them many tents were taken down and stored. At the same time the division hospitals at the front were made ready for winter. The Ambulance Corps put up very comfortable stockade huts and stables for the men and animals at points convenient to their division hospitals.
It is proper to remark that since August, 1864, the duties of nurses, attendants, cooks, and orderlies at the depot hospitals have been to great extent performed by detailed musicians, the services of able-bodied men being required with their regiments. An efficient officer of the line was detailed by each corps commander for the general charge of the musicians of his corps, and upon requisition of the chief medical officer the proportion of a detail for hospital guard was furnished by the corps commander. The inmates of the depot hospital were not detached from their commands, and no descriptive lists were made out for them.
Difficulties and delays having been experienced in some cases in obtaining clothing for patients, orders issued in November, 1864, from army headquarters instituting a system whereby clothing required was to be issued by the line officer in charge of the detailed men in each corps hospital, who transferred the receipt rolls to the regimental quartermaster of the regiment to which the man signing the receipt rolls belonged, taking the receipt of the regimental quartermaster for them in the usual form, which receipt was to be his voucher for the clothing issued, and the regimental quartermaster transferred the rolls to the proper company commander, taking his receipt in the same manner.
In obviating the necessity of descriptive lists being furnished, a great deal of labor and time was saved in administration, and yet the patients were cared for in a manner not elsewhere possible except in an established general hospital. They were readily returned to their commands when convalescent, and their vicinage insured every desirable convenience and advantage.
At a later date than this report embraces orders from the lieutenant-general commanding required paymasters paying troops to go to the depot hospitals and there pay all mustered men belonging to regiments that they had paid at the front. Whenever at the front, in anticipation of a movement, it was desirable that the inmates whose hasty removal would be injurious should be sent away, it could readily be done, and at night, using the railroad to City Point. It was easy to keep all the hospitals clear at all times.
The report of the chief medical officer at City Point from May to October accompanies this.* Tabular reports also are rendered from this office to December 31 of this year. The records of no other army or war furnish a parallel establishment, and I regret the more that time and incompleteness of reports render it difficult to represent its character and value. The monthly reports of sick and wounded rendered by regimental surgeons have been consolidated so far as received (Appendix A#). The reports from the depot field hospitals have been similarly consolidated (Appendix B#).
By order of the Surgeon-General of the Army reports were furnished me from the general hospitals in order that the dispositions of cases sent from the army might be ascertained. Certain sources of error are incident to an army in the field and active operations, but it is believed there reports are as accurate as any heretofore obtained. Wounded are known to have passed directly to depot hospital without being registered in their regiments or entering hospital. Again, sick and wounded of the Ninth and Eighteenth Corps received attention from the Army of the Potomac medical officers, in regard to whom no reports have ever been forwarded by the corps medical officers to this office for consolidation. I estimate the total number of wounded who were attended to by this department in the year ending December 31, 1864, at 60,300. The annual report shows an aggregate of wounds and injuries (class V) of only 51, 877. There is every reason to believe that the number of sick reported (173,063) falls short of the actual number. Of aggregate sick and wounded, 224,940 reported (or the total 233,363), a number passed out of the army to general hospital, reported in annual report as 70,858, but, including those not reported and those of other corps attached temporarily to the army, should be 80,181.
NOTE.-(It is to be remembered that those sent from the division to depot hospital are reported by regimental surgeons as sent to general hospital. It is not improbable that men wounded and sick borne on regimental and division hospital reports, who have died in depot hospital, have been reported numerically and by name on the regimental report, in which case they would be reported twice, and the aggregate of deaths reported in the army much exceed the actual number. There is also a source of error in reports from Northern (general) hospitals, who report upon men as belonging to the Army of the Potomac who did not belong to it.)
Of these the following disposition has been made so far as reported:
*See report of Surg. Edward B. Dalton, Vol. XXXVI, Part I, p. 269, and Vol. XL, Part I, p. 269.
#Omitted, a summary thereof appearing in this report.
Accompanying the annual consolidated report of sick and wounded are tabular reports, percentages of the various diseases and injuries stated monthly by classes and orders (Appendix C*), and the percentages of prevalent diseases (Appendix D*) in each month. These papers are interesting, and worthy of special examination. They are the result of careful calculations made by Asst. Surg. J. S. Billings, U. S. Army. It will be observed that 74 per cent. of the disability reported is due to zymotic diseases and wounds, viz, miasmatic fevers and diarrhoea (51 per cent.), chiefly in June, July, August, September, October, and November; and to gunshot wounds (23 per cent.), chiefly in May, June, July, and August. So large a portion being directly attributable to the climate and an active and prolonged campaign, and the residue being traceable largely to uncontrollable causes, it is only just to remark that the conservation of the health and strength of the army has been accomplished to an extent that reflects credit upon its officers, and is duly appreciated by the men.
The purveying department, Asst. Surg. J. B. Brinton, U. S. Army, in charge, has kept the army well supplied. The steamer Planter and several barges are in use for that purpose at the medical department landing near City Point. Articles of hospital comfort and luxury purchased from the proceeds of a tax on newspapers have been dispensed by the purveyor graciously. The amount received of this fund since last report, $1,499.20; amount expended, $261.75; balance on hand December 31, 1864, $9,025.39; total amount received in the year 1864, $20,927.45; total expended in the year, $11,902.06. The abstracts of hospital fund, so far as received at this office, indicate in the hospitals in the front a fund remaining at the end of the year of $6,392.41; and at the depot field hospital at City Point, also incomplete (see consolidated abstract), $5,228.64.
*Not found as enclosures.
The strength of the medical department has been for the period embraced on this report as follows:
Asst. Surgs. J. S. Billings and George M. McGill, of the U. S. Army, have lately been detached from this army for duty elsewhere. They have been on special duty at these headquarters, and I desire to express to the commanding general my high sense of the valuable services rendered by them to me and the department.
I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
THS. A. McPARLIN,
Surgeon and Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel, U. S. Army,
Colonel and Medical Director Army of the Potomac.
General S. WILLIAMS,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac.
Washington City, D. C., June 17, 1865.
SIR: I have the honor to report to you that the statistics of sick and wounded of the Army of the Potomac for the year 1864 are now completed and awaiting your signature. They consist of consolidations by division and corps of the monthly regimental reports of the sick and wounded for each month, and of a consolidated report the year, with a special statement of the ultimate disposal of those sent to general hospital and abstracts of the percentages of the more important diseases and classes of disease, arranged by months. Although owing to hasty and imperfect and even unskillful diagnosis on the part of regimental medical officers some minor errors may exist, still in the consolidation those have in a great measure counterbalanced each other, and in the abstract of percentages of classes of disease the probabilities of error are reduced to a minimum. Thus, while in any one regimental report the number of cases of typo-malarial fever reported is probably wrong, in the consolidated report for the year the errors have in a great meas-
ure counterbalanced each other and the reported percentage of the class malarial fever is still more accurate. The principal disease has been diarrhoea, and the malarial fevers occur next in frequency. A very large part of the diarrhoea, however, ought properly to be classed with malarial diseases. The statistical history of the army for 1864 may be conveniently divided into three periods of four months each. During the first four months the army was in camp on the line of the Rapidan, in the vicinity of Culpeper, Va.; was not engaged in active operations, and a large portion received furloughs as veteran volunteers, the results of which appear in the columns appropriated to venereal diseases for that period. The percentage of diarrhoea is unusually large during the month of January; this is due probably to the fact that the issues of fresh vegetables during that time were scanty and irregular. A large number of recruits and drafted men were received into the army at this time, many of whom were entirely unfitted for field service, and contributed largely to the sick report. During the second period, from May 1 to September 1, the army was engaged in marching, fighting, and erecting earth-works and fortifications. From September 1 until the close of the year the army remained comparatively quiet in the works in front of Petersburg, although not enjoying the ordinary freedom of winter quarters. The figures speak for themselves and involve many interesting facts connected with military hygiene, especially when taken in connection with the detailed report of the movements and operations of the army for the same period. The delay in their preparation has been great, owing to the impossibility of employing more than one clerk upon them, but I trust that as now presented, they will prove satisfactory.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN S. BILLINGS,
Assistant Surgeon, U. S. Army.
Colonel THOMAS A. McPARLIN,
Medical Director Army of the Potomac.
- The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XLII, Part 1 (Serial Number 87), pages 186-203 ↩