« EelmineJätka »
No one but a medical officer who served during the rebellion can fully understand the diffidence I feel in undertaking the task before me, but the lesson learned many years ago of unquestioning obedience determines me to do the bidding of our late comman
During the first few months of the war, while anxiously watching the events as portrayed in the daily papers, I examined myself and concluded that I could best serve my country in the medical department. I saw, and every surgeon knew when he entered the service, that there was not the chance for advancement, not that glory and renown to be gained in the medical that there was in the military branch of the service, but feeling that my life work properly was in the science and art of medicine and surgery, and that my country demanded of me this sacrifice, I determined to give it my best efforts when needed, the only question was when and where.
The problem was soon solved; the day after the news of the battle of the first Bull Run flashed over the wires found me on my way to Washington. While there I passed an examination before a medical board of the regular army. September 4th, I was appointed by President Lincoln a Brigade Surgeon, the name being afterwards changed to Surgeon of U. S. Volunteers.
Promptly obeying the consecutive orders of the war department and General Fremont, I reported to that true and accomplished soldier, Brigadier-General C. F. Smith, at Paducah, Ky., and was by him assigned to duty with the 1st Brigade at that post, Brigadier-General Paine, commanding, who was subsequently relieved by Colonel John McArthur of the 12th Illinois, a brave and gallant gentleman.
October 5th, 1861, found me face to face with my new work. With its requirements I was not as yet familiar; not an officer or a soldier of the command was personally known to me. Stranger though I was, I cannot speak in too high praise of the cordial manner with which I was received and the kind and generous treatment extended to me by the officers, both military and medical. And here I wish to add that I received the same courteous wel.. come from the officers of every command to which it was my fortune to become attached during the war.
Once established in the military family at brigade headquarters, I began to look the situation over, to consult with the medical
officers of the various regiments and learn their wants and aid them in supplying them so far as it was possible; the demand, however, was so great that the equipment of the medical department of the command was far short of that allowed by the regulations. Many regiments were not furnished with their allowance of hospital tents for the sick, or with a medicine wagon or transport cars for hospital supplies. Of ambulances there was a very meager supply, and when we took the field for active service, with what could be carried in the hospital knapsack and about the person the surgeon met the needs of those who were sick.
When in camp the proper sanitary measures in hospital were enforced which promote health and prevent eontagion. The regimental officers were counseled with in regard to enforcing the men to pay the utmost attention to the cleanliness of their persons, clothing, quarters and the preparing and cooking of their food. In this we were successful and every man was made to take a pride in his personal appearance and that of the camp. Quietly, without noise or ostentation on the part of the surgeon, the discipline and effectiveness of the command were enhanced. But it required the constant watchfulness of the surgeons to keep down the number of the sick, and it was only by their untiring efforts that this was accomplished. We remained in camp until the movement up the Tennessee river began in the early part of February, 1862. General C. F. Smith embarked his command at Paducah about the 5th. We disembarked on the west bank of the river a short distance below Fort Henry, and from there witnessed its capture by the joint action of the Navy and land forces, February 6th, 1862.
Fort Henry disposed of, General Grant's forces invested Fort Donaldson, which was carried by assault on the 16th of February, 1862, General C. F. Smith leading the assault which caused its surrender with its twelve thousand prisoners.
It was my fortune to have charge of the surgeons, and the surgical work which came from General Smith's command. For three days and nights our surgeons worked unceasingly. As the wounded were brought to the field-hospital, they were fed with good warm nourishing soups and hot coffee, every man was carefully examined, and such operation performed as his case demanded, and he was made as comfortable as possible, and then they were sent to hospital-boats below the fort. Over one thousand men received as kind and considerate treatment as they could have had at their homes. Brigadier-General Smith's personal bravery and meritorious conduct won for him another star. He, by general order No. 4, dated February 16th, 1862, made me Chief of the Medical Department of his command.
I remained thus attached until about the 13th of March, when we united with the forces gathering at Fort Henry to continue the expedition up the Tennessee river, begun about February 1st. There General Smith assigned me to duty as Surgeon of the division commanded by Brigadier-General W. T. Sherman, with instructions to organize the medical department for active fieldservice.
I immediately reported to General Sherman at his headquarters on board the steamer Continental.
The command was soon in motion up the river, the gun-boats Tyler and Lexington leading. On the 19th, we disembarked at Pittsburg landing, and the troops took a position about three miles out, near Shiloh church.
The effect of the confinement and the crowded condition of the boats was not salutary. The troops were raw, unused to the vicissitudes and exposures to which they were subjected. All these, things tended to increase the number of the sick, which was very large. The duties of the surgeons were very arduous, and they tried by every means to diminish the number. The sanitary condition of the men and their quarters were carefully watched; particular attention was given to the manner in which the food was cooked; this no doubt tended to lessen the number, but it still was so large as to excite the apprehension of General Sherman, who always had the welfare and effectiveness of his soldiers uppermost in his mind. He had many warm spots in his heart, but none greater than that for his soldiers. Hence, his order requiring all the sick not absolutely confined to bed to appear at the afternoon drill or dress parade.
This order, though it was issued without seeking the opinion of any medical officer in regard to its effect on the sick, was, I am certain, actuated by the best of motives and with the intention and hope of effecting great good. He felt that it would tend to cheer up the men, help them to throw off the depression of spirits, that longing for home that had seized upon them.
The battle of Shiloh or Pittsburgh landing occurred on the 6th and 7th of April.
General Sherman's division lost in killed three hundred and seventeen, and had twelve hundred and seventy-five wounded. The total number of wounded on the Union side was seven thousand four hundred and ninety-five. We were not supplied with sufficient means to shelter and care for so large a number. The work of the medical officers continued for days after the battle was over, the wounded being sent to Northern hospitals as fast as the means could be provided; relief also came through the sanitary commission boats that swooped down upon us as soon as the news of the fight reached the North, each boat having nurses and civilian surgeons aboard; all were eager to carry away the maimed and wounded. This they readily obtained the authority to do from the General commanding. But the watchful care of the surgeon and strict orders had to be given and enforced to prevent those who were only slightly wounded from taking advantage of this means of getting home.
These sanitary commission boats also, when they could not get wounded men, did take sick ones; here again a great deal of care and circumspection had to be exercised and kept the surgeons on the alert.
General Sherman always clung to the idea that the welfare of the sick, except in chronic cases, was perfectly consistent with military discipline in keeping them at home with their fellow soldiers in their regimental camps, hence the surgeons only sent away such cases as they knew would not be fit for duty and would be a hindrance and burden upon the future movements of the command.
It is thought by many that medical officers are not exposed to the shot and shell of the enemy. During the first day's fight at the battle of Shiloh we were driven from seven different locations where we had established field hospitals; the fire of their battery being particularly directed at us, no respect being paid to our hospital flag
This was not the only battlefield during the war where the hospitals were fired upon. In some instances men were killed or again wounded upon the operating table by the enemy's shot.
It is a well-known fact that one medical officer should accompany the regiment into action, and if he possess the confidence, is known to be familiar with means, and has the skill to arrest hem. orrhage, it imparts a confidence, infuses into the command a life that otherwise would not exist.
His presence in the midst of a sanguinary battle, they knowing his power, causes them to regard him with feelings of the utmost respect.
The surgeon understands the demoralizing effects of seeing blood. We soon learned of the anxiety and dread that soldiers feel of being wounded and bleeding to death on the field of battle, and the surgeon should see that every man is provided with the means, and instructed how to use them, to arrest the flow of blood themselves.
Another lesson, learned later in the war, was that the courage of officers, as well as men, is not always the same on different fields of battle.
Surgeons have reported to me instances, after the command had become disciplined, and practically knew no fear, where an officer who had displayed great courage in previous battles, had come to them on the eve of a fight, and stated that he could not go to the front, that his courage was gone, and begged them to put him on the sick list. The surgeon, knowing of his previous courageous behavior, and recognizing his mental and physical disabllity as the result of being overtaxed from constant duty, and weakened from diseases which prevailed among the troops, put him on the sick list and kept him there until he was restored to health, and thus saved him from the disgrace which a non-recognition of his true condition would have subjected him to according to military law.
Men previously tried and found not wanting, have made similar appeals, and been saved by the surgeons, who saw at a glance that it was not cowardice, that they were not malingering, but sick.
The battle of Shiloh over, the dead buried, the wounded provided for, and all the sick that would not soon be fit for duty sent north, we breathed easier and busied ourselves with obtaining supplies and by watching the welfare of the troops.
The advance on Corinth began about the first, and ending about the last of May, and the subsequent march across the country to Memphis, was unattended by any event which either overtaxed or put the medical officers to any extra effort, except at one time while on the march to Memphis, an enemy appeared which frightened many officers and men, and but for the prompt action