War of the Rebellion: Serial 005 Page 0077 Chapter XIV. GENERAL REPORTS.

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vided to insure their return to their regiments. It was not an unusual circumstance for sick men to pass the night in the ambulances, wandering about the streets from hospital to hospital seeking admission. I could find no information anywhere as to what regiments were present or whether they had medical officers or not.

My first effort was to endeavor to find out who were the medical officers of the several regiments, how the hospital departments were supplied, what was the strength of the regiments, how many of the men were sick, and what were the prevailing diseases. For this purpose I applied for and had an order issued directing all the medical officers to report to me in person without delay. From them I required the other items of information I have indicated. A singular state of things was revealed. In General Ordres, Numbers 25, War Department, May 25, 1861, the President had directed that a surgeon and an assistant surgeon should be appointed for each regiment of volunteers by the governors of their respective States, and that these officers should be examined by a board, to be appointed by the governors, as to their qualifications; the appointments to be subject to the approval of the Secretary of War. The third section of the act of August 6, 1861, required vacancies among the volunteer officers to be filled by the governors in the same manner as the original appointment. Some of the States had promptly appointed these boards, but many others had entirely neglected it. The Secretary of Was had also accepted what were termed independent regiments, the colonels of which asserted a right to appoint their own medical officers, and, notwithstanding the act of Congress, to fill vacancies. In other instances colonels of State regiments refused to receive the medical officers appointed in conformity with the law and the orders of the President, and went so far as to put these gentlemen out of their camps by force when they reported in obedience to the orders of the governors and of the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac. The State authorities, especially of New York and Pennsylvania, remonstrated strongly against this course, and I used every effort to arrest it, but in vain. I was at last officially notified, on the 19th of November, 1861, that the medical officers of regiments accepted directly by the Secretary of War had acquired rights that could not be set aside by the governors of the States. These irregularities created great embarrassment and confusion in organizing my department, and many regiments were thus left to take their chances with surgeons as to whose competency nothing was known. .

In other instances regiments or parts of regiments were sent on without their medical officers, the colonels assuming authority to leave them at home under various pretexts. To meet a case of this kind I addressed the following letter to the surgeon-general of Pennsylvania:


Medical Director's Office, Washington, September 7, 1861.

SIR: The First Regiment Pennsylvania Cavalry has sent seven companies to this city without a medical officer. I have the honor to request you will send a duly-commissioned surgeon and assistant to this regiment immediately. I am informed a Dr. Harlan is surgeon, but has never joined the regiment. The surgeons of regiments in the field are intended for service and not for ornament. The Government cannot wait the convenience of Dr. Harlan.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Surgeon and Medical Director Army of the Potomac.

H. H. SMITH, M. D., Surgeon-General of Pennsylvania.

Another source of embarrassment was, that neither the law nor orders had provided medical officers for batteries or detachments of cavalry.