War of the Rebellion: Serial 005 Page 0081 Chapter XIV. GENERAL REPORTS.

Search Civil War Official Records

cise to be allowed them as was consistent with their safe-keeping. On the 22nd of August I sent a surgeon to remedy the defects in the police of the camp of the Pennsylvania cavalry, on Seventh street. This camp at the time was a nuisance. On the same day I recommended the removal of the troops encamped upon the flats near Arlington to the higher grounds, if practicable. Thirty-three per cent. of some of the regiments there were reported sick with diarrhea, intermittent, and typhoid fevers. The chief surgeon of McDowell's division, who had been some weeks at Arlington, expressed his doubts to me, in a report on the subject, whether the flats were more insalubrious than the high woodlands of that district. I represented to the Adjutant-General that I acknowledged these doubts to be well founded within certain limits - that malarial fevers do prevail on the slope towards the river - but I thought it practicable to remove the camps beyond the first crest, so as to afford the protection of the hills against infected currents of air. Ascertaining by personal inquiry and inspection that the men were turned out long before sunrise and were hours waiting for their breakfasts, and feeling persuaded that this had much to do with the prevalence of malarial fevers, I asked for and obtained an order that reveille should not be beat till after sunrise, and that hot coffee should be issued to the men immediately after roll-call. Soon after this you directed me to provide aa reasonable allowance of cots for the sick in the regimental hospitals. I ordered them to be purchased immediately, and as soon as they were procured I directed the regimental surgeons to send to the purveyor for their quota. Strange to say, I experienced a good deal of difficulty in making these officers send in. As late as December 27 I was obliged to compel some of the surgeons to supply themselves.

The want of military experience of the medical officers and their consequent helplessness made it extremely difficult to discover the real causes of disease, sometimes the nature of the diseases themselves, and to enforce the means of preventing these when discovered. A week after the hot coffee was ordered a regimental surgeon complained to me that green coffee was issued to his men, without the means of properly roasting it, and that they could not get the "extra" rations ordered. Colonel Clarke, to whom I referred the complaint, promptly replied that green coffee was always issued; that it should be roasted in a mess-pan, or a Dutch-oven, or other vessel, purchased with the company fund; that the quantity issued was fixed by law, and was deemed ample; and so it was, but it required the exercise of a little judgment to discover it. I made constant and diligent inquiries of the surgeons as to their opinion of the causes of disease in their regiments, and whenever an undue proportion of such was reported in any regiment a special report was invariably called for. If I had had competent inspectors at that time the health of the army might have been more rapidly improved and myself saved much labor and anxiety.

First among the causes assigned for the numbers on the sick report, and the one as to which there was a general concurrence of opinion, was the recklessness with which the men had been enlisted. General Orders, Numbers 51, War Department, August 3, 1861, commanded that when volunteers were mustered in they should be minutely examined by the surgeon and assistant surgeon of the regiment as to their physical qualifications. I doubt whether this most important order has ever received the slightest attention from the persons whose duty it was to execute it. So notorious was the neglect of its behests, or.

6 R R - VOL V.