Sensation preachers, village doctors, and strong-minded women, suddenly smitten with a more intimate knowledge and thorough perception of the duties and administration of the medical department of an army than I had been able to acquire in more than thirty years' experience and study, obtruded their crude suggestions, and marring when they could not make, and paralyzing when they attempted to quicken, succeeded by their uniformed zeal, innocently enough, perhaps, but not the less unfortunately on that account, in defeating measures I had much at heart, had carefully contemplated, and intended to carry into effect at the proper time.
There were a number of medical officers of the army on duty in the hospitals in Washington who in my opinion ought to have taken the field when the army moved, and it had always been my intention to put them there at that time; but while the hospital system was being organized their services were required in instructing others without military experiences in the method of administering those establishments, that they might be made capable of carrying them on when the public service should require the regular medical officers in the field. In the middle of January some members of the Sanitary Commission undertook to regulate this matter for me, by urging that citizens should be employed in the hospitals and the army surgeons sent into the field, at the same time asserting that citizens were as capable of performing the hospital duties as the officer-a matter about which they knew nothing, and as to which they were not called upon to express nor competent to form an opinion. In the end I was defeated in this very matter. I might, perhaps, have accomplished it if I had been let alone.
Early in March the sick were removed from the field to the general hospitals. Convalescents were left in the camps, that they might the more readily be returned to duty when well, and that they might form a part of the garrison of the works when the army was put in motion. Instructions for the government of the medical officers in battle were prepared, in which minute directions were given as to the manner of forming field depots for the wounded, the organization of the parties of medical officers to serve at each, the methods of preparing for the refreshment and professional care of the wounded when brought in, the distribution and employment of the Ambulance Corps, &c. I succeeded in getting a small supply of portable soup from the subsistence department, which was distributed to the regimental surgeons, and its use strictly limited to times of battle.
The different regiments being all supplied with medicines, stores, hospital tents, &c., and a wagon each to transport their supplies, and the sick requiring it having been removed from the camps to the hospitals, the army, so far as my department was concerned, was ready to move. On the 11th day of March it was put in motion for Fairfax Court-House. The enemy having disappeared from our front a return to Alexandria was ordered, and after an interview with yourself, in which I received instructions to govern me for further arrangements, I left Fairfax Court-House for Washington at night-fall of the 14th of March.
In the mean time orders had been issued in Washington limiting your command to the Army of the Potomac in the field and organizing that army into corps. The latter order so changed the organization as to make it necessary and expedient to assign an experienced medical officer to each corps as a medical director, the idea of a corps d'armee being that it should be a complete army in itself. Here I intended to bring in the senior medical officers of the army in the hospitals in