No. 191. Report of Lieutenant Joseph C. Ayer, Chief Ambulance Officer, First Division.
NEAR PURCELLVILLE, VA.,
July 19, 1863.
SIR: In accordance with orders, I have to report the operations of this ambulance corps during the battle of Gettysburg, Pa., and subsequent thereto to have been as follows, viz. As soon as the division was placed in position, all my stretcher-men, under charge of their lieutenants and sergeants, were sent to the front, to follow in their respective regiments, leaving 3 sergeants and 1 lieutenant in charge of the train. Upon the receipt of orders, I conducted the train to a point about 200 yards in the rear of the Second and Third Brigades of this division, where the train was rapidly loaded with severely wounded. Owing to some misunderstanding in the location of the division hospital, the exact point where the wounded men were to be unloaded could not be ascertained, and the wounded remained in the ambulances about an hour, when a field hospital was established and the wounded unloaded. The ambulances then commenced regular trips to the battle-field, and were, in connection with the stretcher-men, who moved the wounded men from the field to the ambulances, continually at work during the night. As soon as all the wounded of the division, as near as I could judge, were removed from the field, orders came to me to remove the wounded from the field hospital to one farther to the rear. Previous to so removing the wounded of this division, seventeen ambulances were ordered to report to the Second Division (Fifth Corps) hospital, where they loaded with wounded, whom they carried to the rear. The whole of July 3 was consumed in removing the hospital. At sunset the horses were unharnessed for the first time for sixty hours. At about 10 p. m. orders came to me to send up my whole train to the front, to remove from the field the remaining wounded of the division. Upon reaching the field, we succeeded, under the guidance of some regimental officers of this division, in finding one wounded man belonging to the One hundred and eighteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers, First Brigade, First Division, Fifth Corps; but there being a sufficient number of wounded belonging to the Third Corps, I loaded my trains with Third Corps wounded, whom I transported to their respective hospitals. This train returned to camp near the hospital at sunrise on the 4th instant. It unhitched and fed, and then, having hitched up at 9 a. m. of that day, reported to the several corps and division hospitals of the army, and collected, as nearly as possible, all wounded men of this division, transporting them to them division hospital. The officers and men under my command behaved unexceptionably, performing their arduous duties with care and alacrity, although deprived of their sleep for so long a period. Upon July 5, the train received orders to move and follow the division toward Emmitsburg, Md., leaving two ambulances and 4 men at the division hospital, near Gettysburg, Pa. When not in use, the ambulances were kept in the front, near the division. I estimate the total number of wounded of this division removed from the battle-field by this corps to have been 560; those of the Third Corps, 82 wounded. There might also be added to this