War of the Rebellion: Serial 073 Page 0578 THE ATLANTA CAMPAIGN. Chapter L.

Search Civil War Official Records

Numbers 310.

Report of Surg. John W. Lawton, U. S. Army, Surgeon in Chief.



Decatur, Ga., September 13, 1864.

SIR: The Second Division, Twenty-third Army Corps, numbering 3,971 present, moved from Mossy Creek, Tenn. April 26, 1864, to join in the active campaign opening in Georgia.

The medical department was deficient in medical and hospital supplies, in number of medical officers, and strictness of discipline, and, having been recently assigned as surgeon in chief, I had not been able to perfect its organization, and, moving with but one day's notice, time was not had to obtain necessary supplies. Three medical wagons, furnished, were ordered and joined the division at Red Clay, Ga. Other supplies necessary were obtained, and the medical department was as rapidly as possible put in readiness for the exigencies of active service. The first skirmish in which the division was engaged was at Rocky Face Ridge, May 9, losing 1 killed and 28 wounded. Moving to Resaca, we confronted the enemy May 14, and a battle ensued, lasting two days, in which a heavier loss was sustained than in any other engagement of the campaign, amounting to, killed, 93; wounded, 484; total, 577. Here a division field hospital was first established, the practical working of which was new to both the surgeon in chief and all the medical officers of the division. A large number of operations were performed, which, with those performed after succeeding engagements, are borne below in a tabular form appended to this report.

The campaign since has been rather a series of skirmishers than of positive battles, few days passing without some being wounded; almost every advance, even for a few miles, being in the direct face of the enemy and under fire. In consequence, it has been necessary to have a field hospital constantly open and a regular hospital staff detailed for duty. The plan has succeeded admirably, and it s organization and the perfection of details have been rendered more and more complete. From careful observation it has appeared that operations were better borne early in the campaign than later, and patients reacted more promptly, and recovery progressed more rapidly. This in a great measure is owing to the hardships of the campaign, constant exposure, and a ration often deficient in quantity and nearly destitute of vegetables. At the same time I am convinced that too much importance is given to the first two in their assumed relations to toleration of injuries and reaction after operations, and that, were a full and ample ration, with a large proportion of vegetables, furnished, the hardships and exposure of active campaigning would be found to have little effect beyond inuring the system to them, and developing a higher vital force. The main obstacle to rapid recovery has been a scorbutic tendency, which has generally pervaded the troops of this division, developed in this campaign, but the predisposing causes of which lay in the privations to which the army was exposed in the winter months during active operations in East Tennessee. On inspection, early in July, of all the regiments composing this division, an average of 20 per cent. of marked cases of scorbutus were found, and a taint was manifest in more than one -half of both officer and men. Aside from this ten-