In March orders were given requiring the division hospitals to be kept clear of wounded and sick who would be in the way in case immediate movement was directed. In answer to my application hospital cars were procured by the chief quartermaster and superintendent of military railroad, to the great improvement of the mode of transportation sick and wounded to City Point.
In view of the importance and magnitude of the approaching operations and possible co-operative movements by several armies, the attention of the commanding general was invited, in February, to the propriety of having a reserve train of ambulances kept by the quartermaster's department, from which deficiencies in the corps might be promptly filled, and to be subject to my order whenever emergency might demand. The application did not receive favorable action. A material reduction was unexpectedly announced at this time in the number of army wagons authorized for the medical and hospital department. Considerable property was turned in before the campaign commenced, but it became necessary afterward to throw out and abandon many articles, as the rains of March 29 and 30, for a time, made the roads impassable for heavily laden wagons.
The proper subsistence of officers in field hospitals, and of their servants, in a manner least likely to lead to abuse had attracted my attention, and some diversity of management was tolerated for a few months in order to ascertain a correct system. I became convinced, however, that no charges should be made against wounded officers, and that their admission and continuance in field hospitals should be encouraged; at the same time they should be required to furnish a ration which recent legislation and orders had authorized and facilitated. The circular of March 24 was therefore issued.*
In March I caused the regimental surgeons and assistants to be returned to their regiments in the field from duty in the depot hospitals at City Point, their duties devolving upon contract physicians, who were sent to me by the Surgeon-General.
Although the able-bodied men of the line had been superseded at the depot hospital by musicians, their commanders still made frequent application for relief of their detailed badmen, drummers, buglers, &c. It became, therefore, desirable to have the services of hired nurses or members of the Veteran Reserve Corps for duty as a hospital corps. After consultation with the assistant adjutant-general the subject was brought to the attention of the Surgeon-General; but reliable contract nurses were difficult to obtain, and the great demand for nurses, cooks, &c., from the Reserve Corps for general hospitals corps precluded any detail for our field hospital at City Point. Had a hospital corps been properly organized during the war, I am persuaded that good material would have been attracted to it and the public service have been greatly benefited thereby. They would have been eligible for duties in the general hospitals, in field and depot hospitals, and the transport steamers of the medical department. The sick and wounded need seldom have passed out of the hands of the medical department until they reached the depot of the army again, and many thousands who entered the convalescent camps and rendezvous [to be detained, and, in many cases, lost to the fighting force] could have, to a great extent, been directly returned by the medical transports to their commands for duty.
At 4.30 a.m. of the 25th of March the enemy, under Gordon, assaulted the front of the Ninth Corps in force, moving in three columns-one
39 R R-VOL XLVI, PT I