War of the Rebellion: Serial 127 Page 0888 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records

a number of sick too great for any one man to attend properly, placed under his care. The diseases prevalent in the Army are camp fever, measles, pneumonia, diarrhoea, and dysentery. All of them partook of the depressing character of the camp fever, being of a typhus tendency. In some localities the typhoid fever was found greatly aggravated in its progress by the general morbid influence of the atmosphere of the camps.

The armies on the Potomac and in Western Virginia suffered greatly; those troops in Cheat Mountain and in the vicinity of the Kanawha Valley most intensely. The wet and changeable climate, the difficulty of transportation, exposure to cold and rain, without tents, the necessary consequence of the frequent forward and retrograde movements, as well as the impossibility of a always obtaining suitable food for either sick or well me, produced most of the sickness and greatly aggravated it after its accession.

There were no hospitals in reach of those armies, and it became necessary to subsidize all suitable buildings in reach for the use of the sick, who often accumulated so rapidly as to fill them to crowding.

The rapid movements of armies hourly expecting battle created a necessity for the removal of the sick into the rear at a time when transportation was greatly in demand and at all times insufficient. Under these circumstances the sick in all stages of disease-sometimes when merely moving them must be fatal-were crowded into wagons and delivered at points where, from their unexpected number, there was no adequate provision either for their food or shelter, and in such cases the suffering as well as the mortality was greatly increased.

The diseases in the Peninsula were exceedingly severe and the cases very numerous. They were usually of the miasmatic character, to which men from the upper country would be subject. These, too, were greatly aggravated by measles, which also scourged these camps. In the early part of the campaign there was a great deficiency of hospital accommodation there, but now, in Yorktown and Williamsburg, that want has been in a great measure supplied.

Whenever hospital accommodation was possible, and a due regard paid by those in charge, much of the suffering of the sick was avoided, especially where those hospitals were within a convenient distance, and the transportation at all adequate to the gentle and merciful removal of the sick and helpless.

Your committee were impressed with several evils which, as they are clearly within the reach of remedy by the present laws, will be mentioned, as those which could be obviated by a more full administration of their provisions.

First, upon examination of the medical stores at the various hospitals and camps, with a few exceptions, they were incomplete and insufficient in many of the leading and necessary articles for the prevailing diseases. Second, there was a great deficiency in surgical instruments, and those in possession of the surgeons often very inferior and ill adapted to the service. This they, however, feel assured was the result in a great measure of the almost insuperable difficulty of obtaining a supply in the present state of our commercial atrophy. But it is presumed that sufficient encouragement would secure the manufacture of instruments within the Confederate States. The Surgeon-General assured the committee that this difficulty was in a fair way to be overcome. This, the great insufficiency of transportation to be devoted to the service of the Medical Department, in the camps and at the hospitals. A great increase is indispensable; the want of it has produced much of the mortality and much of the suffering. Sick men, on the advance of the enemy, are crowded into common wagons and ambulances, moved rapidly over bad roads, jolted and rendered uncomfortable, the maladies aggravated, and, in many instances, dying in the removal. Fourth, the regulations requiring reports from the regiments as to the number of sick, their diseases and the wants of the medical station, have not been complied with. The result of this neglect is that, upon a change of position in the Army, it has been the unhappy consequence that the number of sick greatly exceeded that indicated by the reports. They have been hurried to the rear, where the accommodations, both as to food, shelter, and medical attendance, being all insufficient, there has been great suffering and great mortality. Upon inquiry the committee learned from the department of the Surgeon-General that on various occasions, without sufficient notice, large numbers of sick have reached Richmond in the cars, when attention to them was impossible. Your committee also found upon examination that the regulation requiring that the regimental surgeon should, whenever a sick soldier was sent to the hospital, his descriptive roll as well as the nature of his disease, should accompany him, has been sadly neglected. The evil of this neglect is felt in the impossibility of prompt medical treatment, as well as the almost insurmountable difficulty which obstructed every effort of friends to find and identify those to whom their attentions were so desirable. No legislation is necessary to cure this evil. The fault is with the surgeons and the