Saturday, March 2, 2013

Dr. John van Surly DeGrasse

African American Union Doctor

By Robert G. Slawson, M.D., F.A.C.R.
Dr. John van Surly DeGrasse is the third man known to have received a commission. Dr. DeGrasse was the second African American to be graduated from an American medical school. He was graduated from Maine Medical School, affiliated with Bowdoin College, in Brunswick, Maine, in 1849..
Following graduation, he went to Paris and there was Assistant Dresser to the famous French surgeon, Velpeau, for two years. He returned to the United States and first practiced in New York. Later he moved to Boston and did very well there; he became a member of the Massachusetts Medical Society.
After the war started and regiments of Colored Troops were formed, he applied for a medical commission. He was commissioned "Assistant Surgeon" with the Thirty-fifth Infantry Regiment, United States Colored Troops.
After the war, Dr. DeGrasse returned to Boston and resumed his practice. The Governor of Massachusetts presented Dr. DeGrasse with a ceremonial surgeon's sword to show appreciation for his service in the Civil War.
Reprinted from: "The Journal of Civil War Medicine", Vol. 7, No. 2, April/May/June 2003


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