Friday, August 30, 2013

Hospital Stewards


The lowest ranking members of Union and Confederate Medical Departments during the Civil War were usually hospital stewards, noncommissioned officers who received the pay and allowance of a sergeant major. Each regiment was authorized to have one hospital steward, who was often chosen by the regimental surgeon from the enlisted men in the unit.

Army regulations specified that men selected as hospital stewards had to be of good character: "temperate, honest, and in every way reliable, as well as sufficiently intelligent, and skilled in pharmacy. Temperance was an important quality since one responsibility of the hospital steward was controlling and dispensing medicinal whiskey. As he was responsible for keeping many medical records, the steward also needed to be literate and intelligent.

His other duties included assisting the field surgeons in operations, supervising hospital cooks and nurses, and even prescribing drugs and performing minor operations during emergencies.

Regulations called for Union hospital stewards to wear the red trimmed uniform of artillerymen. Their uniform insignia consisted of an emerald green, yellow edged, half-chevron that bore a two-inch-long yellow caduceus (staff with two entwined snakes and two wings at top). Hospital stewards of volunteer regiments, however, were known to wear a variety of different uniforms and insignia. Confederate hospital stewards' uniforms and insignia were not officially regulated, but one surgeon recalled that on the uniform many wore, the chevrons on the coat sleeves and the stripe down the trousers very similar to those worn by an orderly or first sergeant, but were black in color.


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