Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Ambulance Trains


Immediately prior to the break out of hostilities between the National Government and the Confederate States, the U.S. Army had developed and built a quantity of ambulances.  Up to that time, there was no purpose built ambulance in government service.  In previous wars, various wagons were pressed into service for the transporting the sick and wounded.  Most were found unsuitable.

The commission that developed the specifications for the first U.S. Army ambulances examined European designs and those submitted by American sources.  It was decided that a light, single horse, two-wheeled cart and a heavier, two (sometimes four) horse, four-wheeled wagon be built.   A Battalion of Infantry was to receive an allotment of one two-wheeled cart per company plus one more two-wheeled cart and a four-wheeled wagon per battalion.  Later, men were drafted from regiments to form an Ambulance Corps.  An innovation of Jonathan Letterman, the Ambulance Corps first officially appears in the Army of the Potomac (1862).  Congress would later make the institution a mandated part of the establishment (1864).

The two photographs on this page illustrate the usage of the three most common ambulances used during the war.  The first photograph shows the 2 wheeled ("Coolidge") and 4 wheeled ("Tripler") approved for use in  1859.  The second photograph shows the lighter 4 wheel pattern ("Roscrans/Wheeling") that begins to appear in numbers about the time of Fredericksburg and will generally replace the earlier models by the end of 1863.

Medical Inspector Frank Hamilton noted that the two wheeled variety continued in use through the end of the war where the roads were smooth.

Near the end of the war, an improved 4 wheeled ambulance ("Rucker") was adopted and was the standard Army pattern ambulance for the post war Indian campaigns.


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