Civil War Hospital Ship

The U.S.S. Red Rover, a captured Confederate vessel, was refitted as a hospital ship.

Evolution of Civil War Nursing

The evolution of the nursing profession in America was accelerated by the Civil War.

The Practice of Surgery

Amputations were the most common surgery performed during the Civil War.

Army Medical Museum and Library

Surgeon-General William Hammond established The Army Medical Museum in 1862. It was the first federal medical research facility.

Civil War Amputation Kit

Many Civil War surgical instruments had handles of bone, wood or ivory. They were never sterilized.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Dr. Oriana Moon, A Female Confederate Doctor


Oriana Russell Moon was the second child in the family of seven children born to Anna Maria Barclay (1809-1870) and Edward Harris Moon (1805-1853).  Oriana, often called 'Orie' by her friends and family, was born in 1834 and lived with her family at Viewmont, a 1500-acre estate on Scottsville Road.  Edward Moon was a wealthy merchant with business interests in Scottsville and Memphis, and a store at Carters' Bridge.  His wife, Anna, was equally wealthy and had inherited Viewmont with all of its slaves and furniture from her stepfather, John Harris.

Their daughter, Orie, and her siblings grew up in an aristocratic Southern home, surrounded by books.  Orie's father was well-educated and a man with literary tastes.  He purchased an unusually large library for Orie, consisting of the leading histories, poetry, fiction, and scientific works of the time.  To supplement this exceptional library, Edward Moon hired the finest tutors for his children in literature, history, music, science, and religion.  At a time when society decreed that young Southern women of wealth be tutored privately and trained in such household arts as planning parties and finding a suitable husband, Edward permitted his daughters to choose their own pursuits.  Orie would become a medical doctor; her sister, Sallie Coleman, became a teacher; and her sisters, Lottie and Edmonia, famous Baptist missionaries to China.

For the first sixteen years of her life, Orie was an ardent and persistent reader, often so wrapped up in her readings that she refused to stop for meals.  Orie seemed to prefer mental nourishment to material food and craved learning.  She attended Emma Willard's Troy Female Seminary in New York during the 1850-1851 school year.  Her father's books listed a sum of $1050 spent on Orie's education - an enormous sum for a woman's education in those days.  But Orie's education was not complete, as an interest in becoming a medical doctor surfaced at about age eighteen.

William Luther Andrews, Orie's son, wrote in his 1936 memoirs of his mother (Andrews, Barclay, Moon of Albemarle: A Love Story) that Edward Moon readily agreed that she should pursue a medical career.  However, Edward did not live to see her enroll and passed away in 1853.  A year later in 1854, Orie enrolled in the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania.  This medical college was started by Quakers in 1850 "to instruct respectable and intelligent females in various branches of medical science."  This commitment to women in medicine was a rarity, as the belief of that time was that women could not master the education or handle the rigors and indelicacies associated with the practice of medicine.  And Orie seized her educational opportunity with zest.  After writing her thesis on the relationship between cardiac and pulmonary diseases, Orie was awarded her Doctor of Medicine in 1857.

Orie probably recognized that she had embarked upon a controversial career.  Even in sophisticated Philadelphia, where she had received her MD, female students were banned from practicing at all of the hospitals, leading the College to set up its own clinic where they treated other women, the destitute, or, in some people's eyes, the fearless.  As William Luther Andrews wrote in 1936, Orie once wrote to a soon-to-be sister-in-law, "My dear, you must be very brave to marry a man with me for a sister."

In 1857, Orie returned to Viewmont.  A year later, her uncle, James Turner Barclay, decided to return to Jerusalem with his family for a second missionary tour as a Disciples of Christ minister, physician, and student of the Holy Land.  As her son retold the story in 1936, Orie was determined to join Barclay and assist him where possible by providing providing medical services to the Bedouins.  She sailed to Europe, carrying for protection a revolver with which she was an expert marksman.  In Turkey, while crossing the Bosphorus from Constantinople to Adrianople, Orie hired two boatmen to row her across the water.  In an incident she often retold in later years, Orie paid the two men an agreed-upon sum before they started rowing.  However, midway in the trip, the two boatmen threatened to turn back unless she paid them a second time.  Orie pulled out her revolver and barked the command "Go to Adrianople!"  So motivated, the two boatmen rowed with great speed, and when the boat touched the Adrianople shore, they fled with equal haste.  Orie proved to be a fearless American that even these Turks respected.

Arriving in Jerusalem, Orie felt an overwhelming sense of awe that she was treading on holy ground. She had never been particularly religious, although she was well versed in the Bible and the history of the Holy Land and as a child was a regular attendee of the Scottsville Baptist Church that her parents largely built.  Orie's change-of-heart began during her voyage with the Barclays to the Holy Land and included serious religious talks with her uncle, Dr. James Barclay.  Shortly thereafter, Orie was baptized by Dr. Barclay in the Pool of Siloam.

Although we have not found primary evidence that Dr. Orie practiced medicine during her stay in the Holy Land, William Luther Andrews claimed that his mother told her children many stories about ministering to the Bedouins.  Outside the walls of the Holy City, Orie was known as "El Hakim" (The Doctor).  Due to scarcity of water and poor hygiene, the Bedouins frequently became victims of ophthalmia, a disease that lead to much childhood blindness.  Orie began a campaign of gentle persuasion to encourage the children to wash their faces.  Whenever Orie went through the David Gate of Jerusalem and approached the Bedouin tents, the cry went out ahead of her, "Run, wash your faces - El Hakim is coming!"  According to Orie's stories to her children, the improved sanitation she implemented helped bring relief to Bedouin children suffering from this eye disease.

In later years, Orie told her children that she soon learned enough Arabic to gain the confidence of the Bedouins and their compliance with her medical advice.  Several sheiks with harems camped near the Holy City asked Orie to tend to the sick among their wives and children.  While tending to the ill, she acquired a rich store of anecdotes and intellectual discoveries to embellish her conversations in the years to come.

Life among the Arabs for a young, attractive woman provided a fair share of dangerous experiences, too, and one in particular called for Orie to keep a cool head and an agile mind.  During one visit to a harem, its aging sheik took a fancy to the attractive American.  He suggested that Orie become part of his harem.  As the sheik and Orie sat across from each other on the carpets of his tent, the young doctor produced her revolver and laid it on her lap.  Looking the amorous sheik in the eye, Orie said to him, "I know you think you are doing me an honor, but among my people where a man has but one wife, your suggestion would be the greatest insult a married man could offer to a woman and, if I thought you realized the affront you have offered me, I would kill you.  Do not dare to ever again to even think of such a thing for, if you do, I will read your mind and I will kill you."

To everyone's surprise, the sheik made the most abject apologies and hastily retreated from the scene.

Orie told her children later that she recounted this adventure to her uncle, Dr. Barclay, who was far more aware of her danger than she was.  He insisted strenuously that she discontinue her visits to the Bedouin tents for fear that she might be kidnapped by the amorous sheik.  For the remainder of her Jerusalem stay, Orie visited the historic spots inside and outside the city.  In later life, Orie told her children that Sarah Barclay Johnson, her cousin, accompanied her on some of these visits.  Sarah was the daughter of Dr. Barclay and an artist, who loved sketching the unique scenes of Jerusalem. In fact, several of Sarah's earlier engravings of Jerusalem illustrated Dr. Barclay's 1858 book entitled, City of the King.    Finally after more than 14 months abroad, Orie Moon departed Jerusalem for her Virginia home in the Summer of 1859.

Upon arrival at Viewmont, Orie discovered that her company at social gatherings was in high demand.  To these gatherings, Orie brought exciting word of faraway places.  Her experiences among the Bedouins and in Jerusalem were a source of never ending interest.  Orie continued her medical practice as a woman's physician for her social circle and for the servants of the Moon family.  Her patients, many who would know no other doctor, championed their young female physician and sang her praises.  But among her male medical peers, there was an inclination to belittle Orie and sneer at the idea of a woman being able to acquire a medical education, let along to practice medicine.  When presented with Dr. Moon's diploma from the Woman's Medical College of Philadelphia and her marked success with her female patients, some male physicians grudgingly accepted Orie as an unusual woman doctor.  However, despite much urging, Dr. Moon consistently declined to 'hang out her shingle' as a general practitioner.

Then the Civil War broke out in 1861, and Virginia seceded from the Union.  Like the majority of Albemarle families, the Moons of Viewmont dedicated all of their resources to the Confederacy.  Slaves and whites of the household spun, wove, and knit uniforms for the rebel soldiers.  Food supplies and rifles were contributed to the cause.  Orie Moon volunteered her medical services to the Confederacy in several letters written to General John H. Cocke between April and July 1861.

Following is Orie's letter to General Cocke dated 19 July 1861:

July 19, 1861

My most respected Friend,

Owing, I suppose, to our regular postal arrangements, your kind communication of Tuesday has just been received.

I have not as yet entered into service; neither shall I, without consulting you, if you will allow me that high privilege!  I have been willing and even anxious to be engaged in ministering to the wants of the sick, but after you so kindly proposed to take the matter in hand, I thought it would be better to wait and learn the result; and in the meantime assiduously to review my medical studies, hoping thereby to be better qualified for a medical attendant.

I have received my pages from some of the ladies of Charlottesville, to the effect that they had held a meeting to ascertain how many would be willing to nurse the sick, and "certainly counted on getting me; and that I must not leave the county."  But I have not as yet been addressed by the committee, and do not feel myself bound to them.

If it will not be too great an imposition on your time and generosity, I would prefer to have you make any arrangements for me you may see proper.

If the ladies of Richmond address me on the subject, I will enclose their communications to you.

Enclosed I send you some suggestions, which strike me as being good.  It embodies exactly any idea, and I intended to propose such a plan, if I had not been anticipated.

I would prefer to be in a Surgical Hospital where I would assist in the operations.

Please say to the authorities, that I will give the services of myself and servant gratuitously, if they are willing to incur our expenses for dwelling and board.  I will go anywhere or do anything they may see fit to assign me, if it is to follow the army and seek the wounded on the field of battle.

Yours with the highest regard
And Christian esteem

Orie R. Moon

In July 1861, Dr. Orie Moon, her mother, and brother hitched up the family carriage and drove to Charlottesville ten miles away.  Their journey was made to convert the family's ready cash and other marketable assets into currency or bonds for the Confederacy.  Excited citizens gathered on every Charlottesville street corner as Orie and her mother entered the Charlottesville Bank.  While Mrs. Moon discussed her financial situation with the bank president, Orie pondered the "Call to Arms" prominently displayed on the bank's walls.  The notice stressed the urgent need of physicians, surgeons, and nurses for the Confederate Army.  Dr. Orie turned to the bank president and asked, "Where shall I go to offer my services as a physician?"  He directed her to a nearby building.
It appears from available records that Dr. Orie Moon began about that time to affect a temporary appointment as a surgeon with the University of Virginia until General Cocke could secure a permanent position for her in a Confederate surgical hospital.  On 22 July, one day after the Battle of Bull Run, Orie received word to report to the Charlottesville General Hospital which included buildings converted for that purpose at the University of Virginia.  Soon the hospital overflowed with wounded from Bull Run and spilled over to private homes nearby.  In what appears to be a special arrangement with the University of Virginia, Dr. Orie was assigned a ward in this hospital as detailed in a letter written to General Cocke on 27 July 1861 by her sister, Lottie Moon:

July 27, 1861

Gen. John H. Cocke

Dear Sir,

My sister, having entered into a temporary engagement with the medical faculty at the University, has had a ward assigned her and is now there in the discharge of her duties.  The urgent demand for the services of all who had the will and the nerve to witness and relieve the suffering, rendered it impossible for her to remain idle.  Yet I am confident from having so often heard her express the desire, that she earnestly wishes to be nearer the scene of action and that she will shrink from neither difficulty nor danger in the discharge of duty.  If any arrangement could be made to that effect, I am sure that she would be much gratified.  The arrangement she has entered into with the surgeons at the University is only temporary, as she had determined to make no permanent engagement until she had heard further from you.

I regret extremely that I can find no copy of the letters you wished.  After looking over her writing desk, I have reluctantly concluded that she has either taken them with her, or destroyed them.  My mother will send a messenger to town with you letter, and I presume you will receive an answer in a few days.

Very respectfully,
Lottie Moon

As wounded from both armies poured into the Charlottesville General Hospital after the First Manassas confrontation, a letter appeared in the Richmond Daily Dispatch on August 1, 1861, describing the situation at that hospital and Dr. Moon's role there:  "The state of the hospital is most satisfactory.  The few cases of death are extremely cheering.  But one of the wounded has so far died; he was a Yankee and fearfully injured.  The largest number of wounded belong probably to the 4th Alabama Regiment, and there are also several young men of the Oglethorpe Light Infantry, from Savannah, and half dozen students from the University of Oxford, Mississippi, here.  By far the large majority of sick are down with the measles and will easily recover.  Among the more seriously wounded are also two Yankee captains from a New York Regiment."

"Thanks to the energy and zeal displayed on all sides, order begins to reign and system to prevail amid the immense number.  More physicians have arrived from other towns; among them Dr. Alexander Rives, late house-surgeon of Bellevue Hospital, New York; Dr. Moon, a young lady of the neighborhood, to whose skillful and experienced hands the care of a ward has been entrusted.  Other states, also are coming to the relief of their sons.  South Carolina ever ahead in all noble enterprises, has already taken measure to provide houses, provisions and nurses for her wounded or sick soldiers, and we doubt not that her example will soon be followed by others.  It is Virginia, however, who of course ought mainly to see to it that this truly grand institution should be kept up in a manner worthy of her name and of the noble men who are now tended by her sons and her daughters.  The benevolence of a single locality ought not to be overtaxed; the care of wounded soldiers ought not be left to private charity.  Nor should their religious interests be overlooked, and the appointment of a Chaplain would be a wise measure on the part of the Government, and be a great boon to more than a thousand men, led by sickness and death to think seriously of their soul's welfare."

Edward Warren, MD, ca. 1885 Edward Warren, MD, author of A Doctor's Experience in Three Continents and formerly a Brigadier-General, Surgeon-General of North Carolina, and Inspector of the Army of Northern Virginia, looked upon female surgeons far less favorably than the author of the Richmond Daily Dispatch article.  Perhaps reflective of prevailing Victorian attitudes that the 'gentler' sex were created for matrimonial ends, Dr. Warren bluntly described his narrow views on female physicians in his 1885 book:

"I met also for the first time that rara-avis in the field of Southern medicine, a female physician, in the person of Miss Moon, a native of Albemarle County, Virginia, and a graduate of the Woman's Medical College of Philadelphia Female Medical Collge of Pennsylvania was renamed woman's Medical College in 1867).  She was a lady of high character and of fine intelligence, and, though she failed to distinguish herself as a physician, she made an excellent nurse, and did good service in the wards of the hospital.  Unfortunately for her professional prospects, she fell in love with one of our assistant surgeons and compromised matters by marrying him and devoting himself to the care of her own babies - like a sensible woman.  Imagine if you can, the position of the young lady with much of native modesty and refinement in her composition, in a hospital of wounded soldiers, and with only medical officers as her companions, and you will have eliminated a most potent argument against the inappropriateness of a woman becoming a doctor.  In my humble judgment, no one possessing a womb or endowed with the attributes of femininity ought to dream of entering the ranks of the medical professor and Dr. Moon's experiences at Charlottesville teaches a lesson in this regard which her aspiring sisters would do well to heed and appreciate."

"The possibility of matrimony and the probability of maternity - the ends for which women were created - raise a barrier in the pathway of those who would enter upon the domain of medicine, which they should regard as nature's protest against their intrusion.  In a word, women were made not to administer drugs nor to amputate limbs nor to engage in the arduous and exciting 'incidents' of a doctor's career, but to fill the sacred role of sister, wife, and mother - to render home happy, and to sustain, cheer and comfort men in the struggle of life."

Doctors, however, who worked beside Dr. Orie in the Charlottesville General Hospital grew to respect her medical skills and dedication.  In a 1913 letter written by Dr. Peter Winston, who ran a ward next to Dr. Orie, he described her as a young woman who did 'efficient service at the bedsides and in the surgical wards."  The scenes of suffering in the University hallways were terrific, but Dr. Orie stopped from her patients' care only long enough to get a few hours of rest a day.

When the Civil War broke out, John Summerfield Andrews, a 23-yr. old practicing physician in Memphis, Tennessee, arranged his personal affairs and headed to Manassas.  He arrived there a few days before the Battle of Bull Run and joined the same Alabama regiment in which his brothers, Robert and William, had enlisted.  During that battle on July 21, 1861, Billie Andrews was among the first of the Alabamians to fall as a grape shot ripped through his body.  Billie's brother, John, caught him as he fell and carried his body back to a safer spot at the battlefield's edge.  Billie died quickly, and later would be buried in an unmarked grave on the battlefield.  His brother, John, went back to the fight.

A few hours later, a minie ball wounded Robert Andrews in the hand, and John helped his brother back to a sheltered spot that became a field hospital.  When Confederate General Bee visited the hospital, he immediately commissioned John as a surgeon and put him in charge of the wounded men of the 4th Alabama Regiment.

After the battle's conclusion, the Confederate wounded were taken to Charlottesville via Culpeper.
At the Charlottesville General Hospital, Dr. John determined that Robert's medical condition was grave.  Research in Charlottesville General Hospital and 4th Alabama records indicate that his hand wound was the least of his problems as Robert suffered from intestinal bleeding associated with a typhoid fever infection.

Robert's condition grew worse, and it became apparent that unless something miraculous was done quickly, he would soon die.  John asked for another surgeon to examine his brother, and Dr. Moon was called in.  When John looked up from his seat at his brother's bedside, he was astonished to see a young woman about 24-years old, 5'4" in height with chestnut hair and blue eyes that seemed to look through a person.  She wore a simple but expensive dress and displayed a calm and medically competent manner around her patient.  John quickly noted that when her face lit up with a smile, sunshine came into the room.  There by his wounded brother's bedside, Dr. John Andrews met his future bride, Dr. Oriana Moon.

The two surgeons surrounded Robert Andrew's bed, and after a thorough examination, retired to an adjoining room for consultation.  In the absence of anesthetics and with the patient's fever, Dr. Moon advised against surgery, fearing it would hasten the end of this young soldier.  John agreed that Dr. Moon's approach was best, that the operation should be deferred.  They packed Robert's chest with ice to reduce his fever and provide more favorable conditions for the operation, should it appear feasible.  During the night, Robert's condition improved slightly and then worsened.  Two days later, Robert died.

On their way from Robert's death bed, another staff member remarked to Dr. Orie that his death was an unusually sad case.  When she asked 'why', her colleague recalled Billie Andrews' death and burial at Bull Run a few days earlier.  Now because of financial reasons, John's brother, Robert, must likewise fill a grave far from his home and family.  These thoughts deeply impressed Dr. Orie, and as she possessed ample funds, she decided to tender Dr. John Andrews a loan to finance Robert Andrews' last trip home to Florence, Alabama.

When John Andrews returned to his post at the Charlottesville Hospital later in the summer, he learned that illness had forced Dr. Orie to give up her Ward.  She had returned to Viewmont where she was being cared for by her mother and family.  At his first opportunity, John hired a horse and rode the ten miles to Viewmont, intending to repay the loan and check on Dr. Orie's health.  He tarried several days at Viewmont before returning to Charlottesville where he discovered he had been installed as Physician to the Ward previously run by Dr. Orie Moon.  John also installed himself as physician to Dr. Orie, who would be confined to bed for more than a month.  Dr. John's visits to Viewmont multiplied and their friendship took on a deeper meaning.  John requested leave to get married, and on November 28, 1861, John Andrews and Oriana Moon married at Viewmont in Albemarle County.

In November 1861, John also sought and was granted leave to seek reassignment in Richmond.  Daily, these hospitals received wounded soldiers from Charlottesville and other areas of Virginia.  Every medical person was needed.  However, military records do not show John resurfacing in Richmond until late January 1862.  On 1 February 1862, he appeared before a medical review board in Richmond where he was declared unsatisfactory as a surgeon.  John resigned his commission the same day.  It appears that John and Orie continued living at Viewmont, where Orie turned her medical attention to her family.  The Andrews' first child, Henry Horton Andrews, was born on 30 October 1862.

In May 1863, Henry Horton Andrews died from croup, and on 1 October 1863, Orie's second son, James Barclay Andrews, was born.  With their family growing, the Andrews moved from Viewmont to the Bel Air estate, located along the Hardware River, approximately three miles from Viewmont and a short distance from Mt. Ayr, the home of John and Mary Moon, who were Orie's uncle and aunt.  On 9 February 1865, Orie gave birth to a third son, William Luther Andrews.

Less than a month later, General Sheridan's Union soldiers marched through the area enroute to Scottsville in early March 1865.  Sheridan's goal was to destroy the canal and any foodstuffs and material that would aid and abet the Confederacy in the closing days of the Civil War.  Orie and John moved their two sons back to Viewmont as Union soldiers approached Viewmont and looted the country.  Orie's sister, Lottie, gathered and buried the family silverware and jewelry until the troops passed by.  So excited was Lottie that she was unable later to point out where she had buried the Moons' valuables.  Uncle Jacob, a trusted Viewmont servant, loaded a wagon with all of the bacon, flour, and food the family could spare from immediate use and drove it into a dense forest in Fluvanna County, nearly 20 miles away.  After Sheridan's men had marched through the area, Uncle Jacob returned to Viewmont with the precious food intact.

The Andrews stayed put at Viewmont as Lee surrendered at Appomatttox on 09 April 1865.  By the War's end, the Scottsville area of Albemarle was economically devastated by Sherman's four-day raid in the region, and a physician with a growing family like the Andrews probably could not depend on his patients' full payment for his medical services.  In 1869, John Andrews' family in Alabama assured him that there was a physician's position for him in Florence, Alabama, and advised John to move south with his family.  Orie and her youngest son caught a train in Charlottesville for Florence while John and their eldest son drove a wagonload of their possessions to Florence.

John soon realized that the Florence area could not pay much more than gratitude for his medical services.  In early 1870, he purchased a small tract of woodland in Hardin County, Tennessee, for a few gold dollars and built a rough board dwelling of two rooms for his family.  Orie and their two sons moved into this humble house in the Tennessee wilds later that year.  Although accustomed to far more comfort, Orie accepted her new situation with quiet dignity, a friendly disposition, and a desire to help her neighbors.

According to William Luther Andrews, his family lived near a small village of 300 Negroes, whose long days in the cotton and sugar cane fields left them little time but much interest in learning about Jesus.  The missionary spirit was aroused in Dr. Orie's heart.  Orie chose the beautiful oak grove in front of her house as an open-air church and decided to tell the story of John 3:16 to these villagers on the following Sunday.  She readied the grove for her congregation by having wood slabs cut as seats.  When the grove was ready for her ministry to begin, Orie sent word to the village that the 'Doctor's Wife' would tell the story of Jesus on Sunday.

A large number of villagers attended her Sunday service and over the next few Sundays, they learned to sing and pray under Orie's tutelage.  She also urged them to a better life - to be all that they can be.  Orie continued her Sunday services all summer, which according to her son, William Luther, gave rise to another heroic episode in his mother's life.  Unfortunately, as Orie was leading her flock to God, a local group of Ku Klux Klan just across the river took exception to this 'white from the north' whom they believed was inciting the black people to rise against them.  One summer's evening, the KKK decided to teach this lady doctor a lesson via a whipping.  They rode to the river and hailed the ferry to come pick them up.  When the ferry owner learned where the men were headed and for what purpose, he drew his teenage son aside and told him to quietly ride hard to Dr. Orie's house to warn her.  As his son rode off, the ferryman readied his ferry slowly to cross the river.

As it happened, John Andrews had been called away from home to attend to a mother giving birth that evening.  His wife and two young sons were left at home without friends or protection.  The ferry owner's son arrived at Orie's doorstep and gave her his father's message, "Dad says for you to run to the woods and hide from the KKK - he will try to hold them until you get away!"  Orie promptly responded without fear, "Tell your dad to put them across the river and tell them my doors are not locked, but I am armed and the first person who enters my house will be carried away."  She immediately prepared for the expected attack, but none came.

When Dr. John returned home after daylight and heard the story, he rode at once to the ferry to learn more from his friend, the ferryman.  The man told John that he had succeeded in dissuading the KKK from carrying out their intended mission by vouching for John, whom he knew to be a Mason.  He added that the Andrews were Virginians, not Northerners, and both had served the Confederacy.  Further the ferryman avowed that Dr. Orie's work among the blacks was entirely religious and that the reports the KKK had been given about Orie were erroneous.  The ferryman's arguments prevailed and nothing further was heard on the matter.

Thanking the ferryman profusely for helping his family in their time of need, John returned home greatly relieved.  However, he felt it best that Orie's ministry with her congregation should be discontinued, not only was it best for their family's well being, but also for that of the black villagers.  Some radical white people in the area were kindling ill feeling about their black neighbors. Thus Orie gave up her ministry and turned her concentration back once again to her family and providing medical treatment to her female neighbors as needed.

In 1870, the U.S. Census shows Dr. John and Orie Andrews living in Hardin County, Tennessee, with two living sons, James Barclay and William Luther.  Their personal property and real estate holdings totaled $1200.  Another son, Edward Moon Andrews, was born on 4 February 1871, but died on December 7th.  In 1872, the Andrews moved on to Waterloo, Alabama, where a physician was needed and Orie's ministry welcomed.  Orie also gave birth to two more sons, Samuel Bryant Andrews (1872) and Isaac Moon Andrews (1874).  And it was in Waterloo, while visiting her sister, Orie, that Lottie Moon decided to go to Tenchow, China, as a missionary for the Southern Baptist Church.

In their three years at Waterloo, the Andrews family moved three times.  Their patients lived in poverty and could not pay their physician for services rendered.  Possessing a chronic heart ailment, Orie's health suffered under the strain and was confined to bed.  John despaired for her life.  Orie's siblings urged the family to return to Viewmont where the Moons' happy childhood days had been spent.  This suggestion was very well-received by John and Orie, who hoped to restore Orie's health by making the trip in stages in a covered wagon.  John disposed of all of their furniture and shipped their books, clothing, and a few small trunks of keepsakes via railroad to Virginia.  He also purchased four mules and a new wagon with canvas stretched over the bows and a bed with springs in the wagon's rear.  With a small supply of food for travel, the Andrews began the 6-week trip back to Virginia in 1874.

The family settled down at Viewmont with Orie tutoring her sons in the library filled with the books her father had purchased for her many years before.  Five months of the year, the boys hiked 5 miles to Church Hill, the home of their Uncle Isaac Moon who taught a public school there.  Whether at Church Hill or at Viewmont, the Andrews children attended their lessons to learn rather than to be amused.  When not working on their lessons, the boys roamed the woods, set traps for hares and possums, and helped with corn planting in the nearby fields.  Many friends and associates of John and Orie came to visit, and their Moon family kin were always welcome.  Another son was born to the Andrews: Owen Merriweather Andrews (1875).  Time passed quickly and joyfully at Viewmont.

In 1879, the heirs of Anna Marie Barclay Moon, Orie's mother, decided to dispose of her estate and divide their mother's property or its proceeds among them.  Thus the Andrews found they must move on again, this time their new home was on Henry St. George Harris' farm in Buckingham County, Virginia.  In 1880, another son, Frank Moon Andrews, was born to John and Orie.  Perhaps due to the rigors of child birth, Orie's health again worsened.  Within the year, the Andrews moved to Norwood, Nelson Co., Virginia, where they rented a farm belonging to a Mr. Brown's estate.  Dr. John found an active medical practice in Norwood and also planted corn in his fields along the James River low grounds.  During the Spring of 1881, however, torrential rains fell and caused the James River to sweep away all of the Andrews' crops.  The Andrews once again 'moved on', returning this time to Scottsville.

In 1882, John and Orie rented Old Hall, the Beal family home at the corner of Byrd and Harrison Streets.  There the two doctors opened the First Sanatorium of Southside Albemarle and began active practice with children and women as their patients.  They had more clients than they could accommodate, and so greatly did their work tax Dr. Orie's strength that she was forced to quit the practice in December 1883.  John soon realized that his beloved Orie was dying.

In the early morning of December 24, 1883, Dr. Oriana Moon Andrews died of pneumonia, and, at her request, she was buried on December 26th in the Scottsville Presbyterian Cemetery (now Scottsville Cemetery).  This exceptional woman, who held a medical diploma from an accredited college of medicine and traveled abroad to the Holy Land and Egypt, was laid to her final rest having positively affected and been cherished by many people during her brief life on this earth.  Oriana Moon Andrews was truly a woman ahead of her time!

Image 1: Dr. Orianna Moon Andrews

Image 2: Female Medical College of Pennsylvania

Civil War U. S. Hospital, Ambulance, and Related Flags (Excerpt)

By Tom Martin, vexillologist, purveyor of Piedmont Flag Company. (, Winter, 2014

The first flags to indicate military hospitals were yellow. In 1861, nineteen hospitals of the Marine Hospital Service were taken over for use by the Army, and they continued to fly the yellow flag already customary for quarantined ships. (Yellow or white flags were sometimes flown at civilian homes where there was an outbreak of disease.) Despite red flags being specified in Army Regulations from 1854, yellow flags were generally, if informally, used thereafter to designate general hospitals, field hospitals, and ambulance depots (aid stations), although red and green flags were sometimes employed. (At that time green was the heraldic color of the Medical Department.) Sizes varied, and many flags had a green “H” in the middle. Ambulance flags were supposed to have a green border and not have the “H.”

“The ambulance depot, to which the wounded are carried or directed for immediate treatment, is generally established at the most convenient building nearest the field of battle. A red flag marks its place, or the way to it, to the conductors of the ambulance and to the wounded who can walk.” (US Army Revised Regulations 1861) 

The Confederate States generally matched US regulations, although used red flags more. Julian Chisolm, a Confederate surgeon, noted: 

"The members of the [Ambulance] Corps are designated by wearing around their caps a red band, with ambulance corps printed in conspicuous white letters.... If the body of troops about to entering into battle is a large one, with an extended line, several of those points - ambulance depots or field infirmary should be selected and marked by a suitable red flag, which designates the spot where those slightly wounded can seek surgical aid."

Another doctor noted how two Medical Department colors were useful to him: 

"Very fortunately, I had on my green sash, also a red flag was on the front part of the wagon, signs of the Medical Department. ..... "

A medical staff flag was discovered by Howard Michael Madaus, possibly a brigade or regimental surgeon’s flag. Another, now at the Delaware Historical Society, was used by the ambulance officer of the 1st Division, 2nd US Army Corps. It bears a red trefoil in the center of its green-bordered white field and the initials “E&H” on the heading, referring to the manufacturer Evens & Hassall. Other ambulance and medical officers likely used similar flags. 

Like hospitals, hospital trains carried red flags. Sometimes the cars would be painted red with white lettering “Hospital Train.” At night three red lanterns would be used as a signal of a hospital train.

"General Thomas accorded the fullest authority to Medical Director Cooper to select for the hospital trains the best locomotives and cars to be found among the rolling stock, and to have new cars fitted up whenever necessary, and caused to be detailed for the hospital service the most experienced conductors, engineers, and other employees of the several railway lines. Medical Director Cooper informs the reporter that the smoke-pipes of the locomotives of the hospital trains were painted of a brilliant scarlet; the exterior of the hood, and of the tender-car with water and fuel, were of the same conspicuous color, with gilt ornamentation. At night, beneath the head-light of the engine, three red lanterns were suspended in a row. These distinguishing signals were recognized by the Confederates, and the trains were never fired upon, or molested in any way. Dr. Cooper “was informed by wounded Confederate officers in Nashville, who were captured at the battle near that place, of the stringent orders given his troopers by General N. B. Forrest for the noninterference with and protection of the U. S. A. Hospital trains,” by giving them timely warning in the event of the railway being obstructed or torn up. The partizan troops of Colonel John Morgan’s command had similar instructions. It is related that on one occasion Colonel Morgan’s scouts stopped the train directed by Dr. Barnum, and having switched it off upon a siding, after enquiring if there were sufficient stores on the train for the sick and wounded, they tore up the main track, and then rifled and destroyed five supply trains that successively arrived at the point where the line was interrupted. … "

Both the U.S. Sanitary Commission and the U.S. Christian Commission used banners and flags to indicate their facilities. Sanitary Commission hospitals were typically marked by the yellow flag with a green “H”. Once the U.S. signed the Geneva Convention, the Red Cross flag was adopted. Its size and materials have varied over the years, and for different organizations, but its recognition under international law made it preferable to yellow or red. 


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Regimental Dressing Stations


The initial treatment of wounded soldiers was usually administered at regimental dressing stations that were located close to the battle lines and protected by earthworks or other natural defenses. These stations were typically manned by one Regimental Assistant Surgeon and one or two medical attendants.

The wounded would either come to the dressing station or be helped there by comrades. Wounds were treated with rough dressings and whiskey and opium pills would be administered to ease pain. Ideally, each regiment was assigned six ambulances with six drivers and twelve stretcher bearers that would evacuate the wounded to the Division field hospital.

Image 1: Wounded Confederate soldiers seek shade in makeshift tents using blankets and sticks and rifles for tent poles at a Regimental Aid Station aided by Dr. Anson Hurd of the 14th Indiana Volunteers.

Image 2: A Zouave ambulance crew demonstrating the removal of wounded soldiers from the field.

Civil War Nurses on Hospital Ships in the Eastern Theater

By Maggie MacLean, 12-29-13

During the Civil War, the Union Army often used ships to move sick and wounded soldiers from Southern battlefields to general hospitals in Northern cities. Initially, government-run hospital transport ships performed poorly. The need for improvement was especially demonstrated during the Peninsula Campaign when well-run volunteer hospital transport ships assisted the government ships to evacuate patients.

The Peninsula Campaign was a major Union operation in southeastern Virginia that lasted from March through July 1862. The plan was to travel up the Virginia peninsula by land and by river and capture the Confederate capitol at Richmond. USA General George B. McClellan was initially successful against the equally cautious CSA General Joseph E. Johnston, who was replaced by the aggressive General Robert E. Lee on June 1. Lee turned the subsequent Seven Days Battles (June 25 to July 1, 1862) into a humiliating Union defeat.

Hospital Transport Service
Early in April 1862, Frederick Law Olmstead, Secretary of the United States Sanitary Commission (USSC) asked the Quartermaster General to allow the Commission to use some of the transport steamboats of his department for the care of sick and wounded men. The USSC, a private agency that cooperated closely with the U.S. Army, would provide surgeons and supplies without any cost to the government.

The first such ship, the USS Daniel Webster, was assigned to the Commission, and after retrofitting the vessel, assembling supplies and hospital personnel, it reached the York River in Virginia on April 30, 1862. By mid-May, the Hospital Transport Service had seven ships working out of White House Landing on the York River and Harrison's Landing on the James River, transporting casualties from General McClellan's army of 100,000 men during a series of major battles.

Several women were assigned to each of these hospital transports by the Commission to care for the soldiers while they were being transported to large military hospitals in Washington, Philadelphia and New York. They took charge of the patients' comfort and welfare - feeding the patients, dressing wounds, and ensuring that all had clean beds and clothing. Among the dozens of women who were in charge of the Hospital Transports for one or more of these trips were Amy Morris Bradley, Annie Etheridge and Helen Gilson.

The Sanitary Commission quickly created a system of waterways by which the wounded steadily traveled further North. Ships were assigned schedules and maximum patient allowances so as not to overtask the medical staff and place an unexpected burden on the receiving hospital. Thus a very predictable and organized system grew.

For example, on the Pamunkey River, a tributary of the York River, 19 hospital transports working on a fixed schedule could move 700 wounded a day. Thus, some 20,000 wounded per month could be moved from Virginia to hospitals in five states as far North as New York. A second inland force of about 16 hospital ships moved patients along riverways north to Missouri, Ohio, and Kentucky.

The Peninsula Campaign of 1862 ended in a Union retreat. One of the last duties of the USSC Hospital Transport Service was when three of their ships were permitted to return under a flag of truce to City Point, Virginia and load 800 wounded men who had been taken prisoner in Richmond. Afterward, the Quartermaster Corps reclaimed the ships loaned to the Sanitary Commission. Improvements were made in the functioning of the government hospital transports, providing more care and comfort to the soldiers.

Four women remained at the headquarters of the Commission on the Peninsula until the final transfer of troops to Acquia Creek and Alexandria late in August 1862. Their duties consisted of nursing, preparing food for the patients, and dressing wounds in connection with the surgeons and medical students. Among these were Katharine Prescott Wormeley, Eliza Woolsey Howland, wife of Colonel Joseph Howland, and her sister Georgeanna Woolsey.

In her book The U. S. Sanitary Commission (1863), Katharine Prescott Wormeley recorded one of her experiences:

"This was the general state of things at the time when the battle of Fair Oaks was fought, June 1, 1862. All the vessels of the Commission... were on the spot, and ready... No one, it is believed, can tell the story, as it occurred, of the next three days; no one can tell distinctly what boats they were, on which they lived and worked through those days and nights. They remember scenes and sounds, but they remember nothing as a whole; and, to this day, if they are feverish and weary, comes back the sight of men in every condition of horror, borne, shattered and shrieking, by thoughtless hands, who banged the stretchers against pillars and posts, dumped them anywhere, and walked over the men without compassion.

"Imagine an immense river-steamboat filled on every deck: every berth, every square inch of room, covered with wounded men, even the stairs and gangways and guards filled with those who were less badly wounded; and then imagine fifty well men, on every kind of errand, hurried and impatient, rushing to and fro, every touch bringing agony to the poor fellows, whilst stretcher after stretcher comes along, hoping to find an empty place; and then imagine what it was for these people of the Commission to keep calm themselves, and make sure that each man, on such a boat as that, was properly refreshed and fed. Sometimes two or even three such boats were lying side by side, full of suffering and horrors."

Mary Morris Husband
During the Seven Days Battles on the Virginia Peninsula, Mary Morris Husband's son in the Union Army fell ill with malaria, and she was notified that he was near death. She hurried to his side, and after a great struggle and frequent relapses, he began to recover. In her thankfulness that his life had been spared, she devoted herself to the care of the sick and wounded of the army.

Mrs. Husband was on one of the hospital transports off Harrison's Landing, when the Confederates bombarded it, but she stood her ground like a veteran and continued her work of caring for the sick as calmly as if in perfect safety. She was appointed Lady Superintendent of one of the hospital transports which bore the wounded and sick to New York. She made four trips on these vessels, and her faithful attention to the sick won for her the esteem of all on board.

Eleanor C. Ransom of Indiana was nicknamed Mother because she was old enough to be the mother of most of the wounded boys she cared for, which makes her service all the more admirable. Her first assignment was in a Union hospital in Tennessee, and then to New Orleans where she went aboard the Government Transport Ship North America to nurse the wounded and sick Union soldiers during their voyage to hospitals in the North by sea.

The hospital ship North America sank in heavy seas in the midst of a violent storm off the Florida coast on December 22, 1864. Ransom was summarily placed in a lifeboat, from which she witnessed many of her beloved patients drown during the sinking and could do nothing to save them. Of the 203 Union soldiers on board, mostly from Illinois and New York regiments, many were too sick to move without aid; 194 died.

The lifeboat she was a passenger on was nearly swamped several times by huge waves, but she and a few others made it to the ship Libby and were rescued. Ransom was then sent to a hospital in New York City to recover from her ordeal.

While there, she received visits from relatives and friends of the soldiers who were lost on the North America who begged her for details about their loved ones who went down with the ship. Though it was difficult, Ransom never refused to tell what she recalled as mercifully as possible. She believed that it was her duty to ease the sorrows of those families as best she could.

On July 25, 1866, the United States Congress authorized a payment of $400 - which would be nearly $6000 today - to Ransom for her wartime services aboard the North America.

The Red Rover, a Confederate paddlewheel riverboat captured by the Union Army, was commissioned on December 26, 1862, and became the first hospital ship of the U. S. Navy. A side-wheel steamer of 786 tons, the Red Rover was converted into a hospital ship shortly after her capture. With the advice and assistance of the Western Sanitary Commission, the Red Rover had these conveniences:

"bathrooms, laundry, elevator for the sick from the lower to the upper deck, amputating rooms, nine different water closets, gauze blinds to the windows to keep the cinders and smoke from annoying the sick, two separate kitchens for the sick and well, and two water closets on every deck."

Operating from Cairo, Illinois to New Orleans during 1863 and most of 1864, the Red Rover supported the Mississippi Squadron along the entire Mississippi River and played a major role in evacuating the wounded from such notable operations as the Yazoo River operations, the Siege of Vicksburg, the Fort Pillow attack and the Red River expedition.

Flag Officer Charles H. Davis of the Western Gunboat Flotilla wrote:

"No one but those who have witnessed it can comprehend the sufferings to which our sick have been exposed by the absence of proper accommodations on board the gunboats and by the necessity for frequent and sometimes hasty change of place... When the ship was cleared for action... it was necessary to take down their cots and hammocks more than quickly into out of way and uncomfortable places. This must have been attended with pain and distress, if not positive injury. The arrival of the Red Rover will put a stop to all this..."

During January 1863, she served with an expedition up the White River in Arkansas. During the battle that captured Fort Hindman, the Red Rover remained at the mouth of the river to receive the wounded. On her departure, she was fired on by Confederates and several large shots penetrated into the hospital area, but no one was hurt.

From February to the fall of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, she cared for the sick and wounded of that campaign and supplemented her medical support of Union forces by provisioning other ships of the Mississippi Squadron with ice and fresh meat. She also provided burial details and sent medical personnel ashore when and where needed.

Red Rover continued her service along the Mississippi River, taking on sick and wounded and delivering medicine and supplies, until the fall of 1864. Although the nurses on board initially consisted of males, Sister Angela and three other Sisters of the Holy Cross offered their assistance and were transferred to the ship from an army hospital at Mound City, Illinois. Other female nurses served on the ship as well.

As with the white population, many African Americans served as nursing personnel during the war in both paid and volunteer capacities. The Navy enlisted five African American women as first class boys (and paid accordingly) and used them as nurses. The best known of these is Ann Bradford, an escaped slave from Tennessee who was enlisted in January 1863 and served until October 1864.

Stokes worked under the direction of the Sisters of the Holy Cross nuns aboard the USS Red Rover, becoming the first African American woman to serve on board a U.S. military vessel and one of the first women to serve as a nurse in the Navy. She stayed on active duty until October 1864 when she became totally exhausted and resigned her position.

Shortly after leaving the Navy in 1864, Ann married Gilbert Stokes, an African American man who had also been employed on the Red Rover. They moved to Illinois where Gilbert Stokes died in 1866. She remarried a man named George Bowman in 1867 and lived on a farm in Illinois. In the 1880s she applied unsuccessfully for a disability pension based on her marriage to Stokes.

She reapplied for a pension in 1890, stating that she had was suffering from heart disease. By this time she had learned to read and write and presented her own history, emphasizing that she was basing her claim on her own military service, not that of a husband. This was unique. The Navy certified that she had served eighteen months on the Red Rover and that she had a pensionable disability.

In 1890 Stokes was granted a pension of $12 a month, the amount awarded to former nurses at that time. She was the first woman in the United States to receive a pension for her own military service.

In December 1864, as the war on the Western waters waned, the Red Rover was assigned to her final station at Mound City, Illinois. When she was mustered out of naval service, her log showed that the Navy's first hospital ship had provided treatment for 2,947 patients during her career.

Image 1: Sisters Georgeanna Woolsey and Eliza Woolsey Howland: Served on hospital ships during the Peninsula Campaign in Virginia (March-July 1862)

Image 2: Eleanor Mother Ransom

Image 3: USS Red Rover


Improvements in Hospital Design


The devastating British deaths from disease during the Crimean War prompted improvements in sanitation and hospital design during the Civil War. The belief that improved air ventilation minimized the spread of diseases led to the development of new designs in hospitals where patients could be separated by type of injury or illness, thereby minimizing the spread of disease and infection.

Florence Nightingale first suggested that military hospitals be built as pavilions.[1] These pavilions consisted of long separate wards that allowed for greater air ventilation and improved efficiency in treating similarly injured or diseased patients. By the end of the war, the pavilion style had become the predominate style for General Hospitals. Pavilions were designed to offer the benefits of a tent with the protection of a solid structure. They were lighter, warmer, and better ventilated and were approximately 150 feet long, 25 feet wide, with a 12 to 14 foot ceiling. Each pavilion ceiling had a series of adjustable shutters on the ridge of the roof that allowed ample ventilation yet protection from inclement weather. They were often connected by a common passageway that allowed quick access by hospital staff to any pavilion ward.

Image 1: Each pavilion radiated out from the center at Hicks General Hospital in Baltimore

Image 2: Photograph by Mathew Brady in 1864 of a typical pavilion at Carver Hospital in Washington, D.C

Preserving the Horse Power of the Army


About one million horses died in service in both armies during the war. The wear and tear was extreme, constant, and inevitable, since Civil War armies were dependent upon horses and mules to keep armies supplied and to keep them on the move. 

The South had 1.7 million horses and the North had 3.4 million at the beginning of the war. It did not take long for generals on both sides to exhaust their equine reserves. They were unrelenting in their demands on soldiers to properly care for their animals. An equine epidemic could imperil the military efficiency of the troops, especially in the Confederacy where horses became scarce during the final two years of the war. Although soldiers on both sides were overwhelmingly from rural areas and were experienced with riding and caring for horses, the exhausting pressures of war were so urgent that often the soldier’s immediate needs—to get his own shelter, find water, and secure food—took precedence over the needs of his horse. 

During the 1865 Appomattox Campaign, for instance, Lee’s men had been living for months on a diet that lacked half of the necessary protein to maintain muscle mass as well as sufficient calories to sustain body mass. These men were suffering from night blindness, scurvy, and diarrhea, and they could barely care for themselves, let alone the animals in their army. The desperation in the ranks was felt in Confederate stables as well. One Southern cavalry officer complained that his horses received between two and a half and five pounds of feed per day. “This is insufficient to keep the horses in condition,” a Confederate inspector wrote, “they must go down.” A horse was supposed to receive fourteen pounds of hay and twelve pounds of grain every day, and in some areas of the Confederacy the countryside did not have the resources to sustain such an unending demand. 

Even though Union armies were better positioned to care for their animals, neither side had a staff of veterinary specialists to provide rudimentary medical care. Some have speculated that there were fewer than fifty veterinarians in the entire country. Out of necessity physicians often assisted in inspecting the animals, treating injuries, and finding ways to contain the spread of disease in the corral. In battle horses were inviting targets since the killing of animals virtually paralyzed artillerists who were unable to move their cannon. Shooting a mount might also injure an officer and thus imperil his ability to command in the field. 

In the end, the greatest risk to horses was the daily grind of campaigning, of being used to move the army and to scout the enemy. 

Learn more about Civil War veterinary medicine at

A Surgeon’s Sword

By Chuck Franson, Registrar, AMEDD Museum, Summer 2013

Beginning in 1840 and continuing for 62 years, U.S. Army Medical Officers were required to purchase a dress sword. This sword was completely ceremonial in purpose and was not considered an implement of war, unlike cavalry sabers or foot officer’s swords. The regulations called for a “small sword and scabbard, according to pattern in the Surgeon-General's office.” Even though the published details are vague, the M1840 sword is easily recognized.

The 1840 medical sword in the collection of the AMEDD Museum has a blade marked “Solingen” indicating that it was manufactured in Solingen, Germany, a city with a long history of cutlery manufacturing. The imported blade was transformed into a sword by the G. W. Simons & Brother Company of Philadelphia Pennsylvania. This company began in 1839 and by 1860 was manufacturing a diverse array of gold and silver items including gold and silver thimbles, pencil cases, tooth and ear picks, cane heads, bracelets, studs, seals and badges. With the expansion of the Army due to the outbreak of the American Civil War in April 1861, Simons added officer’s swords to their product line.

The sword has a double-edged straight blade, etched “United States Medical Staff” on the obverse, and on the reverse an eagle and a banner with “E Pluribus Unum.” The hilt has an English style “M S” (for Medical Service) in silver on a shield-shaped langet, sitting above 13 stars enclosed by a wreath. The hilt has an acorn-shaped pommel, with scroll shaped double quillon. The hilt and scabbard are decorated with acanthus leaves, a very popular decorative motif of the period. The hilt, scabbard and fittings are made of gilt over brass, with the blade being of steel. The reverse langet was frequently engraved with the name of the officer purchasing the sword. The langet on this sword is unfortunately blank The Medical Officer’s sword was discontinued in 1902, when regulations prescribed the M1902 sword for all officers except chaplains.


Depot Evacuation Hospitals


By 1863, regional evacuation depots were established to process the large number of casualties. As with the division and Corps hospital systems, one medical officer would command the depot and several subordinate medical officers were delegated management of key departments within the organization such as food and shelter, Military administration, and supply replenishment. Each depot was organized into Corps hospitals consisting of Division hospitals.

In 1864, the City Point Depot merged the five army corps of the Army of the Potomac effectively caring for 6,000 to 10,000 patients. The hospital wards consisted of log buildings, called pavilions, of approximately 20 feet wide by 50 feet long. The hospital eventually grew to 90 pavilions and 324 additional tents. It was outfitted with iron beds, steam water pumps, and a steam laundry operated by former slaves. Mosquito nets for the beds defended against the swarms of flies drawn by the open latrines. Each Corps hospital operated its own dispensary, commissary store house, and general and special diet kitchens. Wounded soldiers would either convalesce there then return to their regiments or be evacuated to one of the many general hospitals established throughout the north.

Image: Army Depot Hospital, City Point, Va. October 1864

The Army Medical Department at Gettysburg

From:, Summer 2013

An Overview
On 1 July 1863 a meeting engagement west of Gettysburg PA escalated into one of the biggest battles in the US. The Union Army of the Potomac (roughly 92,000 strong) was moving west to block the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia (roughly 75,000 strong) which had invaded Maryland and moved into Pennsylvania. The Army of the Potomac’s Medical Director, Major Jonathan Letterman, would rise to the occasion of dealing with almost 15,000 US wounded and roughly 7,000 wounded Confederate prisoners. Each regiment (nominally 1,000 men strong) had 2 or 3 surgeons, a medical supply wagon, and two ambulances; one surgeon was usually detached to the divisional hospital. There were no medical enlisted men with regiments, and bandsmen were usually assigned as llitterbearers and medical assistants during battle. Each brigade had a small medical staff, a medical supply wagon, and 3 ambulances. Divisions had a single medical advisor, a field hospital with 3 operating teams, and more ambulances. The Corps had a 3-man medical staff and ambulances; the field hospitals were grouped at corps level.

However, the commander of the Army of the Potomac, MG George Meade, authorized only ammunition wagons and ambulances to travel with regiments and brigades, no medical supply or hospital wagons. (XII Corps did not implement the order, and many units kept their medical supply wagons while leaving hospital wagons, mainly carrying tents, behind.) Meade wanted the army more mobile, especially as he was not certain of winning the coming battle. Letterman obtained permission to form a 25-wagon supply train, but it could only follow behind the army.

On 1 July, US forces held Confederate attacks in the morning; casualties were evacuated to local buildings for treatment. However, additional Confederate forces drove the US troops back in the afternoon, overrunning the improvised hospitals. Many medical personnel stayed with their patients. This was before Geneva Protocols, but the two armies had agreed medical personnel were considered neutral.

On 2 July, two of the corps had their hospitals far forward (some were shelled or even received small-arms fire) because the US forces might be attacking or defending and needed their hospitals accessible. In late afternoon the hospitals were relocated further back, which meant moving over 4,500 wounded. The fighting was concentrated both on the Union left and in the afternoon, creating local evacuation problems. Many wounded were left on the battlefield until an unofficial truce during the night allowed ambulances to move freely. (V Corps alone collected 1,300 wounded in 10 hours.)

On 3 July, total casualties were only 2,500, and those were mainly during the bombardment before Pickett’s Charge and during that charge. They never threatened to overwhelm the hospital capabilities.

On 4 July the armies watched each other, but did not engage. Thunderstorms in the afternoon led to local flash floods, and since some hospitals were near streams (for the water supply, and to be out of the way) a few immobile patients drowned.

Lee retreated on the night of 4/5 July and left almost 7,000 Confederate wounded and 1,000 US wounded behind. He left the captured US medical personnel, but no supplies. Letterman’s supply train arrived, and a private organization (the US Sanitary Commission) also provided supplies (nearly $400,000-worth at today’s prices). Letterman also asked The Surgeon General to send 70 extra doctors, not for replacements (only 13 surgeons were wounded at Gettysburg, 1 dying of his wounds on 3 July) but because the Army of the Potomac would be moving after the battle and he would need to leave some doctors with the wounded. Letterman also had to leave a great deal of equipment, which could not be replaced for a month.

On 22 July a hospital camp (called Camp Letterman) opened at Gettysburg for about 16,000 patients, about 150 per doctor. Almost 20% of the Army of the Potomac’s doctors stayed. Although railway evacuation from Gettysburg started on 7 July, the camp stayed open until 20 November as patients gradually become transportable.

Assistant Surgeon (1LT) John S. Billings had already commanded a rear-area hospital in Washington, DC, and was now assigned to the Fifth Corps in the field. He reported: …

"About the middle of June, the 2d Division of the Fifth Corps took up its line of march, which, passing, successively, through Benson's Mills, Catlett's Station, Manassas, Centreville, Gum Spring, Aldie Gap, Leesburg, Edwards's Ferry and Frederick, terminated, so far as I was concerned, at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on the morning of the 2d of July. On this march, all the ambulances were collected into a train, which followed immediately behind the division, and was super-intended by a medical officer detailed for the purpose. Transportation was allowed in the proportion of one wagon for the medical supplies of two regiments, and this train of wagons followed close behind the ambulances. For the approaching battle, I was detailed as surgeon in charge of the field hospital of the division, and, also, as one of the operators, my assistants being Assistant Surgeons Whittingham and Breneman, U.S.A. At this time, I was attached to the 7th Infantry, and also acted as medical officer for the 10th Infantry during the march. On the 1st of July, about four o'clock P.M., the division reached Hanover, distant about twelve miles from Gettysburg, and went into camp. Just as the tents were fairly pitched, news came of the repulse of the First Corps, and a few minutes later, we were on the road to Gettysburg.

"About six A.M., July 2d, the division marched into position, and formed line of battle on the right of the somewhat horse-shoe shaped line in which our army was drawn up. … About half past three o'clock P.M., the division was brought into action, marching down a little road to the right of the large conical hill called Round Top, which was on the extreme left of the long arm of our horseshoe like line of battle. I accompanied my regiment until they were under fire, and was then ordered to repair to a large stone house and barn, near the base of Round Top, and there establish a field hospital. When I reached the place, our skirmishers were lying behind the stone walls around the house, and as I rode up, a small body of rebels further up the hill, and about seventy-five yards off, saluted me with a volley. They were captured a moment afterwards by a regiment which had passed between them and their own line. On entering the house, I found it unoccupied, and bearing evident traces of the hasty desertion of its inmates. A good fire was blazing in the kitchen stove, a large quantity of dough was mixed up, the bake-pans were greased; in short, everything was ready for use. I immediately set my attendants at work baking bread and heating large boilers of water. In five minutes, I was joined by the other medical officers detailed for the hospital. The ambulance trains reported to me fifteen minutes later, having with it three Autenrieth [supply] wagons, and by the time the operating tables were set up, and materials for dressing arranged, the wounded began to pour in. I performed a large number of operations of various kinds, received and fed seven hundred and fifty wounded, and worked all that night without cessation. An agent of the Sanitary Commission visited me in the evening, and furnished me with a barrel of crackers, a few lemons, etc. Of stimulants, chloroform, morphine and materials for dressing, the Autenrieth wagons furnished an ample supply.

"On July 3d, at seven o'clock A.M., I was ordered by Surgeon Milban, medical director of the corps, to remove the hospital to a point about one mile to the rear. This was done as rapidly as possible. A few shells began to drop in as the first train of ambulances moved off, and by eleven o'clock A.M., the fire on that point was quite brisk. Little or no damage was done, however, and by four o'clock P.M., all the wounded were safely removed. The new site was a grove of large trees, entirely free from underbrush, on the banks of a little creek, about half a mile from the Baltimore turnpike. By means of shelter-tents, india-rubber blankets, etc., shelter was arranged for all the worst cases, and two thousand dry rations, with three oxen, were sent to the hospital by Doctor Milban in the course of the afternoon. All of this day, I was employed in operating and in dressing the more urgent cases. The following morning, it began to rain, and continued to do so for five days and nights with very little cessation. On the morning of the 5th, the regimental medical supply wagons came up, and from them I removed all the hospital tents and tent flies, with two hospital mess chests. On this day, the division moved. I was left behind in charge of the hospital, which then contained about eight hundred wounded. Twenty men were detailed from the division to act as assistants about the hospital. I was also given two ambulances and two six-mule wagons. The ambulance train, which had up to this time been engaged in collecting the wounded of the division from the various corps hospitals to which some of them had been carried, and in hauling straw for bedding, accompanied the division, as did also the Autenrieth wagons. By this time, Assistant Surgeon Brinton had reached White church with a special medical supply train, and from him I procured such supplies as were most needed. The greatest want which I experienced was that of tools. I had not a shovel or pick with which to bury the dead or construct sinks, and no axes. I was compelled to send out a foraging party to the farm houses, who, after a day's labor, succeeded in procuring two shovels and an axe. Seventeen hospital tents were pitched, and in these were placed all the most severe cases, about seventy-five in number. Under the tent flies, I placed one hundred more patients, and the remainder were all under shelter-tents, and were arranged by regiments. By means of the wagons, I procured abundance of clean fresh straw from about five miles distance, and commissary stores and fresh beef were furnished ad libitum. Assistant Surgeons Ramsay, Whittingham, Bacon and Breneman, U.S.A., and two surgeons of volunteer regiments, whose names I cannot at this moment recall, remained with me, and through their energy and zeal the labor of organizing the hospital was quickly completed. Especial praise is due to Doctors Ramsay and Whittingham, whose labors were unceasing, and from whom I received many valuable suggestions. Very few shell wounds came under my notice at this battle, and none from round balls or buckshot. Most of the wounds were from the conoidal ball, and a large proportion were in the lower extremities. Of three exsections of the shoulder joint, all were successful in so far as that the patients recovered. In one case, I removed four and a half inches of the shaft. No cases of tetanus occurred in this hospital. Of secondary hemorrhage there were thirteen cases up to the 22d of July, at which time I left the hospital. Three of these cases occurred after amputation of the thigh; in two the hemorrhage was arrested by pressure, and, in the third, it was found necessary to open the flaps and secure the bleeding vessel. Three cases of hemorrhage from the anterior tibial artery occurred; two were arrested by pressure, and, in the third, amputation was performed with a good result. In one case, the internal maxillary was the bleeding vessel. The hemorrhage in this case was readily controlled by pressure and persulphate of iron. Assistant Surgeon Howard, U.S.A., left in the hospital six cases of gunshot wounds of the thorax, all of which he had treated by hermetically sealing the orifice with collodion. Four of these men died. What became of the other two, I do not know. In one of these cases, I made a post mortem examination, and found an abscess of the lung, communicating with the pleural cavity, which last was filled with a sanio purulent fluid. Four cases of a similar nature were treated with moist charpie. One of these died, and one was dying when I left; the other two were, in my opinion, in a fair way to recover. Five cases of gunshot fracture of the cranium came under my notice. Four of these involved the occipital bone, and all were fatal. A low muttering form of delirium, with occasional paroxysms of furious mania, was present in all from the commencement. Two cases occurred of gunshot fracture of the femur in the upper third. Both were treated by Smith's anterior splint, and one died. In no case of fracture of the long bones did I attempt any formal resection, but confined myself to removing splinters and foreign bodies, and cutting off very sharp projecting points with the bone forceps. From my experience in Cliffburne hospital, I am convinced that regular resections in such cases are worse than doing nothing at all. In no case of fracture of the long bones did I attempt any formal resection, but confined myself to removing splinters and foreign bodies, and cutting off very sharp projecting points with the bone forceps. From my experience in Cliffburne hospital, I am convinced that regular resections in such cases are worse than doing nothing at all."

Image: Lt. Colonel John Shaw Billings

Willie Johnston: Eleven-Year-Old Medal of Honor Winner


He was transferred from the 20th Regiment to Company H of the 3rd Vermont on May 12, 1865. He was officially discharged August 31, 1865 at Battleboro, Vermont, receiving the same bounty as his father of $500 from the United States government and $187.50 from the St. Johnsbury government.

Nothing is known of Willie’s life after this point. He is believed to have enrolled in Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont in 1866, graduating in 1870. After this point, Willie practically vanishes. He may have died in 1936, but even that is debatable. Willie never married or had children. He never requested or drew a pension. Nothing more is known about the life of the youngest Medal of Honor recipient in United States history. This mystery is only confounded by his drum being found in a house in Chelsea, Massachusetts on May 9, 1888. A note attached to the drum read, “Willie Johnston, aged 13, Company D, Third Vermont Regiment. Presented with a medal by Secretary Stanton for carrying this drum through the Seven Days Fight before Richmond, being the only drum carried the last of June and 1st of July.” While the mystery surrounding Willie’s life after the Civil War is frustrating, the bravery and courage of someone so young in the midst of battle are undeniable.

In 2005 a statue of Willie Johnston was erected in Santa Clarita, California. The plaque on the statue reads:

"William J. Johnston Jr.
Presented the Medal of Honor on September 16, 1863 for gallantry in the Seven Days Battle and the Peninsula Campaign."

“Willie” was a five foot tall, eleven year old drummer boy in Company D, Third Vermont Volunteers Infantry of the Union Army, when he earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. He alone saved his drum and held his ground, and his devotion to duty is an inspiration to children and adults alike. Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton honored Willie with the following words:

“For exemplifying the spirit of all our soldiers, and for serving your country so well. The nation has decided to honor you. May all our citizens demonstrate the devotion shown by this young man.”

The statue stands in kind remembrance of a boy who, in all likelihood, never set foot in California.

History of The Office of Medical History


The US Army Medical Department has an extensive and illustrious history. Brief historical highlights include maintaining one of the oldest regiments within the Army, providing the antecedent organization for the Army Reserve system, and establishing some of the first methods to capture lessons learned. Preserving, interpreting, and publishing the history of the US Army Medical Department, is the mission of the Office of Medical History. Operating almost continuously since 1862, forms of the Office of Medical History have endured numerous organizational changes. Despite the different incarnations, the Office of Medical History continues to record the activities of the US Army Medical Department and provide Soldiers and the general public with a variety of historical products.

Early Records
Although the activities of Army surgeons and Army medical care can be traced to the Revolutionary War, records of their history are sporadic. Personal journals and a few official documents provide much of the historical record. Most physicians in the Army operated independently within their regiment or region, and unfortunately their first-hand knowledge was not disseminated. Experience gained during the Revolutionary War remained largely cloistered from physicians during Northwestern Territory Campaigns and much of the War of 1812.

A notable improvement of record keeping and centralized organization occurred under the direction of Dr. Joseph Lovell. As the Army reorganized and established a permanent Army Medical Department, Lovell was appointed as the Surgeon General in May of 1818. Soon Lovell sought quarterly reports from Army physicians across the new nation. Early information collected included meteorological registers and vital statistics of the Army. Lovell’s early efforts in book distribution for Army physicians also culminated into the creation of the Library of the Surgeon General in 1836.

Despite these early documentary activities, there was not an organization compiling an official history for the medical department, but publication did eventually advance from the record keeping. In 1856, the Office of The Surgeon General published a collection of statistical information on the health of the US Army. The data was gathered from medical officers throughout the Army, as well as reports from the Surgeon General’s Office between January 1839 and January 1855. The Statistical Report on the Sickness and Mortality in the Army of the United States, included casualty information from the recent war with Mexico and other tabulations, but it did not capture clinical data. The report’s compilation and publication marked another milestone toward the formation of a medical history office. The information was officially gathered, documented, and analyzed. Although novel at the time, the collection was soon overshadowed by the publication of the British Army Medical Service’s Medical and surgical history of the British Army which served in Turkey and the Crimea during the war against Russia, in 1858. Consisting of two volumes, it generated interest and was well received by a world-wide audience as well as the U.S. Army’s Medical Department.

The Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War
Interest in the Crimean War publications continued as the American Civil War began in 1861. Recognizing the importance of capturing the historical significance as well as technical expertise gained on the battlefield, Surgeon General William A. Hammond announced plans to publish a medical history of the war in 1862. A separate historical department did not exist; but early historical efforts were able to proceed under the direction of the Surgeon General’s Office. Records and reports were collected from the field for the projected publication. Artifacts and a
pathological collection were also gathered for educational and illustrative purposes at the newly
established Army Medical Museum.

Assistant Surgeon Joseph J. Woodward, Surgeon J.H. Brinton, and Surgeon George A. Otis were consecutively placed in charge of medical records and related material from 1862 through 1864. In 1865 as the war came to a close the new Surgeon General, Joseph K. Barnes reviewed the compilation of items. According to the Surgeon General’s report, “30,000 cases and 7,630 specimens were being arranged for the history”.

Analysis and the publication of circulars for the massive collection of material continued as an editorial board consisting of Joseph J. Woodward and George A. Otis was formed. The proposed medical history consisted of six volumes divided into medical and surgical sections. Volume one of the Medical and Surgical History of the War of Rebellion was completed in November of 1870. Work on the books progressed with some editorial changes. George A. Otis passed away in February of 1881 and Joseph J. Woodward died in August of 1884. Editorial duties were then transferred respectively to Surgeon D. L. Huntington and Surgeon Charles Smart at the times of their predecessors’ demise.

The massive history task closed in 1888 as the final volume was completed. Each volume includes approximately one thousand pages containing statistics, case studies, and other technical information. Subject matter found in the volumes vary from gunshot wounds to the transportation of the wounded by railway. One of the best records from the American Civil War, the series would lead to reprinting and future interest in recording Army medical history. Other Army medical historical efforts progressed during this time. Physicians and Surgeons of the U. S. by W. H. Atkinson and The Medical Department of the United States Army from 1775 to 1873 by Harvey E. Brown were both published in 1873. These books were also compiled under the direction of Surgeon General Barnes.

Historical work during the Spanish-American War Era is largely unknown. Records and discoveries were fortuitously maintained but as far as can be ascertained, an organized history office did not exist. Later, during the tenure of Surgeon General William C. Gorgas (16 Jan 1914 - 3 Oct 1918), an appointed Historical Board was created. The board consisted of the Librarian of the Army Medical Library, library director, assistant librarian, redactor, and a statistician.These librarians served in similar capacities as current historians. During World War I LTC Fielding Garrison and COL C.C. McCulloch, librarians at the Army Medical Library, collected and interpreted gathered material.


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