Sunday, August 30, 2015

Evolution of Military Veterinary Medicine 1775-1916


Military veterinary medicine began with the origin of the U.S. Army and rather closely parallels the development of the profession of veterinary medicine in the United States. Between 14 June 1775 and 3 June 1916, or until congressional legislation created a commissioned officers' corps of veterinarians in the Army, much of the history of military veterinary medicine must be gleaned from the histories of the mounted combat arms and medical and supply services. These histories include references to veterinary affairs which in chronologic sequence present a fairly clear-cut picture of the development of military veterinary service.

Cavalry, frequently known by other names, the combat arm formed in 1777, became the birthplace of military veterinary medicine in 1792 (1). Congressional legislation of 1792 provided that each of the four troops of light dragoons (cavalry) would have one farrier to care for the ailments of horses. The heritage of the Veterinary Corps officer is specifically traced to horseshoers and farriers who acted as animal nurses in the "old, old Army." In fact, the horseshoe-shaped insigne of the farrier was once carried into the design of the veterinarian's distinctive insigne which, for a few years before World War I, included the undersurface of a shod horse's foot.

In 1798, the number of farriers had increased from 4 to a total of 10, and the original pay of $8 had been increased to $10 per month. Cavalry and farriers were not a part of the Army from 1802 to 1808, but in the latter year Congress provided for a regiment of cavalry for which eight farriers were authorized. Farriers were first included in horse artillery in 1812. Due to reduction in the horsed combat arms following the War of 1812, the farrier disappeared from the military scene until 1833, when a regiment of cavalry was formed with a complement of 10 farriers. Ten additional farriers appeared when a second cavalry regiment was organized in 1836.

The 1834 and 1835 editions of General Regulations for the Army described the annual report of the Inspector General as including a discussion of the "Veterinary Department of Cavalry," noted "* * * whether the Veterinary Surgeon is competent to the duties of his station. * * * whether the farriers are properly instructed and expert in their business * * *." This is likely the first use of the term "veterinary surgeon" in official Army publications, but it is fairly probable that it may have been used interchangeably with "farrier" as it has not been established that there were any veterinarians in the Army at that time. Pay tables did not list a veterinary surgeon.

It appears that the Quartermaster's Department may have contemplated the hiring of civilian veterinarians as early as 1837, but there is no evidence of congressional appropriation for such purpose prior to the appropriation act for the fiscal year 1849 (2). That few veterinarians were hired might be evidenced by the fact that, during the fiscal year that marked the beginning of the Civil War, the Quartermaster's Department expended only $168.50 for services of civilian veterinarians.

During the war with Mexico and through the period of Indian fighting before the Civil War, the number of farriers varied with the number of mounted units authorized, but their general status remained more or less unchanged. With the beginning of the Civil War, a veterinary sergeant was authorized for each of the three battalions in a cavalry regiment. It may be presumed that he had the duty of supervising farriers with companies of the battalion. He received $17 per month and ranked with a sergeant of cavalry. This grade of veterinary sergeant was dropped in 1862, but under the act of 3 March 1863 each regiment of cavalry was authorized a regimental veterinary surgeon with the rank of regimental sergeant major and pay of $75 per month (3, 4). Appointments were made by the Secretary of War following selection by the chief of the Cavalry Bureau upon nomination by regimental commanders. The increased grade and pay was likely provided as a result of the Army's terrific animal loss due to disease and in an effort to obtain better qualified personnel to provide veterinary service. There were apparently no fixed standards of education and experience, and it seems probable that not more than a very few graduate veterinarians applied for or received appointment. During the Civil War, the Quartermaster's Department spent $93,666.47 for the hire of civilian veterinarians.

After the Civil War, the total of six Regular Army cavalry regiments was augmented by four additional regiments. Unlike each of the six older regiments which were authorized one veterinary surgeon, each of the newly formed regiments was authorized two veterinary surgeons, one of whom was designated "Senior Veterinary Surgeon" and received pay of $100 per month. This disparity in personnel authorization persisted until 1899. One of the important milestones in the improvement of military veterinary service was the requirement set forth in Army General Orders of 1879 and first included in Army Regulations of 1881 that thereafter all appointed as veterinary surgeons with Cavalry were to be graduates of established and reputable veterinary schools or colleges. The regulations also provided that the veterinary surgeons would have rank and precedence comparable to those of a sergeant major. The 1881 appropriation act provided for 14 veterinary surgeons with Cavalry, but it appears that there were actually 12 on duty (5). The Quartermaster's Department was at that time employing one full-time veterinarian for the care of animals, and in the later 1880's several more were employed for this purpose.

At the beginning of the Spanish-American War, the Cavalry was authorized 14 veterinary surgeons (4 seniors and 6 juniors) for its 10 regiments (6). Artillery reentered the evolution of the Army Veterinary Service where each battery of field artillery was authorized a veterinary sergeant; previously, in 1812, horsed artillery had farriers and after 1861 was provided with artificers who very likely performed the duties of farriers.

The end of the investigation of the "embalmed meats" of the Spanish­American War marked the start of the Army's veterinary food inspection service. In July 1901, a veterinarian was transferred from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and appointed Meat Inspector, Subsistence Department at Large, U.S. Army for the purpose of making receipt inspections of meats in addition to inspections made prior to delivery by veterinary inspectors of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (7). By 1906, the number of Army subsistence veterinary inspectors had been increased to six, and War Department Orders had directed post commanders to use veterinarians to conduct ante mortem and post mortem inspections of beef purchased locally.1

Congressional legislation in 1899, after the beginning of the Philippine Insurrection, greatly improved the lot of Army veterinarians with Cavalry. It provided that every regiment of cavalry would be authorized two veterinarians, one to have the pay and allowances (not the rank) of a second lieutenant of Cavalry and the other the pay of $75 per month and the allowances of a sergeant major. Later, the senior veterinarian was accorded a rank between that of a cadet and second lieutenant, the highest rank achieved by veterinarians prior to the authorization of a corps of commissioned officers in 1916.

The so-called Army Reorganization Act of 1901 made further improvement in the status of the Army veterinarian by providing that all veterinarians (two for each regiment of cavalry and one for each regiment of artillery) would have the pay and allowances of a second lieutenant. The number of such veterinarians was 42 (8).2 The act also provided that veterinarians employed as civilians by the Quartermaster should receive pay of $100 per month. The Quartermaster's Department became the Army's largest user of veterinarians, and at one time it had more than 60 veterinarians employed as civilians in the Philippine Islands (9). The pay of veterinarians employed as civilians (contract veterinarians) remained at the $1,200 per year level in spite of repeated efforts of The Quartermaster General to obtain a pay status more nearly comparable with that of Army veterinarians with Cavalry and Field Artillery (10). The pay of veterinarians of Cavalry and Field Artillery was increased in 1908 from the previous $1,500 to $1,700 per year (pay of second lieutenant, mounted). Retirement of veterinarians with Cavalry and Field Artillery was first authorized under the provisions of the appropriation act of 1911.

During the 124 years between 1792, when the farrier was first authorized, and 1916, when the commissioned Veterinary Corps was authorized, the military veterinary service moved forward nearly in pace with the progress being made by veterinary medicine in the United States at large. The progressive improvement in military veterinary service was due to (1) increasing appreciation by the military and legislative branches of the real need for such service, (2) the inherent desire of nearly every individual veterinarian in the service to provide better service and to improve his personal status, and (3) the unceasing effort of civilian veterinarians through the American Veterinary Medical Association to improve military veterinary service and the status of their professional brothers in the service of their country. Although much improvement in veterinary service had been effected, there was still much room for improvement. The service was being provided by separate groups of veterinarians-two fully militarized groups, the veterinarians with Cavalry and Field Artillery, and two civilian employee groups, the meat inspection and animal service veterinarians working for The Quartermaster General. Proper coordination in and between groups was lacking, pay rates were not uniform, and the overall service did not have an Army-wide organization to exercise administrative, functional, and policy control. These shortcomings were overcome when the National Defense Act of 1916 made provision for a Veterinary Corps of commissioned officers and wisely made the corps a component of the Medical Department.


Post a Comment


Facebook Twitter Delicious Stumbleupon Favorites