View Full Version : Medical Staff on campaign?

10-28-2006, 09:57 PM
Were medical staff like Surgeons or Medical Cadets ever on campaighn? I havn't read anything about that. Would they have slept in shelter halfs? Did they set things up like field desks and have there pocket surgical kits with them? Any information would be apperciated. Thank you.

Your obediant servant,
Michael Merritt
Comd. Medical Cadet Corps
1st Corp. 141st P.V.I.

10-29-2006, 08:32 AM
That depends on the definition of "campaign".

Also it would be nice to know in what context you are referring, since there is plenty of documentation out there.

Did field hospitals follw the armies? Sure did. Did they coordinate with the command staffs to make sure they could set up their facilitites in locations accessible to the battlefields? Yup.

Did surgeons themselves go forward to the front lines with the assistant surgeons and orderlies? Possible.

Start reading the Medical and Surgical History of the War and pretty soon you should get a grasp of how hospitals functioned in the field during the war and whether or not they carried shelter halves. (I do know that shelter halves were not available before June 1862, but you'd have to research which regiments got them when, if at all.)

10-29-2006, 11:57 AM

Start here:


Read it all and you'll have a good grasp on what was going on by the time 1864 came around. CS operations were not that much different, both side's medical departments in the field evolving as the war progressed due to experience.


Linda Trent
10-29-2006, 01:56 PM
Were medical staff like Surgeons or Medical Cadets ever on campaign? I havn't read anything about that. Would they have slept in shelter halfs? Did they set things up like field desks and have there pocket surgical kits with them? Any information would be apperciated. Thank you.

According to The Military Handbook & Soldiers Manual of Information... by Louis Le Grand, M.D., 1861, p. 44-47 has a section entitled "On the March."

"When the army should form suddenly to meet the enemy, the 'long roll' is beat, and 'to horse' sounded. The troops form rapidly in front of their camp.

Batteries of artillery and their caissons move with the corps to which they are attached; the field train and ambulances march at the rear of the column; and the baggage with the rear-guard."

Cavalry and infantry do not march together, unless the proximity of the enemy makes it necessary..." p. 45

"The sick march with the wagons.

Led horses of officers, and the horses of dismounted men, follow their regiment. The baggage wagons never march in th ecolumn. When the general orders the field train and ambulancs to take place in the column, he designates the position they shall take." p. 47

I would assume that the surgeons and medical staff were with the ambulances? I have read of how occasionally the army would cut across in fields and such where the wagons couldn't go, and they rendevouzed at a specific point. I don't know if the medical corps would have stayed with their respective wagons or with the file moving through the fields. Good question.

Linda Trent
10-29-2006, 02:16 PM
Battle p. 50-51.

Before the action, the quartermaster of the division makes all the necessary arrangements for the transportation of the wounded. He establishes the ambulance depots in the rear, and gives his assistants the necesary instruction for the service of the ambulance wagons and other means of removing the wounded.

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 ambulances and to the wounded who can walk.

The active ambulance follow the troops engaged to succor the wounded and remove them to the depots; for this purpose the conductors should always have the necessary assistants, that the soldiers may have no excuse to leave the ranks for that object.

The medical director of the division, after consultation with the quartermaster-general, distributes the medical officers and hospital attendants at his disposal, to the depots and active ambulances. He will send officers and attendants, when practicable, to the active ambulances, to relieve the wounded who require treatment before being removed from the ground. He will see that the depots and ambulances are provided with the necessary apparatus, medicines, and stores. He will take post and render his professional services at the principal depot.

If the enemy endanger the depot, the quartermaster takes the orders of the general to remove it or to strengthen its guard.

The wounded in the depots and the sick are removed, as soon as possible, to the hospitals that have been established by the quartermaster-general of the army on the flanks or rear of the army

Really a great little book and reprinted by unknown publisher (I don't see a publisher anywhere on the book), but it appears to be available at some museum stores.

10-29-2006, 03:22 PM
I agree with Noah that it would help to narrow the question down a bit. Right now, we're stuck trying to give general answers that would apply to an "average" situation covering either army, any time in the war, on any campaign.

Here's a memoir of a Confederate assistant surgeon, talking a bit about life on campaign in Virginia: http://library.uncw.edu/web/collections/manuscript/TFWdiary.html

Scroll down to where his wartime experiences start, about 3/4 of the way through. There's lots of good stuff. Some relevant excerpts:

The Ambulances And The Ambulance Corps. The rule in force (1863) was that two two-mule or two-horse ambulances were allotted to each regiment. The ambulances were plain spring wagons without cushions, the bedding of the wounded men being such straw or hay as the driver was able to collect in the emergency. The driver had a seat in front on a box, and in this box he carried his possessions. The drivers of one of our ambulances was Thomas Jefferson Capps, from Onslow County of the other Ward from Greene Co. These ambulances were under control of the Medical Officers of the Regiment. The Ambulance Corps consisted of twenty men- two from each company. These men were selected with care, generally because of the physical strength and personal courage of the men. They were relieved from general camp duty and instead did irregular duties as were assigned them besides having a considerable liberty. They all willingly assisted the doctors in their personal matters. Each regiment was allowed a hospital cook and a medical knapsack bearer. Dr. McRee had selected from the ambulance corps one of the strongest men they had, Bishop, from Co. "C" as cook, and he held the place for a long time. Morton was my knapsack bearer. He was a young man from Onslow Co. He was a short stout boy, about 23 and carried the hospital knapsack and his own with perfect ease, and was always ready to do extra duty when called upon. He was a picture of smiling good-nature, under the most trying circumstances. Food might be scarce but Morton always had something for the Surgeon's Mess. Between Bishop and Morton we could always count on having all that was going - a good camp, food for ourselves and horses, a good camp fire and all the new of the day.

My duties as Assistant Surgeon were to go along with the Regiment on the field, and dress wounds of the men as they fell out and came to the rear. Only those cases needing immediate attention ever applied, but in stopping to dress wounds we got pretty well to the rear, and so we were not subjected to the hottest firing. Surgical appliances were very simple. Me ambulance man carried a canteen of whiskey and one of water. We had sponges, bandages, ligatures, and necessary medicines - usually morphine and opium.

Surgical instruments were so scarce that it was not every Assistant Surgeon who had a pocket case, so that having none myself, or a very poor one, Dr. L.C. Coke of the 1st N.C. and I went together on the field and mutually assisted each other being drawn together by reason of being both attached to N.C. Regts. It was all we could do to keep any where within reach of the Brigade, so rapidly did they move to the front. Their only obstacle seemed to be the tangle of wilderness. Finding beef on the fire and coffee in the pots, as they went through the enemy's camp they snatched food and ate as they ran, for they were all desperately hungry. At night there was a hlt to reform the confused line and Coke and I went on the field with a lantern to look after the wounded and to take note of the dead of our Regiments. We found none, but attended to all we came across, of friends or foes. Just as we were turning over a badly wounded or dead man, the artillery opened in the clearing at a tremendous rate. The clean space on each side of the road was very narrow, perhaps not more than 100 yards - and all the artillery was concentrated there. Shells and shrapnel rattled around us for awhile so that we were obliged to lie down until it was over. This firing we now know was the fatal engagement brought on by General Jackson's imprudent reconnaissance in person. He was wounded and is well known fatally. That night we spent under a tree in the yard of a little house by the road side, attending the wounded and finally lying down to sleep for a short while. I was awake very early and found that I had been lying down next to a dead man, and the dead and wounded were all around me.

As the wounded were now pouring in and our medical forces was entirely insufficient, I was fatigued. In the midst of it, I got an order from the Surgeon, Dr. McRee to come to the field Hospital near the Lacy House to assist him. It was two miles to the rear. I found the improvised hospital to consist of a few small houses, and a number of hospital tents. Dr. McRee was the Senior Surgeon of the Brigade, and conceived it to be his office to superintend the other surgeons, and that my duty was at the Hospital in his place as Surgeon and not upon the field. This opinion of his met with much opposition, and caused him with other things to resign after the battle was over. It afforded me opportunity to do some surgery which usually fell to the lot of the Surgeon.

Hank Trent