View Full Version : Medical Officers Not to be taken as Prisoners of War?

Robert A Mosher
05-16-2007, 05:43 PM
While researching some period vocabulary, I came across the following reference:

General Orders No. 45, Confederate General Samuel Cooper (CSA Adjutant General, having been in the USA Adjutant General's office before the war). Under this directive, all captured Federal medical officers were to be immediately released. This action was a response to established Federal precedents that medical officers should not be held as prisoners of war.

Am I the only one not familiar with this General Order and Federal policy? It puts an interesting spin on "The Horse Soldiers" movie in which William Holden as Dr Kendall says 'medicine is where you find it' - and then responds to John Wayne's question by adding, "even in Andersonville."

Robert A. Mosher

05-17-2007, 04:18 AM
Under the Lieber Code, medical personnel were to be treated as non-combatants. They were to be allowed to continue doing their work regardless of who was in control of the battlefield. Surgeons from the OPPFOR were supposed to chip in and help.

At the Wilderness a Federal surgeon reassured a Confederate that he would treat him regardless of the color of his uniform.

As a direct interpretation, the 28th Mass.field hospital had set up catty corner from the Stone House at Second Manassas. they were overrun by Confederate forces. There is no record of 28th mass. surgeons being transferred to prisions, so we interpreted it to mean that once the surgeons were done, they shook hands with their Confederate bretheren and hit the road. Loyalty to Asklepios was higher than loyalty to the flag.

I think I'll google the Lieber code and see what I can find. I used to have it but it vanished on a bookmark RIF. Stupid me!

Here we go -


Under Section VI
115. It is customary to designate by certain flags (usually yellow) the hospitals in places which are shelled, so that the besieging enemy may avoid firing on them. The same has been done in battles when hospitals are situated within the field of the engagement.

And under Section III, which might appear to answer your question.

53. The enemy's chaplains, officers of the medical staff, apothecaries, hospital nurses, and servants, if they fall into the hands of the American Army, are not prisoners of war, unless the commander has reasons to retain them. In this latter case, or if, at their own desire, they are allowed to remain with their captured companions, they are treated as prisoners of war, and may be exchanged if the commander sees fit.

The above will probably explain why I read a book about a captured steward who serves in a variety of POW camps and spends a lot of time escaping. His initial capture, though is surreal. Read ACaptive of War: Solon Hyde, Hospital Steward, 17th Regiment Ohio Infantry.

05-19-2007, 02:10 PM
I was just reading the diary of a surgeon from Buffalo NY who was left behind to tend to the wounded during the Peninsula campaign. Overrun by confederates, he indicated to the rebel CO that he was under orders to care for the wounded, and although he was sent to Libby (as a doctor), he was not a prisoner per se. He seemed to indicate in his diary that it was because he had orders to tend to the wounded there (not Libby, where he was originially) that this is why he was not made a prisoner.