Monday, August 26, 2013

Surgeons's Report

MR. EDITOR:  In order that the following report be rightly understood by your readers, it may be necessary to say that, though the whole is signed by Drs. Maxwell and Gamble, it is a joint report only up to the 29th ult., from which date it is continued by Dr. Maxwell alone, Dr. G. having entered the U. S. service as surgeon of the Iowa 3rd Infantry.  It is also proper to state that Dr. Maxwell is now in the employ of the State, and is therefore no longer under the direction of the Scott Co. Soldier’s relief Association, but is now acting under Dr. Hughes, Surgeon General of Iowa.  Respectfully,


To H. Price, President Scott County Soldiers Relief Society; Rev. A. J. Kynett, Corresponding Secretary Iowa Sanitary Commission:

The undersigned surgeons, deputed by your respective societies to visit the scene of the late sanguinary conflict at Pittsburg Height, Tenn., beg leave to report:

We, together with Messrs. Burwell and Brown, as nurses, left Davenport on Thursday morning, April 11th, by railroad, and arrived at Cairo on the morning of the 12th, at 6 o’clock’ where we immediately reported to Dr. Taggart, medical surveyor, and Gen. Strong, commander of the post; also to Dr. Douglas, agent for sanitary commission.  The medical surveyor tendered us the position of surgeons in charge of rebel prisoners on their way to Columbus, Ohio.  This position, as well as several others of a similar character which would have interfered with our special mission, we respectfully declined.

To facilitate the purpose for which we were sent, at 8 o’clock on the morning of Friday we held a consultation with Gov. Yates and the Surgeon General of Illinois, at the St. Charles Hotel, Cairo, which resulted in many fair promises on their part, but which promises were afterwards studiously evaded by his Excellency and suit.

At 9 o’clock a. m., by order of Gen. Strong, we proceeded to Mound City Hospital, to care for about seven hundred wounded soldiers, just arrived from Pittsburg on board the steamer “City of Memphis.”  Here we were tendered the position of ward surgeons, by contract, but deeming the position incompatible with your instructions to us, we declined the same.  Among the wounded on board the Memphis, your committee labored several hours in dressing wounds and supplying the immediate wants of such Iowa troops as we could find on board – of which there were about seventy.  A full list of their respective names, regiments and the character of their wounds was also obtained.  Here Dr. Maxwell, by detail, remained until the next day, to assist in several surgical operations; and when he left the troops were all in comfortable quarters in the hospital.  And by special request, Dr. Cottle, of Albany, Ill., promised to see such as needed particular attention.

Dr. Gamble and Messrs. Burwell and Brown returned to Cairo and took passage on the steamer Empress for Pittsburg. – They arrived at Savannah on Sunday morning, and learning that there were many wounded soldiers there, and in need of surgical aid, Dr. Gamble remained whilst Messrs. Burwell and Brown proceeded up to Pittsburg.  At Savannah were found about three thousand wounded and sick solders, among whom were about four hundred Iowa troops.  Among these Dr. Gamble labored assiduously until Tuesday, rendering such professional and pecuniary assistance as could be conferred under the circumstances.  Here were found several regimental surgeons, with whom we most cheerfully co-operated.  It is but right that we should here state, that the regular as well as the volunteer surgeons were seriously embarrassed in their efforts to relieve the wounded, by the want of material to dress wounds, and also the want of medicines and proper food for the sick. – The preparation for the sick and wounded was very imperfect.  They were crowded into any and every place without regard to location or comfort, and often left for days together without medical aid, or even the common attentions of camp life.

On Tuesday your committee met at Pittsburg and reported to Dr. Simons, Medical Director, and solicited and obtained transports to remove our wounded and sick soldiers to a more northern clime.  We also spent a portion of our time in visiting the several Iowa regiments then in camp – Ascertaining the names of the wounded, their condition and the character of the wounds, and also the location of such as had been removed previous to our arrival.  In our efforts to obtain transportation for the wounded, we were ably assisted by Mrs. Wittermyer [sic] of Keokuk, and by Mrs. Senator Harlan, of Iowa; also, by our fellow citizen, Hiram Price of Davenport, and Mr. E. Clonky, of Iowa City.  By the steamer D. A. January we removed nearly all our wounded remaining at Pittsburg, and all at Savannah except about one hundred.

On Thursday we returned to Savannah, and have since been diligently laboring in the various hospitals, which number about thirty, among the wounded and sick, rendering such aid as we could.  We have also labored most assiduously, day and night in getting our wounded men on board transports on their way north.  Those remaining here will be removed as soon an opportunity offers.

On our way up from Cairo, care was taken to visit all hospital boats, and make inquiries as to the condition and destination of the troops on board; and when opportunity offered, accurate lists of the names, regiments, and casualties, were made.  At Cairo a meeting of the surgeons, nurses, and citizens of Iowa there present, was held, and Dr. Emeis, of Iowa, at his on request, was delegated to remain and visit all the hospital boats arriving at that point, and obtain the names, destination, and character of the wounds of such troops as were on board. – This was done that none should be overlooked.

While at Savannah, we co-operated with the Wisconsin delegation, at the head of which was Gov. L. P. Harvey, whose suite consisted of some of the most eminent men of that State; among them were general Broadhead, Quartermaster General; Gen. Wadsworth, Com. General; and Dr. Wolcott, Surgeon General of the State.  In them we found accomplished gentlemen, and active and efficient co-laborers.  Our intercourse served but to create an unusual respect for them, which will long be remembered with pleasure.  This intercourse was suddenly terminated, on the evening of the 19th, by the accidental drowning of Gov. Harvey.  While we were sitting in the cabin of the steamer Dunleith, counseling as to the best plans for accomplishing our humane mission, the steamer Hiawatha came alongside, and the Governor stepped out to obtain passage for a portion of his suite.  A moment after, we were startled by the cry of “A man overboard!”  Immediate investigation proved it to be the Governor. – Prompt and heroic efforts were made to render him assistance, but in the extreme darkness of the night, the rapid current, and amidst steamboats and barges, all proved useless. . .  Gov. Harvey, the accomplished gentleman, the friend of suffering humanity, and the devoted practical Christian, was thus in a moment taken from his field of usefulness to his reward.

Mr. Brown, being sick, was put on board the Hiawatha for home; Mr. Burwell had previously left on the D. A. January, with our wounded for St. Louis.

What of the future?  In view of coming events, your committee would earnestly recommend that efficient agents be appointed, by authority of the State, and be assigned to positions with the army, and at the nearest post hospitals, whose duty it should be to take charge of the sanitary goods, and be on hand and ready at all times to render immediate and efficient aid to our forces in the field, and to the sick and wounded of the battle.  They should also be required to communicate with our State officers and communities, from time to time, and advise them of the particular wants of the sick and wounded.  After the battle, and until the wounded soldier is removed to the hospital, is when assistance is most needed – immediate and efficient aid then would save hundreds of lives.  Here let us most earnestly protest against States, or cities sending large delegations, calculated to interfere with the operations of the army near the scene of conflict.  This is worse than useless.  A few efficient agents can do great good, but a multitude does great harm.

When it is practicable, the State should have a large, well-ventilated steamer. Properly furnished for hospital purposes, and provided with able surgeons and practical nurses, to visit the nearest navigable point to the scene of the battle.  This course, your committee think, would prove more beneficial to the soldiers and meet more directly the intentions of the people than any other; and in a pecuniary point would not be objectionable.  The States that have adopted this plan have done much more for their men than those who have relied entirely upon government transportation.

Your committee having thus given you a brief memoranda of their labors, deem it but just to themselves to state some of the difficulties with which they have had to contend.  From the time of leaving Iowa they have fared as the common soldier.  They have been obstructed at almost every step by official arrogance and egotism – more especially was this the case by the Regular Army Medical Staff.  While traveling on boats they have had to furnish their own provisions and bedding, and when on land, they have traveled through drenching rains and deep mud – the latter such as only Tennessee can produce.  At night they have frequently slept on the ground with only a thin blanket for a covering.  When they did rely on the public for accommodations, the charges were enormous, and the fare most miserable.  Your committee, however, do not regret their hard fare, as amidst it all, many were cheering evidences of kind appreciations received from the suffering soldiers, and many the kind and gentlemanly courtesies tendered them by the surgeons of the volunteer regiments, among whom we take pleasure in mentioning Drs. Gibbon, of the 15th; Nassau, of the 2d; Staples of the 12th, and Watson and Loyd of the 11th Iowa regiments.  Also Dr. Leggitt, of the Ohio 15th.  To Dr. Taggart, Medical Purveyor, and Dr. Douglas, Sanitary Agent, of Cairo, we are also under obligation for many gentlemanly courtesies.

On the 24th we proceeded to Pittsburg Landing, to visit all Iowa regiments, to learn their condition, and found men and officers of the 7th, 11th and 13th in good spirits.  The 8th, 12th and 14th were somewhat dissatisfied, having been, contrary to their wishes, forced into a “Union Brigade” with the 28th Ill. regiment, and commanded by a Captain of that regiment, being rank officer.  I think it, however under the circumstances, the best that could be done.

On the 25th, by the kindness of Capt. G. Dodge, of Port Byron, of the 4th Ill. Cavalry, we were provided with horses and equipments to visit regiments.  We were able to find all but the 15th and 16th – they being on the front lines, we did not reach them.  There are not less than 500 sick in our regiments – 200 in hospitals here – principally camp fever.

On the 26th, Dr. Gamble, with a view of being assigned to the 3d Iowa regiment, which was without a surgeon, entered the U. S. service by contract; since which, I have operated single-handed in both the field and hospitals.  On my return to Savannah, I found the steamer Tycoon taking on the wounded.  I succeeded, by the politeness of Dr. Woods, of Cincinnati, in getting on, in comfortable quarters, all of the Iowa’s sick and wounded here that would come under the general order, in all 30 – destination Cincinnati.  During our absence on the 25th, a number of sick and wounded were taken by the City of Memphis to St. Louis.

29th. – Visited all hospitals here and had our remaining sick and wounded put into the best hospitals, being about thirty still here.  I. H. Work hand his leg amputated, on the 24th, and died 28th.

May 1st. – I visited, by order of Dr. McDougal, of Gen. Halleck’s staff, Hamburg, six miles above Pittsburg Landing, and aided in establishing hospitals for the convalescing soldiers.

2d. – Returned, after putting into quarters 3,700 sick; and having everything in running order under surgeon Vairous of N. Y.  But few Iowa sick are there, but those that are there are in good condition and fair quarters.

3d. – This morning I have the promises from surgeon in charge of Black Hawk to take on a few of our worst cases here and leave them at Quincy, Ill.  I have to report to Dr. McDougal this morning.

On the 2st inst. I received Adj. Baker’s orders, and Mr. E. Russell’s of the 12th ult. – the only communication, save the telegraph dispatch to remain here until otherwise ordered.  I am doing all I can to relieve our sick and wounded.  You will see by my financial report I have expended but little money safe for board and traveling expenses.  This owning to the fact that I used in all cases, when I could get them, sanitary supplies for soldiers.  I have reported by letter to Prof. Hughes for instructions, &c.  Below I give you the character and number of Iowa wounded:  Head 27, face 39, neck 21, chest 107, abdomen 13, back and spine 31, upper extremities 422, lower extremities 381, large joints, 52.

Respectfully submitted.


– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Friday Morning, May 9, 1862, p. 2

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