Official Records of the Rebellion

From the 15th of July the transports for the sick were chiefly employed in bringing over wounded and sick exchanged prisoners from Richmond and carrying them to the Northern cities, principally to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. They were almost wholly occupied in this duty until the 3d of August, at which time the last were received at City Point. Shortly after communication was opened with the Confederate authorities; large supplies of fresh lemons, brandy, lint, &c., were, by direction of the general commanding, sent to City Point, to be turned over to them for the use of the wounded, but would not be received by them, and were returned. As the general commanding visited the vessels as they returned from that place loaded with our wounded and sick, he will, doubtless, remember the pains taken to have these men in every respect well cared for. I inspected every vessel before it was allowed to leave for the North, that I might [216] be certain that everything was done, and done properly, that was necessary for the welfare of those on board. Three thousand eight hundred and forty-five sick and wounded were thus transported.

After this time a portion of these transports, which had been while North taken from their legitimate use, were occupied in carrying exchanged Confederate prisoners from the North to City Point. On the return of these boats from this service to Harrison’s Landing they were found to be excessively filthy, and required a great deal of labor to render them again suitable for the transportation of the sick. The use of these vessels in this way embarrassed me. On the 6th of August I informed the Surgeon-General by telegraph that—

I sent away yesterday 700 sick from the army. My boats are in use with the Confederate prisoners. If my boats are thus interfered with by the authorities beyond this army, I hope I shall not be held accountable if the sick of this army are not properly sent away.

On the 3d of August the shipment of the sick from the army commenced, and was carried on as rapidly as the transportation could be obtained. It will be perceived from what I have just said that I had at my disposal only a portion of the boats set apart for that purpose, and the hospitals I had drawn plans for, and which the commanding general had directed the chief quartermaster to procure, were not allowed.

These two things alone embarrassed me much.

The following extract from a letter I addressed to the Surgeon-General will show to some extent the difficulties in the way of the rapid shipment of the sick under which I labored on the 13th of August:

1 left on the 10th of August 150 hospital tents at Fort Monroe to be pitched near the Mill Creek hospital, and to-day have had 200 more sent from here, and have sent Assistant Surgeon McMillan to superintend putting them in order, and have sent Assistant Surgeon McClellan to superintend the hospital near Camp Hamilton. The tardiness exhibited at Fort Monroe in the erection of that hospital has been a serious annoyance. From the appearance of things at Point Lookout I shall be surprised if the hospital there is finished before the 1st day of November proximo. From this state of things and from the fact of the hospitals which were sent for by Lieutenant- Colonel Ingalls, chief quartermaster of this army, some time since, the plans for which were drawn up by me, and which were ordered to be carried into effect by General McClellan, having been refused, as I am informed, by General Halleck, I have been more seriously embarrassed. These buildings were to have been erected about this time at such point as I should have selected, and would have contained about 3,000 sick, and this army would be able to move. Some of the sick transports have been used for other purposes, carrying Confederate prisoners and General Burnside’s troops and loaded with supplies. All this has caused serious delay in removing the sick from this point, and have been circumstances over which no one here has any control.

Colonel Ingalls made every effort in his power to aid in removing the sick, and placed at different times boats temporarily at my disposal for this purpose, amounting in all to ten. Some of these could make but one trip; others made more, and carried in all, from the 9th to the night of the 15th of August, 5,945 men; 1,908 were sent away before the 9th on the regular transports. The total number sent away consequent upon the movement of the army was 14,159. The largest number of boats was obtained on the 15th, and on that day and night 5,629 were sent away. This fact will, I think, lead the commanding general to believe that the medical department was not idle. The delay arising from the use of the transports for purposes other than that for which they were designed it was impossible for me to avoid, and at the same time was the cause of another serious evil—the want of time to have the cases to be sent away properly examined. From this cause many were taken on board who should not have been received. Many cases were [217] sent from regiments which had marched by colonels or captains, without the knowledge of the medical officers, from negligence or favoritism, who were fully able to do the duty required of them, and under the circumstances it became necessary to send them on the boats. This state of things could have been prevented had the medical department full control of its vessels when the preparations were commenced to ship the sick.

The delay occasioned by the causes I have alluded to rendered the case at last an emergency, under the pressure of which it was impossible to have every case thoroughly examined. There are always numbers of skulkers and worthless men in the army who are on the watch for an opportunity to escape duty, and these are always the cases which require the most careful examination.; and these are the men who raise the cry of the inhumanity, want of attention, and cruelty of surgeons, which is so frequently taken up and echoed and re-echoed from one end of the country to the other. Out of 3,000 cases examined upon. our arrival at Fortress Monroe 600 were fit for duty and ordered to their regiments. When the time and the means are considered it will, I think, be conceded that seldom have so large a number been transported without accident and without suffering. A careful and attentive medical officer was placed on each boat with medical supplies sufficient for use. Credit is very deservedly due to Dr. Dunster and the medical officers of the vessels for the manner in which this large number was transported and provided for. The labor was great.

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Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, pp.212-220

web page Rickard, J (19 November 2006)