Official Records of the Rebellion

Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports

The Document

[181] Soon after our arrival in front of Yorktown malarial and typhoid fevers again appeared, though not with any alarming rapidity. The greatest proportion occurred in Keyes’ corps, on our left. The country occupied by him was the worst on the Peninsula, and, in addition to that, one of his divisions was composed of our newest troops. Desirous of keeping the army as little encumbered as possible with sick, that its movements might not beembarrassed on that account, I took measures to send to the North those too ill to move with us. [182] On the 17th of April 315 such patients were reported to me—a very small number considering the strength of the army, the wretched weather, the character of the country, &c. The transport Massachusetts was prepared for them, and on the 20th was dispatched for Annapolis. Adhering to the same plan as other men fell sick, I provided the means of transporting them also, and for this purpose I availed myself of the services of the Sanitary Commission. May 1, Mr. Olmstead, the secretary of that association, had one boat, the Daniel Webster No. 1, in his possession, a steamer on which he could carry 250 patients. At his request I procured the Ocean Queen, a steamer of the largest class of sea-going ships, and turned her over to him. He agreed to fit her up in forty-eight hours after getting possession of her. It took rather longer than that, however, and then she carried but about three-fifths of the number she should have carried.

Of course in inaugurating a system of this kind under our circumstances some delays, some awkwardness, and some confusion were to be expected. If I had had at my disposal a few medical officers of experience, these arrangements could have been made with more rapidity and precision. As it was, with the exception of the Surgeon-General of Pennsylvania, I had no one on the water who had the faculty of rapid systemization, but all seemed disposed to do the best they could, and I believe the operations at Yorktown were fully as successful as could have been hoped for. Mr. Knapp, an agent of the Sanitary Commission, was particularly zealous—a little too much so at times. Without my knowledge he took possession of the Commodore, intending to fit her up and officer her with New York surgeons to send to New York with wounded. This did not suit my views at all, and would simply have rendered that steamer less than half as efficient as I intended she should be. Of course I forbade that, but I agreed to give him the Elm City, the next steamer, with perhaps permission to go to New York.

In the mean time a few of our men were being wounded and treated in our hospitals. On the 17th April General Smith had an important affair on our left, in which 32 men were reported to me as killed and 100 wounded. The wounded were sent to the hospital ships. On the 26th 12 men of a Massachusetts regiment were wounded and sent to the ships. In irregular firing during the siege several more of our men were wounded, and disposed of in the same manner.

I have already stated that the army was well supplied with medical stores and the means of transporting them before it was put in motion. What was my surprise, then, so soon as we were in position before Yorktown, to find my office flooded with requisitions for more. Upon inquiry, I found that these things had in many instances been left by the troops in their old camps. Liquors had very generally disappeared. Various excuses we rendered that were not satisfactory. The medical officers seemed to suppose that the medical director was to furnish them with fresh supplies at every change of position, and had taken no pains to transport their stores from Washington to the Peninsula. It was some time before I could remedy this piece of improvidence at all. My store-ship, after having reached Fort Monroe, was detained there by a storm, and when she reached Ship Point it was found very difficult to land her supplies. I succeeded finally in getting her a berth at Cheeseman’s Creek and was then enabled to get on more rapidly. My supplies of stimulants, however, being very limited—those ordered from New York not arriving till very late—i was compelled to refuse to issue to the regiments the little on hand, for the purpose of being sure of having some at least in the event of a battle. I distributed what we [183] had to the medical directors of corps, with instructions for its prudent use. (See appendix P.)

The first of the large supply from New York reached Fort Monroe April 14; the last did not reach the purveyor until the 1st of May. These supplies were shipped by different vessels, and were mingled with other stores, so that they could not be got at until after tedious and vexatious delays.

On the 9th of May I wrote and telegraphed to the Surgeon-General for bedding, &c., hoping it might be ordered up immediately from Fort Monroe. It was dispatched from Washington the next day, and reached us at White House, but at a much later date than I had hoped for. I telegraphed to the Surgeon-General on the 16th of May and wrote him fully on the 19th. (Appendix R) On the next day some of them arrived. (Appendix R.) On the 29th nearly all were received. (Appendix S.) On the 2d of June another invoice of 556 packages was received at White House from New York.

To avoid the delay attendant upon sending requisitions to me during the important operations before Richmond on the 27th of May, I authorized the medical directors of corps to approve of them, and directed the purveyor to issue upon their orders. On the 23dof May I directed the purveyor to purchase a large quantity of portable soup and to distribute it to the several corps. On the 11th of June I directed the medical directors of the corps to see to it that their regiments were supplied with everything necessary and to fill up all deficiencies immediately. (Appendix S2.) This done, there seemed to be no more that I could do to insure that a sufficiency of all necessary supplies should be on hand in the conflicts soon to occur. If any regiment suffered afterward for want of these things it was due to the negligence or inefficiency of their own officers. There was an abundance of supplies at White House. The way to procure them was not only indicated, but the medical officers were repeatedly enjoined to provide themselves in season, and the chiefs of corps were directed to see that they did so provide.

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How to cite this article

Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, pp.181-183

web page Rickard, J (25 October 2006), http://www.historyofwar.org/sources/acw/officialrecords/vol011chap023part1/00010_03.html


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