Official Records of the Rebellion

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

The Document

[190] On the 27th General Porter fought at Gaines’ Mill. Ambulances were sent to him, and his wounded brought into Savage Station. The cars were kept in motion, and as many as could be sent down were sent to the floating hospitals. A large train was loaded at 10 a. m. on the 28th, when we found that the railway was in possession of the enemy, and I was reluctantly compelled to take the men back to the hospital. All the time the services of every one that could be commanded were employed in attending to the wounded. There were about 1,300 in the tents, buildings, and on the lawn. My assistants, McClellan and Greenleaf, with some of Mr. Brunot’s party, were most active and efficient in providing for the refreshment and subsistence of the wounded. Asst. Surg. A. K. Smith, of the army, with Dr. Swinburne and a number of medical officers of volunteers and contract [191] physicians, were employed in the necessary operations and dressings. No exertion seemed to be too great, no fatigue too exhausting, for the self-sacrificing zeal of every one of those gentlemen.

In the afternoon I received orders to leave all that could not walk, with a supply of surgeons, nurses, subsistence, and hospital stores, to fall into the hands of the enemy. I caused the wounded to be carefully examined, and 650 were reported to me as unable to move. A number of them, however, did contrive to get away and reach the James River in safety. I then called for volunteers to remain with the wounded, and, to the credit of the medical gentlemen be it said, all that I wanted immediately expressed their readiness to undertake the duty. One of them, a friend from my boyhood, Dr. H. J. Milnor, of New York, lost his life from exhaustion in this self-sacrifice. Dr. Swinburne having had the organizing of the hospital, I constituted him chief of the party, and furnished him with a letter to the rebel commander in these words:

June 28, 1862.

Dr. Swinburne, a volunteer surgeon, with a number of other surgeons, nurses, and attendants, have been left in charge of the sick and wounded of this army who could not be removed. Their humane occupation commends itself under the law of nations to the kind consideration of the opposing forces. It is requested that they may be free to return as soon as the discharge of their duties with the sick and wounded will permit, and that the same consideration shown to the Confederate sick, wounded, and medical officers that have been captured by our forces may be extended to them. A large amount of clothing, bedding, medical stores, &c., have been left both at Savage Station and Dr. Trent’s house.

By command of Major-General McClellan:

Surgeon and Medical Director Army of the Potomac.


On the morning of the 29th the headquarters moved in the direction of James River and arrived at Haxall’s Landing the next day. The actions at Savage Station, White Oak Swamp, and Malvern Hill occurred in quick succession. So far as circumstances would admit the wounded were conducted or found their way to this point, to Carter’s, and to Harrison’s Bar. To the latter position the headquarters were transferred on the night of July 1. The next day a heavy rain fell, deluging our wounded, many of whom had no shelter. Some of our hospital ships at that time having reached Harrison’s Bar, I procured a lighter from the quartermaster and commenced shipping the wounded, but I was obliged to suspend this operation by orders from yourself, as the wharf was absolutely necessary for landing subsistence. Everything possible, however, was done for the comfort of the wounded. Tea, coffee, soup, and stimulants were being constantly prepared and issued. My train of reserve stores had happily succeeded in reaching the position, and the supplies held out until we were able to get more from the purveyor’s store-ship in the stream.

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How to cite this article

Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, pp.190-191

web page Rickard, J (25 October 2006),

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