Official Records of the Rebellion

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

The Document


[Appendix S4]

Medical Director’s Office, White House, May 17, 1862.

SIR: Your note of the 14th instant is now before me, being the first moment I have been able to command to attend to such matters for twelve days. It is impossible for me to make provision for relieving the several corps of this army of the men who report sick from day to day. Until this march such a thing was never heard of. I have endeavored to answer and satisfy such calls from the time the army left Yorktown. The consequence has been that as often as I have removed a detachment of sick from a regiment an equal number has demanded the same privilege immediately. This I feel sure is because the men expect by this means to be sent home. Not less than 1,200 men straggled in or were collected by my agents in the woods after Keyes' corps left Warwick Court-House. The report made to me was that about 230 were left. A similar operation was repeated at Williamsburg, and now I find the same thing going on at Cumberland and here. If a camp is changed, a load of sick who ought to be treated by their regimental surgeons is sent to me without authority of any kind. These men ought and must be treated in their regiments. The regulations of the army make it the duty of the quartermasters to transport the sick on a march when called on to do so by the medical officer. (See paragraph 1100.) If the practice that has prevailed for the last three months is permitted to go on it may save trouble to the regimental surgeons and quartermaster’s department, but it will destroy this army. If men can be sure of being sent home by being thrown upon the hands of the medical director of this army, the contagion of homesickness will spread till there is not a sound man left here to carry a musket.

The medical directors of the corps must rely upon themselves for providing necessary accommodations for the sick of their corps near their own positions. What means you need I will furnish if it is possible. The purveyor’s boat is now at this landing, and if any of your regiments are in need of further supplies I will have them issued. I believe all requisitions that have been sent in from your corps have been filled.

I am endeavoring to establish a general hospital here by pitching tents. In a few days I hope to be able to receive patients, but only such as absolutely require to be thus treated. My hospital tents will furnish no better shelter than those of the regiments. When patients are to be sent to the general hospital application must be made beforehand, stating the number to be sent and the disease of each man. If they can be received, permission will be given to send them in. When sent, the descriptive list must accompanny them.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Surgeon and Medical Director Army of the Potomac.

Surg. J. B. BROWN, Fourth Corps d’Armée.

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How to cite this article

Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, pp.204

web page Rickard, J (25 October 2006),

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