Official Records of the Rebellion

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

The Document


[Appendix U2.)


Medical Director’s Office, June 14, 1862.

GENERAL: Surg. J. F. Hammond, medical director of Sumner’s corps, having telegraphed me this morning that there were some signs of scurvy in that corps, I sent Dr. A. K. Smith over at once to investigate the matter. Dr. Smith reports to me that he found six cases in [208] the Nineteenth and Twentieth Massachusetts Regiments, Dana’s brigade, and several more acquiring the predisposition to scurvy. General Dana informed Dr. Smith that he had been unable to obtain vegetables (such as potatoes) for his men for a long time.

Paragraph 1202, General Regulations, confines the issue of anti-scorbutics to the sick, and then they are to be paid for out of the hospital fund. I think, however, that potatoes have been made part of the ration by act of Congress. it is certain that vegetables are absolutely necessary to prevent scurvy, and if, as in our present circumstances, they cannot be purchased by the men, the Subsistence Department must supply them, or the men will become scorbutic.

I have ordered a supply of lemons and cream of tartar from White House to Sumner’s corps. I have also telegraphed to Colonel Clarke to issue, if possible, potatoes, dried apples, pickles, and desiccated vegetables to the men, and have promised to furnish him with any authority he needs that I can procure. I think the issue of these first articles absolutely necessary, and have no doubt it will speedily arrest the diease. The desiccated vegetables are less reliable, as the men dislike to use them. They should, however, be compelled to do so. Potatoes come in this shape, and I believe the commissary has them on hand. I have the honor to recommend that fresh potatoes, fresh onions, dried apples, and desiccated vegetables be immediately ordered to be issued as parts of the daily ration, and that commanding officers be charged with the duty of seeing them daily and properly used.

As I am closing this letter I receive the following dispatch from Colonel Clarke in reply to my telegram.

Potatoes, dried apples, and desiccated vegetables have been sent to the depot near Fair Oaks Station, from which General Sumner’s corps draws its supplies. More will be sent. I do not know a single command in which Special Orders, 155, Headquarters Army of the Potomac, have been complied with. Could not the medical direetors insist on having it carried out in their respective corps?

The means, then, of preventing scurvy have always been ready for issue in the subsistence department. The responsibility for its occurrence rests with those who have neglected to use these means. I think stringent orders necessary to compel regimental officers to see that their men are provided with and habitually use these necessary articles.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Medical Director Army of the Potomac.

General R. B. MARCY,

Chief of Staff Army of the Potomac.

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How to cite this article

Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, pp.207-208

web page Rickard, J (25 October 2006),

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