Today in History:

114 Series I Volume XIX-I Serial 27 - Antietam Part I

Page 114 OPERATIONS IN N. VA., W. VA., MD., AND PA. Chapter XXXI.

field hospitals in time of action and yet at the same time to preserve a proper degree of accountability.

To accomplish this, a system of supplying by brigades was adopted on the 4th of October, 1862. The following extract from a circular issued to the medical department of this army at that date, from the medical director's office, will show the main features of the system which since that time has been in existence in this army:

Hereafter in the Army of the Potomac the following supplies will be allowed to a brigade for one month for active field service, viz: One hospital wagon, filled; one medicine chest for each regiment, filled; one hospital knapsack for each regimental medical officer, filled. The supplies in the list marked A to be transported in a four horse wagon.

The surgeon in charge of each brigade will require and receipt for all these supplies, including those in the hospital wagons, and will issue to the senior surgeons of each regiment the medicine chests and knapsacks, taking receipts therefor. The hospital wagon, with its horses, harness, &c., will be receipted for by the ambulance quartermaster.

The surgeon in charge of the brigade will issue to the medical officers of the regiments such of these supplies as may be required for their commands informally, taking no receipts, demanding no requisitions, but accounting for the issues as expended.

The surgeons in charge of brigades will at once make out requisitions in accordance with these instructions, and transmit them, approved by the medical director of the corps, to the medical purveyor of this army. These supplies being deemed sufficient for one month only, or for an emergency, medical directors of corps will see that they are always on hand, timely requisitions being made for that purpose.

Before the adoption of this system, one and sometimes two wagons were required to transport the medical supplies of a regiment, and, in addition, another wagon was required to transport cooking utensils, hospital tents, baggage of medical officers, &c. With this system one is added to a brigade and at least one taken from each regiment, and, besides, should it become necessary to take away this one wagon from a regiment, the supplies are in such shape as will permit them to be carried on a horse, and not necessarily lost, as heretofore. The regimental surgeons have no trouble in replenishing their supplies, and the amounts expended in a regiment are always known to the surgeon in-chief of a brigade, whose duty it is always to check any undue waste or improper expenditure. These supplies are easily transported, and are without difficulty made available on the field of battle, as events which have since transpired have demonstrated.

These instructions having been issued, my attention was given to the manner in which the wounded were attended to upon the field of battle. No system of field hospitals that I was aware of existed, and, convinced of the necessity of adopting some measures by which the wounded could receive the best surgical aid which the army afforded, and with the least delay, my thoughts were naturally turned to this most important subject. On the field of battle confusion is, above all other places, most prone to ensue, and unless some method is observed by which certain surgeon have specific duties to perform, and every officer has his place pointed out beforehand, and his duties defined, and held to a strict responsibility for their proper performance, the wounded must of course suffer. To remedy the want which existed, the following circular was issued:


Medical Director's Office, October 30, 1862.

SIR: In order that the wounded may receive the most prompt and efficient attention during and after an engagement, and that the necessary operations may be performed by the most skillful and responsible surgeons at the earliest moment, the

Page 114 OPERATIONS IN N. VA., W. VA., MD., AND PA. Chapter XXXI.