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Report of Thomas McParlin, Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac, 1864 (Section I)

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Report of Thomas McParlin, Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac, 1864 (Section I)


"Report of Thomas McParlin," OR. Vol. 36, Part 1, p. 210-225. Transcribed by John Hennessy.

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November 28, 1864.

GENERAL: I have the honor to submit to you a report of the condition and operations of the medical department of the Army of the Potomac under my direction.

January 14, 1864, I relieved Surg. J. Letterman, U. S. Army. The excellent condition of the department at that period evidenced the success of his labors. It became my duty to prepare it for a campaign which would demand its highest powers. At that time the army contained the First, Second, Third, Fifth, Sixth, and Cavalry Corps, the Artillery Reserve, Provost-Marshal-General's and Engineer Brigades. Preparation of supplies (and facilities for their storage, transportation, and distribution) in amount proper for campaign became necessary. Relief from the field of experienced officers, and changes in the organization of the army, wrought others in the medical department; absent officers were recalled; vacancies noted and filled; the maxima of personnel and material allowed were made known and maintained. To some extent means of transportation for the medical department remained with the regimental quartermasters. As late as March 29, 1864, Surg. E. B. Dalton, U. S. Volunteers, ascertained some deficiencies of ambulances, hospital tents, and transportation in the Second Division, Cavalry Corps. Frequent inspections were made to secure all wagons, harness, mules, camp and garrison equipage, clothing, and other quartermaster's property, and funds were drawn by the Ambulance Corps as required in its service and duties incident to the care and comfort of the sick and wounded.

It was constantly necessary to preserve the partition of responsibility and property between the medical and ambulance officers, that each should receive and account for what was proper to his own department. Neglect to make returns, followed by stoppage of pay, were otherwise to be expected in the new organization. Attempts were made to institute some system of ambulance service to meet the necessities of the Artillery Reserve, but without success, until the order promulgating the ambulance law was issued. Under its provisions the Artillery Reserve and artillery brigades of corps, with other independent commands, were adequately provided for.

The importance of a proper diet during winter, preparatory of troops for campaign, lifting them above the influence of ordinary depressants (of fatigue, privations, and exposure), and preserving them vigorous to the latest period, had not been overlooked. Reports were required of vegetables, soft bread, and especially valuable articles of the ration issued. An appearance of scorbutic taint in the cavalry, and the detection of discrepancies in reports (in that and the Second Corps) in regard to issues accredited called for investigation; and it is believed that greater vigilance was exercised thereafter by commissaries, medical officers, and others to be sure the troops received the best elements of the ration furnished. Reports of the daily diet were made to me.

The mean strength of the army is known to you. In the Ambulance Corps it is estimated there were serving as follows:

May - officers, 60; enlisted men, 2,300; June - officers, 70; enlisted men, 2,700; July - officers, 66; enlisted men, 2,600. The number of ambulances was near 800. The other property will appear in Statement B. The number of medical officers in the army in May amounted to 699; in June it advanced to 775; in July, 627. Hospital Stewards (not regimental) in May, 40; in June, 35; in July, 42.

I had associated with me upon duty an assistant medical director, 2 inspectors, medical purveyor and assistant, and 1 assistant surgeon (Asst. Surg. J. S. Billings, U. S. Army), specially assigned to collect and prepare statistics and data connected with the operations of the department. The result of his labor appear in the narrative of incidents characterizing the epochs.


Condition of the Army, organization of the Medical Department, preliminary operations, and battle of the Wilderness, January 14 to May 8, 1864.

Position of the army. - During the months of January, February, March, and April, 1864, the Army of the Potomac continued to occupy the line of the Rapidan, guarding the Orange and Alexandria Railroad and having Brandy Station as its principal depot for supplies. The country being elevated and undulating afforded excellent sites for camps, and these were generally well located, well drained, and supplied with good spring water.

Nature of quarters. - The winter quarters of the troops were completed during the month of January, consisting for the most part of log huts about 8 feet square, the walls 4 feet high, and roofed with shelter-tents, each hut accommodating from 3 to 5 men. Much skill and taste was evinced in the arrangement of many of the camps, those of the Maine regiments being especially noticeable on account of the neatness and comfort of their huts. The beds of the men were in all cases raised from the ground, and the huts were all warmed by open fire-places.

Rations. - The rations furnished the troops during this period were abundant in quantity and of good quality and variety, the average weekly issue, including three days' rations of fresh beef, 3 1/2 fresh bread, 4 1/2 potatoes, and 2 1/3 of other vegetables. The following figures, which show this point more clearly, are furnished from the records of the chief commissary of the army:

Statement of quantities of antiscorbutic articles of food issued to the Army of the Potomac during the period commencing January 1, 1864, and ending April 1, 1864.

Soft bread.........................rations.............. 7,356,200

Potatoes...........................pounds............... 2,229,551

Onions...............................do................. 399,623

Turnips..............................do................. 80,170

Cabbage (in curry).................gallons.............. 11,795

Pickles..............................do................. 4,820

Desiccated potatoes................pounds............... 600

Desiccated mixed vegetables..........do................. 5,320

Dried apples.........................do................. 551,812

Clothing and police. - The clothing and bedding of the men was abundant and of good quality, and camp and personal police were as a general rule well attended to.

Morale of the troops. - The morale of the men was excellent; they had had a long rest, and, in most cases, thirty days' furlough, and the sick-list of the army was small, between 4 and 5 per cent, while the weekly mortality was only 0.0020 per cent.

Character of prevailing diseases. - The majority of the cases taken on sick report were slight in character, the principal diseases being catarrhal affections, malarial fevers, and venereal, the latter being extremely prevalent among the veterans returning from furlough.

Variola. - A few sporadic cases of variola and varioloid occurred during the months of March and April, but the disease was of a mild type, and showed no tendency to spread. Every precaution was taken to isolate these cases, and the entire army was vaccinated as fast as vaccine matter could be procured.

Hospitals. - The sick of the army were chiefly treated in regimental hospitals during the early part of the winter. Division hospitals, to which the more severe cases were sent, were organized during the month of February. These hospitals were floored with boards and heated by means of open fire-places, and their condition, as shown by the monthly inspection reports, was in every was good. Jellies and canned fruits were kept on hand and issued by the medical purveyor, and from the fund created by the tax on newspaper vendees and sutlers, which was put at the disposal of the medical director of the army, funds were turned over to the medical directors of corps during the months of February, March, and April, to be expended for oysters and other delicacies required by the sick.

Sick sent to Washington. - In accordance with orders received from the Surgeon-General and the commanding general of the army, the following numbers of sick were sent to Washington during this period:

February 1 and 2, 1864 ................................... 1,052

March 24 and 25, 1864 .................................... 1,380

April 20, 1864 ........................................... 1,780

May 2 and 3, 1864 ........................................ 1,526

Total .................................................... 5,738

These sick were sent, via Orange and Alexandria Railroad, on special trains, which were about seven hours in making the trip.

Disabled men sent to the army. - A large number of recruits, substitutes, and drafted men were sent to the army during this period, and among them were many who were entirely unfit to perform the duties of a soldier. By a special report of Surgeon Dalton, U. S. Volunteers, it appears that of 57 recruits sent to the Sixth New York Heavy Artillery, 17 were hopelessly disabled from causes which must have long existed, and, in some of the cases, from causes which must have been apparent even to a non-professional man - such as curvature of the spine, loss of part of right hand, double hernia, idiocy, & c. By a special report of Asst. Surg. George M. McGill, U. S. Army, dated March 2, 1864, it appears that among the recruits received by the Cavalry Corps, the number on sick reprot averaged 32 per cent.; number of permanently disabled men, 8 per cent.; number of deaths, 1/2 per cent. In consequence of this report an order was issued by Major-General Pleasonton, commanding Cavalry Corps, that recruits should not be put upon outpost duty for two months after their arrival at the army. Examining boards were appointed in each corps for the examination of recruits, and the most objectionable were thus eliminated, but there still remained a number of youths, from eighteen to twenty years of age, who presented nothing absolutely exceptionable, but who soon broke down in the long marches of the succeeding campaign, and were a useless burden to the army.

Skirmish at Morton's Ford. - No important movements of troops or engagements occurred during this period, except a sharp skirmish at Morton's Ford, on 7th of February, by a portion of the Second Corps, in which our loss was 10 killed, 200 wounded, and 40 missing. The wounded were conveyed directly to the division hospitals of the corps and were there retained and treated.

Cavalry raids. - Two or three cavalry expeditions were made also, the principal one being what is known as Kilpatrick's, or the Richmond, February 29, and March 1 and 2, 1864. A special report of which by Surgeon Hackley is herewith forwarded.

Thus well sheltered, well fed, and well clothed, refreshed by a long rest, and visits to home and friends, and full of confidence in their cause and their leaders, the Army of the Potomac on the 1st of May, 1864, was as nearly perfect in its health, strength, and morale, as is possible in so large a body of troops.

Organization of the Medical Department. - The consolidation of the five infantry corps of the army into three by General Orders, Numbers 10, dated headquarters Army of the Potomac, March 24, 1864, and the passage of the act of Congress fixing the ambulance system, approved March 11, 1864, enabled the medical department of the army to perfect its organization, and establish itself upon a firm basis. The medical department was placed upon the same footing as the other staff corps by Special Orders, Numbers 197, dated headquarters Army of the Potomac, April 12, 1864, which designates the surgeons-in-chief of brigades and divisions, thus rendering their position to a great extent independent of the caprices of brigade and division commanders.

Ambulance Corps. - As the provisions of the ambulance law corresponded in all essential particulars to the system already instituted in the army by Dr. Letterman, no difficulty or delay occurred in its adoption. All of the ambulances were thoroughly repaired, painted, and marked with the distinctive badge of their several divisions and corps, details of officers and men for the ambulance service were obtained, and careful examinations made of the persons so selected. As was to be expected, a large portion of those first detailed were rejected, regimental commanders having thus attempted to rid themselves of their weak and worthless men.

Drill and inspections of Ambulance Corps. - The men attached to the ambulances were carefully and regularly drilled, reported, and minute inspections of everything connected with the ambulances and horses were made, and guidons and hospital flags were procured and distributed. The results of this labor and preparation will appear in this report. Tens of thousands of wounded men have been carefully, speedily, and safely transferred from the field of battle to the field hospitals, and from thence to the large depot hospitals, and this has been done without confusion, without hindering the movements of the army, or conflicting with the operations of the other staff departments.

Amount of transportation. - Closely connected with, and to a great extent dependent upon, the ambulance system followed the organization of a system of field hospitals. The amount of transportation allowed for medical purposes was three army wagons to each brigade of 1,500 men, and one wagon for each additional thousand men. This allowance proved to be ample. The amount of regimental hospital property to be transported was reduced to a minimum, all the hospital tents and stoves being appropriated to the division hospitals. The medical staff of these hospitals was that established by Dr. Letterman, viz, 1 surgeon in charge, 1 recorder, 3 operators, each with 2 or more assistants, and 1 medical officer to provide food and shelter. As the plan of the division hospitals varied somewhat, a brief sketch of the hospital of the first division of each corps will perhaps best illustrate their peculiarities.

Organization of hospital of First Division, Second Corps. - In the First Division, Second Corps, 22 hospital tents, 14 army wagons, and 4 medicine wagons were allowed for medical purposes, the division containing 4 brigades, 21 regiments, and 8,000 men. Six of the army wagons carried the regimental medical property, 4 the brigade supplies, 2 the hospital tents, 1 the cooking utensils and 300 rations, and 1 was loaded with blankets, beef stock, whisky, chloroform, bandages, lint, & c. In pitching the hospital no attention was paid to brigade organizations, except that an operating table was established for each brigade, the corresponding medicine wagon being drawn up beside it, and the surgeons-in-chief of brigades being ex officio the operators. Thirty-six regular hospital attendants were employed in the preparation and distribution of food, dressing wounds, and care of the patients; these men wore on the left arm a half chevron composed of a green and yellow stripe. During a battle or series of battles, the drum corps of the division, numbering 350 men and boys, were put on duty in the hospital, being organized into five companies, commanded each by a sergeant, and the whole command by a lieutenant, having an orderly sergeant, as an assistant. From this corps details were made, whenever called for by the surgeon in charge, for pitching and striking tents, loading and unloading wounded, bringing wood and water, burying the dead, and for police duties. A provost guard was present at the hospital during an engagement for the purpose of arresting malingerers, & c. One medical officer followed each regiment into action, the remaining surgeons, with the exception of those in the division hospitals, remained at the advance ambulance depot, which was usually about 500 yards in the rear of the line of battle. When a large number of wounded were brought in, these last were sent to the division hospital to act as dressers, & c.

Organization of hospital of First Division, Fifth Corps. - In the First Division, Fifth Corps, 25 tents, 14 army wagons, and 3 medicine wagons were allowed, the division containing 21 regiments, 3 brigades, and 8,100 men. Five of the army wagons carried the brigade and regimental supplies, 3 the tents, 2 the cooking apparatus and 1,500 rations, and 4 the blankets and other hospital stores. The tents in this hospital were pitched by brigades, the operating tables being arranged as in the Second Corps. Thirty-six hospital attendants were employed. The drum corps of the division was employed during the first two weeks of the campaign; after that it was sent to the front, and 12 pioneers performed its duties. A provost guard was furnished the hospital. The medical officers not on duty at the division hospital formed advance depots near the line of battle, one or two depots being formed for each brigade.

Organization of hospital of First Division, Sixth Corps. - In the First Division, Sixth Corps, 24 tents, 17 army wagons, and 4 medicine wagons were allowed, the division containing 4 brigades, 17 regiments, and 8,000 men. Eight of the army wagons carried the regimental medical property, 4 the brigade supplies, and 5 the tents and division hospital supplies. One of these last was used more especially to form a small flying hospital for the division while on the march. The tents were pitched by brigades. Thirty-four hospital attendants were employed, but no drum corps or pioneers, except when detailed in emergencies. The tents were pitched and struck by the men belonging to the ambulance train, who had been especially drilled in that duty. Two depot hospitals for each brigade were established as near the line of battle as possible, the advance ambulances being close at hand, a second ambulance depot being usually formed about one-half mile in the rear. Each of these division hospitals could be pitched or taken down and packed in the wagons in forty-five minutes. The ambulances of the division when not in use were parked close by the hospital, the stretcher-bearers remaining at the front with the troops.

Superiority of the Fifth Corps organization. - The regimental medical property was never used during the active part of the campaign, and, as in the Fifth Corps, very little was carried. A much larger proportion of transportation was available for the division hospitals than in the other corps, and rations, clothing, condensed milk, and canned meats and fruits were carried without trouble.

Organization of the Cavalry Corps. - In the Cavalry Corps no system of division field hospitals was organized, as, owing to the peculiar nature of their service, their hospital train was, by orders or by circumstances, seldom near enough to be available during an engagement, and was entirely absent during their long expeditions and raids. The usual operating staff was detailed, however, and a full supply was carried in their train. The nearest available house was used as a hospital, and the wounded were in many instances subsisted by foraging, as will be seen by the reports of the cavalry raids. The Cavalry Corps hospital, consisting of twenty-two hospital tents, with furniture and hospital stores, medical officers, attendants, & c., the whole under charge of Surg. S. B. W. Mitchell, Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry, was kept up during the winter, and was sent back to Alexandria on the 1st of May, from which point it moved directly to Fredericksburg as soon as the road was opened.

Medical supplies, how carried. - The medical and hospital supplies of the army were carried in the brigade supply and medicine wagons, the regimental and division hospital wagons, the ambulance boxes, hospital knapsacks, and field companions, and in a reserve train of thirty-five army wagons, which moved with the main train of the army, and was under the charge of Asst. Surg. J. Bernard Brinton, U. S. Army, the medical purveyor.

Amount of supplies carried. - The amount of medical and hospital supplies carried with the army is shown in the schedule, marked A, herewith transmitted. The means of transportation, and amount of camp and garrison equipage carried, is in like manner shown by Schedule B. This supply was estimated as sufficient for the wants of the army until June 1, 1864, and for the necessities of 20,000 wounded for eight days in addition. The medical purveyor had also under his control a large and commodious storehouse in Alexandria, in which a large amount of stores were placed in such a manner that they could be forwarded by either boat or rail with ease and quickness. A requisition for a complete three months' supply for the army for the period from July 1, 1864, to September 30, 1864, was sent in by the medical purveyor during the latter part of April. This supply reached the army at White House on the 1st of June.

Sanitary Commission. - The Sanitary Commission had five wagons in the army. The supplies carried in them are also given in Schedule A. The corps medical directors exercised their own discretion as to the movements of these wagons with the hospital trains. During the last week in April, all the sick and wounded were sent to Washington, the hospital broken up, all surplus property sent to the rear, and every preparation made for an immediate movement. The medical purveyor's depot at Brandy Station was broken up, and the surplus supplies sent to Alexandria on the 8th of May, it having been kept up till the last moment, that every brigade might have a complete month's supply on hand at the start. On the 1st of May the Fifth Corps, which had been up to that time guarding the railroad from Fairfax to Rappahannock Station, was concentrated near Brandy Station and Culpeper, its place being taken by the Ninth Corps. On the 30th of April the Second Division, Cavalry Corps, was withdrawn from Warrenton and moved to Paoli Mills.

Order of march, Cavalry Corps. - The movement of the army began at midnight of the 3rd of May. The Second and Third Divisions, Cavalry Corps, moved to Germanna and Ely's Fords, on the Rapidan, at which points canvass pontoon bridges were immediately thrown across.

Fifth Corps. - Two divisions of the Fifth Corps moved to Germanna Ford by way of Stevensburg and the plank road, taking with them a wooden pontoon bridge train, with which a second bridge was constructed at that ford by 7 a. m. of the 4th. The other two divisions of the corps followed, reaching the ford at 9 a. m.

Second Corps. - Two divisions of the Second Corps moved at midnight of the 3rd to Ely's Ford, and a wooden pontoon bridge was also thrown across at that point. The remainder of the corps followed at 3 a. m.

Sixth Corps, army trains. - The Sixth Corps moved at 4 a. m., following the Fifth. The Artillery Reserve followed the Second Corps. The trains of the army moved to Richardsville. General headquarters moved at 5 a. m., passing, by was of Stevensburg, to Germanna Ford, crossing the river at noon, and camping for the night on the heights on the south side of the river. The First Division, Cavalry Corps, guarded the river from Rapidan Station to Germanna Ford, covering the rear and right flank of the army. The only means of transportation allowed to cross the river were one-half of the infantry ammunition trains, one-half of the ambulances, 1 medicine and 1 hospital wagon to each brigade, and the light spring wagons and pack-mules belonging to the various corps and division headquarters. No opposition was made to the crossing, and as soon as the infantry had reached the river the cavalry moved southward, the Second Division to the vicinity of Piney Branch Church and the Third Division to the vicinity of Old Wilderness Tavern. A small body of Confederates was found at Chancellorsville, who retreated toward Fredericksburg, and another party near Parker's Store; with these exceptions no enemy appeared.

Position of the army on the 4th of May. - The main body of the army had crossed the river by 2 p. m., and on the evening of the 4th the Second Corps, with the Reserve Artillery, was near Chancellorsville, the Fifth Corps near Old Wilderness Tavern, and the Sixth Corps on the heights south of Germanna Ford. The distance marched was about 15 miles, the day cool and pleasant, the men fresh and in good spirits, and there was but little straggling. Fifty rounds of ammunition, three days' full rations in the haversacks, and three days' short rations in the knapsacks were carried by each soldier. Three days' rations of fresh beef on the hoof were also taken across the river.

Operations of May 5. - Early in the morning of the 5th of May it was found that the enemy were advancing from Orange Court-House with the design of striking our column at right angles while in line of march. The original intention of moving farther southward was temporarily abandoned, and the army moved into line of battle. The Fifth Corps held the center, lying across the Orange Court-House pike parallel to and 1 mile west of the Germanna Ford plank road.

Position of the Fifth Corps and of its hospitals. - The division hospitals of this corps were located on a slope of open ground by a small creek which crosses the Fredericksburg pike 1 mile east of Old Wilderness Tavern. Water for the hospitals was obtained from excellent springs in the vicinity, tents were pitched, operating tables and kitchens prepared, surgeons and attendants at their posts, and everything in readiness for the reception of wounded an hour before the cases began to arrive. The advance depot for the ambulances was near the turnpike, about 400 yards behind the line of battle. A surgeon with attendants was stationed at Old Wilderness Tavern for the purpose of dressing the slightly wounded who might be straggling along the road and who had passed by the advance hospitals without having been cared for. The wounded began to come in about 12 m, and by 9 p. m. 1,235 men had been received, fed, dressed, and sheltered.

Position of the Sixth Corps and location of hospitals. - The Sixth Corps was posted on the right of the Fifth, extending to the river, the Second Division moving during the day to the left of the Fifth Corps.

The hospital of the First Division of this corps was at the Spotswood house on the Germanna Ford turnpike; that of the Second Division on the Old Wilderness Run near Woodville Mine, and that of the Third Division near Old Wilderness Tavern. About 1,000 wounded were brought in during the day, the greater part from the Second Division.

Position of Second Corps. - The Second Corps got into position during the day along the Brock or Brook road, having an interval of nearly 2 miles between its right and the left of the Fifth Corps; this space was for the most part filled up during the day by General Burnside's command, and one division of the Sixth Corps.

Location of hospitals of Second Army Corps. - Its hospitals were located near Carpenter's house, 1 mile southeast of the junction of the Germanna Ford and Chancellorsville plank roads. The site was a good one, with good water, and two ambulance roads leading to the front, which was only a mile distant. About 600 wounded were received during the day.

Movements of army trains. - The trains of the army crossed during the day at Ely's Ford and Catharpin Mine Ford, and moved one part to Chancellorsville, the other to the vicinity of Woodville Mine.

Movements of Cavalry Corps. - The First Division, Cavalry Corps, crossed after the trains, and moved to Alrich's, picketing the roads toward Fredericksburg. The other divisions of the corps engaged with the enemy's cavalry during the day in the vicinity of Todd's Tavern, and had about 100 wounded. A temporary hospital was established at Brown's house, about half a mile northeast of Todd's Tavern, where all the wounded were dressed and fed and the necessary operations performed. They were then removed to the tent hospitals of the corps, one of which was established near Ely's Ford, by which point it was supposed that they would be sent to Washington, the other near the hospitals of the Fifth Corps. Army headquarters were on a little knoll near Woodville Mine during the day.

During the 6th and 7th of May the battle of the Wilderness continued, the corps and divisions remaining in nearly the same relative positions as above described, which are shown in the outline map appended to this report, together with the locations of the several hospitals and the roads used by the ambulances. As has been well said, "this was a battle which no man saw or coulee see," fought in the midst of dense thickets of second-growth underbrush and evergreens, rendering the use of artillery almost impossible, and compelling the opposing lines to approach very near each other in order to see their opponents. It was a series of fierce attacks and repulses on either side, and the hostile lines swayed back and forth over a strip of ground from 200 yards to a mile in width on which the severely wounded of both sides were scattered. This strip of woods was on fire in many places, and some wounded, unable to escape, were thus either suffocated or burned to death. The number who thus perished is unknown, but it is supposed to have been about 200. The stretcher-bearers of the Ambulance Corps followed the line of battle closely, and displayed great gallantry in their efforts to bring off the wounded. Repeated efforts were made, especially at night, to bring off the wounded lying between the lines, but with very small success, it being almost impossible to find wounded men lying scattered through the dense thickets, and the enemy firing at every moving light, or even at the slightest noise. The number of men lost in this battle from the Ambulance Corps was ---, of whom --- were killed, --- wounded, and --- captured.

The hospitals of the Second and Fifth Corps remained stationary throughout the battle. Those of the Sixth Corps were collected on the night of May 6 and moved to the vicinity of Dowdall's Tavern on the Fredericksburg turnpike. This removal was necessitated by a fierce attack of the enemy upon the right wing, which forced back and threw into temporary confusion the Third Division of the Sixth Corps. Some shells were thrown into the vicinity of the Spotswood house, injuring two ambulances, but doing no further damage. The records of the various hospitals were, as a general thing, carefully and accurately kept. The hospital of the Second Corps being but a short distance from the front, the influx of patients was so rapid and their numbers so great that it was not possible to record all of them. About 120 of the enemy's wounded were brought in, chiefly to the hospitals of the Second Corps. The total number of wounded, killed, and missing during this battle is shown by the following statement, which, however, does not include the loss of General Burnside's command:

Number of wounded, according to classified returns......... 7,302

Number of wounded treated in hospital unrecorded (estimated) 1,000

Number of wounded who fell into the enemy's hands (estimated) 800

Total...................................................... 9,102

Number killed, according to regimental reports............. 2,009

Number missing, according to regimental reports............ 3,893

Total...................................................... 5,902

Grand total................................................ 15,004

The number of wounded, according to the regimental returns, is 10,185, or 1,045 more than is given above, but subsequent returns render it probable that this is an error. A consolidated statement of the wounded of this battle is appended, together with a return of wounded officers. It will be noted that this number is large, 1 to every 16 enlisted men. This was due to the fact that the conflict was in many respects skirmishing on a large scale, and the men most conspicuously dressed were the first victims. For a similar reason the Zouave brigade of the First Division, Fifth Army Corps, whose uniforms are banded with red and yellow scrolls, met with very heavy loss. The relative proportion of killed was also large, being nearly 1 to every 5 wounded. Only 240 wounds from cannon shot and shell were observed. As a somewhat interesting fact, bearing upon the character of the conflict, it may be mentioned that but 11 rounds of ammunition per man were used by the army during the three days' fight, as stated by the chief ordnance officer.

Ample supplies of all kinds were on hand in all the hospitals. The medical purveyor, with his wagon train, was at Woodville Mine, and reported that he was ready to issue by 5 p. m. of May 5, but no requisitions were sent in as the supply carried in the ambulance and field hospital trains was much greater than the emergency required. All of the ambulances and hospital wagons were at the several hospitals by 9 a. m. of May 6. The labors of the Ambulance Corps during this battle were very severe. The ambulances of the Fifth and Sixth Corps traveled about 50 miles on the 6th of May. Every wounded man who could be reached by the stretcher-bearers was brought off the field, and about 4,000 blankets and shelter-tents were collected and brought into the hospitals.

On the morning of the 7th of May Major-General Meade ordered that all the wounded should be sent to Rappahannock Station, by way of Ely's Ford, to be sent from thence to Washington. All of the army wagons of the general and corps trains which could be emptied were turned over to the medical department during the day, and by 6 p. m. were being loaded with wounded. These wagons were thickly bedded with evergreen bought, over which shelter-tents and blankets were spread, and were comparatively comfortable for the class of cases for which they were used. Every facility was afforded by the quartermaster's department, and without such aid it would have been utterly impossible to have removed more than one-fourth of the wounded. Three hundred and twenty-five wagons and 488 ambulances were used for the wounded of the infantry corps, and it was found absolutely necessary to leave behind 960 wounded on account of lack of transportation. The wounded were divided into three classes: First, those able to walk; second, those unable to walk, but able to ride in army wagons; third, those most severely wounded, including the cases of fractures of the lower extremities, major amputations, and penetrating wounds of the thoracic and abdominal cavities. Two medical officers, 1 hospital steward, and 10 attendants were detailed to every 500 men, and rations, dressings, and medical stores furnished for three days. Surg. E. B. Dalton, U. S. Volunteers, was placed in charge of the entire train, and a regiment of dismounted cavalry accompanied it as a guard. A message was sent to the Surgeon-General at 10 a. m., notifying him of the arrangements made, and requesting that supplies should be sent to Rappahannock Station for the wounded remaining on the field, to be brought by the returning train. On the evening of May 7 it was determined to entirely abandon the line of the Rapidan, and the army moved during the night to the vicinity of Spotsylvania Court-House. The train containing wounded was, therefore, ordered to accompany the trains of the army to Alrich's, on the Fredericksburg plank road, 2 miles south of Chancellorsville. The number of wounded left behind in the several corps hospitals on account of lack of transportation was as follows, according to the reports of the corps medical directors:

Union. Rebel.

Second Corps 660 90

Fifth Corps 200 4

Sixth Corps 100 ---

Total 960 94

Hospital tents, medical officers, and attendants, medicines, hospital stores, and dressings, and three to five days' rations were left with these wounded.

Early in the morning of May 8 the following order was issued:


May 8, 1864.

The wounded of the army will be immediately transported to Fredericksburg, and there put in hospital. Major-General Hancock will detail a small regiment of infantry, under a reliable commander, who, with the Twenty-second New York Cavalry and his regiment, will escort them and take charge of the hospital; he will return the ambulances to the army, but retain the wagons, with which, under a flag of truce, he will endeavor to bring off the field such wounded as there was no transportation for. The wounded will be supplied with three days' subsistence, which will be furnished by the corps commanders concerned.

By order of Major-General Meade:


Assistant Adjutant-General.

At 9.45 a. m. a message was dispatched by a special agent to the Surgeon-General, informing him of the new arrangements and requesting that medical officers and supplies should be sent at once to Fredericksburg. Sixty-eight beef-cattle were drawn from the general herd and turned over to Dr. Dalton, surgeon, U. S. Volunteers, in charge, and he was instructed to draw from the purveyor's train whatever medical supplies he might deem necessary. The entire train had passed Silver's house on its way to Fredericksburg by 11 p. m., and arrived at its destination by 11 a. m. of the 9th, having met with no molestation or trouble. An account of the operations of the medical department in Fredericksburg will be given in a subsequent part of this report, but it may be proper to state in this place the result of the efforts made to bring in the wounded from the battle-field of the Wilderness. Within the two following weeks about 1,000 wounded were collected and carried to Fredericksburg by ambulances and wagon trains which were sent out from that place by Surgeon Dalton, U. S. Volunteers. The wounded left within the enemy's lines were chiefly collected at the Confederate hospitals near Parker's Store and Robertson's Tavern. About 300 of these were brought away, and tents, food, and dressings left with those who could not be brought off. The enemy at first made no objection to the removal of these wounded, but on the 14th of May, Assistant Surgeon Breneman, U. S. Army, who went out with a train at that time, was informed that no more wounded could be removed unless a special request to that effect should be made by Lieutenant-General Grant. On the 18th of May Doctor Breneman again went out with an ambulance train carrying the following letter:

Near Spotsylvania Court-House, Va., May 18, 1864.


Near Old Wilderness Tavern, Va.:

SIR: To secure proper medical supplies and care for wounded soldiers who, I understand, are still left in your hospitals near Old Wilderness Tavern, I would request that all who are still in your hands be delivered to Assistant Surgeon Breneman, U. S. Army, who is authorized to receipt the roll of the same. I will state that all Confederate wounded who have fallen into our hands are receiving good care and abundance of supplies of all description. Such, however, as have not been sent beyond Fredericksburg will be delivered into your hands at Chancellorsville if you desire it.

I have the honor, to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,



The request contained in the above letter was refused on the ground that it was not addressed to General Robert E. Lee. Dr. Breneman was permitted, however, to send two wagon-loads of food and medical supplies to our wounded. On the 22nd of May Dr. Breneman made another attempt, but with the same result. On his return he was stopped by guerrillas, his horse taken from him, and his pockets rifled of all papers and valuables.

On the 24th, supplies were sent out from Fredericksburg, and on the 27th, by order of Lieutenant-General Grant, Dr. Breneman again went out, accompanied by a strong force of cavalry and infantry, and brought in all the wounded from the vicinity of Old Wilderness Tavern - 86 in number. On their arrival at Fredericksburg they were placed on board a steamer lying at the wharf and conveyed directly to Washington. Fredericksburg was then abandoned and no further efforts were or could be made to bring in those wounded who were in the enemy's hospitals near Parker's Store by the medical department of this army. An expedition was sent out from Washington, however, by Surgeon Abbott, U. S. Army, medical director, on the 8th of June, which brought off 45 wounded, all that were left, the others having been removed by the enemy. The mortality among the wounded left in the Wilderness was very great, partly because the most serious cases, and such as could not bear transportation were left, and partly from insufficient food and supplies. The surgeons left with the wounded were permitted to return without molestation, and no paroles were exacted from those wounded who were brought off. To those of our wounded collected at Parker's Store and Robertson's Tavern, medical attendance, food, and medical supplies were furnished by the Confederates in the same proportion as to their own. Before leaving the subject it is to be observed that there was no interval of importance between the cessation of hostilities and the march of the army, as is usual after great conflicts of this character, and which is available to the medical department for the withdrawal and care of the wounded. The weather during the 5th, 6th, and 7th of May was warm and dry, the nights cool, and producing heavy deposits of dew, and the roads good, although somewhat dusty.

May 7, 1864 - 11.30 a. m.


I have made arrangements to send to Washington between 7,000 and 8,000 wounded. The train of wagons and ambulances will leave to-night and go to Rappahannock Station, from which point they are to be sent by rail. Please direct Assistant Surgeon Mackenzie to send up a battle-field supply for 3,000 wounded for seven days in the first train. All the medical officers you can spare are needed here, and they should be prepared to remain in the field for ten days.


Surgeon U. S. Army, Medical Director Army of the Potomac.

N. B. - Send short rations also from the commissary of subsistence department for 3,000 men for seven days

[Deleted here is a long table of all medical supplies carried. See original for an intelligible version of this]



"Report of Thomas McParlin, Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac, 1864 (Section I)," in Fredericksburg: City of Hospitals, Item #39, https://projects.umwhistory.org/cwh/items/show/39 (accessed October 23, 2021).

Added by tbrann