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Report of Thomas G. Mackenzie, Acting Medical Purveyor, 1864

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  • Report of Thomas G. Mackenzie, Acting Medical Purveyor, 1864

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Report of Thomas G. Mackenzie, Acting Medical Purveyor, 1864


"Report of Thomas G. Mackenzie," O.R. Vol. 36, Pt. 1, p. 272-274. Transcribed by John Hennessy.

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Steamer Planter, City Point, Va., June 23, 1864.

SIR: I have the honor respectfully to transmit the following report of my actions since my connection with the medical purveyor's department of the Army of the Potomac:

In accordance with Special Orders, Numbers 92, paragraph 19, dated headquarters Army of the Potomac, April 9, 1864, I proceeded to Alexandria, Va., for the purpose therein stated, viz, the establishment of a medical purveying department at that place. Having obtained a suitable building (Numbers 43, Union street) I remained on duty there receiving and storing medical supplies and awaiting further orders.

On the morning of May 8, 1864, I received orders from the Acting Surgeon-General to dispatch at once to Rappahannock Station, on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, a battle-field supply for 3,000 wounded for seven days, including barrels for ice-water, tin cups, buckets, &c., for the use of the wounded on the train, expected down on the train from the front. The supplies were sent forward immediately in charge of a responsible steward, two cars having been loaded for a number of days previous with a battle-field supply in anticipation of the coming battles. Lemons (thirty boxes) were purchased and forwarded. The supply arrived safely at its destination, where it remained until the morning of the 9th of May, and was then ordered back to Alexandria. Immediately on its arrival, in accordance with instructions (received in the interim from the Surgeon-General's Office), the stores were unloaded and conveyed on board the steamers State of Maine and Connecticut, then lying at the wharf. These stores were all placed under charge of Surg. John H. Brinton, U. S. Volunteers, who was ordered to proceed to Fredericksburg with them. The steamers above mentioned started early on the morning of the 10th of May for Belle Plain.

Asst. Surg. George P. Jaquett, U. S. Army, having been placed in charge of the medical supply steamers Hugh Jenkins and Farmer, was also dispatched to Belle Plain, where he arrived before any other vessel was in sight, and a day in advance of the wounded to arrive from Fredericksburg at that point. It is worthy of remark, therefore, that medical supplies were there in advance of all others, and communications were at once opened with Surg. E. B. Dalton, U. S. Volunteers, chief medical officer at Fredericksburg, by Assistant Surgeon Jaquett, U. S. Army. Independent of the supplies taken down by Surg. J. H. Brinton, U. S. Volunteers, and Assistant Surgeon Jaquett, U. S. Army, I was ordered, on May 11, to proceed to Belle Plain with two barges loaded with medical and hospital stores. Arrived at said point early on the morning of the 12th, and reported to Lieutenant-Colonel Cuyler, acting medical inspector-general, U. S. Army. On my arrival at Belle Plain I found it impracticable for the steamers Hugh Jenkins and Farmer, on account of the shallowness of the water, and their deep draught, to lay alongside of the wharf. There was at that time but one U-shaped wharf, at which not only all the stores of the several departments had to be unloaded, but also the disembarkation of the troops arriving, as reenforcements had to be effected. To add to the confusion consequent upon the above, all the wounded were conveyed along the wharf to the transports, and consequently it was an utter impossibility to work expeditiously or effectually. Such being the case, it was thought best for the steamers to remain out in the stream, have requisitions filled there and convey them ashore in a lighter. Accordingly one was obtained from the quartermaster, Captain Pitkin, and detailed with a gang of negroes for that purpose alone. The two barges under my immediate charge were brought up as near the wharf as possible, and such articles as could be furnished from them (being principally hospital stores, bedding, clothing, &c.) were conveyed across other barges and loaded on other wagons as speedily as they came up. In this way requisitions were oftentimes filled, and arranged on the barge occupied by Lieutenant-Colonel Cuyler, acting medical inspector-general, U. S. Army, as his headquarters, lying alongside the wharf, ere the wagons were there to receive them. All the medical supplies that could be gotten up to the wharf (i. e., those loaded in barges) were there, immediately adjoining the barge of the Sanitary Commission.

To supply the immediate wants of the wounded, so far as this department was concerned, a hospital tent was pitched on shore in charge of a steward, and filled from the steamers and barges with such supplies as were most likely to be needed, and from which the surgeon in charge of the hospital established on shore could draw in small quantities.

Not having been ordered down to Belle Plain until a subsequent date, and Assistant Surgeon Jaquett, U. S. Army, occupying virtually the position of medical purveyor at the time of my arrival, having most of the stores under his charge, it is not my province to debate further upon the subject. I cannot refrain, however, in this connection from attesting to the efficiency of the chief of the medical department in forwarding such ample supplies for the relief of the wounded and the untiring zeal manifested by the medical officers and their assistants in the execution of the multiplied duties devolving upon them. No one who was not present to witness it in person can form an adequate conception of the scene presented, and the astonishment of all was, with the difficulties under which we labored and the limited transportation at hand, that supplies were received in so short a time and in such quantities at Fredericksburg. No blame, therefore, can justly be attached to the medical department for the seeming delay in receiving supplies at that point, as they were promptly on hand at Belle Plain, and in sufficient quantities to meet any demand.

Having remained at Belle Plain until the morning of May 19, I was ordered by Lieutenant-Colonel Cuyler, acting medical inspector-general, U. S. Army, to turn over what remained of my supplies to Assistant Surgeon Jaquett, U. S. Army, and report to the Acting Surgeon-General, U. S. Army, at Washington.

I left Belle Plain May 19 and reported to the Acting Surgeon-General May 20. The same night the steamer Planter was ordered to report to me, and instructions received to load her with all the supplies then in the warehouse in Alexandria. Two barges were also sent me to load such stores as could not be transported by steamer. In addition to the above another barge was procured and loaded exclusively with portions of a requisition made by Asst. Surg. J. B. Brinton, U. S. Army, medical purveyor, Army of the Potomac, May 17, 1864. An extract from a letter accompanying the requisition I here quote:

It is also desirable that he procure a barge and load it with 3,000 iron bedsteads or wooden cots, 3,000 mattresses, 10,000 sheets, 7,000 pillows, and 100 brooms, 400 rubber cushions with open center, 10,000 pillow-cases, 5,000 suits hospital clothing, 2,000 blankets, 3,000 counterpanes, 500 wooden buckets, 20 cauldrons, 12 cooking-stoves with furniture complete, 10 barrels of ferri sulphas for disinfectant purposes, 200 pounds cocoa or chocolate, 200 pounds corn starch, 100 dozen bottles porter, 600 pounds oakum, and 1,000 bed-sacks. The above supply to be on a separate boat, and not to be used unless the emergency requires, which emergency will be the establishment of hospitals.

Having completed the loading of the steamer and barges, I was ordered on the morning of May 26, to proceed to Port Royal, Rappahannock River, Va., where I arrived on the evening of the 28th….



"Report of Thomas G. Mackenzie, Acting Medical Purveyor, 1864," in Fredericksburg: City of Hospitals, Item #43, https://projects.umwhistory.org/cwh/items/show/43 (accessed October 23, 2021).

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