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Manuscript Collection

Collection Title: Confederate States of America. Medical Records.

Collection Number: M217

Dates: November 10, 1861-June 17, 1865

Volumes: 3 volumes

Provenance: Donated by Ernest A. Walen to the University of Southern Mississippi in October 1969. This collection was separated from M123.

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

Confederate Medical Practice

On the night of April 2, 1865, Confederate Surgeon-General Samuel P. Moore's office was burned during the Federal occupation of Richmond, VA. As a result, information relating to the Confederate Medical Department is rare. In general, the organization of the Confederate Medical Department was similar to that of the Federal forces. There were three grades of rank for medical officers: one surgeon general the equivalent of a brigadier-general, one thousand surgeons with the rank of major, two thousand assistant surgeons with the rank of captain, and a number of acting assistant surgeons with the rank of second lieutenant.

The medical needs of the Confederate States Navy were partially met by an act of organization (March 16, 1861) which provided for the appointment of five surgeons and five assistant surgeons; such personnel would become officers in the naval program. Within a year of this act, President Davis was forced by pressing needs for more navy medical personnel, to appoint thirty additional temporary assistant surgeons. In April 1862, the permanent naval staff was expanded by twenty-two surgeons, fifteen passed-assistant surgeons, and thirty assistant surgeons. Finally, on May 1, 1863, legislation was enacted which empowered the President to appoint additional naval personnel as needed.

Duties of the assistant surgeon included relieving or assisting the surgeon in treating the sick or wounded. The hospital steward, a non-commissioned position with the rank of sergeant, was to have charge of the medical and surgical supplies; he was responsible for dispensing supplies and carrying out the treatment ordered by the surgeons.

C.S. Steamer "General Polk"

This vessel was a blockade runner which was burned by her crew June 27, 1862, in order to avoid capture by the Federal fleet on the Mississippi River.

C.S. Ram "Atlanta"

C.S. Steamer "Atlanta" was formerly the English blockade-running steamer "Fengal." In September of 1862, she was converted into an ironclad gunboat and ram at Savannah, GA. She was equipped with two 6.4" rifle broadsides and two 7" rifle pivots. She was thought by the Federals to be the most formidable of existing Confederate vessels. In the process of breaking a blockade between Savannah and Charleston, she encountered the Federal vessels "Weehawken" and "Nahant." At 5:30 a.m., on June 17, 1863, after a fifteen-minute battle, the Atlanta was surrendered; Commander Webb and his crew were taken prisoner. At the time of capture the "Atlanta" had a compliment of twenty-one officers and 124 men, including marines. Sixteen men suffered wounds and one man died of his wounds.

The capture of the "Atlanta" was significant in several respects. The United States Government was now satisfied that it could intimidate European governments into not interfering in domestic concerns of the United States. Furthermore, now that the federal ships had achieved success, the speedy suppression of the rebellion came into closer view.

Confederate Hospitals

On September 27, 1862, the "Act to better provide for the sick and wounded of the Army in Hospitals" was passed by the Confederate Congress. It provided for hospitals to "be known and numbered as hospitals of a particular state," thus allowing soldiers from a certain state to be put in the hospital representing their state to keep the units together. This act did not eliminate the "General" Hospitals which accepted soldiers from all units.

The most famous Confederate hospital was Chimborazo in Richmond, Virginia, overlooking the James River on the Chimborazo Heights. It had a capacity of over 8,000 patients and was the largest military hospital in the continent's history. Chimborazo consisted of five separate hospitals, a total of 150 buildings holding 40 to 60 patients each. Convalescents were housed in tents. On the grounds were "five soup houses, five ice houses, Russian bath houses, a bakery capable of making ten thousand loaves of bread daily, and a brewery in which four hundred kegs of beer were brewed at a time." The hospital used the large farm "Tree Hill" to pasture two hundred cows and three to five hundred goats. Chimborazo was designated an independent army post; this independent structure was common in all large hospitals in the Department of Virginia.

Winder Hospital in Richmond was another large facility. It covered 125 acres, had a capacity of almost 5,000 patients, and consisted of six divisions. Its facilities included "the most approved Russian, steam, plunge, and shower baths," water closets, a bakery, an ice house, a sixteen-acre hospital garden worked by convalescents, and sixty-nine cows.

The Medical College of Virginia was the only medical school in the Confederacy that did not close during the war. Its facilities included a hospital, and it also sent its interns to other local hospitals.

Libby Prison Hospital, also in the Richmond area, was reported to be "admirable arranged" and "clean and neat to the last degree."

Confederate hospital personnel named in this manuscript include Francis W. Hancock, surgeon in charge of Jackson Hospital in Richmond; William A. Carrington, the Confederate States Medical Director and Inspector of Hospitals; Edwin S. Guillard, Medical Inspector; and James Mercer Green, the medical officer in charge of the hospitals in Macon, Georgia.

Scope and Content:

This collection of Confederate medical records contains a journal kept on board two Confederate naval vessels, a journal relating to Confederate hospitals in Virginia, and a booklet of unused soldiers' furlough passes. Entries reflect Confederate medical activities from November 10, 1861, through June 17, 1863; the furlough passes are dated 1865.

The documents in this collection have been divided into four series. Series I, "Journal of Medical and Surgical Practice - C.S. Steamer General Polk," comprises the first eighty-seven pages of a bound ledger book kept by Robert J. Freeman, an assistant surgeon with the Confederate States Navy. Contained within the pages are entries from the period November 10, 1861, to May 28, 1962, made at New Orleans and Fort Polk, La.; New Madrid, Mo.; Memphis, Randolph, Fort Pillow, and Tiptonville, Tenn.; and Columbus and Hickman, Ky.

Series II, "Journal of Medical and Surgical Practice - C.S. Steamer Atlanta," comprises the remaining pages of the bound ledger book. The following medical personnel kept the journal: Robert J. Freeman, passes-assistant surgeon; Robert R. Gibbs, assistant surgeon; and John Turner, Steward. Entries were made at Savannah, Ga., and points along the Savannah River (Machay's Point, Causton's Bluff, Thunderbolt, and the mouth of the Augustine Creek) and on the Warsaw River. Series II covers 128 pages and spans from December 1, 1862, to June 17, 1863.

Journal entries in Series I and II list the vessel's location, the day and date. Patients are listed individually and a note of those discharged or admitted was made each day. Each patient's initial entry contains medical and biographical information: age, duty aboard ship, birthplace, nature of wound or ailment, medical treatment prescribed, and progress toward recovery. Following each daily entry are statistical summaries of patients admitted, discharges, and sick, along with notes on drugs prescribed for personnel under treatment but not admitted. Quarterly reports include an itemized list of diseases or wounds incurred the previous quarter by members of the ship's company, and a summary of expenses; a tabulation of sick days by the ship's company is also supplied. Inventories of medical supplies and letters of supply requisitions are interspersed among daily entries.

Some miscellaneous letters attached in the rear of the journal pertain to problems of supply and pay. While these letters may relate to the vessel's crew, they do not add to the significance of the journal as a document of Civil War medicine. The significance of Series I and II lies in the information that they provide about Confederate medical practice in the navy; such information on treatments and prognosis of diseases during this time period.

Series III, "Ledger of Confederate Hospital Practice," consists of a single bound volume of notes relating to Confederate hospitals located in and around Richmond and St. Petersburg, Va. The volume contains 143 numbered pages with scattered pages missing (10 in all). There are three major components to Series III: (A) The rules and regulations for the patients and the staff of 26 hospitals; (B) Lists of surgeons, assistant surgeons, and acting assistant surgeons for 36 hospitals, (196 persons are listed; missing pages are scattered throughout these lists); and (C) 10 official reports on the conditions of hospitals inspected by William A. Carrington. There are also miscellaneous entries such as a complaint about the Steam Washing Department by James M. Holloway of General Hospital No. 2, a report of inspection of the Confederate States Steam Laundry, and information on the Confederate States Prison Hospital submitted by R.G. Barham. Twenty-four surgeons made entries into this ledger; most entries consist of the rules and regulations for their respective hospitals.

This bound volume (Series III) contains three interesting references. In the Louisiana Hospital regulations, there is a description of the prescribed uniform for that hospital (p. 39). In a report by William A. Carrington to the Medical Director's Office, there is a reference to the use of disinfectants in hospitals (p. 55). And in Carrington's Report No. 1 to Medical Director E.S. Gaillard, he talks about the poor conditions in the Castle Thunder Prison Hospital in relation to the improvements in the Libby Prison Hospital that was about to be opened (p. 108).

In addition to hospitals identified by number, the following named hospitals are mentioned in this volume: Medical College, Chimborazo, Louisiana, Howard Grove, Camp Lee, Winder, Alabama; Manchester (S.C.), St. Francis de Sales, Clopton, Robertson, Bellevue, Soldier's Home, The Samaritan, South Carolina, Castle Thunder, Libby Prison, and Palmer's. Robertson, Soldier's Home, and the Samaritan are listed as private hospitals; Castle Thunder, Libby, and Palmer's are prison hospitals.

Series IV, "Soldier's Furlough Passes," consists of a small printed booklet of blank passes to be completed when a soldier was being furloughed from a hospital as a result of his being "unfit for military duty." In small print at the bottom of each form is direction to the soldier at the end of his furlough.


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Revised: December 14, 2004