The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
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Collection Title: Confederate States of America. Medical Records.
Collection Number: M217
Dates: November 10, 1861-June 17, 1865
Volumes: 3 volumes
Confederate Medical Practice
C.S. Steamer "General Polk"
C.S. Ram "Atlanta"
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.