Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sheridan's Second Raid, A Doctor's Perspective

The second of the physician's viewpoint articles on Sheridan's 1864 raids, this one focuses on his second raid. These were the observations of Surgeon R.W. Pease:

“On the evening of June 6th, I was directed to make preparations for a movement of the 1st and 2nd divisions of this corps, which would probably involve an absence of several weeks. Orders were given by the Major General commanding that but four ambulances to each division and two for headquarters should accompany the expedition. Instructions were immediately issued to have one ambulance loaded for each division, and an army wagon was well-filled with supplies of all kinds, and taken with the headquarter train. The command marched on the morning of June 7th, crossing the Pamunkey river at New Castle ferry, and moved towards the Virginia Central railroad, intending to strike it near Trevillian Station. Our march was uninterrupted until the morning of the 11th, when, about for miles east of Trevillian Station, we came upon the enemy in force. The engagement continued with great fury until about four o’clock P.M., the rebels being driven about five miles beyond the railroad. Our loss was about one hundred and sixty wounded. These, with about seventy wounded rebels, were brought to our field hospital, and every possible attention given to them. At eleven o’clock P.M., all but thirty-six severely wounded were placed in army wagons and moved to the station. Those left were placed in charge of Assistant Surgeon R. Rae, 1st New York Dragoons, with whom five hospital attendants and rations for five days were left, with medical supplies in sufficient quantity for immediate wants. The greater part of the 12th was occupied in destroying the railroad. At five o’clock P.M., the enemy was found about three miles west of the station in a strong position, entrenched and fully prepared for an attack. A spirited engagement ensued, which continued until after dark. Our loss, in this attack, amounted to about three hundred and sixty-six wounded. Our hospital was established at the station in a large and commodious building. Orders were received about eleven o’clock P.M. to be ready to move our wounded by midnight. Thirty army and twelve ammunition wagons were assigned for this purpose. All who could not be transported in these wagons and in our ten ambulances were placed in carriages and other vehicles, which we had impressed on our route. In addition to our own wounded, we had about forty severely wounded rebels. All were brought along on our return except the rebels, the thirty-six wounded left after the first day’s fight, and ninety-four severely wounded on the 12th. The latter were left at Trevillian Station in charge of Assistant Surgeon Stickler, 10th New York Cavalry, and Assistant Surgeon Powell, 1st New York Cavalry. One hospital steward and seven attendants were left with them, with rations for three days and nearly all the remainder of our medical supplies. Our train of wounded was at once fully organized, and six medical officers detached to attend it. On the 19th, we reached King and Queen Court-house, and from thence sent the wounded to Washington, via West Point. Seven of the wounded died before reaching Washington. On the morning of the 20th, we resumed our march for White House, Virginia, being hastened by a message stating that that place had been attacked. We made the march of twenty miles in four hours, but found the enemy had been repulsed. On the 21st, the corps moved to Jones’ bridge, skirmishing nearly all day. Thirty-seven were wounded. Five or six of the 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry fell into the hands of the enemy; two were wounded by bushwhackers; making a total loss of forty-five men. Orders were received to send our sick and wounded to Washington the next day. Forty wounded and eleven sick were sent accordingly. On the 23d, during a skirmish near Jones’ bridge, on the Chickahominy, we had four killed and nine wounded. We received into our hospital tent ten of the 28th U.S. Colored Troops, wounded at the same time. On the 24th, the 2d division was attacked by the rebel cavalry while on the St. Mary’s church road, parallel to the Charles City Court-house road, on which a train of eight hundred wagons, left at White House for this command to guard to the James river, was moving. The division was driven back to Charles City Court-house, and lost about two hundred men. The severely wounded fell into the hand sof the enemy. On the 26th, I received an order from General Sheridan to go with the wounded and sick to Washington.”

Source: Barnes, Joseph K. The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion (1861-1865), Volume 1. Washington: Government Printing Office: 1870.Page 180.

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