Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sheridan's First Richmond Raid - A Doctor's Perspective

During the summer of 1864, the Reserve Brigade accompanied the rest of the 1st Division of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac on both of Sheridan's "Richmond Raids." I recently came across the reports of the corps surgeon for each of the two raids, and thought the perspectives of these surgeons were interesting. The assistant surgeon Rogers mentioned was the regimental surgeon for the 6th U.S. Cavalry, who were serving as Sheridan's escort during the raid. Assistant Surgeon George McGill of the U.S. Army was the acting corps surgeon on the first raid, and his report follows:

“On the 9th day of May, Surgeon Pease being too sick for mounted duty, I was made acting medical director by Major General Sheridan. The corps was, at that time, upon the march, and numbered about nine thousand mounted men. There was one ambulance at the headquarters of the corps, and the batteries of the artillery had each an ambulance, in which, however, the mess things of the artillery officers and their bedding were carried; the ambulance boxes contained the usual supply of beef stock, etc. Thirty-one ammunition wagons were with the command, all heavily laden, but not the less adapted to ambulance service, for, as was afterwards shown, an engagement used up ammunition enough to make it possible to carry such of the wounded men as were cases to bring along, and yet unable to ride their horses. Each medical officer had a field companion, and each regiment was provided with the field register. During the five days in which we had no communication, the medicines and dressings on hand were used up, but a supply of dressings were obtained by a foraging party. The wounded were abundantly fed by foraging. As the corps headquarters was the most stable position in the command, it was ordered that all the wounded who were able to ride their horses should be sent thither. Acting Assistant Surgeon Rogers was placed in charge of these men, and Acting Assistant Surgeon McGuigan ordered to report to him. After a capture of three rebel wagons and three ambulances, made upon the night of the 9th of May, a corps ambulance train was organized, and the same officer put in charge. As the number of our wounded increased, the battery ambulances, with such spring wagons as could be appropriated in the corps or taken from inhabitants of the country, were added to the train, which finally assumed formidable proportions, and presented a remarkable appearance from the variety of vehicles embraced in it. The first engagement was on the telegraph road approaching Childsburg; an affair of the rear guard, in which, however, we lost heavily. Many of the wounded were captured by the enemy, but nineteen were saved and transported in ammunition wagons. On the night of the 9th and morning of the 10th, we had twenty men and officers wounded in skirmishing. During the afternoon of the 11th, the battle of Yellow Tavern was fought, an engagement in which the whole corps was concerned. Our corps hospital was established half a mile in the rear of the centre; it was under fire part of the time, but there was no situation within our lines that was not. It was thoroughly organized with a surgeon in charge, operators, dressers and recorders. The night and day following this battle was extremely trying for the wounded, as the corps moved during the night to near Meadow bridge, within the outer defences of Richmond, and fought all the day. On the 12th, the corps was engaged on three sides. On the left, facing Richmond, the 3d division was engaged with one of the rebel fortifications. On the right, the 2d division contended against a heavy force of infantry, while the 1st division built a bridge over the Chickahominy, and forced a passage in the face of the cavalry force defeated by the corps the day before. The wounded from these points were sent to the corps train after being carefully dressed. Most of the cases saved were brought off on horseback, as all our ambulances were already overloaded. Our loss was comparatively light, forty men in all being wounded in the 2d and 3d divisions. On the afternoon and evening of the same day, the corps fought at Mechanicsville, and, during the two days following, marched to Haxall’s landing, which was reached on the afternoon of the 14th. During these days, surgeons were detailed night and morning to dress and attend to the wounded. As soon as Medical Director McCormick heard of our arrival, he sent a transport well fitted up for the wounded. While lying at Haxall’s, nearly three hundred men were sent to general hospital, two hundred ten of whom were wounded. Much needed medical supplies were here obtained for the corps. From Haxall’s, we moved to White House, where fifty-seven sick and wounded were sent to general hospital. On the 18th, while lying at Baltimore stores, an expedition was made by Brigadier General Custer, who cut the Richmond and Fredericksburg railroad near Hanover Court-house. In this expedition, two men were wounded, one of whom was lost. Crossing the Pamunkey river, the corps next marched to Dunkirk, on the Mattapony, thence to our wagon train, near Milford Station. In all there were about three hundred and eighty men wounded during the expedition, of whom about two hundred and eighty-five were secured.

Source: Barnes, Joseph K. The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, Volume 1. Washington, Government Printing Office: 1870. Pages 179-180.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Civil War Times Illustrated Lookups Available

Ever come across a reference from an old magazine that doesn't seem to be available anywhere? Well, if so, shooting me a note might be helpful to some readers of this blog. I was fortunate enough to come across the hardbound twentieth anniversary printing of CWTI this weekend. 1961-2 to 1981-2 in 20 volumes for a quite reasonable price. And it was my wife's idea to pick it up instead of asking where I would put it. So if you're looking for something, let me know.

Also, if anyone's looking for a complete set of the OR, I know a bookseller who would really like to get one out of his store.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Of Maps and Manuscripts

I've encountered a question that hopefully learned readers of this blog will be able to assist me with, to wit: at what point do maps enter into the publication process for manuscripts?

This question leads to a host of other related questions, which are all the more interesting to me given that the most often viewed complaint during reviews of historical works (particularly military ones) is a lack of maps. Is it the author's job to find a cartographer and arrange for maps, or the publisher? Is a publisher even interested in looking at a manuscript without maps? Who pays the cartographer? Should the author make rough maps for clarity before beginning the search for a cartographer?

Far more questions than answers, but perhaps this will spark a discussion.


A hearty if belated congratulations to fellow blogger Mannie Gentile of A Year of Living Rangerously (see list to the left). Mannie was recently picked up as a full time NPS Ranger at Antietam National Battlefield. Congratulations, Mannie!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Making Progress

Yes, it's a new year, and a great deal of progress is being made, not that one could tell from looking at this blog. My professional organizer wife has informed me that January is national "GO" month (GO= Get Organized), which given the disarray my historical files are in, seemed like an excellent deal. The bad news is that it feels like it's taking forever. The good news is that I'm turning up all sorts of material that I've been meaning to post, so there should be a great deal of traffic here shortly.

The manuscript on the 6th Cavalry, where I spent most of my time over the holidays, continues to grow at an alarming rate. We should have the last few sources in place by the end of March, then the great whittling project begins to reduce it to something resembling publishing size. Unfortunately, Jim just left for New York to resume flying, so we're down to mail and email collaboration, but we still hope to start querying publishers by the end of the summer.

We're putting together a Little Big Horn staff ride at work, so I've been doing a good bit of background bio on some of the officers, nearly every one of which served in the Civil War, so it's likely relevant odds and ends from that project will show up here as well.

No grand posting of topics for the new year, as that panned out rather dismally last year. My production was terrible, so most of those topics still need to be covered. I will simply say that this year I'll do better.