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Evacuating the woundedA Statement by Surgeon Albert G. Hart

Surgeon of the 41st OVI from Aug. 30 1862 - Nov. 5 1864

Transcribed from The Forty-First Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry by Kimberly and Holloway*

One of the final chapters in the regimental history written by Robert L. Kimberly and Ephraim S. Holloway (both officers in the 41st) is a statement by the primary regimental Surgeon, Dr. Albert G. Hart. He wrote this chapter in 1897, over thirty years after the war, using the Official Records and his own letters as reference material. In these notes he explains the various causes of casualties and disabilities within the regiment, with a particular emphasis on the epidemic of measles that the unit suffered during it's early encampments in Kentucky. He also includes a note on possible pensions, which was likely to be of great interest to the old soldiers reading these memoirs in the closing years of the 19th century.

Contents:


While the Regiment was at Chattanooga, Tennessee, in January, 1864, after two years and four months of service, and was completing the re-enlistment papers, the company commanders furnished the data from which was compiled the following table. It illustrates the rapid and fearful waste of human life following the wake of war.

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

I

K

Total

Original Recruits, 1861 84 98 89 86 86 87 89 82 85 86 872
New Recruits, 1862, 1863 19 36 12 2 11 18 23 1 7 1 130
Drafted Men   2 26     2 1 5     36
Total 103 136 127 88 97 107 113 88 92 87 1038
                       
Killed in battle 8 7 7 1 7 7 4 8 9 2 60
Died of wounds 7 3 9 5 4 10 12 3 1 2 56
Died of disease 9 18 16 8 2 9 13 12 13 11 111
Discharged of wounds   4 2 3 6 6 1 4   2 28
Discharged of disease 23 25 13 22 22 17 25 20 13 27 207
Drafted men discharged   2 24     2 1 4     33
Absent   9 2 5 10 5 4 5 4 13 57
Invalid corps 1               2   3
Promoted and transferred 6 4 2 1   3 2 5 2 1 26
Prisoners of war 2   1 1 4 1   3 3   15
Absent sick and wounded 4 35 19 17 14 4 22 10 8 11 144
Absent on duty 12 8 4 2 6 1 4 4 5 4 50
Present with Regiment 31 21 28 23 22 42 25 10 32 14 248

Table 1: service statistics by company for 41st OVI through Jan. 1864

This table shows that in two years and four months nearly one-fourth of those who enlisted had died, and almost as many more had been discharged as unfit for further service. There were also 145 others absent, sick or wounded, many of whom afterwards died of were discharged.

The following table is compiled from the Ohio State Roster, and shows the whole number enlisted, and our losses during our entire service as a regiment:

Whole number enlisted 1472
Killed in battle 109
Died of wounds 69
Died of disease 141
Died of accident 3
Total deaths 322
   
Discharged from wounds 134
Discharged from disease 291
Total discharged 425
   
Died and discharged 747
Remainder 725

Table 2: service statistics for entire regiment for duration of war

Let us trace briefly the conditions which contributed to our loss, as the table given shows, of 141 by death from disease, and 291 by discharge from disease - 432 men, during our term of service.

The regiment was recruited chiefly from a farming community, and the men accustomed to moderate labor and regular meals and sleep. Our commander was a captain in the regular army, from whom much was expected, thoroughly loyal to the service, and with the advantage of considerable experience in Indian wars upon the frontier. He was naturally ambitious that his regiment should be capable of giving the best possible service to the country, and meet the high expectations of its friends. Acting upon the maxims received in his military education and experience, and urged forward by the evident military necessity that the regiment be ready to go into active service at the earliest possible day, he initiated long hours of drill and camp duties - no time could be afforded for acclimation or to accustom the men to the great change from civil to military life.

It was early seen by the medical officers that the severe and unaccustomed strain upon the men was rapidly lowering their vital tone, and rendering them less able to resist the camp and epidemic influences they were sure to encounter. The repeated efforts made even as early as Camp Wood, to urge this view upon the commanding officer, were always courteously received, but were met by the assurance that his early experience contradicted the fears expressed by the surgeons.

Nothing can be more certain to the writer than the fact that nothing was gained by this continued working of the men at high pressure; and that longer hours of rest and fewer of drill would have accomplished more than the long hours of work by men rarely fully rested from their duties. Our experience in our first camp was only that of many other regiments. The results in our case were soon to appear, and to leave a lasting impression on the history of the regiment.

The movements of the command have already been given in this history*. We reached Camp Wickliff, Kentucky, sixty miles below Louisville, December 15th, 1861, and marched out February 16th, 1862, just sixty days. The conditions surrounding us while there have already been described. From letters I wrote from that camp, I take the following facts: We had one case of measles, at Louisville. A few days after our arrival at Camp Wickliff a number of cases occurred. Soon men were down in nearly all of our fifty Sibley tents, unavoidably exposing every one. The disease became epidemic, and the whole camp a focus of contagion. In all there were 125 cases. It was impossible to find room in our regimental hospital for so many. Most of the cases were mild and the larger part remained in their tents, which were heated by sheet iron stoves, and were visited daily by the surgeon and nursed by their comrades. These cases did at least as well, if not better than those crowded together in our hospital. At the same time typhoid fever prevailed to an alarming extent, and our cases of measles were no sooner on their feet than a large proportion of them came down with that disease. Malaria, camp diarrhea and jaundice abounded. Including the convalescents there were at one time 300 men off duty.

About January 20th, our hospital cases were ordered sent to Louisville. My letters mentioned sending off 90 cases in three weeks, and before we left in all 125 had been sent under these orders. When we broke up camp, 125 convalescents were sent to Nelson Barracks. We had marched into the camp 930 strong; we left in sixty days with only 680 men.

The Ohio State Roster reports 9 deaths, from all causes, at Camp Wickliff. The same authority reports 33 of those we sent to Louisville as dying in hospital there within a few weeks - a larger number than we had killed on a battle field of the war.

Many of those sent back died at a later period or were discharged for disability. And a large number who applied after the war for surgeon's certificate, referred the origin of their disability to sickness at Camp Wickliff.

Few of those who went into the army knew anything of the duties to be required of them. With the most earnest purpose to do all for the best, and acting on all the light of that day, many mistakes on the part of officers and men were inevitable. All honor to those who did the best they knew or could know. With all its imperfections our army hospital service was far superior to that which had ever been furnished to the soldiers of any previous war.

The epidemic described was the only instance of the massing of our sick. All through the service we had the usual diseases incident to our army life, and the continued drain upon our numbers from death and discharge. Of the survivors whom I meet at our army reunions, many complain of the disability, yet are living on - "the survival of the fittest." From the number still reported on our regimental roster as living, it is probable that of those enlisted from 40 to 45 per cent. still survive - 32 years after the war. An the report of the Commissioner of Pensions for the year 1895 gives the death rate for that year of pensioners of the late war as being less than four per cent.

The soldiers of the Mexican War were granted a service pension 39 years after the close of that war. The bill required some degree of disability, or dependency, or that the claimant under its provisions should be 62 years of age, and that he should have served 60 days, or been actually engaged in a battle. Taking this as a precedent, it is safe to expect that if not before, then that 39 years after the close of our war, which will be 1904, a service pension will be granted to the soldiers of the War of the Rebellion. The pension of the soldiers of the Mexican War is twelve dollars a month. Judging from the liberal provision of the Pension Act of 1890, such a pension bill will embrace all who served 60 days.


Surgeons' Roster

Surgeon Thos. B. Cleveland, appointed August 29th, 1861. Resigned May 17th, 1862. Resided at Cleveland, O., and resigned on account of ill health. Deceased.

Surgeon John C. Hubbard, appointed May 12th, 1862. Discharged for disability August 30th, 1862. Did duty as surgeon 18 days. Deceased.

Surgeon Albert G. Hart, appointed assistant surgeon September 5, 1861. Promoted surgeon August 30th, 1862. Resigned November 5th, 1864. Lives 102 Jennings Avenue, Cleveland, O.

Surgeon John Hill, appointed December 16th, 1864. Mustered out with the regiment November 27th, 1865. Resides at Vincennes, Ind.

Assistant Surgeon Benjamin F. Cheney, appointed September 12th, 1862. Resigned August 22d, 1864. Resides at New Haven, Conn.

Assistant Surgeon John W. Bugh, appointed March 11th, 1863. Resigned January 5th, 1864. Lives at Bluffton, Ind.

Chas. E. Tupper, appointed September 8th, 1864. Deceased.

Source:

The Forty-First Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry in The War of the Rebellion (1861-1865) by Robert L. Kimberly and Ephraim S. Holloway, W.R. Smellie Publisher, Cleveland, Ohio, 1897


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Date last updated 11/16/98

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