Official Records of the Rebellion

Official Records of the Rebellion

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[Appendix U3]

Medical Director’s Office, June 17, 1862.

SIR: In compliance with instructions in your letter of June 2, in reference to my report of the existence of scurvy in this army, I have the honor to state that I received a telegram from headquarters while I was engaged at White House in organizing a general hospital, informing me of the appearance of scurvy in two brigades, and directing me to send for lime-juice, &c. I telegraphed you on the 21st of May for lemons in obedience to that order, expressing at the time a doubt of the accuracy of the report. This doubt was based on the fact that one of the brigades was that of the regular infantry. I knew that these troops had been furnished with desiccated vegetables, and that some [209] of them had used them regularly. Orders for this issue had been promulgated long before, as well as instructions as to the method of cooking to be adopted by the troops. I called upon the chief commissary to inquire into the matter, and learned that the men very generally refused to use the desiccated vegetables; that he had abundance of them, and could not get rid of them. Even potatoes had been suffered to rot upon his hands and in the camps.

A general order was again applied for and issued on the 23d of May, requiring the troops to draw and use the desiccated vegetables in soup daily, unless prevented by being actually on the march; prohibiting the frying of meat, and commanding it to be always roasted or boiled.

Upon my arrival at headquarters I inquired into the grounds of the report, and learned that it had been made by the medical director of General F. J. Porter’s corps, Dr. George H. Lyman. This gentleman, one of the ablest and most energetic medical officers of the volunteer service, informed me that he had not seen any cases, but had considered it his duty to make it known for prudential reasons as soon as it was mentioned to him by Brigade Surgeon Waters and by some young assistant surgeon of the Regular Army. I sent for Dr. Waters, and found he had seen no cases; that it had been reported to him by some volunteer regimental surgeon. I directed him to have the men brought to me immediately for inspection. He subsequently reported to me that the patients had been sent to the general hospital at White House. A short time afterward I visited this hospital, and there found two cases sent down as cases of scurvy. I examined them. One had no signs of scurvy about him; the other was a rather robust man, with an erythematous patch upon one shin, swelling of the leg and knee, discoloration of the hams, without hardness, and with no swelling or sponginess of the gums. The affection came on, according to the account of the patient, in one night, from sleeping without shelter after a hard day’s march through deep mud. I could not consider this case scorbutic under the circumstances, and accordingly, feeling relieved as to the fact, I reported that no scurvy existed in this army.

About this time the lemons arrived and were distributed through the several corps d’armée. On the 14th June, Surg. F. Hammond, mcdical director of Sumner’s corps, reported to me by telegraph that there were some cases of scurvy in that corps, and requesting a further supply of lemons. I ordered to him immediately all that remained of the consignment, as well as a quantity of cream of tartar. I then sent my senior assistant, Dr. A. K. Smith, to inspect the men said to be affected. His report I inclose (not found). Upon receipt of this I telegraphed to Colonel Clarke, commissary of subsistence at White House, a request to send potatoes, dried apples, and pickles to Sumner’s corps. He replied that these articles were at the depot from which General Sumner drew his supplies and that he would send more. I also addressed a letter on the subject to General Marcy, chief of staff, to endeavor to get some more stringent orders issued on this important matter. I inclose a copy of that letter. I have seen Colonel Clarke since, and he assures me his assistant commissaries have not been able to make the men use the desiccated vegetables; that he had plenty of them, and they were always ready for issue. If the men will not use the means of preventing scurvy, and if their officers will not make them use them, cases of the disease must be expected to occur.

To meet the cases existing I telegraphed you yesterday for a further [210] supply of lemons, and I am issuing cream of tartar wherever I hear any signs of the disease.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Surgeon and Medical Director Army of the Potomac.

Brig. Gen. W. HAMMOND,

Burgeon.General U. S. Army.

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Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, pp.208-210

web page Rickard, J (25 October 2006)

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