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Brigadier General Charles Smart

Biographies

THE ARMY MEDICAL BULLETIN, NUMBER 48 (APRIL 1939)

Charles Smart, Brigadier General,

Medical Corps, U. S. Army

Charles Smart (September 18, 1841-April 23, 1905), Brigadier General, Medical Corps, U. S. Army, was born in the city of Aberdeen, Scotland, the son of Alexander and Anne (Kelman) Smart. He attended school at Keith in Banffshire, later entering Marischal College of the University of Aberdeen which conferred upon him the degrees of M. B. and C. M. in 1862. With a view of preparing for entrance examinations for the medical service of the British Army he began work in the Aberdeen Infirmary. He had previously, between the third and fourth years of his medical studies, made a nine months cruise in the Arctic regions as medical officer of a whaling vessel. In the Civil War in the United States he saw an opportunity for military experience which would aid him in his chosen career. Arriving in New York, he went immediately to Albany, where he obtained a commission, dated November 5, 1862, as an assistant surgeon with the Sixty-Third New York Volunteer Infantry in Meagher’s Irish Brigade. Five days later he joined his regiment in front of Fredericksburg and served it through the terrific carnage of the attack upon that place on the thirteenth of December. In the spring of 1863 he was detached from his regiment and assigned by Medical Director Jonathan Letterman to the position of medical inspector of the Second Army Corps (Hancock’s) in the Army of the Potomac. At the battle of Gettysburg he served with the corps hospitals, which in their location back of Rock Creek near the Baltimore Pike treated thirty-four hundred wounded, including nearly one thousand Confederates left in the corps sector after the repulse of Pickett’s charge.

Smart served as medical inspector of the corps through the Wilderness campaign, through the investment of Richmond and Petersburg, and until the capitulation at Appomatox. In the meantime he had given up the thought of the British service and had taken the examination for the medical service of the United States Army in October 1863 and was commissioned as an assistant surgeon on March 30, 1864. On December 2, 1864 he was given the brevet of captain for “meritorious services in the field during the campaign before Richmond”, the first brevet ever to be conferred upon an assistant surgeon of our army.

Following the close of the war he accompanied a battalion of the Second Artillery to the Pacific coast in July 1865 and was stationed in the defenses of San Francisco until the following December. At that time he went with a battalion of the Fourteenth Infantry to Arizona, where from Fort McDowell and the post at Tucson he served through four years of intermittent warfare with the Apache Indians. In 1869 he was transferred to Sedgewick Barracks at Washington, D. C., and in. that year he was married in New York City to Dora Purcell, daughter of Dr. John Purcell of that city. In the following year he was sent to Fortress Monroe, Virginia, where he served three years, followed by three more at Fort Bridger, Wyoming. In July 1876 he was ordered to Fort Douglas, Utah, for duty with troops operating against hostile Nez Perce Indians, and in November 1877 to Camp Brown, Wyoming, where again he performed field duty against raiding Indians. In January 1878 he was ordered to New York City, from whence he was transferred after a few months to Fort Preble, Maine.

Following the creation of the National Board of Health by act of Congress of March 3, 1879 (20 Stat. 484), Smart, a captain since July 28, 1866, was transferred to Washington and assigned to duty with it as an expert in sanitary chemistry. He served with this organization until February 1883, latterly as member and secretary of the board. During this service he visited Memphis, Tennessee, and other cities of the South where yellow fever was present, to investigate and make recommendations in regard to their water supplies. In connection with his board work he published a number of scientific papers, notably his report upon the Investigation to Determine the Prevalence of Adulteration of Food Supplies (1881). He was promoted to the grade of major on June 30, 1882, and on June 29, 1883, he was assigned to the office of The Surgeon General, where from that time until 1903 he exercised charge over that division of the office having to do with sanitation and statistics.

With the death of Major George A. Otis in February 1881 and the serious illness of Major Joseph J. Woodward soon there- after, the partially completed Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion was deprived of its editorial staff. In 1883 Surgeon General Crane called upon Major Smart to under- take the preparation of Part Third, the third medical volume of this gigantic work, which completed the series. The final volume, issued from the Government Printing Office in 1888, is a lasting tribute to the brilliant mind and unflagging industry of its editorial chief.

When in March 1887, during the term of Surgeon General Moore, Congress passed the act which authorized the creation of the Hospital Corps, much of the work necessary to carry out the provisions of that legislation fell to the hands of Major Smart. He drew up the regulations for the examination of the noncommissioned officers authorized and took a leading part on the boards convened to draw up a manual of drill and to adapt the Manual of the Medical Department to the new organization. He prepared and published in 1889 his Handbook for the Hospital Corps of the United States Army, one of the best of several handbooks on the subject issued at about the same time. During this period he devised the system of identification of deserters by means of the outline figure card and served on the board for fixing the content of the emergency ration.

Throughout his army career he took an active part in national medical and public health activities and was repeatedly the representative of the army at the annual meetings of the American Medical Association and the American Public Health Association. With the organization of the Army Medical School in 1893 he was appointed professor of hygiene on the faculty, a position he held until 1903. He was president of the faculty subsequent to the promotion of Colonel Forwood to surgeon general in July 1902.

He was promoted to the grade of lieutenant colonel on March 3, 1897 and during the Spanish-American War he was kept occupied on special sanitary inspections incident to the location of camp sites and hospitals and their operation. He was a member of the board which selected the site for Camp Meade at Middletown, Pennsylvania, and was called upon for investigation of the epidemics of disease at Camp Alger, Virginia, and at Montauk Point, Long Island.

Having been promoted to the grade of colonel on February 2, 1901, he was sent to Manila in November 1902 as chief surgeon of the Division of the Philippines. While on this duty, in August 1904, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage which necessitated his relief from duty and his return to the United States. This condition caused his retirement from the service with the grade of brigadier general on January 19, 1905, and his death at St. Augustine, Florida, on April 23, 1905, in his sixty-fourth year. Following funeral services at St. Patrick’s Church in Washington his remains were laid to rest in Arlington beside those of his wife who preceded him in death by a number of years. His eldest daughter, Mary, was with him when he died. The younger daughter, Dorothy, in her young womanhood joined a Catholic sisterhood. The two sons, Robert and William, followed their father in the study of medicine and in qualifying for the Army Medical Corps.

Thus closed a career in the army marked by high usefulness, the result of a good scientific education applied with unusual industry to the problems of the service. He was an expert on all applications of chemistry to the practice of sanitation. His industry is evidenced by a wealth of contributions to the literature of sanitary chemistry and the practice of hygiene. In addition to numerous reports and journal articles he contributed the articles on air, water, malaria, and miasms to the first edition of Wood’s Reference Handbook of the Medical Sciences (1884-1887), the articles on hygiene to Ziemssen’s Cyclopedia of the Practice of Medicine (1874-1880) and the chapter on hygiene of camps to the supplementary volume (1879) of this latter work devoted to hygiene and public health edited by Albert H. Buck. He wrote the chapter Medical Department in The Army of the United States, 1789-1896 (1896) compiled under the auspices of the Military Service Institution. For many years he was the Washington correspondent of the Journal of the American Medical Association and a contributor to its editorial pages.

Personally, General Smart was short of stature and of stout build in his later years. He was gentle and soft spoken in manner, the soul of kindness and courtesy to the younger members of the corps with whom he came in contact. A deafness, beginning early in his army career and increasing with the years, was in his later life a heavy handicap to his participation in public affairs.

In addition to the medical society affiliations heretofore noted, he was a member of the Association of Military Surgeons, of the Association of the Second Army Corps, and of the Loyal Legion of the United States.

(H. P. Walcott, et al. in Am. Pub. Health Assn. Rep., Columbus, 1906. xxxi; Boston Med. and Surg. Jour. 1905 ciii; Buffalo Med. Jour. 1904-5 xliv; Jour. Am. Med. Assn., Chicago. 1905, xliv; Jour. Assn. Mil. Surg. 1906, xix; N. Y. Med. Jour. 1905, lxxxi; Phys. and Surg. of America, I. A. Watson, Concord, N. H., 1896.)

James M. Phalen,

Colonel, U. S. Army, Retired.