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Report of COL William H. Forwood, Chief Surgeon, Camp Wikoff, Montauk Point, Long Island

Spanish - American War



Dated October 18, 1898

The following brief account of my work at Montauk Point, Long Island, is respectfully submitted for your information:

I left this station July 31, 1898, in obedience to the following order:

[Special Orders, No. 177-Extract.]

Washington, July 29, 1898.

26. Col. William H. Forwood, assistant surgeon-general, United States Army, will proceed to Montauk Point, Long Island, New York, and there establish a temporary tent hospital of 500 beds, assist in the selection of suitable camping grounds and in locating wells for camps, and in general act as a sanitary expert in providing for the health and comfort of the troops to be sent to that point, and on completion of this duty will return to his proper station. The travel enjoined is necessary for the public service.

By order of the Secretary of War:

H. C. CORBIN, Adjutant-General.

In accordance with your verbal instructions I proceeded first to New York City and reported to Brig. Gen. G. L. Gillespie, United States Volunteers, commanding the Department of the East. The general had no instructions about making a camp at Montauk, and as there was no one up there to render any assistance I waited, reporting each morning until Wednesday, August 3. On that day Capt. J. N. Patten, quartermaster of volunteers, and Mr. Smith, of the Quartermaster's Department, reported, and we went together to Montauk in a special train with the president of the Long Island Railroad Company, arriving there at 3.30 p. m. We drove round and took a general view of the grounds.

Thursday, August 4, I studied the location more in detail, selected sites, and made plans for a large field hospital, a detention hospital, and for the detention


camps. The ground was then examined with a view to the location of wells and the best method of obtaining a suitable supply of water for the various widely separated camps and hospitals. It was apparent at once that drive wells were impracticable on account of the bowlders and compact layers of clay, and that in order to get a sufficient quantity of water one or more large deep wells would have to be dug. At Montauk Point the ground is covered with a mass of glacial drift, composed of large and small bowlders, bowlder clay, and gravel, thrown up into hummocks, with intervening excavations everywhere over the surface. Under this the same layers are met with that prevail on other parts of Long Island and along the middle Atlantic coast, known in geology as the "Potomac beds," consisting of a series of clay, gravel, and sand of varying thickness, repeated one after another down to the primitive rock.

There is little soluble mineral matter except a trace of iron in the clays, and the water found in these beds is exceptionally pure. The water from wells at Montank is therefore of the same character as that found at other points on Long Island, where its purity and fine quality are well known. It happens also at Montauk that the upper layer of the series is the clay several feet in thickness and very compact. This constitutes a safe protection against surface drainage. Water that accumulates from rain in the numerous basin-like excavations everywhere over the bowlder drift does not percolate away rapidly into the ground, but remains for weeks in pools with clay bottoms, almost as impervious as cement, until it slowly disappears by evaporation or overflows when the rain falls again.

Long Island is celebrated not only for the purity of its well water, but for the abundant quantity to be obtained in the heavy layers of water-bearing sand and gravel at a depth of from 40 to 60 feet. Mr. C. A. Lockwood, an experienced well-digger from Jamaica, Long Island, appeared upon the ground, and Captain Patten immediately set him to work in a suitable location to dig a large well, which he thought would furnish 500,000 gallons, and which did eventually furnish more than that amount of excellent water per day. This method of obtaining water involved the erection of steam-pumping apparatus, large tanks, and extensive pipe lines, and the troops were soon to arrive. To meet the emergency until a well could be dug it was proposed to establish a pumping station temporarily on the shore of Fort Pond, near by, and to order up a number of water wagons at once. The water in Fort Pond is mainly from surface drainage, but at that time the surrounding region was clean and free from sources of contamination. The pond is nearly a mile long and half as wide and the water contains about 50 grains of salt to the gallon.

The grounds selected for a military camp at Montauk Point comprised an area several square miles in extent, uninhabited, and bare of trees, except a few stunted shrubs in sheltered places, which bore evidence of the high winds that prevail there at certain seasons. There are two large ponds or lakes and very many smaller ones scattered over an uneven surface, which is generally high and well drained, ranging up to 100 feet above sea level. The soil is a rich loam well covered with grass, and the landscape bordered on one side by the ocean and on the other by Fort Pond Bay presented a very picturesque appearance, but there were no hard roads and it was evident that much time and labor would be required to make and keep them in repair on this loam and clay with the heavy teams and the vast amount of hauling needed for a large military camp.

At the station we found only a single railroad track ending at a small shanty on a barren sand bar. There were no switches, side ways, platforms, storehouses, or other facilities for landing the thousands of carloads of freight, passengers, and material soon to arrive. On Fort Pond Bay there was a narrow pier and a small fishing wharf, but the pier was not wide enough for the landing of a transport vessel and the fishing wharf was so insecure that a danger signal was placed across the entrance to warn people from walking out upon it. Both of these structures had to be repaired immediately by the driving of heavy piles and the use of bolts and. lashings. On this day, August 4, the movement of troops from Santiago, with thousands of sick, was ordered to begin at once, and three days later the first installment from Tampa came. There were no teams, lumber, tents, men, or means at hand to prepare for their reception. The enormous task and the grave responsibility before us was fully appreciated as we looked out over this bare and lonely region so soon to be crowded by an army of soldiers, more than one-half of whom would require hospital treatment.

I telegraphed the Surgeon-General for men of the Hospital Corps to come up at once with tents and rations. That night we returned to New York, the quartermaster to make contracts and order up men, teams, lumber, tents, boilers, engines, pumps, pipe, tanks, pile drivers, tugs, lighters, and a thousand things that were necessary for the work, and I to procure medical supplies, bedding,


furniture, cooking ranges, etc., which I did for a hospital of 500 patients. On Friday, August 5, Major-General Young reported in New York and went up to command at Montauk, and having completed my arrangements with the medical purveyor, I followed on the evening train.

August 6 was a day of waiting and expectency. The railroad company was beginning to lay switches and side tracks at the station. Acting Assistant Surgeon Holmes reported for duty. I received instructions from the Surgeon-General, and laid them before the major-general commanding, to select detention camps for 4,000 men with detention hospitals convenient. These were already laid out awaiting the arrival of transportation, labor, and material for their construction.

Sunday, August 7, still waiting. I sent the following telegram to the Surgeon-General: "Tents, lumber, rations, and water expected soon. Sick men better not be sent here before Tuesday at the earliest." I also telegraphed to have a disinfecting barge from the Marine-Hospital Service sent to take charge of quarantine in the harbor and to disinfect, when necessary, the men's clothing and effects before landing. This was referred to General Wyman and acted upon promptly, and the barge Protector arrived August 11 with Passed Asst. Surg. G. M. Magruder, Marine Hospital Service, and three assistants. An attempt was made to haul some boards borrowed from the railroad company on their carts to the proposed pumping station on Fort Pond, but it was a partial failure; the lumber slipped from the carts and was soon scattered all along the road. These unusual objects in the way frightened the mules and one cart was turned bottom up on the Italian driver, who sustained serious if not fatal, injuries to his back and internal organs.

Monday, August 8.-Late last night the Sixth United States Cavalry, under Colonel Anderson, came into the station from Tampa, Fla., with 36 sick, including typhoid cases, in charge of Dr. Ira C. Brown. This command had with it regimental wagons and ambulances, which was the first transportation available at Montauk. They brought also tents and fifteen days' rations. The sick remained on the cars until arrangements could be made to bring them up. One steward and 10 men of the Hospital Corps having reported from Governors Island, hospital tents were pitched on a clean, grassy slope at the site of the general field hospital. Cooking ranges, mess chests, and medical supplies in large quantity were already at the station. Tent flies were spread in the tents and hair mattresses and blankets laid on them, and the sick were soon made as comfortable as possible. Milk was obtained from a man at Amagansett, who came and entered into an agreement to furnish a regular supply each day as needed morning and evening, by train, but it had to be hauled from the station. Ice was purchased from Mr. Parsons, who had a small ice house near the railroad terminus. These supplies continued to be furnished in regular and increasing quantities as needed, and were kept up, notwithstanding many very liberal contributions from individuals and aid societies, because the latter supply was irregular and uncertain. Water was brought to the hospital in barrels on army wagons. On this day a small quantity of lumber and 12 carpenters were secured and the construction of hospitals at Montauk Camp began. The first structure built was the general hospital kitchen. While the building was being erected a cooking range was brought and set up inside ready for operation. There was no time or lumber then to lay a floor, although all the other kitchens were floored as they were built.

Dr. Ira C. Brown was placed in charge of the sick, with Dr. Holmes, Steward Neil, and 10 Hospital Corps men as assistants, all of whom worked hard and took excellent care of their patients. There was great trouble for a while, at first, to get carpenters who would work on the hospitals, because they were afraid of being subjected to quarantine. Then again, seeing an opportunity to profit by the sudden and urgent need of men, they all went on a strike for higher wages. When these difficulties were overcome rain set in, and for two or three days the work of construction progressed very slowly. Hauling, however, continued, and an effort was made to accumulate lumber and medical supplies. Bales of blankets, pillows, and mattresses, and boxes of drugs were piled up under paulins, and tent flies on scantling, and the very limited number of wagons and ambulances labored in mud hub deep until the animals were exhausted. Teamsters unfamiliar with the grounds lost their way and wandered off to other camps, and sometimes left their heavy loads stuck fast or upset in the ruts.

On the following day 14 carpenters reported, but August 10 there were only 2, until General Young came to the rescue and secured a force of 30. It rained hard all the afternoon, however, and little could be done. Captain McMullen was


detailed as quartermaster and commissary of hospitals, and Captain Sewell assisted in the erection and flooring of tents at the detention hospital, working all day in the rain. Tents were set up and floors laid under shelter of the canvas.

Passed Asst. Surg. J. J. Kinyoun, Marine Hospital Service, having reported on the 10th, I obtained through General Young possession of the fishing wharf on Fort Pond Bay and turned it over to him for a quarantine station and landing. Learning from Dr. Kinyoun that the Marine Hospital Service had at Philadelphia a steam sterilizer of 4-foot cylinder, with boiler complete, and not in use, I immediately took steps to procure it, and its prompt arrival was facilitated by the president of the Long Island Railroad Company, who had it forwarded by special freight. It was brought to detention hospital, where a frame building had been erected for it, and a sterilizing plant was established there to disinfect the clothing and bedding of patients from infected ships. I also telegraphed the same day to the Surgeon-General specifications for a suitable laundry plant to do the hospital washing. These were approved and referred to the Quartermaster's Department for construction, but the laundry was not completed and in working order until September 10, a month later.

On August 10 there were 1 steward, 2 acting stewards, 21 nurses, and 50 sick in the temporary hospital tents, which had been floored as lumber could be spared. The dispensary and office were up and occupied, and frames and platforms for tent wards were being built. Sick were being brought in froth the camps. More medical officers were called for and quickly came. Letters and telegrams were received from people in all sections of the country offering money and supplies for the sick, and others, representing various aid societies, were on the ground ready to furnish anything needed or useful.

August 11 the Red Cross yacht Admiral came into the harbor loaded with 20 tons of assorted supplies, which were brought to the general field hospital, where a storage pavilion was erected for them 15 feet wide by 113 feet long. The Red Cross Society filled this storehouse to the roof, issued the articles freely, and kept it refilled from this time on to about the 18th of September. The Women's National War Relief Association, through Miss Helen Gould, selected a corps of expert cooks and assistants-distinguished chefs from New York and Boston-and placed them at my disposal for service in the general and special diet kitchens of the hospitals, where they remained and exercised their skill in preparing food for the sick. From this time on the army ration was supplemented by almost every article of food to be found in the larders of the best hotels in any city. All offers of aid from outside were promptly accepted, and bales and boxes and parcels arrived by every train. The finest wines and liquors, mineral waters, fruits, eggs, chickens, turkeys, game birds, meats, preserves, and all sorts of delicacies came from day to day in enormous quantities. Four vessel loads of supplies, mostly food and clothing, were landed at different times on the quarantine wharf and distributed to the troops sick and well in camp. A full carload of lemons was sent from California. Others contributed underwear, wrappers, sheets, pillows, cushions, etc., and one donation consisted of 500 reclining chairs, rockers, and sofas.

August 12 four wards at the general hospital were completed and 90 patients were in bed under care of nurses, with all kinds of medical and hospital property in abundance. At detention hospital 125 beds were ready for patients. On this day the Surgeon-General placed in my hands a check for $1,000, and at a later date $700 more, for the purchase of ice, milk, chickens, lemons, or whatever else might be needed for the benefit of the sick, and I was urged to spare no pains to provide early and promptly everything that might be required for their comfort. I was bound by no regulation forms, but had authority to order everything direct by telegraph, which I did.

August 13 the first transport from Cuba came into the harbor and 50 sick were landed and sent to general hospital on the following morning. The troops went to detention camp, where hundreds of tents had been already pitched and floored for their reception, under the direction of Brigadier-General Randall, who had command there. I selected Maj. J. P. Dodge, brigade surgeon, volunteers, a most excellent officer, and had him detailed to report to General Randall as medical inspector of detention camps, with instructions to visit daily the different regiments and detachments to find out what they needed and aid them in getting supplies. His report was forwarded to you some days ago. These camps were situated in a beautiful part of the grounds and kept in a most perfect state of police, and the exhausted and fever-stricken soldiers recuperated rapidly while there.

August 14 Maj. C. L. Heizmann, surgeon, United States Army, reported and was assigned to duty as surgeon in charge at the general field hospital-a difficult


and laborious position, as it afterwards proved to be, which he held until the close of its existence. He selected Maj. Ira C. Brown, surgeon, volunteers, as his executive officer. I had one medical officer assigned to duty at the landing to attend to unloading sick from the transports, and one was kept at the railroad station to get out freight and send it up to the hospitals; and later on another was required to be at every departing passenger train to look after the men going on furlough. From this time on there was no lack of carpenters, the weather was favorable, and hospital construction progressed rapidly.

The tent pavilion wards extended outward on either side from a central walk or covered way, with the kitchens and dining halls at one end and the dispensary, storerooms, offices, and officers' quarters at the other. The kitchens were ample frame structures, covered with oiled paulins and equipped with a number of the most approved modern cooking ranges and appliances for general and special diet. Adjoining each of these was a frame building of equal size, covered with boards and tar paper, and provided with a cold-storage room at one end for meat and at the other for milk, while the main portion was fitted with shelving for commissary articles. The wards were floored in one continuous platform 15 feet wide by 113 feet long, on which substantial frames were erected of 2 by 4 scanthing for six hospital tents and two flies. One fly intervened between each two tents, to break the continuity and provide ventilation. The whole was then covered by tent flies in the usual way. Each pavilion thus formed a comfortable and convenient ward of 36 beds, arranged 4 on one side and 2 on the other, at right angles, in each tent, with a continuous passageway between. Space under the two flies was utilized for linen cases, storage, water coolers, oil stoves, bath tubs, buckets, etc. A linen ease with shelves and locker was built for each fly in every ward.

The dispensary, general office, and storage rooms were of the same dimensions as the wards. The female nurses were quartered in a series of pavilions 15 by 42.4, being three continuous hospital tents with floor and frames. There were 27 of these pavilions for the trained nurses and Sisters of Mercy and others for post and express offices, chapels, mess halls, storerooms, isolation wards, dead houses, and for relatives visiting the sick. The female nurses were in three camps, each provided with their own kitchen, storeroom, and mess hail. The medical officers occupied wall tents with floors and frames, and the hospital corps and male civilian cooks, nurses, and laborers, common tents. At detention hospital the arrangement was varied to suit the ground and for better isolation of cases.

The number of carpenters kept on this work ranged from 75 to 100 per day, as many as could be conveniently supplied with lumber without diverting it from other purposes. Vast quantities of boards and scanthing were required for flooring tents at the camps, and for storehouses, sinks, and other buildings; and teams that had to haul this and other freight were limited, as well as space for loading at the platforms. Soldiers' tents were floored in every camp as fast as possible, but the troops soon began to come in such numbers that this could not be completed in all cases until after their arrival.

August 15, the detention hospital received its first consignment of 60 patients from the St. Louis, an infected ship. There were then 210 sick in general hospital, with many vacant beds and plenty of supplies. Surface pipe had been laid to the hospitals, and water from Fort Pond was pumped direct. Work on the 30,000-gallon tank was in progress. The pump was connected with the well

three days later, August 18, after which the water came from there. It was distributed through iron pipe laid on the ground. The total length of pipe laid amounted to about 12 miles. When the tank was finally completed and filled it appeared that by some mistake in calculation there was not sufficient pressure to carry water through the pipes, and direct pumping had to be continued as before. The tank was then used to fill water wagons for sprinkling the roads.

August 16, we had 750 beds. In general hospital 240 patients, and in detention hospital 62, with 150 ready to land. The yellow-fever tents contained 2 patients. There were tons of supplies at the station, which we were trying to get up. Roads bad and animals exhausted. Ambulances, 11. The one difficulty was then and had been from the start lack of enough transportation. The Surgeon-

General ordered the erection of another hospital of 100 tents, and authorized the making of contracts with doctors, nurses, and cooks. Built quarters, kitchen, dining room, bath house, etc., for female nurses.

The question of sending patients, especially typhoid cases, to New York, New Haven, and other points, had been considered and authority from the Surgeon-General obtained; and on August 17 the Red Cross yacht at New York was offered and accepted by telegraph for that service. Miss Quintard and 13 female nurses reported, also several male nurses and cooks selected by the Women's National War Relief Association.


August 18, the general hospital was completed and work on the annex begun.. The Red Cross yacht reported. It was a private yacht fitted up with elegance and comfort and had a capacity of 15 beds. One medical officer, 1 male and 2 female nurses with all necessary medical supplies were placed on board and regular daily trips commenced, carrying sick mostly to New Haven, New London and Bridgeport hospitals. This convenient and comfortable little vessel continued in service without interruption until the breaking up of the camps. We needed a larger transport suitable for carrying the sick, which was supplied by the elegant passenger steamer Shinnecock, August 30. There was great pressure from men at the camps to get into hospital where delicacies were served and where furloughs with transportation to and from their homes were given. At this time the general hospital had 430 patients, 8 doctors, 50 hospital-corps men, 30 female and 8 male nurses, and 6 cooks; in detention hospital 300 patients, 7 doctors, 20 hospital-corps men, 5 cooks, and a proportionate number of nurses not stated. Regular medical supplies and delicacies reported abundant, with outside contributions corning in from all directions. Doctors, nurses, cooks, and hospital-corps men were employed and came in large numbers as the sick in hospital increased. Many medical officers were detailed to duty with the regiments in camp. The whole number of female nurses, contract and volunteer, was 312, of whom 103 were Sisters of Charity.

August 19, the transports Comanche, Mobile, and Seneca, with a large number of sick, were in the harbor. I had 250 vacant beds at the general hospital. After 150 of the worst cases had been brought up it was late and the animals were exhausted. Operations were suspended until the following day, when more wards were ready, and all sick were taken in and provided for. Every patient as he landed from the ambulance was offered hot soup and milk punch from the hands of the female nurses and was placed in bed on a hair mattress.

August 20, 5 new wards at the annex were completed and as many more under way. There were a large number of vacant beds ready at detention hospital, and I felt confident of being ready to take the sick as fast as they would come, but I was anxious to find means of sending some to other hospitals. August 21, I therefore selected the Rio Grande, one of the transports, and placed Maj. J. K. Powell, surgeon, United States Army, in charge to prepare her for a load of convalescent sick to be sent away. The Surgeon-General telegraphed that the Olivette on arrival should proceed with her sick to Boston, which she did. Large numbers of convalescents able to travel were leaving the hospitals every day on furlough. Those from detention hospital were given a medicated bath and provided with a complete suit of new clothing just before going away, and all bedding and effects left behind by them passed through the steam sterilizer. At the general hospital and annex the sterilization of soiled linen from typhoid and diphtheria cases was accomplished by means of formaldehyde gas in a tight, double-lined frame building, erected and provided with a Kny-Scheerer generator.

On the 23d the Rio Grande, with Surgeon Powell and a corps of doctors and nurses and supplies, sailed, taking 300 convalescent sick to the military hospitals in New York Harbor.

August 24, heavy rain and wind prevailed during the night, but the tents on frames stood firm and the patients were comfortable. Just sixteen days had passed since the first nail was driven in the construction of hospitals at Montauk, and there were 1,700 beds ready for patients and 1,465 sick under treatment, besides all those who had been treated and sent away. The death rate was remarkably low, notwithstanding the extremely unfavorable condition of many cases as they came from the transports. The sick were receiving better attendance and more supplies than are usually furnished in city hospitals. Physicians, surgeons, and. nurses of the highest skill and training were in waiting, and devoted themselves with zeal and energy to their duties. The Secretary of War visited the hospitals on the 24th and 25th, and again on the 30th the President, Vice-President, and party arrived and went through all the wards. The Surgeon-General came later, and under his instructions the sick were transferred as rapidly as possible to other hospitals in the neighboring cities and military posts. Accommodations were offered on all sides, and transports were sent to take as many as were able to be moved.

From the 25th of August to early in September patients came in great numbers from the transports and from camp, many intending to go on sick furlough, which they did at the rate of 200 a day. The capacity of the field hospitals was rapidly increased accordingly up to 2,500 beds, and three division hospitals were organized. to accommodate 600 more. The total number of beds sent up from the medical purveyor in New York was 3,300, and other articles in proportion.


August 30, the steamer Shinnecock reported to me, and Maj. W. C. Borden, surgeon, arrived with the San Marcos. The latter vessel was not well suited to carrying the sick, while the former was splendidly equipped with every convenience and comfort, I therefore transferred Dr. Borden, with his medical officers, nurses, and abundant supplies to the Shinnecock, and placed 200 sick on board to go to the military hospitals in New York. This steamer made regular trips thereafter to New York and return every two days, taking from 200 to 300 sick each time.

St. John's Hospital, Brooklyn, sent up two cars, which made several trips with convalescents to that institution. The steamers Fall River and Bridgeport and other smaller craft came across the Sound and took patients to the hospita1s in Providence, New London, and Bridgeport. The transfer of patients and the granting of furloughs continued, and the last of the transports from Cuba having arrived, there were, September 10, over 1,000 vacant beds in the three field hospitals that in the short period of one month, had been constructed and equipped and had served for the treatment of 9,000 patients.

In anticipation of the chilly nights and high winds of September, the Surgeon-General ordered that some of the tent wards should be boarded up and provided with stoves for better protection to those patients who for some time could not be moved. A simple plan for changing the tent pavilion into a frame ward had already been devised, and on September 10 window sash, stoves, hardware, etc., were ordered for 5 such wards, and the construction begun at once. Two of these were practically completed and others under way when my duties at Camp Wikoff having been completed, on September 12, I was relieved to join my proper station by the following order:

[Special Orders, No. 215-Extract.]

Washington, September 12,1898.

17. By direction of the Secretary of War, Col. William H. Forwood, assistant surgeon-general, United States Army, is relieved from further duty at Camp Wikoff, Montauk Point, New York, and will return to his proper station at the United States Soldiers' Home, Washington, D. C. The travel enjoined is necessary for the public service.

By command of Major-General Miles:

H. C. CORBIN, Adjutant-General.