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Military Surgeon, Vol. 19, No. 1 (July 1906)

Books and Documents > The U.S. Army Medical Department in the Aftermatch of the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 18 April 1906

EXTRACTED FROM MILITARY SURGEON, Vol. 19, No. 1 (July 1906)

EDITORIAL EXPRESSION

THE WORK OF THE MEDICAL DEPARTMENT OF THE

UNITED STATES ARMY AT SAN FRANCISCO

We find in the Army and Navy Register for June 9th so interesting a note upon the work of the Army Medical Department, in connection with the San Francisco catastrophe, that we reproduce it, together with the illustrations kindly loaned us for the purpose. The Register remarks that:

"On the day in which the news of the disaster reached Washington, that is to say a few hours after the breaking out of the big fire on the morning of the earthquake, the surgeon general of the Army took steps to have shipped from St. Louis to San Francisco a train load of medical and surgical supplies. The medical officers on the ground at once applied themselves the arduous task of establishing temporary hospitals and arranging for the treatment of those who were injured, as well as those who were sick. It is one thing to establish and maintain a field hospital even in time of war, and it is quite another thing to establish hospitals in a stricken city. In the former case the medical officers are prepared for the work and its emergency. In the latter case there can be no such preliminary work. The general sanitary situation was in charge of Lieutenant Colonel George H. Torney of the medical department, who worked faithfully and well until relieved of the duty by General Greely, who transferred the duty to civilian authorities.

"A branch of the medical work which has been done in San Francisco in the Golden Gate Park Field Hospital, in charge of Captain H. L. Gilchrist, who has associated with him in this work Lieut. William T. Davis, of the medical department. The field hospital was erected and maintained by the members of Company


85    The Medical Officers and Non-Commissioned  Officers of the Hospital Corps at Golden Gate Park Field Hospital


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A of the hospital corps, which left Washington on April 21, under command of Captain Gilchrist. Orders were received one morning for the departure of the company for San Francisco, and by afternoon the company was ready to go on board the train. This incident showed what could be done in the medical department to meet an unexpected call for duty at a distant place. The command, went fully equipped in all respects, and on arrival in San Francisco proceeded to the work of establishing a field hospital which was located at Golden Gate Park.

"In this institution is an isolation hospital, established in anticipation of a typhoid epidemic in the large colony of refugees, but there have been only two cases of typhoid, owing to the maintenance of excellent sanitary conditions. According to the latest reports, there were 130 patients in the field tents, including some emergency cases and others of longer duration.

General View of Golden Gate Park Field Hospital

"Observers who have no connection with the Army and who have excellent opportunities of seeing what is going on in San Francisco unite in praising the Army medical officers and the hospital corps men for their excellent work. They accomplish much more than would be done by the civilian inspectors from the municipal health department, and it is a question whether the civilian authorities will exact the same observation of the rules for the preservation of health which have been adopted and enforced by the Army medical officers. A part of the problem which confronts the health board in San Francisco is the housing


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of the refugees during the next year. It will probably be at least twelve months before all of them are in homes of their own and in the meantime there must be, it is held, some way of quartering many families which are now living in tents. This may be done by means of three room buildings erected on city land and rented at the rate of $3 per month. A community which lives in this fashion, will have to observe sanitary conditions with great care.

"Two interesting pictures are printed in this issue. One gives a general view of the Golden Gate Park Field Hospital under Captain Gilchrist. Up to May 19 there had been 500 patients received and at that time there were as many as 300 people receiving daily treatment at the free dispensary connected with the hospital. The rough sign attached to the tent bears the legend, "U. S. Army Golden Gate Park Field Hospital, Free Treatment to All." The general view of the camp gives an idea of its extent and arrangement."