|OFFICE OF MEDICAL HISTORY AMEDD REGIMENT AMEDD MUSEUM|
HISTORY OF THE OFFICE OF MEDICAL HISTORY
History of The Office of Medical History
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The US Army Medical Department has an extensive and illustrious history. Brief historical highlights include maintaining one of the oldest regiments within the Army, providing the antecedent organization for the Army Reserve system, and establishing some of the first methods to capture lessons learned. Preserving, interpreting, and publishing the history of the US Army Medical Department, is the mission of the Office of Medical History. Operating almost continuously since 1862, forms of the Office of Medical History have endured numerous organizational changes. Despite the different incarnations, the Office of Medical History continues to record the activities of the US Army Medical Department and provide Soldiers and the general public with a variety of historical products.
A notable improvement of record keeping and centralized organization occurred under the direction of Dr. Joseph Lovell. As the Army reorganized and established a permanent Army Medical Department, Lovell was appointed as the Surgeon General in May of 1818. Soon Lovell sought quarterly reports from Army physicians across the new nation. Early information collected included meteorological registers and vital statistics of the Army. Lovell’s early efforts in book distribution for Army physicians also culminated into the creation of the Library of the Surgeon General in 1836.
Despite these early documentary activities, there was not an organization compiling an official history for the medical department, but publication did eventually advance from the record keeping. In 1856, the Office of The Surgeon General published a collection of statistical information on the health of the US Army. The data was gathered from medical officers throughout the Army, as well as reports from the Surgeon General’s Office between January 1839 and January 1855. The Statistical Report on the Sickness and Mortality in the Army of the United States, included casualty information from the recent war with Mexico and other tabulations, but it did not capture clinical data. The report’s compilation and publication marked another milestone toward the formation of a medical history office. The information was officially gathered, documented, and analyzed. Although novel at the time, the collection was soon overshadowed by the publication of the British Army Medical Service’s Medical and surgical history of the British Army which served in Turkey and the Crimea during the war against Russia, in 1858. Consisting of two volumes, it generated interest and was well received by a world-wide audience as well as the U.S. Army’s Medical Department.
The Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War
Interest in the Crimean War publications continued as the American Civil War began in
1861. Recognizing the importance of capturing the historical significance as well as technical
expertise gained on the battlefield, Surgeon General William A. Hammond announced plans to
publish a medical history of the war in 1862. A separate historical department did not exist; but
early historical efforts were able to proceed under the direction of the Surgeon General’s Office.
Records and reports were collected from the field for the projected publication. Artifacts and a
Historical work during the Spanish-American War Era is largely unknown. Records and discoveries were fortuitously maintained but as far as can be ascertained, an organized history office did not exist. Later, during the tenure of Surgeon General William C. Gorgas (16 Jan 1914 - 3 Oct 1918), an appointed Historical Board was created. The board consisted of the Librarian of the Army Medical Library, library director, assistant librarian, redactor, and a statistician.These librarians served in similar capacities as current historians. During World War I LTC Fielding Garrison and COL C.C. McCulloch, librarians at the Army Medical Library, collected and interpreted gathered material.