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Louis Casper Duncan, M.D.

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Louis Casper Duncan, M.D.

Colonel James M. Phalen, Medical Corps, U.S. Army (Retired), and then Editor of The Military Surgeon, the monthly journal of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States, wrote the following brief obituary of Louis C. Duncan that appeared on page 585 of Military Surgeon, Vol. 87, No. 6 (December 1940).


Louis Casper Duncan, Colonel Medical Corps, U. S. Army, retired, died at St. Petersburg, Fla., on October 19, 1940. Colonel Duncan was born in Meridan, Kan., on January 2, 1869, the son of Richard John Duncan, a native of Scotland and Elizabeth (Dix) Duncan, born in Kentucky. He graduated from Campbell College at Holton, Kan., in 1890 and for the next two years was professor of drawing and mathematics in the same school. He obtained his medical degree from the Kansas Medical College, Topeka, Kan., in 1896 and was demonstrator and assistant professor of anatomy in the same school (1896-98). He served as intern at Christ Hospital and assistant physician at the Kansas Insane Hospital during a part of this same period. He was appointed 1st Lieutenant and Assistant Surgeon in the 22nd Kansas Volunteer Infantry in May 1898 and served with it for six months during the Spanish-American War. He entered the medical corps of the Army as a 1st Lieutenant on October 27, 1902, and graduated the following year from the Army Medical School. He reached the grade of lieutenant colonel on May 15, 1917, and was retired on March 2, 1920. During the World War he was given the temporary grade of colonel and was advanced to that grade on the retired list on June 21, 1930. After retirement he lived for a number of years in Washington, later moving to St. Petersburg, where he resided until his death. The funeral was conducted at Memorial Park Cemetery in that city. He is survived by his wife, Mrs. Julia Duncan, and a sister, Mrs. Jennie Cornforth, of Seward, Okla.

Colonel Duncan is best known as a writer of medico-military history. He joined the Association of Military Surgeons in 1909 and from that time contributed a flow of articles to the pages of the Military Surgeon. Notable are his two books, Medical Department of the Army in the Civil War (1912-13) and Medical Men in the American Revolution (1931). He assisted Colonel Percy M. Ashburn in the preparation of his History of the Medical Department of the United States Army (1929).

The writings of Colonel Duncan are among the most valuable references that we have in regard to the medical service of our armies in campaign.

He was a gentle, quiet-spoken man of scholarly and studious mind. Aside from his enthusiasm for the medicine of the past, he found interest and relaxation in the cultivation of flowers.


Phalen, himself a noted biographer of many Medical Corps personalities, had known Duncan well for many years and his sketch of Duncan’s career and contributions to the Army Medical Department and the Medical Corps is thin on details.  He points out just the tip of Louis Duncan’s enormous contributions to the published history of the Department and Corps.  Phalen properly notes that Duncan’s  Medical Men in the American Revolution, 1775-1783, which was published by the Medical Field Service School and distributed throughout the Medical Department in the early 1930s, along with his earlier Medical Department of the Army in the Civil War (1913), are his greatest contributions.  Both today remain classics in the literature on the Army Medical Department, and Medical Men in the American Revolution has not really been superceded by any more recent or more comprehensive publications.

Medical Men in the American Revolution was never reprinted by the Medical Field Service School, but Augustus M. Kelley, Publishers, produced a facsimile edition in 1970.

Anyone who reads Duncan's works will soon learn that he was also an accomplished artist and mapmaker.  His sketches of persons and places that he mentions usually adorn his publications and can be recognized from the stylized "LCD" that he added to many of them.

In addition to his major publications of the Revolution and Civil War, Duncan also published numerous historical articles from the early 1900s into the 1930s.  His articles on the Medical Department in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War are still unique contributions to knowledge while his Civil War pieces contain details on hospital locations and medical personnel that are not often found in print, even today.  The details of his coverage helps explain the continued republication of his Civil War volume.

During World War I, Duncan served as division surgeon of the 31st Division but it not clear whether he accompanied the division to France in 1918.

As you will see from perusing this brief listing below, Duncan usually published in Military Surgeon because he saw his primary audience as his fellow Army physicians and those “military surgeons” in the National Guard and U.S. Navy and civilian physicians who shared his deep  interest in the history of American military medicine. He remained an active and productive scholar of the Medical Department until the last.  A partial list of his many historical publications will indicate the magnitude of his contributions.

Selected Historical Publications of Louis C. Duncan

Revolutionary War:

“The Days Gone By -- Medical Men of the American Revolution, 1775-1783,”  Military Surgeon, 70, No. 3 (March 1932), 277-81.

“The Days Gone By -- Beginnings of the Army Medical Service,” Military Surgeon, 70, No. 4 (April 1932), 384-89

“The Days Gone By -- Alexander Hamilton’s Plan for a Medical Establishment,” Military Surgeon, 70, No. 5 (May 1932), 488-91.

Medical Men in the American Revolution 1775-1783.  Army Medical Bulletin No. 25.  Carlisle Barracks, PA: Medical Field Service School, 1931.

War of 1812:

“Sketches of the Medical Service in the War of 1812,” Military Surgeon, 71, No. 5 (November 1932), 436-40.

“The Medical Service in the War of 1812.  II.  Resume of Military Operations,” Military Surgeon, 71, No. 6 (December 1932), 539-42.

“The Medical Service in the War of 1812.  III.  The Pneumonia Epidemic of 1812-13,”  Military Surgeon, 72, No. 1 (January 1933), 48-56.

"The Medical Service in the War of 1812.  IV.  The Campaign of 1813,” Military Surgeon, 72, No. 2 (February 1933), 144-50.

“The Medical Service in the War of 1812.  V.  The Battle of Lake Erie,” Military Surgeon, 72, No. 3 (March 1933),  241-46.

“The Medical Service in the War of 1812.  VI.  The Battle of Plattsburg, and the Burlington Hospital,” Military Surgeon, 72 No. 4 (April 1933), 324-29.

War with Mexico:

“Medical History of General Scott’s Campaign to the City of Mexico in 1847,” Military Surgeon, 47,  No. 4 (October 1920), 436-70; No. 5 (November 1920), 596-609.

“A Medical History of General Zachary Taylor’s Army of Occupation in Texas and Mexico, 1845-1847,” Military Surgeon, 48, No. 1 (January 1921), 76-104.

“A Volunteer Regiment in 1846-7,” Military Surgeon, 65, No. 5 (November 1929), 709-13.


“How the Medical Department Secured Rank in the Army,” Military Surgeon, 65, No. 6 (December 1929), 870-72.

Frontier Army:

“Experiences of a Medical Officer in 1849,” Military Surgeon, 48, No. 3 (March 1921), 314-18.

Civil War:

“Evolution of the Ambulance Corps and Field Hospital,” Military Surgeon, 32, No. 3 (March 1913), 221-49.

“Pope’s Virginia Campaign,” Part I, Military Surgeon, 31, No. 6 (December 1912), 625-52.

“Pope’s Virginia Campaign,” Part II, Military Surgeon, 32, No. 1 (January 1913), 1-28.

“The Battle of Bull Run,” Military Surgeon, 30, No. 6 (June 1912), 644-68.

“The Battle of the Wilderness,” Military Surgeon, 30, No. 4 (April 1912), 369-96.

“The Bloodiest Day in American History—Antietam,” Military Surgeon, 32, No. 5 (May 1913), 427-71.

“The Campaign of Fredericksburg, December 1862,” Military Surgeon, 33, No. 1 (July 1913), 1-40.

“The Great Battle of the West—Chickamauga,” Military Surgeon, 31, No. 4 (October 1912), 357-97.

“The Greatest Battle of the War—Gettysburg,” Military Surgeon, 33, No. 3 (September 1913), 201-28; No. 5 (November 1913), 401-29.

“When Sherman Marched Down to the Sea,” Military Surgeon, 31, No. 2 (August 1912), 119-50.

The Civil War articles that appeared in The Military Surgeon were combined into a single publication, The Medical Department of the United States Army in the Civil War.  Carlisle Barracks, PA: Medical Field Service School, 1931.  To this, Duncan added his essay, “The Comparative Mortality of Disease and Battle Casualties in the Historic Wars of the World.”  Reprinted, various, including Gaithersburg, MD: Olde Soldier Books, Inc.,  1997.

"The Days Gone By -- The Strange Case of Surgeon Hammond, Part I," Military Surgeon, 64, No. 1 (January 1929), 98-110; Part II, No. 2 (February 1929), 252-62.

"The Making of the Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion," Military Surgeon, 47, No. 6 (December 1920), 695-700.


“The Comparative Mortality of Disease and Battle Casualties in the Historic Wars of the World,”  Military Surgeon.  Seaman Prize Essay.

“Mathematics and Medicine,” Military Surgeon, 27, No. 3 (September 1910), 371-75.


“A Small Typhoid Epidemic,” Military Surgeon, 22, No. 5 (May 1908), pp. 375-79.

"The Wounded at Ojiinaga," Military Surgeon, 34, No. 5 (May 1914), 411-40.

"The Part of the Medical Department in Maintaining Military Morale," Military Surgeon, 48, No. 6 (June 1921), 613-32.  Winner of the Welcome Prize Essay.

"The Second Division at Chateau Thierry, June 1918," Military Surgeon, 48, No. 3 (March 1921), 253-74.

"An Epidemic of Measles and Pneumonia in the 31st Division, Camp Wheeler, GA.," Military Surgeon, 42, No. 2 (February 1918), 123-38. 


"Sanitary Services in the Russo-Japanese War," Military Surgeon, 34, No. 3 (Mrch 1914), , 229-48.

John T. Greenwood, Ph.D.
Chief, Office of Medical History