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Chapter VII

Table of Contents




Operations on the Hudson

In the Fall of 1776 a crisis in the life of the army again occurred. All enlistments were to expire in December. In a few months the army would be no more. Not only must a new one be raised, but it was seen that an army of men serving short enlistment terms could not be depended on for continued operations. It was resolved that the new army should be enlisted for three years, or the duration of the war. The force was fixed at eighty-eight battalions of eight companies each. Regiments were abolished in order to get rid of the difficulties over colonels. Strange delusion that troubles could be disposed of by a change of names:

The number of battalions assigned to each colony was :-

    Massachusetts. . . . . . . .  15         New York . . . . . . . . . . . 4
    Virginia . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15         North Carolina. . . . . . . . 9
    Pennsylvania. . . . . . . . .   12         South Carolina. . . . . . . . 6
    Connecticut. . . . . . . . . .    8         New Jersey . . . . . . . . .  .4
    Maryland . . . . . . . . . . .    3         New Hampshire. . . . . .  . 3
    Rhode Island. . . . . . . . .   2          Delaware. . . . . . . . . . . .  2
                                                        Georgia. . . . . . . . . . . . .  2

Instead of regiments being referred to as of the Continental Line, each State now had its own Line. The fifteen regiments from Massachusetts formed a division, known as the Massachusetts Line; and so with others. A regiment had a strength of about 750 men. The term regiment was not disposed of.

In addition there were provided: one regiment of artillery (later four) ; and one regiment of artificers (later two).

On the earnest representation of Washington, Congress, (December 27th) authorized him to raise and officer sixteen extra battalions of foot, three of artillery, three thousand light


horse, and a corps of engineers. These battalions included Hazen’s old Canadian regiment, now known as the German Battalion, and Seth Warner’s regiment from Vermont. A corps of invalids was added later.

Some other measures were enacted. A clothier-general was appointed ;—much needed, if the reports of nakedness be not exaggerated. Arsenals were established at Springfield, Massachusetts, and Carlyle, Pennsylvania. A baker-general was also allowed, but flour was as scarce after as before. This baker general Christopher Ludwig had resolved never to shave or cut his hair until freedom was achieved.

The pay of the various grades was fixed as shown by the following tables:-

    Colonel. . . . . . .$75. per month.        Captain. . . . . . .$40. per month.
    Lt. Col.. . . . . . .$60. per month.        Lieutenant. . . . .$27. per month.
    Major. . . . . . . .$50. per month.        Ensign. . . . . . . .$20. per month.
    Chaplain. . . . . .$33.33 per month.    Sgt. Major. . . . .$ 9. per month.
    Surgeon . . . . . .$33.33 per month.    Qtrmaster Sgt.. .$ 9. per month.
    Surg. mate . . . .$18. per month.        Sergeant . . . . . .$ 8. per month.
    Adjutant                                            Corporal . . . . . .$7.33 per month.
    Quartermaster. .$27.50 per month.    Private. . . . . . . .$ 6.67 per month.
    Paymaster. . . . .$26.67 per month.

Each officer was allowed a soldier as a “waiter”, the equivalent of the British “servant” or American “stryker” of today. Officers were also allowed rations, the allowance for a surgeon being three, and for a mate two. Included in each ration was one gill of rum or whiskey. Three gills would seem a fair allowance for a day.

By a resolution of April 8, 1777, the pay of regimental surgeons was increased to two dollars per day. By a resolution of May 27, 1778, the pay of regimental surgeons was made sixty dollars per month, and of mates forty per month. Each enlisted man received a bounty of twenty dollars and a suit of clothes, and was to have one hundred acres of land allowed him at the close of the war. Colonels were to have five hundred acres, and other officers in proportion. This land was actually given. Each officer was promised half pay for seven years following the close of the war. Officers and men were also promised “all the plunder they should take from the enemy.”


Alarmed at the perilous state of affairs, Congress invested Washington with almost dictatorial powers for six months. He was authorized to displace all officers under the rank of brigadier; to fill all vacancies; to seize all needed property; and to arrest and confine for civil trial all persons disaffected to the American cause, or refusing to take the Continental paper money.

By strenuous efforts, by offering state bounties, aided by some local successes, these regiments were raised during the early months of 1777, and they formed the Continental Army until the end of the war. It was found impossible to secure men for an unlimited time, so they were accepted for three years. This made the terms of the regiments expire in the spring of 1780, but at that time the regiments were easily continued, or reorganized, and retained in service until 1783, or the end of the war.

During the interval between the Army of 1776 and the army of 1777 it was necessary to call the militia again. On the 16th of December Washington had but three thousand men. Mifflin brought in a considerable force of Pennsylvania militia; others came from other states, until he had some seven thousand. He persuaded some Continental regiments to remain six week longer, and in that time struck a blow that restored the fight, encouraged men to come forward for a new army, and made possible a successful outcome of the long struggle.

Previous to the reorganization of the army, a set of rules for its government—now called the Articles of War—had been adopted by Congress. John Adams claimed the entire credit for the passage of this resolution. He stated that the articles were those of the British Army, and that the Britons in turn had taken them bodily from the Romans, merely translating the Latin articles of the Roman Army into English. His principal argument, a rather solid one, was, that a set of regulations which had enabled two armies to found two of the world̓s greatest empires must of necessity be excellent; certainly superior to any that they, inexperienced in raising and maintaining armies, could possibly devise. The articles were accepted as he presented them, and have remained, with few amendments, the military constitution of the United States Army to this day.


With a new army and a new medical director, a reorganization of the Medical Department was in order. Dr. William Shippen and Dr. John Cochran of New Jersey prepared a plan, patterned after the medical organization of the British Army. The plan was approved by Washington and by him forwarded to Congress, early in February. It was passed upon by the medical committee,1 of which Benjamin Rush seems to have been the leading spirit, though one of the newest members. Two letters of Washington in support of the plan are worthy of reproduction here. They make clear his high opinion of the organization of the British Army, as well as his firm conviction that the best men available should be secured, and in sufficient numbers, no matter what the cost. His strong faith in character recalls the dictum of the late J. P. Morgan, that character is the real distinction in men.


                                            Morristown, Feby 14, 1777.

I do myself the honor to enclose to you a plan drawn up by Doctor Shippen, in concert with Dr. Cochran, for the arrangement and future regulation of the General Hospital. As the plan is very extensive, the appointments numerous, and the salaries affixed to them at present large, I did not think myself at liberty to adopt any part of it, before I laid it before Congress for their approbation. I will just remark, that though the expense attending an hospital upon the enclosed plan, will be very great, it will in the end, not only be a saving to the public, but the only possible method of keeping the army afoot.

The number of officers mentioned in the enclosed plan, I presume are necessary for us, because they are found so in the British hospitals, and as they are established upon the surest basis (that of long experience, under the ablest physicians, and surgeons) we should not hesitate a moment, in adopting their regulations, when they so plainly tend to correct and improve our former want of knowledge, and method, in this important department.

The pay affixed to the different departments, is, as I said before, great, and perhaps more than you may think adequate to the service. In determining upon the sum to be allowed to each, you ought to consider, that it should be such, as will induce gentlemen of character, and skill, to step forth; and in some manner adequate to the practice which they have at home; for


unless such gentlemen are induced to undertake the care, and management of our hospitals, we had better trust to the force of nature, and our constitutions, than suffer persons entirely ignorant of medicine, to destroy us, by ill directed application. I hear from every quarter that the dread of undergoing the same miseries, for want of proper care, and attention, has much retarded the new enlistments, particularly to the southward. This is another reason for establishing our hospital upon a large and generous plan. I could wish that Congress would take this matter under their immediate consideration.

                                        G. WASHINGTON.


                                Morristown, March 14th, 1777.

There is one more thing which claims, in my opinion, the earliest attention of Congress. I mean the pay of regimental Surgeons, and that of their mates. These appointments are so essential, that they cannot be done without. Their pay in the first instance is so low, so inadequate to the service which should be performed, that no man sustaining the character of a gentleman, and who has the least medical abilities, or skill in the profession, can think of accepting it; that in the latter (pay of mate) is so paltry, and mean, that none of the least generosity of sentiment, or pretensions to merit, can consent to act for it. In a word, these are inconveniences of an interesting nature; they amount to an exclusion of those persons, who could perform the duties of those offices; and, if not redressed, there is not the smallest probability, that any can be prevailed on to enter them again.

                                        G. WASHINGTON.

On February 7th the plan for medical reorganization was given to the medical committee. This committee revised the plan and reported it to the Congress on February 27th. Congress did not entirely approve this plan, and ordered it laid on the table. On March 22nd it was again taken up, and, after debate, was recommitted. On the same day a committee, consisting of Oliver Wolcott, Daniel Roberdeau, John Witherspoon, Samuel Adams, and Abraham Clark, was chosen, “to devise ways and means for preserving the health of the troops, and for introducing better discipline in the army.” On March 24th the medical committee brought in a new and revised plan, but this too was unsatisfactory. On March 27th the Congress resolved


itself into a committee of the whole, for consideration of the bill, but ordered it recommitted. On April 2nd the bill was taken up, but again laid on the table, and a committee consisting of Elbridge Gerry, Thomas Burke, and John Adams was appointed, to take up and revise the original plan of Shippen and Cochran. On April 4th this committee brought in a report, and on April 8th the report was adopted. This latter committee had no medical members.


April 7, 1777.


That there be one director general of all the military hospitals which shall be erected for the continental army in the United States, who shall particularly superintend all the hospitals between Hudson and Potowmack rivers:

That there be one deputy director general, who, in the absence of the director general, shall superintend the hospitals to the eastward of Hudson̓s River:

That there be one deputy director general, who, in the absence of the director general, shall superintend the hospitals in the northern department: [Region of Lake Champlain, L.C.D.]

That when the circumstances of the war shall require it, there be one deputy director general, who, in the absence of the director general, shall superintend the hospitals in the southern department:

That the director general, or, in his absence, the deputy director general in each respective department, be empowered and required, with the advice and consent of the commander in chief therein, to establish and regulate a sufficient number of hospitals, at proper places, for the reception of the sick and wounded of the army, to provide, instruments, dressings, bedding, and other necessary furniture, proper diet, and everything requisite for the sick and wounded soldiers, and the officers of the hospitals; to pay the salaries and all other expenses of the same:

That there be assistant deputy directors, to superintend the hospitals committed to their care, and assist in providing the articles before specified, under the orders and control of the director or deputy director general of the respective districts:

That there be one apothecary general for each district, whose duty it shall be to receive, prepare and deliver medicines, and other articles of his department to the hospitals and army, as shall be ordered by the director general, or deputy director general, respectively:


That the apothecaries [general] be allowed as many mates as the director general, or respective deputy director general, shall think necessary:

That there be a commissary of the hospitals in each of the aforesaid districts, whose duty it shall be to procure, store and deliver provisions, forage, and such other articles as the director, or deputy director general shall judge necessary for the use of the hospitals; in the purchase of which, he shall frequently consult with the commissary and quartermaster general, and be regulated by the prices which they give:

That the commissary be allowed such assistants and storekeepers, as the director general, or deputy director general of the district, shall judge necessary:

That a steward be allowed for every hundred sick or wounded, who shall receive provisions from the commissary, and distribute them agreeable to the orders of the director general, or, in his absence, of the deputy director general, or physician, or surgeon general, and be accountable to the commissary for the same:

That a matron be allowed to every hundred sick or wounded, who shall take care that the provisions are properly prepared; that the wards, beds, and utensils be kept iii neat order, and that the most exact economy be observed in her department:

That a nurse be allowed for every ten sick or wounded, who shall be under the direction of the matron:

That an hostler or stabler be allowed to each hospital, to receive the horses from the commissary, and to take care of the wagons, and other horses belonging to the hospital, pursuant to orders from the director general, or, in his absence, the deputy director general, or such other officers as he shall appoint:

That there be a clerk in each district, whose business it shall be to keep the accounts of the hospitals, and to receive and deliver the monies agreeable to the orders of the director or deputy director general:

That a sufficient number of clerks be allowed:

That such officers and soldiers as the general shall order to guard the hospitals and to conduct such as shall be weekly discharged (from) the hospitals, to their respective regiments, while on this duty, obey the director or deputy director general, or the physicians and surgeons general:

That the director and deputy directors general be respectively empowered to appoint and discharge their assistant deputy directors, and other said officers and attendants of the hospitals, in such numbers as the necessities of the army may require, and that the commander in chief of the department shall, in writing, approve; report of which to be immediately made to Congress, as hereafter directed:


That there be also one physician and one surgeon general in each district, to be appointed by Congress, whose duty is shall be, respectively, to superintend the practice of physic and surgery in all the hospitals of the district to .which they shall be appointed, and in the absence of the director or deputy director general, they shall have power to order the physicians, surgeons, and other officers of the several hospitals, to such duty as they shall think proper, and shall report weekly to the director general, or, in his absence, to the deputy director general, or, in his absence to the assistant deputy director, the state and number of the sick and wounded in the hospitals, and the delinquent officers of the same, and see that such, as may be fit, shall be delivered every week to the officer of the guard, to be conducted to the army:

That there be allowed also, senior physicians and surgeons, who shall attend, prescribe for, and operate upon, and see properly treated, such sick and wounded, as shall be allotted them by the director general, deputy director general, or assistant director, or physician, or surgeon general; the number for the district to be determined by the director or deputy director general, and appointed by the surgeon and physician general:

That there be also such a number of second surgeons as the director or deputy director general for the district shall judge necessary, to assist the senior surgeons, and be under the same direction, and to be appointed by the physician and surgeon general as aforesaid:

That there be also such a number of mates as the director general, or deputy director general of the district shall direct, who shall assist the surgeons in the care of the wounded, and see that the medicines are properly and regularly administered, and appointed in the manner before directed for senior and second surgeons:

That a suitable number of covered and other wagons, litters, and other necessaries for removing the sick and wounded, shall be supplied by the quartermaster or deputy quartermaster general, and in cases of their deficiency, by the director or deputy director general:

That there be one physician and surgeon general for each separate army, who shall be subject to the orders and control of the director general and deputy director general of the district wherein he acts. That his duty shall be to superintend the regimental surgeons and their mates, and to see that they do their duty, to hear all complaints against the said regimental surgeons and mates, and make report of them to the director general, or, in his absence, to the deputy director, or, in their absence from the said army, to the commanding officer thereof, and they may be brought to trial by court martial for misbe-


havior; to receive from the director general or deputy director general, a suitable number of large strong tents, beds, bedding, medicines and hospital stores, for such sick and wounded persons as cannot be removed to the general hospital with safety, or may be rendered fit for duty in a few days; and shall also see that the sick and wounded while under his care, are properly attended, and dressed, and conveyed, when able, to the general hospital, for which last purpose he shall be supplied by the director general, or deputy director, with a proper number of convenient wagons and drivers:

That each physician and surgeon general of the armies shall appoint such a number of surgeons, nurses, and orderly men, as the director general or deputy director general shall judge necessary for the more effectual care and relief of the sick and wounded, under the care of such physicians and surgeons general as provided in the last foregoing section; and the said physicians and surgeons general shall have under them in each army, as steward to receive, and properly dispense such articles of diet as the director general, or deputy director general shall give, or order to be given by the commissary of the army or hospital:

That whenever any regimental surgeon or mate shall, be absent from his regiment without leave from the said surgeon general, or the commander in chief of the army where his duty lies, the said surgeon general shall have power to remove such surgeon or mate, and forthwith to appoint another in his stead:

That the director: deputy directors, physicians and surgeons general, and all other officers before enumerated, shall be tried by court martial for any misbehavior, or neglect of duty, as the commander in chief of the several armies shall direct:

That the physician and surgeon general of each army shall cause daily returns to be made to him, of all the sick and wounded which have been removed to the hospitals, all that remain in the hospital tents, all that are become fit for duty, all that are convalescent, and all who may have died, specifying the particular maladies under which the sick and wounded labour:

That the physicians and surgeons general of the hospitals cause like daily returns to be made in every hospital, and the like weekly returns to their respective directors, mutatis mutandis:

That the deputies general cause the like returns to be made once every month, to the director general, together with the names and denominations (rank) of all the officers in the respective hospitals.

And that the director general make a like return for all the hospitals and armies of these United States, once every month, to the Medical Committee:

That the Medical Committee have power to appoint any of heir members to visit and inspect all or any of the medical de-


partments, as often as they shall think proper, to enquire into the conduct of such general officers of the hospital as shall be delinquent in this or any parts of their duty, and to report their names to Congress, with the evidence of the charges, which shall be brought against them:

That in times of action, and other emergency, when the regimental surgeons are not sufficient in number, to attend properly to the sick and wounded, that cannot be removed to the hospitals, the Director General, or deputy director general of the district be empowered and required, upon the request of the physician or surgeon general of the army, to send from the hospitals under his care, to the assistance of such sick, or wounded, as many physicians, and surgeons as can possibly be spared from the necessary business of the hospital.

That the director, deputy directors general, assistant deputy directors, physicians, and surgeons general be, and are hereby required, and directed to employ such parts of their time, as may conveniently be spared from the duties before pointed out to them, in visiting and prescribing for the sick and wounded, in the hospital under their care.

The resolution provided for a director general and a number of subordinates. The country was divided into four districts: Eastern, east of the Hudson; Northern, region of Lake Champlain; Middle, Hudson to the Potomac; and Southern, south of the Potomac. To each of these divisions was given a deputy director general, an assistant deputy director general, a physician general and a surgeon general. It seems to have been the intention that all these officials should be stationed at fixed headquarters, or fixed hospitals. For the armies in each of these districts there were allowed a chief medical officer, named “physician and surgeon general.” The officer with this appellation was to serve with the army in the field and to have special jurisdiction over the unruly regimental surgeons. Other senior physicians and surgeons were allowed, also second surgeons, mates, apothecaries, &c. etc., as will be seen by reading the verbiose resolutions.

On April 8th Congress fixed the pay and emoluments of the various officers by the following resolutions


        That the establishment of the medical department be as follows:
    1 Director General. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Pay     6     dollars a day and 9 rations
    3 Deputy directors general. . . . . . . . . . . . . .        5    dollars a day and 6 rations
    1 Indeterminate asst. deputy director . . . . . .        3    dollars a day and 6 rations
    4 Physicians general . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .        5     dollars a day and 6 rations
    4 Surgeons general . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .        5    dollars a day and 6 rations
    1 Physician & Surg. Gen. For each army. . .        5    dollars a day and 6 rations
    Senior Surgeons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .        4    dollars a day and 6 rations
    Second Surgeons. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .        2    dollars a day and 4 rations
    Surgeons’ mates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .        1½    dollars a day and 2 rations
    Apothecaries general. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .        3    dollars a day and 6 rations
    Mates. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .        1½     dollars a day and 2 rations
    Commissary. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .        2    dollars a day and 4 rations
    Clerk, paymaster . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .        2    dollars a day and 4 rations
    Asst. Clerks. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .        2/3    dollars a day and 1 ration
    Stewards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .        1    dollar   a day and 2 rations
    Matron. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .        ½    dollar   a day and 1 ration
    Nurses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .        24/90    dollar   a day and 1 ration
    Stabler . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .         1    dollar   a day and 1 ration
    Regimental Surgeons. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .        2    dollars a day and 4 rations
    Regimental Mates. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .        1 1/3    dollars a day and 2 rations

        Nothing in this legislation gave medical officers any rank

Dr Shippen’s plan included a “flying hospital”, which was partly included in the resolution of Congress. This did not include ambulances or the organization which Larrey and Percy introduced into the French Army about twenty years later. In fact, it was no more a flying hospital that the army already had; and there is no account of sick and wounded being treated in a field (tent ) hospital in the succeeding campaign.2 On April 11th the following medical officers were chosen by Congress:-

    Director General. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Dr. William Shippen, Jr.

    Eastern Department:
        Deputy Director General. . . . . . .Dr. Isaac Foster        
        Physician General. . . . . . . . . . . .Dr. Ammi R. Cutter.3
        Surgeon General. . . . . . . . . . . . .Dr. Philip Turner.
        Physician and Surgeon . . . . . . . .Dr. William Burnet.

    Middle Department:
        Deputy Director General. . . . . . .Left vacant, but filled later.
        Physician General. . . . . . . . . . . .Dr. Walter Jones (declined).


        Surgeon General. . . . . . . . . . . . .Dr. Benjamin Rush.
        Physician and Surgeon . . . . . . . .Dr. John Cochran

    Northern Department:
        Deputy Director General. . . . . . .Dr. Jonathan Potts.
        Physician General. . . . . . . . . . . .Dr. Malachi Treat.
        Surgeon General. . . . . . . . . . . . .Dr. Francis Forgues.
        Physician and Surgeon. . . . . . . . Dr. John Bartlett.

As Dr. Walter Jones declined the post offered to him, Dr. Rush was given the place, and Dr. William Brown succeeded Dr. Rush. The rank of the four positions appears to have been as given above, though why the physician and surgeon general should have ranked lowest is not logically apparent.

That Doctor Shippen had a high opinion of his own abilities and achievements, and that he was not averse to advertising the same will be apparent on reading a letter which he caused to be spread broadcast in the newspapers.

The liberal provisions made by Congress in the new medical arrangements and joined with a humane desire to prevent the repetition of the distresses which afflicted the brave American soldiers the last campaign, have drawn men of the first abilities into the field, to watch over the health and preserve the lives of the soldiers, many of them from very extensive and profitable practice; and every species of domestic happiness. Dr. William Brown of Virginia, Dr. James Craik of Maryland, and Dr. Thomas Bond, Jr. of Philadelphia, are appointed Assistant Director Generals. Dr. Walter Jones and Dr. Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia, Physician and Surgeon Generals of the Hospitals of the middle department. Under these none but gentlemen of the best education, and well qualified, are employed as senior Physicians, Surgeons, &. The Eastern and Northern departments are filled with gentlemen of the first characters in these countries; and the public may depend on it, that the greatest exertions of skill and industry shall be constantly made, and no cost spared, to make the sick and wounded soldiery comfortable and happy. As a consequence of the above liberal arrangement of the Honourable Congress, we do, with great pleasure, and equal truth assure the public (notwithstanding the many false and wicked reports propagated by the enemies of American liberty, and only calculated to retard the recruiting service) that all the military hospitals of the United States are in excellent order, and that the army enjoy a degree of health seldom to be seen or read of.


W. SHIPPEN, Jun., Director General of the American Hospitals.

JOHN COCHRAN,    Physician and Surgeon General of the Army in the Middle Dept.

Headquarters, Middlebrook, June 4, 1777.

It is requested that the above may be published in all newspapers on the Continent.

[From the Pennsylvania Evening Post, June 5, 1777.]

It will be noticed that the Southern Department does not appear in this list of officers. Although named in the resolution, by some kind of hocus pocus, it was stated that it was not intended that the Southern Department should come under the jurisdiction of the Director General; and all the territory south of the Potomac remained independent of him nearly throughout the war, an early separatist idea. Dr. William Rickman had been made medical director in Virginia by a resolution of Congress dated May 18, 1776:-

Resolved, that the hospital in Virginia be on the establishment, and the pay of the officers thereof be the same, as the hospital established in the Eastern Department.

That two surgeons, one apothecary, six mates, one clerk, and one nurse to every ten sick, with labourers occasionally, when necessary, be allowed to the hospital in Virginia.

That the director be empowered to nominate the surgeons and apothecary. That the mates be appointed by the surgeons, and that the mates be diminished (sic) as circumstances will permit. . . .”

This word “diminished” is worthy of Gilbert and Sullivan.

Dr. Rickman accompanied a committee from the Virginia Convention, early in June, to visit the various localities and select a place for the hospital. The choice fell on the capital, Williamsburg.4 A “large and well appointed” hospital was established at Williamsburg and maintained until the end of the war. The building utilized was that known as the “Old Palace,” now in ruins, although the principal college building (since burned down several times) was used by the French Army during the Yorktown campaign.


The new troops coming from the southern colonies were halted in Virginia for inoculation, at Dorchester, Dumfries, and Alexandria. During nearly the whole of the war, Alexandria was the main location for inoculation hospitals for the Southern Department. During the autumn of 1777 many regiments and detachments came up from Virginia and the Carolinas to join the main army, and were delayed here for some weeks. In October young Sally Fairfax wrote to her father, Reverend Bryan Fairfax, “Mamma will not be able to go to Alexandria again this winter; there is always a regiment of soldiers there to be inoculated, and the infection is never out of town.” The Fairfaxes were Royalists.

Hospital at Alexandria

Dr. William Rickman, was in charge of the Virginia hospitals, which were independent of the general establishment. He was present at Alexandria and in charge of the hospitals and inoculation. Between September 22nd and November 30th, 1777, 775 men were received into his hospitals; of whom 695 were discharged to duty, 28 died, and 58 were yet remaining. The number of deaths was too high and might have attracted attention had there been no complaint. But there was complaint, and with reason. Colonel Williams of a North Carolina regiment complained that his men were neglected and allowed to die unnecessarily. His letter and others were placed before the Medical Committee of Congress.

On December 20th the Medical Committee reported that,

“It appears obvious to the committee that Doctor (William) Rickman, director of the said hospital, has been guilty of great neglect in not giving the proper attendance to the officers and soldiers under inoculation at Alexandria.”

It was then

RESOLVED, that Dr. Rickman be immediately suspended.... Dr. Shippen . . . to send immediately a skilful physician to take care of the sick and superintend the inoculation of soldiers at Alexandria.

The Committee made further investigation of Dr. Rickman and came to conclusions which have some of the earmarks of a whitewash. The opinion was:-


“That, notwithstanding it appears that North Carolina and Virginia troops, inoculated by the said Dr. Rickman at Alexandria, suffered in general,̓ more in the course of the disease than is usual, and that a number of them did die; yet, as the committee are convinced that it was impracticable for the director to obtain, in season, a variety of articles for their accommodation in the hospitals, as many of them were badly cloathed, and all had, immediately before the operation, undergone a long and fatiguing march at a season of the year when putrid diseases generally prevail most; as from a regular return it appears that most of those who were lost, died of a putrid fever; as the director really had not sufficient assistance, and lastly as one of the assistants of the name of Parker, who was employed from the necessity of the case, appears to have greatly abused the confidence and trust re-posed in him by the director; whence a great part of the evils complained of by the patients may have arisen; the committee are of the opinion, that Dr. Rickman ought to be acquitted of the charges exhibited against him; that the resolution of the 20th day of December last, for his suspension, be repealed, and that Dr. Rickman be directed to repair immediately to his department, and resume the exercise of his duty.”

Dr. Rickman had procured the usual number of letters from his friends, who saw nothing but what was admirable in his conduct of the hospitals. Even such fragmentary evidence as remains shows quite the contrary. His return for the period shows by name twenty-one men who died: nine of putrid fever (no doubt contracted in the hospital), four of smallpox, three of “fevers”, three of “perineamony,” one of flux, and one by accident. The return is signed by him, spelling and all.

An affidavit of Hardee Murfree throws light on the manner in which the sick were handled by him and his assistants.

“When Col. Williams gave orders for the troops (Carolina) to march he said that Dr. Rickman had reported that all were able to march except one. Col. Williams asked the deponent if he would walk to the barracks, which he did, & on coming there found three men very sick and in bad condition. Col. Williams sent for Dr. Rickman, the Dr. not being at home, he sent an officer for Dr. Parker, one of Dr. Rickman's assistants, and asked the reason of all his men being reported fit to march but one, and them three so very bad. Dr. Parker said them three men were never reported to him nor Dr. Rickman. Col. Williams then asked if he never saw them men in the condition they were then in. He said he had, but as they were not reported sick he


never gave them anything; and the men being almost naked Dr. Parker said it was not worth while to give them physic when the men were so naked and lying on the cold floor, but said it was nourishment they wanted. One of the sick men had no clothing but an old shirt and half an old blanket, the other two had some old clothes. The deponent further says that night one of the men died and in some few days the others died, and believes it was for want of clothes to keep them warm and good care taken of them.”

The return shows these men's cases:

Thomas Poole, 5 N. C., died Nov. 19, perineamony. (pneumonia).
Robt. Chappell, 3 N. C., died Nov. 19, fever.
George Peck, 6 N. C., died Nov. 20, perineamony. (pneumonia).

This was late November, cold even at Alexandria. The poor wretches lay nearly naked on the floor, with no more attention than a stray dog might have received. The contemptible assistant did nothing for them, because “they had not been reported to him.” Their own officers seem to blame in the miserable affair, and the colonel himself. Dr. Rickman maintained his position until 1780, when he resigned.

We may judge what the Congress thought most necessary for a hospital by the following, of May 11, 1776:-

Resolved, that two sets of trepanning instruments he sent to Virginia for the use of the surgeons, * * * * and that two sets of trepanning instruments and 100 lbs. of Peruvian bark be sent to North Carolina, for the use of the Continental troops in that colony.”

Southern swamps must have been known to the medical members of the Medical Committee.

The profession of medicine and surgery were considered as separate callings, and care was supposed to be taken to keep the sick and wounded apart from each other. On April 12, Congress passed the following resolution:-

Resolved, that the surgeon general and physician general of the hospitals shall each of them regulate the practice of both physic and surgery, and do the duty of the physician and surgeon general in the hospitals respectively committed to their charge, and that the director and deputy director general take proper care to keep the sick and wounded in separate departments.”


The Congress was very tender on any points which savored of royalty, or even resembled in form the pretentiousness of European armies. It was not intended that the new republican army should ape the trappings of the armies of kings. On April 15th it was “Resolved, that the appellations, 'Congress own regiment,' ‘General Washington’s life guards’, &c., given to some of them, are improper, and ought not to be kept up; and that the officers of the said battalions are required to take notice thereof, and conform themselves accordingly.”

The absence from camp of so many sick soldiers brought about a curative resolution on April 22nd:-

“RESOLVED, That the director and deputy directors general shall constantly publish in the newspapers the names of the places in which the military hospitals are respectively kept; and the several commanding officers of parties, detachments, or corps on their march to or from the camp shall send to the said hospitals, such of their officers and soldiers as, from time to time, are unable to proceed, together with certificates to the director or deputy director general, mentioning the names of said officers and soldiers and particular regiments to which they belong; unless from the distance of the hospitals, or other causes, it shall at any time be necessary to deliver them to the care of private physicians or surgeons, in which case, such physicians and surgeons, and also the respective commanding officers, are forthwith to report their names and regiments to the director or deputy directors general as aforesaid, who shall give the necessary orders for removing them to the hospitals as soon as may be, and discharge the reasonable demands of the physicians and surgeons conducting agreeable to this resolve.

That the director, deputy directors general and assistant deputy directors have power to order to their respective hospitals, the sick and wounded of the army, wherever found, in their own or other departments, provided such other departments are not supplied with any of the officers aforesaid.”

This resolution gave the authority of actual officers to the superior medical officers of the army.

There was some more definite action by Congress on the subject of caring for invalid soldiers. A resolution of August 26, 1776, had provided for pensions for such soldiers, but does not seem to have provided money to pay them. It was now decided to let each state care for its own, the money to be reimbursed later. On May 27th it was,


Resolved, * * * by the resolutions of Congress of the 26th day of August, 1776, to make provision for the maintenance of disabled wounded soldiers, belonging to their respective states, and to keep a regular account of the expense attending the same, that, at a future day, the Continent may be charged therewith.”

At that time also there had been a resolution providing for a “Corps of Invalids”, but this also had gotten no further. On April 22nd a resolution was passed, directing the formation of such a corps, and outlining its formation and functions. The regiment was organized in June, with Lewis Nicola as colonel:-

“RESOLVED, that a Corps of Invalids be formed, consisting of eight companies, each Company to have one Captain, two Lieutenants, two Ensigns, five Sergeants, six Corporals, two Drummers, two fifers and one hundred men. This Corps to be employed in Garrisons and for Guards, in Cities and other Places, where Magazines or Arsenals are placed; as also to serve as a Military School for Young Gentlemen, previous to their being appointed to marching Regiments, for which purpose all the Subaltern Officers, when off Duty, shall be obliged to attend a Mathematical School, appointed for the purpose, to learn Geometry, Arithmetic, vulgar and decimal Fractions, and the extraction of Roots. And that the officers of this Corps shall be obliged to contribute one day’s pay in every Month, and Stoppages shall be made of it accordingly, for the purpose of purchasing a Regimental Library of the most approved Authors on Tacticks and the Petite Guerre.

“That some officers from this Corps be constantly employed in the Recruiting Service, in the neighborhood of the places where they shall be stationed, that all Recruits so made, shall be brought into the Corps, and drilled and afterwards draughted into other Regiments as occasion shall require.”

The army as now organized so remained until 1781. It was still a doubtful instrument, never able to meet an equal number of trained British troops in the open field, yet able in the end to overcome them. It had been given one fundamental feature, without which success would never have been possible:

that is, long enlistments. The generals, from now on, would not be in danger of seeing their armies melt away at the very crucial point of a campaign, as did Montgomery at Montreal, and Washington at Hackensack. There was now a real Continental Army, which was to endure to the end and to achieve a final victory.



1 The medical committee of the Continental Congress, to which all contemplated medical legislature was referred, and which was largely responsible for the medical department of the army, consisted of the following members:-

Resolution of September 14, 1775.

Eliphalet Dyer, Thomas Lynch, John Jay, John Adams and Francis Lewis.

June 18, 1776, added Thomas Hayward and Dr. Lyman Hall.

Aug. 7, 1776, added: Dr. Benjamin Rush. Resigned Feb. 6, 1778.

January 3, 1777, added: Dr. Jonathan Elimore and Dr. Nathan Brownson.

Feb. 4, 1777, added: Dr. Thomas Burke.

Dec. 16, 1777, added: Francis Lewis and John Penn.

Sept. 23, 1778, added: Dr. Samuel Holten.

Jan. 12, 1779, added Thomas Burke and Thomas Adams.

May 4, 1780, added: James Henry.

July 7, 1780, added: Abraham Clark.

Sept. 9, 1780, added: Dr. Theodoric Bland.

Feb. 16, 1781, added: Dr. William Burnett.

March 28, 1781 the Medical Committee was discontinued.


“There shall be a Director and Surgeon Genl. whose Duty in subordination to ye Dir. Genl. shall be to superintend & receive from him a suitable number of large strong Tents—Beds, Bedd [ing], Medicines, & Hospital Stores for such sick & Wounded persons as cant be transported to ye general Hospital with safety or may be rendered fit for duty in a few days—He shall also see that the sick & wounded while in his hospital are properly attended & dressed and when able, to be conveyed to ye genl. Hospital for which last purpose he shall be supplied by ye Dir. Genl. with a proper number of convenient Wagons and Drivers.— He shall see that the regimental Surgeons and mates attend their regiments. Those who refuse to obey his or ye Dir. Genl.’s direction shall be tried and punished as Congress shall direct.

He shall have under him

Stewards to recive and properly dispense such articles of diet as ye Director General shall give or order to be given him by the Corny of ye Army or Hospital.


Brigade Surgeons—who shall superintend the medical department in their respective Brigades, report the state thereof to the Director of ye flying Hospital & see that the sick & wounded are sent in proper time & in a proper manner to ye flying Hospitals—they shall also attend & prescribe for ye sick and wounded in ye Hospital under ye Direction of ye Surgeon Genl.

A suitable number of mates to dress, & of Nurses and orderly men ye number to be determined and they appointed and paid by ye Dir.

All the above officers to be appointed & receive such Salarys as the Congress shall please to direct.”


Dr. Ammi R. Cutter was born in North Yarmouth, Maine, in 1734. He was educated at Cambridge, and graduated from Harvard in 1752. He studied medicine under Dr. Clement Jackson of Portmouth, and appears to have begun practice the next year. He was surgeon to a body of rangers in 1755, and was surgeon of the New Hampshire troops at the capture of Louisburg in 1758. At this time he came near to his death from smallpox, which committed greater ravages among the troops than did the enemy. In 1759 he was again in the military service on an expedition to the frontier of Canada. He was then in private practice until the outbreak of the Revolution.

Tn 1777 he was made Physician General of the Eastern Department, with station at Fishkill, N. Y., where he remained near a year in charge of two hospitals of about 300 beds each. The circumstances of his large family (ten children) then compelled him to resign, March 9, 1778. He returned to practice in New Hampshire, where he lived quietly until his death in 1819.

4 A committee of the Virginia Convention was selected to find a hospital for the sick and wounded. The committee consisted of Messrs. Starke, Johnson, Henry, Blair, Gilmer, Randolph, and Travis. Together with the hospital director, Dr. William Rickman, they visited Williamsburg. They reported that the college should not be used, but that the “palace” was “adapted in all respects, without any alterations of consequence for an hospital, whether considered as to size, situation, plan, or necessary offices; that added to this there stands a public building in the center of the park, which may be taken as an appendage to the hospital; whither persons laboring under epidemical or infectious disorders may be removed, and the diseases thereby prevented from spreading.”

They reported that certain houses might be purchased:-

        Dr. James Carter's for . . . . . . . .1000. pounds.
        Mr. James Hubard's. . . . . . . . . .1200. pounds.
        Mr. John H. Norton's. . . . . . . . .1300 pounds.

    They agreed on the following resolution:


“Resolved, that the palace and as many of the outbuildings as may be necessary for the purpose be appropriated for a public hospital, and that the physician and director-general be informed thereof.”

5 In the spring of 1777, Washington wrote to his old friend, Dr. James Craik, tendering him the position of Medical Director of the Middle Department.

“You know how far you may be benefitted or injured by such an appointment, and whether it is advisable or practicable for you to quit your family and practice at this time. I request, as a friend, that my proposing this matter to you may have no influence on your acceptance. I have no other end in view than to serve you.”

This letter, emphasizing personal gain, to the complete ignoring of the public need and service, is below the great man’s usual high-pitched public letters at the time.