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Chapter XII

Table of Contents



The army remained in the Highlands of the Hudson until November, 1779, when the division separated to go into winter quarters. General Heath says the movement began on November 4th. The four regiments of dragoons went to Connecticut. Poor’s New Hampshire Brigade—now Stark’s, for Poor died in September of a putrid fever—marched to Danbury. The regiments of New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Maryland marched to the old camp ground near Morristown, New Jersey. The Virginia and Carolina troops also marched on November 16th, but they continued on their way to the south where the British were threatening invasion. General Heath remained in the citadel of the Highlands with fifteen regiments of the Massachusetts Line. The total strength of the Continental Army, in all the Colonies at this time, was 32,288. On September 15th the British had 38,569 officers and men in North America.

The main body of the Continental Army left the Highlands about November 25th and reached the camp ground, three miles south of Morristown, New Jersey, on December 1st. The troops were going into winter quarters rather early this year, and it was well; for the winter was one of those remembered by the oldest inhabitants for its severity. Snow fell early and lay long on the ground; the rivers froze solidly, and the freezing north winds, piercing the scanty clothing of the soldiers, made huts a welcome shelter. By this time log huts had become the customary winter shelter of the army, and some skill in their construction had been gained by experience. The General issued strict orders for their construction, accompanied by a plan, before the troops left the Highlands. On November 19th the following order was promulgated:-


“Upon the arrival of the troops destined to quarters in New Jersey on the ground on which they are to Hut, the space alloted for each Brigade will be pointed out by the Quartermaster General, who will furnish a plan of the intended dimensions of the soldiers Huts, in the construction of which it is expected that a minute attention will be paid to the plan.

“As conveniency, health and very good consequence will result from a perfect uniformity in the camp, the Commander in Chief takes this previous opportunity of assuring that any hut not exactly comfortable to the Plan, or the least out of line, shall be pulled down and built again agreeable to the model of the plan.”

The brigades at Morristown were encamped in the following order, by brigades and divisions:

First Line
| 1st Brig. | 2d Brig. |            | N. J. | Hands, Pa. |            | 2d Brig. | 1st Brig. |
    Connecticut                                                                        Maryland

Second Line
| Rhode Island | N. Y. |                | Parade |             | 2d Brig. 1st Brig. |

The brigades had about four small regiments each.

Poor’s Brigade, also called Stark’s, did not remain at Danbury, but marched for Morristown on December 5th. At Danbury the brigade had fortunately been joined by Col. Henry Jackson’s regiment, and our principal chronicler, Dr. James Thatcher, was among them, taking notes. He says the brigade crossed the Hudson at King’s Ferry on December 9th and reached Morristown on December 14. The snow was two feet deep, and for want of wagons Dr. Thatcher’s baggage was left behind. The army was then in tents or in bivouac. The huts were scarcely begun and were not completed until February, when the greater part of the winter was past. Many of the men were in rags, and food was more than scarce. The very essentials, bread and particularly meat, were often lacking for days together.

Thatcher’s diary after leaving the Robinson house contains some interesting items:


1779, July 9. “Left West Point July 2nd and reached Providence 8th.”

There he joined Col. Henry Jackson's Regiment. This was one of the sixteen additional regiments organized January 12, 1777, later transferred to the Massachusetts Line as the 16th Massachusetts.

August 12. “Our regiment consists of about 400 men, in complete uniform, well disciplined, and not inferior to any in the Continental Army.”

“We commenced a forward march from Providence on the 10th, and completed 40 miles in 24 hours. A severe rain did not much impede the march, but the troops were broken down with fatigue. We reached Boston Neck at sunrising.”

The gentlemen of the town presented to Colonel Jackson and the officers of his regiment a hogshead of Jamaica spirits and a cask of wine. For the soldiers they collected a liberal sum of money which was distributed among them.

August 14. “Embarked for Maine.”

This proved a fruitless expedition and by September 28 the regiment was back at Providence. It remained there until November 8, when it marched to Danbury and joined Stark’s Brigade. This brigade marched for the winter camp in New Jersey on December 5, as previously stated.

Of the camp at Morristown, Henry Howe in his “History of New Jersey,” wrote:

“When here the soldiers lived miserably; broken down by disease and want, they became filthy in their persons and infested with vermin. Sickness was but too common and deaths. When the sickness was at its height no less than forty coffins were bought at one time and piled against the barn of Mr. Drake, which together with the church [of Mendham] were used as a hospital.”

That the men were lousy there is no doubt. As to the rest, there were neither laundries nor hot showers, and the men, half naked and half starved, had all they could do to keep alive.


The keeping of the hair was a problem of some difficulty in those days, when soldiers appear to have fancied flowing locks. How the problem was met by Colonel Marion is shown in the following order:

23 Jan. 1778, Fort Moultrie,

Order by Lt. Col. Marion.

“As long hair gathers much filth and takes a Great deal of time & trouble to comb & keep it Clean & in good Order—the Lt. Col. recommends to every Soldier to have their hairs Cut short, to reach no further down than the top of the shirt collar, and thinned upwards to the crown of the head, the foretop short without toppee & short at the sides, those who do not have their hairs in this mode must have them platted and tied up, as they will not be allowed to appear with their hair down their Backs & over their forehead & down their Chins at the sides, which make them appear more like wild savages than soldiers. The Major will please pick out three men to be Regimental Barbers, who are to be excused from mounting guard or do fatigue duty; they are daily to dress the men's heads & shave them before they mount guard, the men to pay them half a crown a week each marl. Any soldier who comes on the parade with Beards or hair uncombed shall be dryshaved immediately and have his hair dressed on the parade.”

In September 1779 there was an epidemic among the British troops at New York which by its virulence suggests influenza. On September 10 some 3400 British troops (new recruits) arrived at New York in a sickly condition; 800 of them were “sick of a fever” and 100 had died on the voyage. The disease spread so rapidly in the garrison that within a month 5000 cases occurred and 6000 within six weeks.—Fortescue. The disease seems to have been a factor in recalling the British troops which had been at Newport, Rhode Island, since the end of 1776. At any rate, they were withdrawn and all the troops in the northern and central colonies were permanently concentrated at New York.

Late in December Thatcher wrote in his diary:

“I visited my friend Doctor S. Findley of General Glover’s Brigade, and being invited to breakfast, the only food he could furnish was coffee, without milk or sugar, and meagre beef-steaks, without bread or even salt. Such has been for some time the unaccountable scarcity of provisions in the army. * * * On


the 14th we reached this wilderness, about three miles from Morristown, where we are to build log huts for winter quarters. The snow on the ground is about two feet deep and the weather extremely cold; the soldiers are destitute of both tents and blankets, and some of them are actually barefooted and almost naked. Our only defense against the inclemency of the weather consists of brushwood thrown together. Our lodging the last night was on the frozen ground. Those officers who have the privilege of a house, can always have a blanket at hand. Having removed the snow, we wrapped ourselves in great coats, spread our blankets on the ground, and lay down by the side of each other, five or six together, with large fires at our feet, leaving orders with the waiters to keep it well supplied with fuel during the night.

“In addition to other suffering, the whole army has been for seven or eight days entirely destitute of the staff of life; our only food is miserable fresh beef; without salt, bread or vegetables.”

In January he wrote:

“The weather for several days has been remarkably cold and stormy. On the 3rd instant, we experienced one of the most tremendous snow storms ever remembered. No man could endure its violence many minutes without danger of his life. Several marquees were torn asunder and blown down over the officers' heads in the night, and some of the soldiers were actually covered while in their tents, and buried like sheep under snow. * * * * *

“We are greatly favored in having a supply of straw for bedding; over this we spread all our blankets, and with our clothes and large fires at our feet, while four or five are crowded together, preserve ourselves from freezing. But the sufferings of the poor soldiers can scarcely be described; while on duty they are unavoidably exposed to all the inclemency of storms and severe cold; at night they now have a bed of straw on the ground, and a single blanket to each man; they are badly clad, and some are destitute of shoes. * * * The snow is now from four to six feet deep, which so obstructs the roads as to prevent our receiving a supply of provisions. For the last ten days we have received but two pounds of meat a man; and we are frequently for six or eight days entirely destitute of meat, and then as long without bread. The consequence is that the soldiers are so enfeebled by hunger and cold, as to be almost unable to perform their military duty, or labor in constructing their huts.”

General Heath observed the intensely cold weather in January. On the 3rd he notes that the Hudson was passable on the


ice, and on the 12th that a soldier was frozen to death at West Point. On the latter day also General Putnam suffered a stroke of apoplexy.

The Hudson River was frozen over so that one could cross on the ice to New York. Lord Stirling led a force of 2500 men, in 500 sleighs, to attack the British on Staten Island. These troops crossed on the ice and effected a surprise, but later became confused and returned without great success. Thatcher says:-

“The snow was three or four feet deep and the weather extremely cold; and our troops continued twenty four hours on the Island without covering, and about five hundred were slightly frozen, and six were killed by a party of horse, who pursued our rearguards.”

On January 27 he says:- “We are now rejoicing in having a plentiful supply of provisions and a favorable prospect of a full supply in the future.” This was due, he says, to Washington's application to the cities of New Jersey. “Our log huts are almost completed, and we promise ourselves very comfortable quarters for the remainder of the winter.”

And on February 14th he wrote:-

“Having continued to this late season in our tents experiencing the greatest inconvenience, we have now the satisfaction of taking possession of the log huts just completed by our soldiers. Major Prescott, Lieut. Williams, our paymaster, and myself occupy a hut with one room, furnished with our lodging cabins and crowded with our beds.”

Dr. James Tilton was in charge of the hospitals, of which he wrote:-

“Tents, I should suppose would be particularly proper in warm climates as well as in our warm summer seasons. * * * * * I have used common horsemans’ tents, and long tents, formed like the roof of an house, prepared expressly for hospital purposes.

“But in cold climates and winter seasons some better protection than tents afford may be necessary. In such cases, the best hospital I have ever contrived was upon the plan of an Indian hut. The fire was built in the midst of the ward, without any chimney, and the smoke circulating round about, passed off through an opening about four inches wide in the ridge of the roof. The common surface of the earth served for the floor.


The patients laid with their heads to the wall round about, and their feet were all turned to the fire. The wards were thus completely ventilated. The smoke contributed to combat infections, without giving the least offence to the patients; for it always rose above their heads, before it spread abroad in the ward. And more patients could be crowded with impunity into such wards, than in any others I have seen tried. This was the expedient I employed in the hard winter of 79-80, when the army was hutted near Morris Town, and I was well satisfied with the experiment.”

He gives a ground plan and elevation of this hospital and goes on to say

“It should be noted also that the walls of this hut were built of rough logs, without hewing; that the chinks were daubed with mortar made of common clay and water only; that the middle or main ward, 31½ by 19½ feet in the clear, was assigned to febrile patients; and the smaller end wards, 31½ by 16 feet clear, were occupied by the wounded and other cases of typical infection.”

He states that “the bedding of a sick soldier in the American hospitals, in houses as well as in tents, consisted of a bunk or cradle, a sack or bed tick of coarse linen filled with straw, and one or more blankets.”

In Dr. Tilton’s hospital the central ward, with twelve beds, had a little less than fifty square feet of floor space per patient. An end ward, with eight beds, had seventy-two square feet of space per patient,—a reasonable amount for that time. There are no reports of any considerable amount of sickness in camp or in the army generally during the winter.

An inspection of the brigade in which Thatcher served, by Baron Steuben, gives us an excellent picture of that officer’s inspection, which included the Medical Department. He says:-

“The Baron Steuben reviewed and inspected our brigade. The troops were paraded in a single line with shouldered arms, every officer in his particular station. The Baron first reviewed the line in this position, passing in front with a scrutinizing eye, after which he took with his hand the musket and accoutrements of every soldier, examining them with particular accuracy and precision, applauding or condemning, according to the condition in which he found them. He required that the musket and bayonet should exhibit the brightest polish; not a spot of rust, or defect of any part could elude his vigilance. * * * * *


“Next he required of me as surgeon, to produce a list of the sick, with a particular statement of their accomodations and mode of treatment, and even visited some of the sick in their cabins.

        *     *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

“He appears to be above fifty years of age, and is venerable and dignified in his deportment, rich and elegant in dress, having a splendid medal of gold and diamonds designating the order of fidelity, suspended at his breast.

    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

“The Continental army has improved with great rapidity under his inspection and review.”

In March Thatcher wrote:

“The present winter is the most severe and distressing which we have ever experienced. An immense body of snow remains on the ground. Our soldiers are in a wretched condition for the want of clothes, blankets and shoes; and their calamitous circumstances are accompanied by a want of provisions.”

In May things looked brighter. On the 10th he wrote:-

“Dined with Colonel Jackson, who entertained a party of gentlemen. Our table was not ornamented with numerous covers, our fare was frugal, but decent. We sat at table till evening, enjoying the conversation of the learned Doctor Shippen, director general of the general hospital.”

This is his only mention of Dr. Shippen. In June he notes that General Stirling (William Alexander, Lord Stirling) died of wounds received in a skirmish, and says:-

“Our troops in camp are in general healthy, but we are troubled with many perplexing instances of indisposition occasioned by absence from home, called by Dr. Cullen nostalgia. The complaint is frequent among the militia, and recruits from New England.”

On July 29 the troops returned to the Highlands. They did not all return; the little Maryland brigades, including the Delaware Regiment marched to the south, where they were to see new battles.

The capture of Burgoyne’s army at Saratoga in 1777 practically ended all major operations in the New England and Middle colonies. After the first struggles of 1775-76 the British had


made no movement against New England. They now gave up the Middle colonies also and, lured by promises of the so-called loyal Americans in the southern colonies, turned their efforts in that direction. The Carolinas had a very mixed population, with considerable parties favoring England. Various battalions of Royalist Americans were raised and the regular British regiments received recruits in those parts, but, on the whole, the colonists there, as in the middle colonies, remained true to the Continental cause. The population did not rise in mass and join the British forces on their arrival as had been promised. The tide of war, however, now flowed southward. The first foothold for the British was gained by the capture of Savannah at the end of the year 1778. The place was henceforth held by them and resisted a determined assault by Continental and French troops on October 9, 1779. In this attack the American loss was about 100 killed, and 200 wounded. The French lost 183 men killed and 454 wounded, in this battle Count Pulaski was mortally wounded. The French also lost 1000 or more by disease.

The Hospital Department of the Southern Army had always been independent. When it was reorganized in the spring of 1777, nearly the entire army was in the middle and northern colonies. The hospital departments of the few forces in Virginia were in charge of Dr. William Rickman, heretofore mentioned. Toward the end of 1777 General R. Howe was in command of the colonial forces in South Carolina, with an independent general hospital, located at Charleston.

General Lincoln, who was given the chief command in the South, allowed his army to be shut up in Charleston and on March 9, 1780, surrendered his force numbering 245 officers and 2326 men. The whole Continental Line of the Carolinas, with all but one of the Virginia regiments, thus disappeared from the field. Tarleton's defeat of Buford at the Waxhaws nearly finished the Virginia Line. The headquarters of the. Hospital Department of the Southern army and all the principal officers became prisoners of war.1

After the loss of Charleston General Gates was given the Southern command, and in July he established his headquarters at Hillsboro, North Carolina. Cornwallis had about 5000 men


in South Carolina. Both armies in the Carolinas were sickly, as noted by all diarists and letter writers of that time. Yet no great number of deaths is mentioned, the principal disease being malarial fevers and diarrhoeas, not usually fatal.

Dr. Jackson, surgeon's mate of the 71st British Regiment (Fraser’s Highlanders) made some notes regarding sickness in his regiment. He wrote

“The position occupied by the 71st at the Cheraws, on the River Pedee, was singularly unhealthful. The disease was of a charackter similar with that which prevailed at Ebenezer—of the remitting class, but with remissions scarcely perceptible. Two thirds of the regiment were sick; and of course there were persons in all stages of the disease. The enemy advanced in force and the 71st was ordered to retire, for it was the advance of the army [American]. Some part of the sick were embarked in boats, in order to be conveyed to Georgetown by water. * * * There were, however, about 120 who were transferred in open waggons. They were exposed to dews by night, to a scorching sun by day, and to occasional showers of rain. At the end of the third day they arrived at Lynch's Creek, about half way between the Cheraws and Camden. The Regt. was ordered to halt and take a position. The sick, during the march, had little opportunity of taking medicine; yet no one had died, some had gotten entirely well; and, in the others the form had changed to distinct intermittent.”

By midsummer of 1780 Lord Cornwallis had gained control of the greater part of the Carolinas and many of the inhabitants had trimmed their sails to the changing winds. The General remained in Charleston while his troops occupied a circle of posts covering most of South Carolina. The principal northern stations were at the Cheraws, where Major McArthur had the 71st Foot; and Camden where Lord Rawdon commanded some 1,500 men. These forces looked toward North Carolina, where there was a considerable number of Royalist Scots, with the memory of the “forty five” still fresh in their memories. General Gates was there with a fragmentary force. The summer season was very unhealthful, largely preventing active campaigns; both in 1780 and 1781.

Map of the Southern Campaigns

The British troops were very sickly, men and officers alike being attacked; few escaped. At one time all of Cornwallis’ staff were sick, and a little later he himself suffered such an at-


tack that he was obliged to turn over the command to Lord Rawdon. In all probability the principal disease was malaria. Lord Cornwallis wrote to Clinton at New York:-

“This climate (except in Charleston) is so bad within one hundred miles of the coast, from the end of June until the middle of October, that troops could not be stationed among them (sic) during the period, without a certainty of their being rendered useless for some time, for military service; if not entirely lost.”

The 71st Regiment, at the Cheraws, was suddenly attacked. In nine days two thirds of the 71st was taken ill of fever and ague, and rendered unfit for service. To escape this sickness, Major McArthur was allowed to move his regiment to the east branch of Lynch’s Creek, on July 24th. He arranged to send 100 of the sick down the Peedee to Georgetown in boats, but no sooner had he left Cheraw than the militia (British) made their officers (royalist) prisoners, captured the boats and carried the sick off to North Carolina.

This trick, and the abandonment of the post, emboldened Gates to move southward to Charlotte. The British troops on that front were concentrated at Camden, where Cornwallis arrived early in August, bringing a few troops with him. He stated in a letter that he had about 1,400 regulars and 400 or 500 militia fit for duty, and 800 sick.

The Maryland and Delaware Line (about 1,400 men) under DeKalb, had left Morristown, New Jersey, on April 16, 1780, reached North Carolina in May; and in July joined General Caswell’s militia brigade at Charlotte. On July 25, Gates arrived and assumed command. He thought he had about 6,000 men, but the actual number was much less. Early in August he moved south to attack Cornwallis at Camden. That general, learning of Gates movement, left his 800 sick at Camden and marched northward with about 2,000 men; the two small armies met near Rudgely’s House, thirteen miles north of Camden on August 16th. Gates had 3,052 men; about one third Continentals:- The 1st and 2nd Maryland brigades, Armand's Legion and a few Virginians.

The militia broke at the first fire, fled in disorder, and carried the Marylanders with them. The 1st Maryland cut its way out, but the retreat became a rout, continued to Hanging


Rock, 22 miles away. That night, Gates reached Charlotte, 60 miles to the north. His army was annihilated. The militia threw away their arms, and never stopped until they reached their homes. General Smallwood, with the remainder of the Maryland regiments and a few others, together with some sick and wounded, escaped to Salisbury, where he established a camp and collected what remained of the army.

The losses amounted to some 700 killed and wounded, and nearly a thousand prisoners; most of whom perished later in miserable death traps, called military prisons. General Gates assembled the fragments of his unfortunate army at Hillsboro.

On August 18th, to complete the disaster, Tarleton surprised Sumpter at Catawba Fords, and destroyed or dispersed his command. Tarleton claimed to have killed 100, captured 300, and released 250 prisoners. Opposition to the British in the Carolinas had practically disappeared. In all the territory south of the Potomac, there was but one Continental regiment left, from Maryland; and one company, from Delaware.

The victory at Camden, in some ways added to Cornwallis’ troubles; On the 23rd, he wrote to Clinton:

“I am at present so hurried with business, with everybody belonging to me sick * * * . Our sickness is great and truly alarming. The officers are particularly affected; Doctor Hayes (John M. Hayes) and almost all the hospital surgeons are laid up. Every person of my family (official) and every Publick officer of the Army is now incapable of doing duty.”

He does not appear to have been entirely indifferent to the prisoners, as Dr. Williamson imagined, for on August 29, in a letter to Clinton, he said:-

“The number of prisoners was a great Inconvenience to us, here in a small village, so crowded and sickly. I was afraid that the close places in which we were obliged to confine them might produce some pestilential fever during the excessive hot Weather. I therefore sent them off as early as possible, by divisions of 150 men each.”

The first division was fortunately intercepted by Marion on the road to Charleston and the prisoners set free.


On September 29th, Cornwallis wrote to Clinton that the army still continued very sickly, so much so that in the hope that change of air might prove beneficial he had, on September 7th, moved the 23rd, 33rd, and Volunteers of Ireland to Waxhaw Creek. The 71st to join later. Tarleton had gone to the west of the Catawba with the balance of the army, chiefly loyalist militia. On September 22nd, Cornwallis said that Major Weyman’s regiment, 63rd Foot, had been totally demolished by sickness. Conditions must have improved soon, for on September 26th, Cornwallis advanced to Charlotte. Gates was still at Hillsboro, where he had about 1,000 Continentals, without arms or shoes.

As the State of North Carolina had a militia brigade engaged at Camden and many of the men were taken prisoners, Dr. Hugh Williamson,2  who had been made chief medical officer of the state militia, obtained permission to go inside the British lines at Camden and give what little attention was possible to the wounded. In December he made a report of his activities at this time.-

Letter of Dr. Hugh Williamson to the Hon. Thomas Benbury, Esq., Speaker of the House of Commons, of the Assembly of North Carolina.

“Sir:                                                                                                                                                                        Dec. 1, 1780.

After the battle of the 16th of August (Camden) as soon as I overtook General Caswell, he gave me a Flag to return to the Enemies’ Lines for the relief of our wounded; I was also instructed to ask for a return (muster roll) of the prisoners.

“This return I have made to the present Commanding Officer, but, as the Publick may be desirous of knowing the fate of their Brave Men who bled on that Memorial Day, I shall take the liberty to mention such facts as seem most interesting. I wish I could say that our loss after the Battle, either by wounds. or sickness was inconsiderable; but we labored under many difficulties. It was our misfortune that the Countenance we showed immediately after the Battle was not calculated to command the respect which is due to an army of the United States. The Enemy was disposed to neglect us, and a victory which they greatly overrated did not increase their Humanity. For eight or ten days after the Battle our people suffered under great neglect. After the Bitterest Complaints and most urgent importunity our supplies became more liberal.”


Dr. Williamson wrote the following letter to Dr. Hayes (John M. Hayes) the Physician General and Inspector General of Hospitals of the British Army in the Carolinas: who it will be recollected was captured with Burgoyne at Saratoga.

The articles you was so kind as to order have not been received. Our hospital patients are near 250, many of them dangerously wounded. They are lodged in six small wards, without straw or covering. Two of them have not any cloathing besides a shirt and pair of trowsers. In the six wards they have only 4 small Kettles, and no Canteen, Dish or Cup, or other Utensil. We have hardly any medicines and not an ounce of Lint, Tow, or Digestine (?), not a single Bandage or Poultice Cloath, nor an ounce of meal to be used for Poultices. In a word nothing is left for us but the painful Circumstances of viewing wretches who must soon perish if not soon relieved.”

His report continued:

“We were also weak in Medical Help. Our Militia Surgeons disappeared after the Battle and the Commander in Chief [Lord Cornwallis] had not yet turned his attention to the wounded Prisoners. It happened that one of the Continental Surgeons fell into the hands of the Enemy. It may be supposed that with his assitance, tho' he was indefatigable, I found it impossible to give the desired help to 240 men who Laboured under at least 700 wounds. After three weeks we were happily reinforced by Dr. Johnson (Dr. Robert Johnston) a senior surgeon of great Skill and Humanity in the Continental Service.

“Included is a list of the wounded Militia, also the only return I could get of the Prisoners in general. It is not satisfactory, for the Commissary of Prisoners, one Boothe Boote, whose Character did not appear to be diversified by a single Virtue, would never do anything that would prove acceptable to us.

“The number of wounded brought into Camden from the actions of the 16th and 18th of August was 240. Of this number 162 were Continental troops, 12 were South Carolina Militia, 3 were of Virginia militia, and 63 were of the militia of this State, of whom the list is enclosed (North Carolina).

“On the 7th of September, 18 of our militia having recovered from their wounds, were sent to Charles Town; 9 of the militia, having recovered, escaped at different times; 10 of them remained on the 13th of October, chiefly well. We had the misfortune to lose 5 Privates who died of their wounds; 9 by the


Small Pox, 1 by a Putrid fever, and 4 by the Flux. Two officers died of their wounds and 2 by the Small Pox.

“It will be observed that we paid a heavy tribute to the Small Pox. However, we have the comfort to recollect that, having formed the most alarming apprehensions from that disease, no means in our power were omitted by which we might avoid or palliate its dangerous effects. The British Camp generally contains the Seeds of Small Pox. It has been in Combden for some time. We were not suffered even to inoculate those men whose would admit of that operation with safety. Lord Cornwallis showed much displeasure at the Inoculation of an Officer who had a slight wound, and was quartered apart in a private Home. Desirous that some of our Surgeons might be permitted to inoculate the prisoners who were sent to Charles Town, I made an application to his Lordship on that Subject, and received the inclosed answer, from which nothing could be expected. Immediately after that I was called to see two of the Inhabitants of South Carolina who were sick in Prison. They had the Small Pox in a small room with 17 others, State Prisoners, who were yet to take it. I wrote Lord Cornwallis on so pursuing a Tryal of Humanity, Stated the Cases fully, and assured his Lordship that Confinement in such a Room, putrescent as the Atmosphere there was, must be followed by death, equally certain as immediate execution. The two sick men were enlarged (sic), but the others were detained; they were not inoculated; most of them died. About the 22nd of September we obtained Permission to inoculate such of our men as had hitherto escaped. At that time the State Prisoners in Jail, many of them very sick, were committed to my care. Such as were then in health, and were inoculated, suffered very little by the Small Pox. During the whole of our attendance on the wounded and Sick we had occasion to remark that most of the Prisoners were visited by the Flux, which prevailed in Cambden; we did not lose a single man by that disease, unless those who had broken thighs or Legs.

“That small Boys suffered most by Flux; that the sufferings of our Men was greatly increased by the want of Sugar, Tea, Coffee, Vinegar, and such other palatable antiseptic Nourishment as is best suited to the Sick. The cry for these Articles was constant, while our supplies were so scanty as hardly to deserve the name, nor was anything of that Kind to be purchased for Money, unless in very trifling Quantities. From a transient view of our misfortunes it is clear that we should save many Lives by any kind of military Establishment which would admit of the troops being inoculated before they took the Field.


“It is also clear that a moderate supply of Sugar, Rice, Tea, Coffee or such other wholesome Nourishment for the sick and invalids of our militia as would tend Greatly to reconcile them to the hardships of a Campaign & would save the lives of many. Your most obedient and very humble Servt.


The return shows that Major Parker and Lt. Smith died of their wounds and Captains Edwards and Price of smallpox. The total of North Carolina militia made prisoners was 294, to which was added “one Willson’s Surgeon, who had been with General Rutherford’s Brigade & submitted some days after the Battle.”

Dr. Williamson’s efforts to have the prisoners vaccinated were unsuccessful, as the following typical correspondence shows:

Dr. Hugh Williamson to Major England.

                                    “Cambden 30 August 1780.

“I presume that Lord Cornwallis is informed that of the North Carolina Prisoners lately sent to Charles Town, who I apprehended are from 3 to 400, hardly a single man has had small Pox. There is, I presume, the utmost danger of those men taking the Disease in the Natural way, unless well inoculated. Be so kind as to inform me whether Lord Cornwallis is willing these Troops should be inoculated, and by whom he wishes it should be done. You will excuse the mention I have made of the subject, but having the chief Medical Care of the Troops of that State, I conceive it to be my duty.”

Reply from Major Despond.

                                    “Cambden Sept. 1, 1780.


I have had Lord Cornwallis’s orders to acquaint you that, with respect to the American prisoners sent to Charles Town being inoculated, his Lordship will give proper orders.”

As the whole Continental Hospital Establishment of the Southern Department was also captured there, there was no shortage of medical men to maintain a hospital. But supplies were so sadly lacking that their complaints have survived. Dr. David Ramsey,5 the historian, who was a prisoner, says that the prisoners were crowded into prison ships in such numbers that they could not lie down. They were without proper food, or


medical attention, in a sickly climate, and died in great numbers. Of about 1,900 Continentals taken at Charleston, and several hundred taken at Camden and other places, within thirteen months more than 800 had died. The frightful conditions of the prisons drove 530 to enlist with the British. Of the remainder, but 740 were alive when a general exchange took place in June 1781.

Dr. Oliphant, Medical Director of the Southern Department, wrote the following letter of complaint to General William Moultrie, also a prisoner:

                                “Charleston, November 14, 1780.

“Dear General:- I send by the bearer the few articles you request. Enclosed is the return of our sick for last month; the mortality is great. By much the greater number of deaths happened to those patients from on board the prison ships. Within these three days there is an appearance of jail fever, from the ship “Concord”. She has been a prison ship throughout the summer. No less than nine of the sick sent from that ship died in the space of 24 hours; all of them bearing the appearance of putrid, malignant fever. The unfortunate sufferers are the militiamen sent from Camden.

I have no person to look up to but you, Sir; therefore I crave and entreat your assistance.”

                                    I am,    Dr. Oliphant.

General Moultrie wrote a letter to Lt. Col. Balfour, commanding, in which he said:

“I must begin by calling on your humanity, and request you, for God’s sake, to permit Dr. Oliphant to attend the hospital whenever he shall judge it necessary;” and more in a similar strain. Balfour made a reasonable reply, and said that he had ordered the prisoners on shore.

It appears that Dr. Oliphant was not in actual charge of the Continental hospital at Charleston, but had entrusted that duty to Dr. Peter Fayssoux, a chief physician and surgeon in the Southern Department. Dr. Fayssoux later wrote a letter to Dr. Ramsey in which he described the treatment of prisoners and sick. This letter is published in General Moultrie’s Memoirs. Somewhat abbreviated, it reads as follows:


“Sir: In compliance with your request, I now send you some of the remarkable facts relative to the treatment of American prisoners, the sick in particular, received during their captivity in Charleston. The Director General (Dr. Oliphant) having been confined, the immediate charge of the American hospitals devolved on me. I can therefore answer for the truth of the account, as every circumstance was within my knowledge.

        *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

After the defeat of General Gates our sufferings commenced. The unhappy men who belonged to the militia, and were taken prisoners on Gates defeat, experienced the first effects of the cruelty of the new system. These men were confined on board of prison ships, in no means proportionate to the size of the vessels; immediately after a march of 120 miles, in the sickly season of this unhealthy climate.”

The vessels were in general infected with the small-pox, very few of the prisoners had gone through that disorder. A representation was made to the British commandant, and permission was obtained for one of our surgeons to inoculate them. This was the utmost extent of humanity—the wretched objects were still confined on board of the prison ships and fed on salt provisions, without the least medical aid, or any proper kind of nourishment. The effect that naturally followed was a smallpox with a fever of the putrid type; and to such as survived the small-pox, a putrid dysentery—and from these causes, the deaths of at least 150 of the unhappy victims. Such was the appearance and such the termination of the cases brought to the general hospital after the irruption of the small-pox; before the irruption, not a single individual was suffered to be brought on shore. If anything can surpass the above relation in barbarity it is the following:

The Continental troops, by the articles of Capitulation, were to be detained prisoners in some place contiguous to Charleston; the barracks were pitched on as the proper place; this was agreed to by both parties. * * * * * * * * Confined in large numbers on board these vessels, and fed on salt provisions, they naturally generated a putrid fever from the human miasma. This soon became highly contagious. The sick brought into the general hospital from the prison ships generally died in the course of two or three days, with all the marks of a septic state. Application was made to the British Commissary of Prisoners, and the vast increase of the number of deaths, pointed out * * * * * * * * *

In consequence of this, Mr. Fisher, our Commissary, and Mr. Fraser, who acted as British Deputy Commissary, were ordered to inspect the vessels. This report confirmed the truth of what had been advanced * * * * * * * * * . My hopes


were sanguine, but they were frustrated by a person from whom I did not expect it. Dr. John McNamara Hayes, physician to the British Army, who had been taken at the capture of Burgoyne, who had received the politest treatment from the Americans when a prisoner * * * * * *, was ordered to report on the state of the prisoners. To my astonishment, he replied that the ships were not crowded, perfectly wholesome and no appearance of infections or disorders amongst the prisoners!

I then determined to make one more effort. * * * * * I had two dead bodies kept in the area of the hospital, and upon Dr. Haye's daily visit, I remarked to him the appearance of the subjects, whose bodies were highly tinged with a yellow suffusion, petechiated over the breast and trunk, with considerable ecchymoses. I inquired if it was possible to doubt the nature of the disorder, and expressed surprise at the report he had made. The words of his reply were “that the confinement of the prisoners in prison ships was the great eyesore, and there was no help for it, that it must be done.” The disorder in consequence continued until the cold weather. The number of deaths, joined with the number that were compelled by the treatment to enlist with the British, removed in a great measure, the cause.

The hospital at this time was reduced to the greated distress imagineable, the sick without clothing, covering, or any necessary, but one pound of beef and bread, very little sugar, no wine, and rarely a small allowance of rum. * * * * *

It was scarcely possible for men to support such an accumulated load of misery; but when least expected, a relief was administered to us. A subscription for the support of the sick was filled by people (of the city) of every denomination with amazing rapidity. Several of the ladies of Charleston, laying aside the distraction of Whig and Tory, were instrumental and assiduous in procuring and preparing every necessity of clothing and proper nourishment for our poor, worn out, and desponding soldiers. * * * * * *.”

                        I am sir, with esteem, yours * * *

                            Peter Fayssoux.

It is of interest to compare the diseases in military prisons, as well as the general treatment of military prisoners at that time, with conditions today. The world does move.

In September, Cornwallis sent Major Fergusson, an energetic partisan leader, on a foraging expedition to the foothills of the West. Fergusson had about 100 regulars and 900 militia, recruited in the Carolinas. This expedition had been likened to Baum’s Bennington raid, and had a similar outcome. He


was attacked by a thousand mountain militia (Colonial) at King’s Mountain on October 7th, and his command annihilated. Fergusson and 156 of his command were killed, 153 badly wounded and about 700 captured. There are ugly stories of hanged prisoners that will not down. The British had previously hanged Americans. The Colonials lost but 28, killed, and 62, wounded. Two British surgeons were reported killed, and one captured. This disaster was in a measure due to sickness which almost entirely disabled the Regular British forces. Cornwallis wrote later that Fergusson obtained his permission to go into the West “while the sickness of my army prevented my moving”.

Following this rude check, the Noble Lord retired to the Waxhaws on October 13th., where he, himself, fell a prey to the prevailing fever. On October 24th, Lord Rawdon wrote to General Leslie, saying, “Lord Cornwallis not being sufficinetly recovered from a severe fever, which lately attacked him, to be able to write to you, * * *”. On October 29th, he was still unable to write; but by November 12, he had recovered, and moved forward to take up a position at Wynnesborough, South Carolina. Gates was still at Hillsboro with a miserable travesty on an army.

Dr. James Browne, Chief Physician and Surgeon of the Southern Dept., made a report and return from the principal hospital, at Hillsborough, North Carolina, on November 5, 1780. He complained to Dr. Shippen that he had no supplies except a few blankets; no wine, but little sugar and spirits, and no continental money. He entreated for assistance, and especially for money. His list of medical officers was as follows:

    Dr. James Browne, Surgeon General.
    Dr. Robt. Johnston, Surgeon and Purveyor.
    Dr. Joseph Vickers, Physician and Surgeon.
        Wm. Reed, Physician and Surgeon.
        Abraham Gillett, Physician and Surgeon.
        John L. Elbert, Junior Surgeon.
        Wm. Smith, Junior Surgeon.
        — Gillett, Mate.
        John Wilson, Mate.
        Joseph Prescott, Apothecary.


Alexander and two others were mates in the militia hospital at Charlotte. Included in the return were four female nurses. The hospitals were at various places.

    Hillsborough. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   67    (of which 7 were officers)
    Salisbury . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 200
    Light horsemen. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   90    (places not given) probably Charlotte
    Guilford, C. H.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   50                   
    Regimental huts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   50    Hillsborough.
        Total . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .         357
Diseases named were mostly intermittents and dysentery. Dr. Shippen forwarded this letter to Congress on November 27, saying he had sent Dr. Jackson to Virginia to establish hospitals at or near Richmond, instructed to call on Dr. Bond, the Purveyor, for cash and stores. He stated that he had also sent Dr. Barnabas Binney to relieve Dr. Gould, who was attending the sick at Petersburg, and promising to order mates from Jersey soon. His letter was addressed to T. Bland, Esq.

At the reorganization of the Hospital Department, September 30, 1780, Dr. William Rickman of Virginia was left out.. By this scheme the Medical Director of Hospitals was given authority over all hospitals “to the northward of North Carolina.” Virginia was thus included in the general scheme, but the Carolinas still remained independent. As their entire hospital department had been captured by the enemy this was of no great importance.

When at the beginning of 1781 Lafayette and Wayne were sent to Virginia, a number of hospital surgeons and mates were transferred to that theatre of war, and on July 1, 1781, the principal hospital was moved from Charleston to Williamsburg. Dr. David Gould of Virginia seems to have assumed general charge in that quarter and was made deputy director of hospitals. Finally, on March 22, 1781, a deputy director of military hospitals in the Southern Department was authorized by Congress, to be subject to the general jurisdiction of the Hospital Department. So in the last year of actual warfare the authority of the Medical Director was extended over all the armies and all the colonies.


On March 27, Dr. N. Brownson of Georgia was elected deputy purveyor of the Southern Army. A little later he was elected governor of Georgia and compelled to resign this position in the army. On September 20, 1781, Dr. Thomas T. Tucker and Dr. Samuel Vickers were made, the one physician and the other a surgeon in the hospital for the Southern Department. Daniel Smith was made assistant deputy purveyor, and John Cams a deputy apothecary.

Other medical men who took a prominent part in the war in the South were: Dr. Lyman Hall3 of Georgia, Dr. David Ramsay4 of South Carolina, and Dr. Hugh Williamson of North Carolina. Dr. Theodoric Bland5 of Virginia was an active patriot of the times, prominent both in civil and military affairs. As no large army was ever assembled in the southern colonies, the principal armies and activities being always to the north, medical affairs in these colonies do not assume great prominence. The one great event was the capture of Cornwallis, accomplished by a portion of the main Continental Army, aided by the French and by a body of Virginia militia.

General Gates held a council of war at Hillsborough on November 25, which being assembled, he acquainted the officers that:

“The want of forage and provisions, * * * ; the increasing sickness and the unwholesome situation of the camp; the want of proper accomodations for the sick; the want of hospital stores and proper stores necessary for sick soldiers * * *, had induced him to call the council.”

This council was somewhat like the one called after the battle before Santiago in 1898; intended to decide what could be done to save the army. It was determined that the army should go into camp at Charlotte. A return of that date showed 431, sick.
                                                                          Off.    Enl.    Sick    Absent
Continental Brigade. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38    708    236       208
Morgan's Brigade. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   27   403      35         11
Davidson's Militia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    71   802    160       250

                                                                         136  1,909    431       469


The total for duty is 2,045. Twenty percent of the force was sick, probably more.

On December 2, General Nathaniel Greene arrived at Charlotte and took over the command from Gates. Coming from the main army in the North, not too well equipped and supplied, the Southern army presented a pitiable appearance to him.

On December 7, Greene wrote to Washington:-

“Nothing can be more wretched and distressing than the condition of the troops, starving with cold and hunger, without tents or equipage. Those of the Virginia line are literally naked, and a great part totally unfit for any kind of duty, and must remain so until clothing can be had from the Northward. I have written to Governor Jefferson not to send forward anymore until they are well clothed and properly equipped.”

Lord Cornwallis was then at Wynnsboro in South Carolina, with fortified posts at Camden and Ninety-six.

On December 16, Greene says the hospital was moved to Salisbury. The troops were in miserable condition. On the 28th he again wrote to Washington, saying among other things:

“I will not pain your Excellency with further accounts of the wants and sufferings of this army; But I am not without great apprehension of its entire dissolution unless the Commissary’s and Quarter Master departments can be rendered more competent to the demands of the service. Nor is the clothing and hospital departments upon a better footing. Not a shilling in the pay chest & &.“

On December 28, 1780, General Greene divided his little army of two thousand men; going to the Cheraws with the main body, he left General Daniel Morgan with his rifle battalion and some militia at the forks of the Broad River. On January 17, 1781, the redoubtable Tarleton attacked him at the Cowpens, but was disastrously defeated, losing 210 killed, and 680 prisoners, from a force of about a thousand. Tarleton was the most hated and feared of all the British leaders in the South. Morgan's victory, almost as complete as that over Fergusson, was hailed with greatest satisfaction. However, Cornwallis had been reinforced and advanced rapidly on Morgan, who with Greene retreated with the utmost speed across all North Carolina, not


halting until they had crossed the Dan River at the Virginia border. This retreat, in midwinter, over bottomless roads and across swollen river, entailed great hardships on the poorly clad soldiers.

Greene in turn received some reinforcements and turned back to meet the enemy at Guilford Courthouse, now Greensboro. His army was unable to stand the disciplined attack of the British army, but he inflicted such loss (about 500) that Cornwallis found it necessary to march to the sea coast. Greene had 93 killed and 413 wounded. After the fight, a thousand of his militia retired to their homes. A few days later, Cornwallis, leaving his sick at New Garden Quaker Meeting House, marched to Wilmington, reaching there April 7th. This battle marked the end of his campaigning in the Southern Colonies. He now proceeded to the North, while Greene marched to the South; and there was seen the strange spectacle of two opposing armies marching away from each other as rapidly as possible. Events showed that Greene's guess was the better one.

At Hobkirk’s Hill, near Camden, he met Lord Rawdon in a hard fought battle, from which he was again obliged to retreat. Each had about 1,000 men and lost about one fourth of that number. Both armies now had to retire to the hill country during the hot and sickly summer. On September 8th, 1781, they once more met, for the last pitched battle of the war. At Eutaw Springs, Greene appeared to loose the field, but lost only 454 to the British 698; and, a few days later the British retired to the vicinity of Charleston. Greene, while losing every battle, except the Cowpens, had regained practically the whole of the Carolinas. Meanwhile, Cornwallis had marched northward from Wilmington, reaching Petersburg May 20, and Williamsburg, June 25th.




All prisoners from May 12, 1780, to last of 1781.

David Oliphant, Director.
Peter Fayssoux, Physician and Surgeon.
Thomas T. Tucker, Physician and Surgeon.
James Houston, Physician and Surgeon.
Henry C. Flagg, Surgeon, 1st Regiment.
Joseph Blythe, Surgeon N. C. Regiment.
Andrew Smith, Senior Surgeon.
James Lockiman, Senior Surgeon.
James West, Senior Surgeon.
Wm. S. Stevens.
Ephraim Brevard.
John E. Payos, Jr.
James Hunter.
Joseph Hall Ramsay.
John Caine, Apothecary.
Evan Lewis, Deputy Apothecary.
Richard Mercer, Purveyor.
Bellamy Cranford, Clerk.
Dan Smith, Clerk.


Hugh Williamson was born in Pennsylvania in 1735, of Ulster-Scotch parentage. His education was excellent. He entered the first class at the Philadelphia Academy, and received his A. B. in 1757. He soon after began some theological studies, and in 1759 removed to Connecticut, where he was licensed to preach. In 1760 he received the A. M. degree from the Philadelphia College, and was appointed professor of mathematics in that School. In 1763 he resigned this position, and in 1764 proceeded to Edinburgh for the purpose of studying medicine. Later he studied in London and in Holland, receiving his M. D. from the University of Utrecht. He returned to America and practiced medicine in Philadelphia for some years, but took an important part in the proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. In 1772-3 he made a tour of the West Indies and of Great Britain, in behalf of the Academy of Newark. Going to London in 1774 he soon found himself involved in the attempts at reconciliation. He made a tour through the Low Countries, but on learning of the Declaration of Independence returned to America, in March 1777. The army was at that time complete, so that no suitable place in the medical staff could be found for him. The next year he removed to North Carolina, and in 1778 conducted a smallpox hospital at Newbern. The Southern Army having been captured at Charles-


ton, a force of 5000 militia was called out by North Carolina, and Dr. Williamson was made the chief medical officer of this force. He took part in the battle of Camden (August 8, 1780), and went within the British lines to treat his wounded countrymen. In 1782 he became a member of the North Carolina House arid was soon elected a member of Congress. In 1787 he was again chosen a member of Congress. He then retired from public office. In 1812 he published a history of North Carolina. in two volumes. He also wrote many shorter observations and papers. He died in 1819.


Dr. Lyman Hall was born in Connecticut in 1731 and was a graduate of Yale College. Accompanied by forty families from New England he removed to Sunbury, Medway, Georgia, there to practice medicine, but was soon engaged in politics, he was a member of the Georgia Provincial Congress of 1774-75, and a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1775-6. He was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, but in the same year left Congress to become Governor of Georgia. When the British took Georgia his property was confiscated and he was obliged to return North.


David Ramsay was born of Ulster-Scotch parents in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, April 2nd, 1749. He graduated at the College of New Jersey in 1765; studied medicine at the College of Pennsylvania in 1772, and practised medicine in Maryland. In 1773 he emigrated to Charleston, South Carolina. He carried with him a letter from Dr. Rush stating that he, Ramsay, was “far superior to any person we ever graduated at our college.” He rose to eminence in his profession in the State; he also took a leading part in the stirring public affairs of the time. Tie was enthusiastic and steadfast in his support of the cause of independence even in its darkest hours. He attended the army for some time, and was present at the siege of Savannah. lie was a member of the legislature from 1776 to the end of the war; was a member of the Privy Council, and was among those sent to St. Augustine during the British occupation. In 1782 he was elected a member of the Continental Congress, and in 1785 was elected to represent the Charleston district in Congress. John Hancock being absent he was chosen president pro tem, and presided over that body for an entire year. He was an author as well as a physician and statesman. In 1785 his History of the Revolution in South Carolina was published. About the same time he was preparing a History of the American Revolution, which was published hi 1790. In 1801 Dr. Ramsay published a Life of Washington, and in 1808 a History of South Carolina. lIe published other lesser works and left extensive unfinished manuscripts on his death, May 8, 1815.



Theodoric Bland was born in Prince George County, Virginia, in 1742, educated in England, and a graduate of the famous medical school of Edinburgh. He returned to America in 1764 and practiced medicine in Virginia until the beginning of the American Revolution. On June 14, 1776, he was commissioned captain of a company of Light Dragoons arid later promoted to the rank of major. On November 1 he was made colonel of the 1st Continental Dragoons, but soon afterward resigned.