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[128] the battle, there was a great deficiency in tents, and a sad want of most of the necessities of a hospital both in food and furniture. This latter we attempted to fill so far as our limited resources would go. The want was incident to the campaign, and not the result of neglect. Another difficulty, inseparable from the campaign, was the small number of medical officers left upon the ground to take charge of the large number of wounded. The battle ended and the enemy on the retreat, the advance of our forces required the presence of a large proportion of the medical officers to meet the demands of another battle which seemed imminent. Those left behind had to divide their attention among our own wounded and those of the enemy who had fallen into our hands, the number of confederate surgeons left behind being inadequate to their care. In previous battles there has always been a full quota, if not the entire medical corps of the army, to attend to the wounded.

The labor, the anxiety, the responsibility imposed upon the surgeons after the battle of Gettysburgh, were from the position of affairs, greater than after any other battle of the war. The devotion, the solicitude, the unceasing efforts to remedy the defects of the situation, the untiring attentions to the wounded upon their part, were so marked as to be apparent to all who visited the hospitals. It must be remembered that these same officers had endured the privations and fatigues of the long forced marches with the rest of the army; that they had shared its dangers, for one medical officer from each regiment follows it into battle, and is liable to the accidents of war, as has been repeatedly and fatally the case; that its field hospitals are often, from the changes of the line of battle, brought under the fire of the enemy, and that while in this situation, these surgeons are called upon to exercise the calmest judgment, to perform the most critical and serious operations, and this quickly and continuously. The battle ceasing, their labors continue. While other officers are sleeping, renewing their strength for further efforts, the medical are still toiling. They have to improvise hospitals from the rudest materials, are obliged to make “bricks without straw,” to surmount seeming impossibilities. The work is unending, both by day and night, the anxiety is constant, the strain upon both the physical and mental faculties unceasing. Thus, after this battle, operators had to be held up while performing the operations, and fainted from exhaustion the operation finished. One completed his labors to be seized with partial paralysis, the penalty of his over-exertion.

While his duties are as arduous, his exposure as great, and the mortality from disease and injury as large as among staff-officers of similar rank, the surgeon has no prospect of promotion, of a brevet, or an honorable mention,to stimulate him. His duties are performed quietly, unostentatiously. He does his duty for his country's sake, for the sake of humanity. The consciousness of having nobly performed this great duty is well nigh his only, as it must ever be his highest reward. The medical corps of the army is well deserving of this slight tribute.


J. H. Douglas, Associate Secretary Sanitary Commission. Washington, D. C., August 15, 1863.

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