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 deaths from disease in the 13th Mass. Infantry (Col. S. H. Leonard) was the smallest among the three-year regiments of the entire army. ‘There were regiments with a smaller number of deaths from disease, but they were two-year regiments, or carried a less number of names on their rolls.’ This is the remark of Col. W. F. Fox in his invaluable book, Regimental Losses in the Civil War;1 but when he adds, ‘The extraordinary exemption from disease ... would indicate that the regiment was composed of superior material,’ he forgets to recognize that it must have been also well officered. Nothing is more deceptive among military statistics than the mere number of killed in battle; this may proceed from the superior daring of a commander or simply from his carelessness and incapacity; but a small death-roll from disease is pretty sure to be due to the care of the commander and the surgeons. The high character of the Massachusetts surgeons was generally recognized, from the days of Dr. Luther V. Bell onward; and many instances of their self-devotion have been recorded in these pages.2 It was found easier, however, to secure the aid of first-class surgeons at the beginning of the war than at the end; and it was latterly necessary to introduce into the service a good many of what were called ‘contract surgeons,’ who did not perhaps come quite up to the level of their predecessors. In the earlier days great aid was given in the care of the Massachusetts regiments by a soldiers' agency, established at Washington under the auspices of Col. Gardner W. Tufts of Lynn, this being first instituted on the arrival of the 6th Regiment with its wounded, April 19, 1861, and afterwards expanding until it included not merely the oversight of the Massachusetts men in the sixty hospitals in and near Washington, but also in the camps and on the battlefields within reach, including the sound as well as the disabled. The names of 36,151 sick or wounded soldiers from the State were recorded at the Washington agency, and the expense to the Massachusetts treasury was some $35,000.3 The service of the chaplains in the field ought properly to rank next to that of the surgeons, but this was not always the case. The whole position of the chaplain in our army was not only difficult but anomalous, in this respect at least. In a little world ruled by clockwork, where in the ordinary
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