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Edward Hutchinson Robbins Revere.

Assistant Surgeon 20th regiment Mass. Vols. (Infantry), September 10, 1861; killed at Antietam, September 17, 1862.

A Printed memorial of Dr. Revere seems proper only as part of a design which has a wider and more public purpose than the memory of an individual. He is remembered without a printed or written sentence, by truthful words, kind deeds, steadfast friendships, faithful services, and manly honor,—as widely as he would wish, and in the only way he would desire. Even had his life found less completion, and had he not been permitted in its closing years to show how nobly and usefully he could plan, and how much and how well he could accomplish, he would yet have desired to be remembered only by what he had done.

Edward Hutchinson Robbins Revere, son of Joseph W. and Mary (Robbins) Revere, and grandson of Paul Revere of Revolutionary memory, was born at Boston, Massachusetts, July 23, 1827. He was a boy of active temperament and cheerful temper. He had a robust constitution, was ardently fond of the sports of the field and river, and his love of country life was almost a passion. He loved the country, and the country loved and strengthened him, and gave him vigor of frame and fulness of stature. This, however, prevented his receiving the strict course of city schooling, and he attended different rural schools, receiving his final preparation for college from Mrs. Ripley of Waltham.

He entered the undergraduate department of Harvard University in 1843, but left it to begin his professional studies in Boston, in January, 1846, and finally took his medical degree in 1849, at the Harvard Medical School.

In August of the same year he went to Paris, where he remained a year, devoting himself with his fullest energies and [116] the most constant application to the prosecution of his medical studies. Before he returned home he visited the South of France, travelled through England, went to Dublin, and finally visited Scotland, the country which, from early boyhood, he had most wished to see. From his early years he had felt great enthusiasm for Scott's novels and verses, which in after days extended more widely over Scotch poetry. This poetry he loved to quote, and he spoke oftener of what he had seen in Scotland than in any other place.

Dr. Revere returned from abroad fully determined upon a country life, and immediately began to look for a place where he could engage in his profession. He fixed upon Greenfield, Massachusetts, where he opened an office in August, 1850. In the fall of 1851 he married Miss Laura P. Jordan of Canton, Massachusetts, who, with their only daughter, now survives him.

In Greenfield his remarkable facility in forming acquaintances soon made him a home, in which he seemed like an old resident, and was surrounded with warm friends. His skill, kindness, and tender care and nursing, gave him the confidence and attachment of his patients, and the friendship of the neighborhood. The eager solicitude with which the people of Greenfield, after his death, sought to know the least fact in regard to his last days, was just the tribute to his memory he would have desired from them.

Dr. Revere afterwards returned to the eastern part of the State to reside, and spent the two years preceding the war with and near his father's family, filling up his time with the kindest efforts and services for those about him, always engaging in whatever came to him in his profession with such zeal and sympathy as to win the affection of all who received his attentions; and even now, expressions of gratitude from one and another person, whom he in those years relieved, come often to gratify his family and friends.

The war for the union, government, and institutions of our country now broke out, and Dr. Revere, true to his descent, his education, and his principles, looked to know where he [117] was most needed. Perhaps he felt that the time had come when he could usefully employ all his physical and mental powers upon a field such as he had long desired, but had not found. He well knew that in his profession in the army he could not look for fame, and that at best all he could reap would be the reflection that he had been useful, and the happiness always brought by duty performed.

Dr. Revere at once brought his practical mind to bear upon plans for securing to our sick and wounded soldiers the necessary medical skill and care. He saw that physicians from the smaller towns must, to a large extent, be relied on to fill the position of regimental surgeon. He felt that they, like himself, needed some special preparation for such duty. A large experience of surgical accidents they could not often have had, while their toilsome daily labor had usually left them but little time for systematic study.

It was owing to his personal efforts, in view of these facts, that the special lectures in Boston on Military Surgery, which proved at that moment so valuable, were given. Coming to the city, he spared no exertion to urge upon the medical authorities the pressing need of such teaching, and readily obtained their consent. He had been anxious to express before the Society for Medical Improvement his sense of the importance of early professional action, to insure a supply of capable regimental surgeons; but being himself unable to remain in town long enough for this purpose, he persuaded one of his friends to bring forward the subject, the result being, that several leading surgeons were appointed to approach the State government in the matter. It is well known that the members of this committee were immediately, through the wise action of the Executive, constituted the State Medical Commission, and that no medical appointment was conferred till they, after full examination, had approved the candidate. To Dr. Revere belongs exclusively the credit of originating this plan.

Dr. Revere had at first proposed entering the service as an Assistant Surgeon in the Navy, and had received a permission (waiving the objection of his age) for examination for [118] that position, but he was offered a position as Assistant Surgeon of the Twentieth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers, of which regiment his brother, Paul J. Revere, was then Major, and he promptly accepted it. He was sworn into service on the 14th of September, 1861, and joined his regiment on the 17th of the same month near Poolsville in Maryland. He immediately entered upon the duties of his post, and with Dr. Nathan Hayward, the Surgeon of the regiment, and Dr. Henry Bryant, Brigade Surgeon, established a brigade hospital, where he treated with great skill and fidelity a large number of sick, the measles having become an epidemic in the brigade.

On the 20th of October, 1861, he joined a battalion ordered to Harrison's Island in the Potomac, preliminary to the battle of Ball's Bluff. When, about noon of the next day, the reconnoitring party which had crossed into Virginia on the night of the 20th, was by order of Colonel Baker reinforced, Dr. Revere accompanied a battalion of the Twentieth, under command of his brother, Major Revere, and reported for service on the Bluff, which was to be the scene of the contest.

During the first three or four hours of the final action of that day, Dr. Revere had his post a few feet in rear of the line of battle, being at all times under the fire of the enemy. The only assistance which he had was from his hospital steward, with such remedies and appliances as the hospital knapsack afforded. No other medical officer was on the field during the day.

This was Dr. Revere's first experience upon the battle-field. His cool, self-possessed deportment, his well-directed energy, and his self-forgetfulness were remarked by all who observed him. He had his post beside a narrow path which led from the Bluff to the river-side, where he gave such care to the wounded as their immediate necessities required, so that their lives could be saved; and they were then sent across the river for better attention and care. The wounded were very numerous, and Dr. Revere's duties were, of course, very arduous, immediate and rapid treatment being required to get the wounded across the river alive. They showed, however, when [119] they came under more deliberate care, that Dr. Revere's duties had been well and tenderly done.

When, after the disastrous battle was over, Dr. Revere arrived at the river, two boats only were left for the survivors, both well and hurt. These boats soon becoming useless, he, with a few others, passed up the river to seek other means of escape. He was active in the endeavor to prepare for the transportation of the party in a small boat found near a flourmill, about half a mile from the battle-field, but they were driven from it by a demonstration of the enemy's cavalry. This was the same boat which, after dark on the same day, was found by Captains Tremblett and Bartlett, and in which they escaped to the opposite bank of the river. He also aided in the preparation of a raft for the same purpose, which, from the water-soaked condition of the rails of which it was constructed, sank under the weight of one man.

In the course of the evening Dr. Revere and his companions were captured by the enemy's cavalry, and taken to Leesburg; from which place, at two o'clock the next morning, they began to march toward Richmond. The rain fell in torrents during the whole day. Neither Revere nor his companions had eaten anything for thirty-six hours; and they now marched twenty-seven miles, through mud and rain, without subsistence of any kind, save one ration of half-cooked bread and bacon, to Manassas Junction. On Thursday morning, at about eleven o'clock, the detachment of prisoners reached Richmond, having been three days and three nights without any substantial food.

In Richmond the officers were placed in a tobacco warehouse, there being from seventy-five to eighty officers confined in a room some sixty feet wide by seventy or eighty feet long. Dr. Revere's solicitude and care for the invalids, his uninterrupted cheerfulness and kindness, won for him the respect and love of all. Said one who was confined with him: ‘He was the only man who never spoke an irritable word. The Confederate officers even treated him with great respect, and gave him their confidence, on account of his gentlemanly deportment and manly bearing.’ [120]

With Dr. Fletcher of Indiana, he was permitted to leave the prison on parole, to look after our sick and wounded in the various hospitals. Their services to our wounded, sick, and suffering men were most timely and valuable,—procuring for them, as these surgeons often did, from their private means, many delicate and nourishing articles, not found in the prison rations. Our men were sick, wounded, neglected, dejected, almost without hope. His courageous, cheerful kindness roused and cheered their spirits; and the promise of preparing them to be removed gave them new life. At the end of three weeks, two hundred of them were, under his superintendence, embarked from Richmond for home. These services were especially appreciated by our men, and are still well remembered.

He wrote from Richmond to his wife: ‘No one could believe that there could be such a change in the appearance of patients, as there was in the sick here, from merely knowing that we were Yankee doctors. The patients sick with typhoid fever showed it more than any others. Although there was no material change in the treatment, it seemed to brighten them up, and a few words of encouragement did them more good than any medicine, and I think the whole disease took a favorable turn from our first visit; for there has been only one death out of one hundred and ninety-six patients, in the last ten days, and that was a man who was wounded at Manassas.’

While devoting himself to these men, Dr. Revere was enabled to be of service to other prisoners,—loyal private citizens from West Virginia. These men were, if possible, in a more miserable condition, and suffered more from neglect, than the prisoners from the North. When Dr. Revere proposed to minister to them, the Confederate officers said, ‘Don't mind them, they are of no consequence: they are some of our traitors.’ But the Doctor kept on, and did for them what he could. They, with our own men, remembered these services with gratitude; and often afterwards, while he was at home as a paroled prisoner, some poor fellow came to thank him. He sincerely reciprocated this attachment of all the prisoners. [121] November 23d he wrote: ‘Yesterday a large party of prisoners left for the South,—Alabama, I believe,—and twenty of the officers confined here went with them. One would hardly believe how hard it was to part with them: it seemed really like breaking up a family.’

Dr. Revere, while in Richmond, became thoroughly convinced of what the country now knows, that there was a systematic determination among the Confederates to let our prisoners perish from neglect, and that this determination was stronger and more relentless against the loyal found among themselves than against Union prisoners.

Ten days after Dr. Revere arrived at Richmond, his brother, Major Paul J. Revere, was taken as one of the hostages for the privateersmen who were to be tried as pirates by our government. The fate of the privateersmen was to be the fate of the hostages. The order of the Confederate government in regard to them was, that they should be confined and treated in all respects like persons convicted of infamous crimes. It is difficult now to recall what was the feeling of the country then. Intelligent people could look upon these privateersmen in no other light than as pirates, and felt that, be the consequences what they might, it was beneath the dignity of our government to treat them otherwise. At this time Dr. Revere wrote home: ‘Paul and the other officers left us last Thursday for the jail, to await the trial of the privateersmen. There were seven in all from here, the rest of the fourteen being either in South Carolina or New Orleans. They are confined in one small cell, with two small windows. I hear from them every day, but am not allowed to see them. You can imagine our anxiety to hear what action the government will take when they hear of their imprisonment, for there is not the slightest doubt in my mind that whatever is done to the privateersmen will be meted out to our unfortunate comrades.’

Yet he preserved his calm equanimity, and exhibited only the same cheerful and encouraging deportment to all about him. Said one of them, ‘He met it better than any of us.’ Yet, after his return home, he admitted that the agony of solicitude [122] which he then endured had brought upon him a more serious tone of mind, which could never be removed.

Dr. Revere remained a prisoner in Richmond about four months, being released February 22, 1862, as a paroled prisoner of war. He returned home for a brief period, awaiting his exchange, which took place the last of the following April. He immediately set out for his regiment, and on the 2d of May reported for duty in the lines before Yorktown. He accompanied the Army of the Potomac in its advance upon Richmond, and was with his regiment at the battle of West Point, as also at the battle of Fair Oaks, May 31st and June 1st.

The casualties in this last battle were immense, five thousand seven hundred and thirty men having been killed and wounded during the two days fight. When the battle terminated, the Twentieth Massachusetts found itself considerably in advance, surrounded by the killed and wounded of the enemy. Of the wounded were officers of high rank, among whom were General Pettigru, and Colonel Bull of Georgia. The medical labors were of course very arduous; and it was not until the middle of the night that a medical officer could be spared to take care of the wounded in and around the front line.

As soon as the wounded of his regiment, who had been left in the rear, had been attended to, Dr. Revere hastened to the front, to take care of the wounded of the enemy. Here again, as at Ball's Bluff, he was the only medical officer present; and he gave his patient labors and skill to the care of the suffering, binding up wounds, and administering opiates to those mortally injured, with unremitting attention, never leaving such a patient until everything—the arrangement of the blanket, the rough couch, the position in every particular—had been carefully attended to, so that the last moments of the dying might be as comfortable as possible. There was a cheerfulness and kindness in the performance of his duty which brought many an expression of gratitude from those in the greatest agony.

The month of June was passed in and about Fair Oaks, in weather very unfavorable to health. Diarrhoea, scurvy, and [123] malarial diseases, induced by the weather and exposure, prostrated the whole army. During this period the sick report of the Twentieth Massachusetts one morning contained the names of two hundred and twenty-one men,—more than one half of the regiment,—who were affected by the above diseases. How arduous must have been the duties of the Assistant Surgeon during this time can well be conceived.

Toward the last of June the Army of the Potomac began its perilous march in retreat to the James River. The Second Corps, of which the Massachusetts Twentieth was a part, constituted the rear guard, and upon it devolved the task of fighting all day and marching all night. The regiment lost heavily in killed and wounded. The wounded were of course left upon the field; but Dr. Revere bestowed upon them every possible care and attention, to make them comfortable until they should be picked up by the enemy. His great physical strength here enabled him to aid many a poor fellow, not severely wounded, to get away from the enemy. More than once he was seen with one such unfortunate man at each shoulder, assisting them to a place of security. His labors and services during this march were wonderful. It is the testimony of one who was with him: ‘His labors and his usefulness to us, in assisting and encouraging the men, no one will ever know. About every other surgeon broke down under the duties.’ Said another: ‘After the seven days bloody work upon the Peninsula, at the battle of Malvern Hill he worked down nearly the whole medical force of the army, and performed more amputations and other operations than any other, as my surgeon told me, who worked at the hospital with him.’

The services of Dr. Revere upon the Peninsula were appreciated by the medical officers of the army. His ‘zeal, ability, courage, and discretion’ were stated, and he was recommended to promotion to a Surgeoncy by Dr. Dougherty, formerly Brigade Surgeon, Dana's Brigade, and Senior Reserve Surgeon, Sedgwick's Division; Dr. D. W. Hand, Brigade Surgeon, Gorman's Brigade; and Dr. John A. Lidell, Surgeon and Medical Director, Second Corps. [124]

After the army reached the James River, the malarial poisons began again to develop their effects upon the systems of the men. Dr. Revere, though himself a sufferer from disease, would not yield to its debilitating effects, but continued with the army in the zealous and faithful discharge of his duties. He accompanied the Army of the Potomac when it moved north to join the forces in front of Washington, where the Twentieth Massachusetts, toward the last of August, was present at Chantilly, the closing combat of General Pope's disastrous campaign.

After the disasters under General Pope, the regiment fell back with the army across the Potomac to Tenallytown, in order to move upon the enemy, who had crossed the Upper Potomac into Maryland.

On the 17th of September, 1862, Dr. Revere accompanied his regiment in its advance under General Sumner, to follow up the charge of General Hooker upon the enemy's troops under General Lee. The latter general had taken position for the battle on the heights in front of Sharpsburg, between that place and the Antietam River. The Twentieth Massachusetts was in the hottest of the fight, and lost very heavily. Dr. Revere, as usual, followed close to the line, being of opinion that his duty to his men required him to be as near as possible, in case of any casualty, so that they should receive immediate attention. He had said that morning, as he was marching to the field, ‘I mean that to-day no man in our regiment shall fall behind, and that every man shall do his duty.’ He attended to his surgical work, aided the wounded, and urged and encouraged the men. He was last seen alive about noon, calmly and industriously occupied in the strict line of his duty, in a spot where, part of our soldiers being faced to the rear, the bullets of both armies were flying over his head. As he raised himself from performing an operation upon a wounded man, he was pierced by a bullet, and sank and died upon the field of battle, just one year from the day he joined his regiment. His body was left on the field, but was afterwards recovered, and buried at Mount Auburn. [125]

Dr. Revere, in all his army practice, aimed to save both life and limb. He never permitted an amputation where he thought that there was a hope that skill, care, and patience could avert that necessity. More than once since his death have his friends been touched and comforted by a soldier's holding up an arm or foot, and saying, ‘Dr. Revere saved that for me. I should have lost it if I had not fallen into his care.’ He was led to perform his duties thus faithfully from the sense of a higher responsibility than his great reserve upon the subject permitted him to reveal.

Such is the memorial of one of the many sons whom Harvard University sent out to die upon the battle-field. Not one of them held his life more lightly in such a cause. Brave and courageous Nature made him. Gentle, honorable, and faithful he aimed to make himself, and he succeeded. Fame he did not ask for, and he knew it could hardly follow, however well he might discharge the arduous and perilous duties which he assumed. If this testimonial shall give to any one a juster appreciation of the debt the country owes to the medical staff of the army, it will be a service which he would have rejoiced to be the means of procuring.

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