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Doc. 62. battle of Olustee, Florida.

Surgeon Majer's report.

Office Chief Medical officer, District of Florida, Jacksonville, Florida, February 24, 1864.
Surgeon Ebn. Swift, United States Army, Medical Director, Department of the South:
sir: It becomes my duty to report to-day the result of an engagement between our forces under the command of Brigadier-General T. Seymour and the enemy, occuring at a place known as Olustee, Fla., and distant from Jacksonville some forty or fifty miles, in a westerly direction, under the following circumstances: On the evening of February nineteenth, the general ordered his command to be in readiness, with several days' cooked rations, for a forward movement from Barber's Station, thirty-two miles from Jacksonville, on the Florida Central railroad. At daybreak, February twentieth, the command took its line of march on the road to Sanderson, with its cavalry brigade and Elder's battery, under command of Colonel Guy Henry, in the advance. Passing Sanderson, the general commanding was informed, that we should meet the enemy in force — as the information would have it, fifteen thousand strong — some miles this side of Lake City, but no reliance was placed on such dubious information, in regard to strength as well as position. About five miles further on, our advance reported some sixty or seventy skirmishers of the enemy, falling slowly back on the north side of the railroad, toward Lake City. A short distance from that point, our cavalry force, together with one company of the Seventh Connecticut volunteers, reported that they suspected the enemy to be directly in front. The general commanding gave the order to “halt,” and directed shells to be thrown through the Pine barren, as “feelers.” Hardly had the second shell departed when a compliment in the form of solid shot fell directly in front of the staff, a second one following on the first, and a third one passing closely over our heads. No time was to be lost to bring our guns into battery, and to throw companies of the Seventh Connecticut volunteers out as skirmishers on our right. The infantry line-of-battle was in cool promptness formed of the brigades commanded respectively by Colonels Barton, Forty-eighth New York volunteers, Hawley, Seventh Connecticut volunteers, and Montgomery, Second South Carolina volunteers. Soon our artillery-fire became hot and hotter, and the musketry incessant.

Looking about for a convenient “ambulance depot,” I rode on our right toward a couple of log houses — the only ones within miles — but found, on arriving, these houses so much exposed that, while inspecting them, I was in imminent danger, in the midst of heavy and light missiles, and, while the topographical condition barely offered a slight undulation of soil, there was no protection for a depot but the cover extension of the pine barren. About three hundred yards in the rear of our left, observing a cluster of pine trees, I directed our ambulances (twelve in number) to be drawn up in line, the surgeons preparing their instruments and appliances. And while the roar of the artillery and the musketry fire continued without intermission, our wounded men began to arrive, part walking, some on litters, and others in open ambulance wagons; as it were, first in single drops, then trickling, and after a while in a steady stream, increasing from a single row to a double and treble, and finally into a mass. In half an hour from the commencement stray shots, passing through the tall pines, and breaking their trunks like canes, admonished us to [460] remove the depot further to the rear, when within one mile we drew our ambulances up behind a small stream, and guarded in front by miry ground, thus securing a sufficiency of water, yet not of suitable protection against missiles from rifled guns.

For three hours, without a second's intermission, had the battle been raging, when suddenly, after a heavy artillery discharge, we heard from the front three lusty cheers, and the firing ceased abruptly. Our troops fell back about one mile, and I received the order to bring our wounded as far to the rear as we could reach with our (limited) transportation. Ambulances, caissons, army wagons, litters, single horses, carts, in short, every conceivable mode of carrying was made use of, to secure the large number of our wounded, and with a readiness which deserves high commendation, did everyone busy himself to excute the order. There was no depression of spirits manifested; on the contrary, the morale of the command expressed its brave determination in the words: “We will give it back to them!”

Our troops fell back to Barber's, under the protection of our cavalry brigade, which, during the battle, was quietly drawn up in the rear of our right and left.

Passing Sanderson, I sent the following telegrams:


To Surgeon in charge of Field Hospital at Barber's Station:
A large number of wounded. Prepare coffee, tea and beef soup.


Send immediately a train of cars, with bales of hay, lint, bandages and stimulants. Call on Sanitary Commission.

Dr. A. M.

We reached Barber's at midnight, and while, unhappily, some forty cases of badly wounded had to be left at the ambulance depot, near the battle-field (under charge of Assistant-Surgeon C. A. Defendorf, Forty-eighth New York volunteers, and twenty-three more at Sanderson, we had now, after dismounting two companies of cavalry, for the purpose of securing an additional eighty, to take care of and forward, by car and wagon, some eight hundred and sixty wounded, two hundred and fifteen of whom were at once delivered to the hospital ship “Cosmopolitan,” awaiting at wharf of Jacksonville. A list of the first shipment will be forwarded by the surgeon in charge of that steamer. A list of those admitted to the hospital in Jacksonville, from the surgeon in charge, William A. Smith, Forty-seventh New York volunteers, I hereby have the honor to transmit, together with a list of all casualties, as gathered from the surgeons in charge of brigades.

I beg leave to now add the following remarks: The expedition into Florida, and its occupation, we believed not to be a sauguinary one; no one expected, at least, a resistance so bold and stubborn, because no concentration of from twelve to fifteen thousand enemies was deemed possible, and our hospital preparations at the post, as well as in the field, had, up to the time of the engagement, remained a mere consolidated regimental affair in supplies. When, under those circumstances, the comparatively large number of cases have been well cared for, I feel it to be my duty to be thankful to the aid and assistance of the ever-ready and assiduous agent of the United States Sanitary Commission, Mr. A. B. Day, and to the untiring exertions of our worthy colleague, Surgeon William A. Smith, in charge of hospital. Under no ordinary circumstances should I have departed from the rule of not making requisition on the “Commission,” and unless such an emergency had arisen, in which our wants were urgent and large. Again, the very limited number of ambulances could, inside the department, not have been largely increased; therefore, transportation on army wagons and caissons could not well have been avoided; yet, in spite of these deficiencies, will any contribution to the “Surgical history of the war” speak but favorably of the manner in which the medical officers bore themselves, to the credit of the profession and administration. True, such could not have been the case were the character of the wounds in the majority grave; but, happily, the number of slight cases is large, showing, for the most part, wounds of the lower extremities, with but few cases of operations. Five hundred, at least, will be able for duty in less than four weeks, and our loss will, therefore, be mostly temporary. We have to regret the many casualties among officers, and the fact that we could not recover all our wounded, notwithstanding an effort to do so by requesting this privilege under a flag of truce. I made the proposition to the General commanding, who entertained the opinion that they might be well taken care of by the enemy, but he finally yielded to the request, which, unfortunately, was refused by our opponents. Meanwhile, the number of wounded at this post (including those of former encounters) has decreased to one hundred and sixty-five by transfer of cases to transport steamers “Cosmopolitan,” “Dictator” and “Delaware,” the former making within one week two trips to Hilton Head and Beaufort.

It is, perhaps, not out of place to recommend that no general hospital, beyond those already existing, be established; and especially that the general hospital at Jacksonville be merely conducted as a receiving depot, whence to forward to the above hospitals, adding thereto St. Augustine, Florida. The remoteness from the main depot of supplies of the department, with all its annoying and delaying consequences, and the readiness with which the returning empty transports can be employed for transportation of sick and wounded, brings me to this conclusion; and, while the interior of Florida, in regard to healthfulness among a larger command, is yet to be tested, there presents itself at the convalescent hospital, St. Augustine, a hospital [461] arrangement which, when completed, will meet all demands.of sanitary law, with no heavy expenses. Should the army of occupation advance toward Middle Florida, there will be an easy and quick communication with the delightful seaside of the old Spanish colony.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Dr. Adolf Majer, Surgeon United States Volunteers, &c.

Medical Director's office, April 3, 1864,
sir: In your report of the battle of Olustee, you mention having telegraphed Surgeon Smith, in charge of general hospital, Jacksonville, to forward you “lint, bandages, and stimulants,” and to “call on Sanitary Commission.” I desire you to inform me why your medical officers were not supplied with these highly essential articles before going into the engagement; and, as the chief medical officer, the Medical Director of the District of Florida, knowing the troops were about to be engaged, what provision did you make for having your medical officers furnished with everything required for the comfort of the wounded? Did you know Surgeon Smith could not procure the articles you wanted, without calling on the Sanitary Commission?

You will also state what “aid and assistance” the Sanitary Commission afforded you, and, to the best of your knowledge, the articles, and quantities, furnished by them.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Ebn. Swift, Surgeon, United States Army, Medical Director. Surgeon Adolf Majer, U. S. V.

Hilton head, South Carolina, April 3-4, 1864.
Surgeon Ebn. Swift, U. S. A., Medical Director:
sir: Having mentioned in my report of the battle of Olustee, that I telegraphed Surgeon Smith, in charge of general hospital, Jacksonville, to “forward lint, bandages and stimulants,” and to “call on Sanitary Commission,” you desire me only to-day (April third) to inform you “why my medical officers were not supplied with these highly essential articles before going into the engagement, and, as the chief medical officer, the Medical Director of the District of Florida, knowing the troops were about to be engaged, what provision did I (you) make to have my (your) medical officers furnished with everything required for the comfort of the wounded?” adding: “Did you know Surgeon Smith could not procure the articles you wanted, without calling on the Sanitary Commission?” and directing me to state “what aid and assistance the Sanitary Commission afforded me, and, to the best of my knowledge, the articles and quantities furnished by them?”

Regarding the information so desired to be strictly official, and too far from any necessity of an excuse on my part, I beg leave, in answer to the several questions, to state the following facts, conforming to and explaining my report: That up to the engagement at Olustee, our hospital arrangements in the field, as well as at the fort, had remained a mere consolidated affair of regiments in supplies.

Returning on February fourth, by steamer Fulton, from leave of absence, and, reporting for duty to the Medical Director, I was expected to proceed to St. Augustine, Florida, and reassume charge of the convalescent hospital. To this end I had already procured transportation, when I was recalled from the boat, and put to the alternative of relieving Surgeon S. W. Gross, United States Volunteers, on Folly and Morris Islands, or to be ready at once for an expedition (probably) into Florida. Expressing myself thankful, because of regarding it a favor, I declared my preference for the expedition, and was, on my request, by written order, directed to report to Brigadier-General T. Seymour, a general, from personal acquaintance, possessing the highest degree of confidence and esteem. Without delay, (nine o'clock P. M.,) reporting, I was ordered to call in the morning for instructions, and received, on so doing, on the morning of the fifth the wishes of the general, that, if possible, two ambulances to each regiment of the command be furnished, and nothing be wanting in supplies. Accordingly, I addressed the Medical Director of the department, and was answered in these words: “I shall attend to that — will be there myself,” and “the Cosmopoli tan can bring everything.” Thus positively assured that the Medical Director would personally see to it, I contented myself with procuring a list of the regiments under orders for the expedition, and of getting some information as to the qualities of any more prominent surgeons — an information, as far as it would go, readily given by Surgeon Craven, the Medical Purveyor.

In the course of the day the positive assurance that everything would be attended to by the Medical Director began to lose somewhat of its strength, from the direct inquiry of Surgeon Swift, “how many ambulances there were at Beaufort, South Carolina, and how many I had already?” The question “How many I had already?” ran in direct line against the assurance given me. The question, “How many there were at Beaufort?” I justly thought could better and more accurately be answered from the reports of my successor, the Chief of General Hospitals there, than from any “guess,” by a recollection since the month of September; and my doubts were certainly not dispelled by the circumstance, that when, by transport General Hunter, six ambulances from Beaufort had arrived, they were stripped and empty, and minus their horses — an oversight which, to remedy, the transport had to return to Beaufort, with my respectful caution: “be sure to not forget the harness.” Late in the evening the transport re-arrived at the Hilton Head wharf, and I ascertained then the neglect, that neither driver nor forage had come along; that the horses had not been fed or even watered, nor had any [462] buckets been furnished for it. My doubts as to a concerted action and foresight became, indeed, so far dominant, that before embarking with General Seymour on the Maple Leaf, I would fortify myself by the assurance of the Department Commander, “that the medical supplies should all be forwarded by the hospital steamer, then due from New York.” On the evening of the sixth, putting to sea, we arrived off St. John's bar at early dawn of the seventh, and wending our way up the river, landed at Jacksonville. Immediately (and while a desultory firing in the town had not yet ceased) I was looking about for a proper hospital building. But before definitely deciding on it, being ordered to go forward with the General, I directed Surgeon W. A. Smith, Forty-seventh New York volunteers, to act as Post-Surgeon, select the building or buildings, and make such temporary and preliminary arrangements in cleaning and preparing house and ground as might be necessary and possible, until the arrival of the Medical Director of the department would bring a decision about it, and the supplies were received for a complete arrangement. The ambulances, brought along, were distributed to the regiments in the order of their arrival, leaving by-and by a whole brigade without ambulances. We left, and within the week I had forwarded a small number of sick, and about twenty wounded, when late on Saturday evening (thirteenth) I rode from Barber's station back with the General to Jacksonville. On our arrival we found the steamers “Ben Deford” and “Cosmopolitan,” with the General commanding the department, and to my agreeable satisfaction, with the Medical Director on board. On asking for the supplies, I was informed that the Cosmopolitan had not yet touched at Hilton Head, but was boarded outside the bar by the Department Commander, and directly brought to Jacksonville, while the Medical Director came on another boat. No supplies were at Jacksonville other than the regimental stores, according to order left with the Purveyor of the department, and now stored at a brick building near the wharf. Of these, as many as were required (called for) were sent to the respective surgeons, they being, through the senior surgeons of brigades, notified of their being ready for disposal. To how much, in every single case, these amounted, cannot accurately be stated. There may, in the one case, have been more than required (needed), of single articles; in the others expectedly sufficient; in still another way a want of articles has been experienced. Yet under ordinary circumstances, the amount in quantity and kind would well hold out till the reserve depot should be established, and the articles used for organizing the temporary post hospital at Jacksonville, could be returned to their original (regimental) issue. The Medical Director being present, everything could come under his own observation, and be acted upon accordingly.

Thus matters stood, when on Thursday (eighteenth) I received notice from General Seymour “that we would leave at once for the front.” Not exactly that we expected then a sanguinary engagement, nor even a far-off (distant) movement, but seeing, before we left Barber's to come to town, the necessity of establishing a field hospital at that comparatively secure place, and which the General, I knew from conversation, would, (and did) fortify, I had selected more than half the regimental supplies to be brought by rail to Baldwin and thence by wheel to Barber's, and these supplies had arrived about the same hour with the General and staff, on Friday, nineteenth, and could be regarded as more than sufficient. To make sure of the supplies for the post hospital, Jacksonville, however, and of more ambulances I had requested the General to send Surgeon Mulford, Forty-eighth New York volunteers, to Jacksonville and Hilton Head, and this, while not yet informed that a forward movement would take place. But Colonel Barton, his immediate commander, not approving of his surgeon leaving just then, the General cancelled the request, “for some days,” when at 10 P. M., the command was ordered to have cooked rations prepared, and be ready for the march at daybreak of February twentieth (Saturday).

I repeat, I am too far from any necessity of an excuse on my part, and shall, therefore, confine myself to facts. It is a fact that the number of ambulances in the command was twelve; and that the most necessary supplies of the regiments had to be carried “on way-side carts;” but even those few ambulances would not have been on the ground could I have coincided with the opinion of Surgeon Swift, to the effect, “that all my sick and wounded from the several posts along the line of communication, which might extend sixty miles or more, should be forwarded to Jacksonville on them,” and “on them alone ;” an opinion, direction or order, in its execution so impracticable, howsoever well meant, that the very attempt on my part to take the only ambulance of a regiment in the field, away for an errand from which it could not return in two, four, six, and might not in eight days, should, in my conscience, have subjected me to the rigor of a court-martial, and to the feeling that the attempt would deserve my summary dismissal. How, then, on that memorable day I personally behaved, is certainly not for me to report; but that my several surgeons have merited the highest praise, I have, to the credit of profession and patriotism, recorded. My satisfaction lies “in having done my duty,” so acknowledged by the General commanding in Special Orders, on being relieved in obedience to department orders, and worded:

headquarters, District of Florida, Jacksonville, Fla., March 6, 1864.
Special Orders No. 35--Iv.
In obedience to orders from Department Headquarters, Department of the South, Surgeon [463] Adolf Majer is relieved from duty as Medical Director of this District.

The Brigadier-General commanding conveys on this occasion to Surgeon Majer his acknowledgment of the excellent services rendered by him during his control of the medical affairs of this district, and thanks him for the conscientious attention to duty which has characterized his administration.


T. Seymour, Brig.-General, U. S. V., Commanding. To Surgeon Majer.

sir: In drawing a resume from my minutia, I have thus the honor and the painful duty of answering your several questions, as follows:

A. My medical officers were not supplied with the highly essential articles, lint, bandages and stimulants, to a sufficiency adequate to our loss in wounded, as experienced at the battle of Olustee; because, first, the loss of one third of our forces engaged was so unexpected, that the sanguinary occurrence of itself has become an event highly deplored and creating surprise. Second, while for any ordinary loss (say from two hundred to three hundred) provision had been made, by bringing the available stores of several regiments to the nearest secure place in our rear, there was yet the necessary, and in any moving army customary, reserve depot of supplies, not established until several days after the battle. Third, a large part of the regimental supplies has been used for organizing the post (general) hospital at Jacksonville, as a receiving depot of sick and wounded, and a number of boxes remained stored, with their promiscuous contents. And while,

B. I did know that Surgeon Smith at all, or in time, could not procure the articles we wanted, without calling on the Sanitary Commission, there consisted the aid and assistance afforded me, on the following services performed: The agent, Mr. A. B. Day, not only furnished, with remarkable promptness, lint, bandages, and stimulants, but in addition, shirts, drawers, stockings, slippers, sheets, pillows, pillow-cases, old linen, bed-stock, soda crackers, condensed milk, dried apples, vegetables, curried cabbage, chocolate, preserves, wines, &c., &c., in quantities I do not even approximately recollect, but for which I receipted. The Medical Director himself, being so informed, suggested that he would either return them in kind or pay for them — a proposition, in which to share, does not come within my official province nor within my means, and must, therefore, entirely be left for his action. While in the name of our wounded, I feel thankful for the timely supplies, surgical aid and assistance has not been required, nor, if I am correct, been rendered. In forwarding the wounded from Baldwin, I sent one assistant surgeon with each car (drawn by horses), and Mr. Day's personal services were there meritorious beyond praise, as was his offer to stay, in addition to Assistant Surgeon Defendorf, Forty-eighth New York volunteers, with the wounded near the battle-field, certainly generous, but finally not necessary or practicable.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Dr. Adolf Majer, Surgeon, U. S. V., late Medical Director, District of Florida.

Medical Director's office, Hilton head, April 7, 1864.
Doctor: In reply to my communication to you of the third instant, you say: “To make sure of the supplies for the general hospital at Jacksonville, however, and for more ambulances, you had addressed a request to the General to send Surgeon Mulford, Forty-eighth New York volunteers, to Jacksonville, Fla., and Hilton Head.” Was not this at Dr. Mulford's own suggestion, that he might be able to see his sick wife? Did you know of any ambulances you could get by sending Dr. Mulford for them?

At Barber's place, you state you had ten wounded, and in advance of that two others. You had twelve ambulances, on your own admission, and that was not all your transportation, to transport those from Barber's place to Jacksonville, a distance of thirty-five miles. In reference to this matter, from your remarks on page six of your letter, am I to infer that you received my order “to send in your wounded at once,” and that you disobeyed that order because it was so impracticable, and did you inform me of that impracticability, that I might make other arrangements?

Please to inform me if the list of articles, furnished by the Sanitary Commission was sent to the front, and give me an approximate idea of the bulk, a car-load or a cart-load, and what was their mode of transportation? I desire also to know if Mr. Day had any one to assist him in his “meritorious” services, and if you know of medical officers abandoning their dressings?

You say you returned to Jacksonville on the thirteenth with the General. Did you precede your wounded?

I desire to know how many medical officers you had with you in the engagement of the twentieth, and if the meritorious conduct of any one of them deserves especial mention by name; also, how many seriously wounded you had in that engagement, and how many of these required amputation.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Ebn. Swift, Surgeon, U. S. A., Medical Director. To Surgeon A. Majer, U. S. V. Hilton Head, S. C.

Hilton head, S. C. April 8, 1864.
Surgeon Ebn. Swift, U. S. A., Medical Director, Department of the South:
sir: In reply to several questions, bearing on my report about supplies, of April third and fourth, and addressed to me on April seventh, I have the honor to state as follows:

1. I intended to send Assistant Surgeon A. W. Greenleaf, Second South Carolina volunteers, but Surgeon Mulford, Forty-eighth New York, [464] suggesting that he might be able to see his wife, at the same time, I was prompted to select him. There was one ambulance (broken) for repair, and one under the care of Captain Dunton, Chief Quartermaster of the District of Jacksonville; two were in the use of the Department Commander at Hilton Head, and one was left at St. Helena Island, belonging to Seventh Connecticut volunteers.

2. The opinion of the Medical Director was verbal, as usual, and might have been construed as direction, instruction or order, but had not been insisted upon, after my explanations were given. Should I have received a written order, direction or instruction, its execution would have required the endorsement “Official” from the General commanding, by the Assistant Adjutant-General. In the the particular case referred to, I had received a telegram from the Medical Director, then at Jacksonville, delivered at Sanderson, ten miles in advance of Barber's, when, by instructions, I had given the day previous, our sick and wounded were already on the way to Jacksonville, under charge of Assistant Surgeon P. Rector, then of the One Hundred and Fifteenth New York volunteers, who will fully explain the delay on the road.

3. Articles furnished by Sanitary Commission before the battle of Olustee were, together with the regimental stores, brought to Baldwin by car, and thence by wheel to Barber's, arriving there the evening previous to the battle. Assistant Surgeon Greenleaf had charge of them, and can state the number of boxes, the car and wagons. Articles furnished by the Sanitary Commission after the battle, and on my telegram to Surgeon Smith, came to Baldwin by car. Mr. A. B. Day, came along with them, and Assistant Surgeon Tremain, Twenty-fourth Massachusetts volunteers. The Doctor will give all information in regard to kind and quantity. The medicine chest of Forty-eighth New York volunteers was left at Barber's, and most of their stores were, together with baggage, commissary stores, muskets, &c., destroyed, to gain every available transportation for our wounded.

4. Returning from the front on the thirteenth, I started with the General twenty-four hours after the sick and wounded, but arrived, riding from Sanderson through in the night, twenty-four hours before them at Jacksonville. The delay, as stated in “2,” will be explained by Assistant-Surgeon Rector.

5. I respectfully refer to my monthly report of medical officers in the command. The regiments and detachments engaged had their medical officers present, as mentioned in that report. The medical officers all have done their duty — it becomes a civilian only to be meritorious. The number of seriously wounded, coming under my observation, was not above three hundred. There were, to my knowledge, only three amputations.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Dr. Adolf Majer, Surgeon U. S. V.

Hilton head, S. C., April 8, 1864.
sir: In your communication to me of this date, you say: “Should I have received a written order, instruction or direction, its execution would have required the endorsement Official from the General commanding, by the Assistant Adjutant-General.” Am I to infer from this that you will not obey a “written order, instruction or direction” given by the Medical Director of this department, unless that written order, instruction or direction is made official by the General commanding, or his Adjutant-General.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Ebn. Swift, Surgeon, U. S. A., Medical Director To Surgeon Adolf Majer, Surgeon, U. S. V., (present.)

Hilton head, S. C., April 8, 1864.
sir: The charge of the ambulances is, if I am correct, by Army Regulations, given to the Quartermaster Department, and I would, however I might try to enforce an order from the Medical Director's Office, have to provide myself with an “official” endorsement from the Adjutant-General's Office for the compliance on the part of quartermasters. Any order, instruction, direction or wish from my superior officer of the Medical Department has been, is and always will be strictly obeyed by me, to whom good order and military discipline is not only a habit, but I may say a religion, in medical matters. My observation in to-day's communication has only a bearing to the ambulances. I am sorry it has received a general application.

I am, sir, very respectfully your obedient servant,

Dr. Adolf Majer, Surgeon U. S. V. Surgeon Ebn. Swift, U. S. A., Medical Director, Department of the South, Hilton Head, S. C.

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