Gangrene and Glory: Medical Care during the American Civil War

By Frank R. Freemon | Go to book overview

17
Confederate Medical Support during the
Atlanta Campaign

IN MAY 1864 A HUGE NORTHERN ARMY UNDER THE command of William T. Sherman moved south into Georgia from its base at Chattanooga. Opposing the Union force was the much smaller Confederate Army of Tennessee under the command of Joseph E. Johnston. The Northern troops slowly advanced down along the rail line from Chattanooga to Atlanta. Johnston retreated when outflanked, but he held his army together. When the Union army reached the northern outskirts of Atlanta, John Bell Hood replaced Johnston as Southern commander. Hood attacked the Union forces as they attempted to flank Atlanta to the east. The flanking movement was stopped but the Confederates suffered many casualties. The Union army shifted to the west and began another flanking movement. Unable to stop this advance, Hood abandoned Atlanta on 1 September 1864. The Army of Tennessee retreated into Alabama.1

Dr. Andrew J. Foard, the medical director of the Army of Tennessee, was in charge of all regimental medical officers. He was an 1848 graduate of Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. The physicians under his command provided treatment for sick and wounded soldiers of the field army. If a soldier were too sick or too severely wounded to return to duty, the regimental physician transferred him to the general hospital system. The general military hospitals supporting the Army of Tennessee were under the command of Dr. Samuel H. Stout. Following the evacuation of Chattanooga, Atlanta became the major medical support enter.2

The sick and wounded of the Army of Tennessee traveled by rail to the main station in downtown Atlanta; they were then taken by wagon or walked to the nearby Receiving and Distributing Hospital. Dr. George H. Pursley, the surgeon in charge of the R and D, and his associates examined and classified each patient. They were then distributed to the general hospitals throughout central and southern Georgia and eastern Alabama that were under the authority of Dr. Stout. These hospitals kept Dr. Pursley informed concerning the number of empty beds available in their facilities.

Sometimes the press of patients was so great that Dr. Pursley was forced to send more sick and wounded to outlying hospitals than they were prepared to accept. On 28 May 1864 George B. Douglas, the doctor in charge of the hospitals in Columbus, Georgia, wrote to Dr. Stout about the problems caused by a massive influx of sick and wounded soldiers. “I have this day telegraphed you,” he wrote, “requesting that no more sick and wounded be sent here until those already here can be properly cared for. During the past 24 hours, over 700 have been sent to this post for whom no adequate preparations have been made and it will require several days to provide quarters for them.”3

Stout referred this problem to Surgeon Joseph P. Logan, in charge of the hospitals of

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