From the Southern Practitioner (Nashville, Tenn.), Vol. 26, Issue 1 (Jan. 1904), pp. 35-41


Late Surgeon C. S. A., of White Oaks, New Mexico.

Standing in the hall of my Alma Mater, where in the prime and innocence of my youth, forty-five years ago, I was commissioned to care for the lives of fellow-beings, I would not, in the happiness of this moment, rend from my life’s history any of its darkened leaves; for in the bright eyes and intellectual faces around me I see written upon memory’s tablet, in golden characters, your confidence and esteem. No! Welcome the past, since it is the background of patriotic adherence to principles enunciated to us by Jefferson, Washington, Henry, Campbell, Shelby, Morgan, Rutledge, and a host of others, who combined eminently all the nobler qualifies of heroes and statesmen and left to the world names synonymous with virtue and luminous with public integrity. No! Welcome the present, since the love-crown of consciousness of duty done has drawn us together, pointing each other to altars of courage and constancy to our own Southland homes of beautiful women, sunshine, and flowers, with only one glory, to prove ourselves faithful to friends and formidable to foes. Whatever humble or [36] important part either of us may have performed in this greatest drama, “Liberty Enlightening the World,” we meet to-day wiser men, knowing the achievements of that “mighty conflict of brothers” which has accomplished the solidity of States, the perpetuation of the Union, and its present distinguished position before the world—arbiter of nations and empires. We meet to-day as at camp fires of yore to recite to each other our little part fought, won, or lost.

Having received degrees of Bachelor and Master of Arts at Centenary College, Jackson, La., in 1854 and 1856, twelve months resident student of Charity Hospital, graduate of Tulane University, class of 1858, a successful cotton planter in Carroll Parish, La., I submitted the question of slavery to the arbitrament of the sword, believing that it was in the defense of its plain relations to the constitution of the United States, entered service in my native State, with the Mississippi College Rifles, elected to deliver the valedictory to citizens of Clinton, Miss., in the vigor of youth, burning with inspiration of patriotism, I fired a thousand assembled citizens to shouts as I walked off the platform, carpeted with showers of bouquets from hands of Mississippi’s fairest daughters. I allude to this occasion not in any self-praise but to recall to your memory how the fires of secession were then burning, and how the hearts of our boys were inspired by fathers, mothers, and daughters of the Confederacy to perform well their part. After six weeks in camp of instruction at Corinth, Miss., we were ordered to Virginia with Col. Burt’s Eighteenth Mississippi Regiment, fought the first battle of Manassas; received commission as surgeon P. A. C. S. dated June 6, 1861, as I came off the battlefield of Ball’s Bluff, and made staff surgeon by commanding Gen. Evans.

The Federal sick and wounded received from the battle of Ball’s Bluff (one of the most decisive and fruitful battles of the war, with only thirteen hundred Confederate muskets engaged, but which eventuated in the killing of two thousand one hundred men, capture of eight hundred stands of arms and three mountain howitzers, sending seven hundred and fifty prisoners to Richmond, and turning back a column ten thousand strong commanded by Gen. Stone, Who was afterwards cashiered, and where Gen. Baker, of Oregon, was killed) who were not able to be forwarded to prison quarters at [37] Richmond were placed in a hospital organized by me and in my charge at Leesburg, Va., and received the same bedding, rations, and medical attentions as Confederate soldiers.

A very interesting case (a man of the Seventeenth Massachusetts Regiment, a native of the mountains of Vermont, a perfect athlete, over six feet high, one hundred and eighty pounds in weight, and never sick a day in his life) was admitted with his arm torn to fragments by grapeshot. I amputated the arm just above the seat of injury, in the upper third of the humerus (using this scalpel for a surgeon’s knife and a carpenter’s tennon saw to cut the bone), and it healed by first intention and he was discharged in fourteen days after receipt of the wound, sound and well. The ligature was removed on the ninth day with but a drop of suppuration at each suture, and in three days the cicatrix was complete.

The Winder Hospital and grounds—covering one hundred and twenty-five acres of land, with a capacity of four thousand eight hundred patients—was organized in April, 1862, and conducted by me for three years, or until within ten days of Gen. Lee’s surrender. It consisted of six divisions, each in charge of a division surgeon and six assistants, with its appropriate dispensary, laundry, kitchens, and corps of matrons, nurses, and attendants; the whole surrounded by a guard of one hundred and twenty-five men under a commissioned captain. Attached to the hospital was the most approved Russian, steam, plunge, and shower baths, a bakery with a capacity to bake for ten thousand men daily, sixteen acres of hospital garden (worked by convalescents), a dairy with sixty-nine milch cows, with appropriate barns and stables, the dairy yielding three hundred gallons of milk daily, an ice house forty feet square and twenty feet deep filled with ice, a commissioned captain of commissary with commissariat, and a medical examining board of three surgeons, giving me a command, at twenty-seven years of age, with eight hundred hospital attendants, ranging from two to five thousand men.

I had a six-foot ditch cut down a hollow from the central grounds of the hospital leading toward the James River, over which was constructed a line of water closets and two ten-thousand-gallon water tanks, which were pumped full of water and the ditch flooded every other day, carrying off all debris and filth from the hospital grounds. By permission from the Secretary of War, I had constructed [38] two canal boats that run up the Kanawha canal and furnished the hospital from the mountains with weekly supplies of fresh butter, eggs, chickens, geese, turkeys, honey, and every other necessity that the vast hospital fund amounting to twelve hundred and twenty thousand dollars, created by commutation of army rations and from the hospital bakery, could obtain for the sick and wounded, who were often regaled in their hot fevers during the summer months with ice cream, custards, and lemonades. On sundry occasions the Federal sick and wounded were sent to this hospital, where they received the same rations, medical attentions, and privileges as other patients. Frequently for weeks the bread for prisoners on Belle Island and Libby Prison was baked at the hospital bakery, and was the same in kind as that used in the hospital. All wines and liquors—the best grades of which were obtained through the personal friendship of Mrs. Snowden (blessed be her memory!), President of the Ladies’ Hospital Association, of Charleston, S. C, via blockade runners from Nassau—were dispensed through hospital matrons. No medical officer was allowed to touch it under penalty of immediate orders to the field.

The government of Winder Hospital was the inspiration of every official and attendant, with a laudable ambition to excel. To this end I told every medical officer reporting to me for duty, that printed rules and regulations of the hospital were posted in every apartment; that I was its head, fired with love and zeal for duty; and that every official and attendant in it was there with a high purpose and a firm resolve to make for it a record—one harmonious whole in loving-kindness to its sick and suffering.

“Will you be one, with its chief surgeon, to add joy to your environments and say when you lie down at night, ‘I have lived this day to relieve the suffering of those around me?’ We are all here, in this mighty conflict thundering at the very doors of our capital, for a record of every duty accomplished. I well know that it is a custom with many medical officers in the field, when they draw their monthly supplies of liquor, to call in their regimental officers and drink it up. I well know that many officials when they get into new suits of clothes, a star or bar on their collars, begin to feel that they are better and look down on the rugged soldiers around them, but this is not truth. Many patients in this hospital are socially, intellectually, and financially our peers. You will be required to [39] treat them and every attendant with the same courtesy and decorum that marks you to be a Southern gentleman. Believing that we always get the best there is out of our fellow-beings—that is, of their mind and heart, I make this appeal to you to emulate the example of your chief surgeon in the fulfillment of every personal and official duty; and now I challenge you—every person in this hospital—to see that I toe the mark of its regulations, and rest as the best service—by appealing to the nobler and better attributes sured that I shall see that every official performs well his part.” At trumpet call every day, except Sunday, the six division surgeons - met me at my office to inspect one of their divisions. This I did promiscuously, so that they were all compelled to keep their divisions in perfect order, not knowing their day for inspection. If I found everything in commendable condition after inspection, my rule was to dismiss them with some complimentary remark to the surgeon in charge. From this sprang a laudable ambition in each division surgeon’s heart to have as much said for them upon their day of inspection. This rule worked so successfully that after a few months I confessed to them that it was my secret of government of Winder Hospital, and I then reminded them that the lives of all the great rulers and governors in the world teach us that man, to make a success in all he attempts, must first become interested in the work, second, learn to control himself before he is fitted to control others, and third, give it inspiration by personal example. I then exhorted them, in glowing language flowing from my own heart, not only to adopt this rule in their respective divisions, but each to labor to excel the other in indicting it in the daily life and labor of every subordinate officer and attendant in their divisions of the hospital. They responded promptly and pledged the best there was in them to my support. This proved the key to success.

I next organized a quiz class, consisting of six division surgeons and myself a faculty, each in charge of a chair in surgery, chemistry, therapeutics, anatomy, etc. We met weekly, having lessons assigned for the previous week’s study, when the professor for each evening would question the class; then at the close of the lesson, close his book, and have us come back at him, every member with a question on the lesson. The result of this work was that we were all refreshed in both theory and daily practice, drawn together [40] both socially and intellectually. Every member passed with flying colors before the Army Medical Examining Board, and thirty-three assistant surgeons in Winder Hospital were promoted to full surgeons.

It may interest you to know that Miss Emily Mason, niece of Senator Mason, of Mason and Slidell Ambassador notoriety, was chief matron of the first division of Winder Hospital, and that her personal friends, two daughters of Robert E. Lee, Mrs. Secretary Randolph, Mrs. Grant, wife of the richest tobacconist in Richmond, with many others, would frequently drive out from Richmond in their fine carriages to visit the sick and wounded, became interested in the family history of some wounded soldiers, sat down by their bedsides, and wrote letters to their loved ones at home, and even fed them like mothers with delicacies and viands they would bring out daily from their own tables.

I hold before you chief surgeons the official record of Winder Hospital Fund Book, which I now commit to the archives of army and navy surgeons, in which will be found the cardinal facts that I disbursed twelve hundred and twenty thousand dollars of public funds from April 1, 1862, to March 1, 1865, that seventy-six thousand, two hundred and thirteen sick and wounded were admitted, eleven thousand, five hundred and thirty were transferred to other hospitals, leaving sixty-four thousand, six hundred and eighty-three to be treated it. Winder, with three thousand, two hundred and fifty-nine deaths, just five and two-tenths per cent of mortality —a record at that day unprecedented in the annals of general military hospitals, whether in the North or Europe.

I hold before you this clipping from the Richmond Enquirer of the proceedings of the Confederate States Senate, in which you will find that as early as September 25, 1862, the mortality in General Hospital No. 2 was ten per cent; in No. 13, fourteen per cent; in No. 9, twelve per cent; in No. 5, thirteen per cent; in No. 23, twelve per cent; and in the balance each eight, nine, and ten per cent, except Winder, a remarkable exception, where, out of twenty-two thousand, eight hundred and seventy-four patients treated, the mortality was only six per cent.

In conclusion, permit me to remind you, comrades, that every person, State, or nation that stands for the defense of the right and the truth must have a history of conflicts and sorrows; that the [41] memorial which binds you to the great heroism and mighty sacrifices of the past has already become a bow of promise to American grandeur and power through the gallantry of your sons during the Spanish-American war, forming a mighty prism to reflect the noontide radiance of your achievement into a halo of glory to encircle the brow of your departing worth; that to-day this giant young republic is thundering past the old nations and decaying monarchies of the East with the rush of the limited express; that her public school system is not only the boast and pride of her citizens, but the palladium to her progress and power; and that, having produced seventy billions of wealth in a little over one hundred years, she is to-day. in population, annual saving, public credit, agriculture, mining, manufactures, consolidation of personal capital (as factors to commercialism), education, and munificent endowment of universities, a blazing meteor before the civilized world, forty per cent richer in material wealth than any nation on the earth; and that the Anglo-Saxon race now belts the world. It has laid the foundation of our Western republic and started it off on a career of monumental commercialism, progress, and prosperity. Under its beneficence to the human race, universal education, and a free ballot, its grip upon the masses will not be relaxed as the battle for unity, right, and justice to its humblest and poorest citizen waxes hotter, but will rather tighten its hold and increase its power (see late merger decision) over trusts and commercialism, until language, custom, and purpose are one, until, under the banner of control of the holy trinity of liberty, religion, and universal higher education, America will give law to the world and Anglo-Saxon supremacy will mold its multiform elements into complete accord with this union, and the Christian religion shall direct the whole for humanity and God.

Are you not all proud, gentlemen, to know that you are living factors in this grandest achievement of the nineteenth century for the elevation, advancement, and happiness of man?

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