Physicians, Surgeons and Mates with Washington at Valley Forge

Hospitalization was a serious problem during the American Revolutionary War. Plans were made quite early to care for the wounded and sick, but at the best they were meager and inadequate. However on April 11, 1777 Dr. William Shippen Jr., of Philadelphia was chosen Director General of all the military hospitals for the army. Consequently the reorganization of hospital conditions took place.

Four hospital districts were created: Easter, Northern, Southern and Middle. The wage scale was as follows: Director General's pay $6.00 a day and 9 rations; District Deputy Director $5.00 a day and 6 rations; Senior Surgeon $4.00 a day and 6 rations; Junior Surgeon $2.00 and 4 rations; Surgeon mate $1.00 and 2 rations.

After the battle of Brandywine, September 11, 1777, hospitals were established at Bethlehem, Allentown, Easton and Ephrata. After the battle of Germantown, October 4, 1777, emergency hospitals were organized at Evansburg, Trappe, Falkner Swamp and Skippack. Hospitals at Litiz and Reading were also continued. By December 1777, new hospitals were opened at Rheimstown, Warwick and Shaeferstown. Yellow Springs (now Chester Springs) an important hospital was organized under the direction of Dr. Samuel Kennedy. At Lionville, Uwchlan Quaker Meeting House was also made a hospital for a time. Apothecary General Craigie's shop, Carlisle, was the source of hospital drugs.

The camp at Valley Forge was established in December 1777. Perhaps the earliest reliable record of the sick is found in the report under the date December 23, when 2,898 men were reported sick or unfit for duty largely due to the lack of clothing. A return made February 1, 1778 shows the number of incapacitated increased to 3,989, again traced to the need of clothing.

In order to understand the difficulties which faced the doctors and surgeons at Valley Forge it is necessary to follow sequentially the conditions in the cantonment as they were unfolded day by day. A careful study of Washington's orders and statements give valuable information concerning health conditions involved.

Weedon's Valley Forge Orderly Book is the primary source of health conditions within the camp. The first entry is under date December 26, 1777. "Complaints having been made by the Surgeons of Hospitals that the sick are often sent to him without a list required by Genl. Orders issued the 12th November, to them orders all officers are ref'd for directions in this point and of the directions in this point and of the disposition of the arms of the sick. It appears also that many men who go into the Hospitals well clad are in a manner naked when they get well and cannot return to their regiment till new cloathed, to prevent a continuance of this evil that those guilty may be known and punished. Hence forward every article of their cloathing, their lists signed by the captain or officer commanding compys." [Weedon's Valley Forge Orderly Book, p. 169]

Health Reports Neglected

It seems there was carelessness in making necessary health reports, consequently Washington ordered on January 2, 1778: "Every Monday morning regimental surgeons are to make returns to the Surgeon Gen'l. or in his absence to one of the senior surgeions, present in camp or otherwise under the immediate care of the regimental surgeons specifying the mens names Comps. Regts. and diseases." [Weedon's Valley Forge Orderly Book, p. 175]

Small pox and the itch caused much trouble in the army so that orders were issued under the following dates: January 6, 1778, "The regimental surgeons are immediately to make returns to Doctor Cochran Surgeon Gen'l. of all the men in their regiments who have not had the small pox, they will also call on Doctor Cochran for what sulphur they need for the use of their regiments."3 January 8, 1778. "Being informed many men are rendered unfit for duty by the itch, the Commander -in-Chief orders and directs the regimental surgeons to look attentively into this matter and as soon as the men who are affected with this disorder are properly dispersed in huts to have them anointed for it." [Weedon's Valley Forge Orderly Book, pp. 183-186]

Since sickness was so prevalent in the early days of the camp plans were made to take care of the ill directly on the camp grounds. Washington issued the following orders: January 9, 1778. "The Majr. Genl. and Brigaiders or officers commanding the brigades of each division are to fix on some suitable place near their respective brigades where hosptials may be erected one for the sick in each brigade as soon as the men can possibly be spared from hutting they are to erect those hospitals, the officers who shall be app'd. to superintend the work will receive directions therefore at the Adjudt. Genls. office." [Weedon's Valley Forge Orderly Book, p. 188]

Designs of Camp Hospitals

January 13, 1778. "The Flying Hospitals are to be 15 feet wide and 25 feet long in the clear and the story at least 9 feet high to be covered with boards or shingles only without any dirt, windows made on each side and a chimney at one end. Two such hospitals are to be made for each brigade at or near the center and if the ground permits of it not more than 100 yards distance from the brigade." [Weedon's Valley Forge Orderly Book, p. 191] The Commander-in-Chief always solicitous about the comfort of his soldiers issued the following order January 15, 1778: "The Qr. Mr. Genl. is positively ordered to provide straw for the use of the troops and the surgeons to see that the sick when they are removed to huts assigned for the hospital are plentifully supplied with this article." [Weedon's Valley Forge Orderly Book, pp. 192-199-204-216]

Stressing the need of accuracy concerning the sick Washington required, January 20, 1778: "The regimental surgeions every Wednesday and Saturday are to make returns to the brigadier of all the sick in their respective regts. They or their mates are duly to attend the huts of their men and see that the sick are provided for as well as possible. The surgeons are also to keep a book in which they will enter a copy of every return they give in." January 21, 1778. "The Director Genl. of the Hospitals is as soon as possible to furnish the R'mental surgeons with medicine chests supplied with such medicine as are necessary for the sick in camp." January 29, 1778. "The commanding officer of each brigade is to appoint a Capt'n daily to visit the sick of his brigade in or near camp to examine whether they have proper attention paid to them and are furnished with everything their situation requires as far as circumstances will allow."

In order to prevent small pox Washington ordered: February 18, 1778. "A return of those men who have not had the small pox in the brigade to be made immediately to the Brigade Major." [Weedon's Valley Forge Orderly Book, p. 237] The fact that carelessness continued in making reports concerning illness led to the issuance of the following sharp order from headquarters: February 27, 1778. "Colonel Stewart has been much surprised to find so little attention paid to the orders issued by Gen. Weedon, respecting the sick of the brigade. The colonel now positively orders the captain whose duty it is to visit the sick of the brigade to deliver in his report by 9 o'clock the foloowing morning to which he was appointed to the above duty, otherwise they may depend upon being called to a severe account as it is a duty the utmost importance in the army." [Weedon's Valley Forge Orderly Book, pp. 243; 268; 299]

Small Pox Innoculation

There was satisfaction expressed by the Commander-in-Chief concerning innoculation against small pox but a warning was issued: March 18, 1778. "Innoculation for the small pox having been haply performed in all the subjects in camp it is necessary to guard the fatal effects of that disorder taken in the natural way."

To secure milk was always a problem, and now Washington planned as follows: April 29, 1778. "Many inconveniences having attended the order of the 17th inst. by confining the purchasing of milk and other necessaries for the use of the sick to the regimental Q. Masters. Instead of that mode a discreet serjiant and few men according to the number sick in the regiment, are to be sent out daily to purchase such articles." May 3, 1778. "The medicine chests from Lord Stirling's division, to be sent to the Yellow Springs, immediately to be filled by the Apothecary Genl."

The following excerpts from the diary kept at Valley Forge by Albigence Waldo, Surgeon, from Connecticut is enlightening:

"December 25th — Christmas. We are still in tents, when ought to be in huts — the poor sick, suffer much in tents this cold weather. But we now treat them differently from what they used to be at home, under the inspection of old women and Doct. Bolus Linctus. We give them mutton and grogg — and a captial medicine once in a while — to start the disease from its foundation at once. We avoid piddling pills, powders, Babus's Linctus's cordials — and all such insignificant matters whose powers are only rendered important by causing the patient to vomit up his money instead of his disease. But very few of the sick men die."

Forbid Furlough for Doctor

"Valley Forge, Dec. 31st, 1777: 'Doct. Walso Surgeon of Col. Prentices Regt. is recommended for a Furlow.' J. Huntington, B. General.

"Applied with the above for a furlow, to Doct. Cochran who repl'd — "I am willing to oblige every gentleman of the Faculty, but some of the Boston Surgeons have by taking an underhand method of getting furlows, occation'd a complaint to be lodg'd with his Excellency (Washington), who has positively forbid my giving any furlows at present."

The following entries were subsequently written in Waldo's diary: Dec. 21, 1777. "A general cry goes through the camp this evening among the soldiers, "No meat, no meat." "What have we for dinner, boy?" "Nothing but cake and water, sir."

Dec. 24, 1777. "Huts go up slowly. Cold and smoke make us fret." [Thomas-American Revolutionary Diaries, Vol. III, pp. 133-170]

As a result of careful examination of state records we found the following Physicians, Surgeons and surgeon's mates who served in the Valley Forge encampment.


Connecticut: Doctors

• D. Adams • Ebenezer Crosby

Delaware: Doctors

• John Latimer • T. Tillotson • James Tilton

Massachusetts: Doctors

• Samuel Adams • William Annin • Daniel Bartlett • Thomas Benny • Barnabas Binney • Ezekiel Brown • James E. Burr • John Crane • Jacob Elrenzeller • William Eustis • George Fairbanks • Samuel Finley • Joseph Fish • Jonathan Fuller • Joseph Gardner • Jacob Hall, Jr. • John Hart • Walter Hastings • John Homasn • Estes Howe • John Jones • Jonathan King • James Mann • James Packer • Abijah Richardson • Daniel Shute • Elisha Skinner • Isaac Spofford • James Thatcher • John Thomas • Robert Walker • Peletiah Warren • Robert Warren • Samuel Whitwell • John Wingate

Massachusetts: Surgeon's Mates

• Henry Adams • Jeduthan Baldwin • Ebenezer Ballentine • Francis Beviere • Joshua Chase • John Eaton • Samuel Gilbert • Francis L. Goodwin • Mordecai Hall • Silas Holbrook • William Laughton • Nathaniel Leavenworth • William Little • Ebenezer Makepiece • Benjamin Morgan • John Noyes • Kendall Osgood • Benjamin Porter • Eleazor Porter • Calvin Scott • Kendall Scott • Timothy Smith • Thaddeus Thompson • Benjmain Upham • Aaron Warren • Josiah Waterhouse • James Weems • Samuel Woodward

New Hampshire: Doctors

• Caleb G. Adams • William Parker

New Jersey: Doctors

• Robert Henry • J.B. Niker • Bodo Otto, Jr.

New York: Doctors

• W.P. Smith • Charles McKnight • George Campbell

North Carolina: Doctors

• James Huston • W. McClure

Pennsylvania: Doctors

• William Adams • Robert Blackwell • John Cochran • John Duffield • Samuel Kennedy • A. Morgan • Bodo Otto, Sr. • Jonathan Potts • Benjamin Rush • William Shippen, Jr. • Francis Smith (DeAerts) • William Smith • James Tate

Rhode Island: Doctors

• Samuel Tenney • Peter Turner

Virginia: Doctors

• A. Alexander • James Craik • William Brown • George Draher


It should be noted that several of the Pennsylvania doctors rendered service as follows:

Dr. William Shippen, Jr. of Philadelphia, Director-General of army hospitals 1777-1781.

Dr. Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia, Physician General of hospitals designated as Middle Department 1777-1778.

Robert Blackwell was also a Chaplain.

John Cochran, born in Chester County 1730, was appointed Physician-General in Middle Dept. and in 1781 became Director-General of hospitals in the United States. He died in 1807.

Jonathan Potts was born in 1747 and in 1777 was elected Deputy Director-General of Hospital Department as related to the Continental Army. He was closely associated with Valley Forge.

Bodo Otto, Sr. was Hospital-Physician and Surgeon at Valley Forge. He was born at Hanover, Germany, 1711. He received part of his medical training at University of Gottengin and came to Philadelphia in 1755, where he practiced for a time. He then moved to Reading. He entered the Continental Service at 65 and continued in the field with the army. He was with the army at Valley Forge in the fall of 1777. He was interested in the Lutheran Church at Trappe. He also served at the military hospital, Yellow Springs. He resigned from the Continental service in 1782.

Samuel Kennedy, had close contact with Washington at Valley Forge, who greatly appreciated the service he rendered. The following obituary record is from the Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Charlestown, Chester County, Pennsylvania:

"In memory of Doctor Samuel Kennedy,
Physician of the General Hospital who departed this life on the
17th day of June 1778 — 48 years.
In him the patient friend
Harmonious here till death his life did end,
The Church's pupil and the State his care,
A Physician skilful and a Whig sincere,
Beneath this tomb sleeps his precious dust
Till the last trump reanimates the just."

And, from Virginia, James Craik was a native of Scotland. He came to America with General Braddock and later settled at Winchester, Virginia. After Washington assumed command of the American Continental forces, he appointed him to the medical service. Later as an Assistant Director he served at Valley Forge. He was physician in attendance at Washington's death in 1799. He died at Fairfax, Virginia in 1814.

Future research will reveal more names of doctors who served at Valley Forge. The above results came from long pain-staking effort. The services of Physicians and Surgeons at Valley Forge may never be completely recorded but the work they performed was of the utmost importance in helping to establish the foundations of our country.


Bibliography:
Weedon's Valley Forge Orderly Book, Charles William Heathcote, The Picket Post, January 1948, published by The Valley Forge Historical Society

Courtesy National Center for the American Revolution/Valley Forge Historical Society

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