Confederate Medical Personnel
Spring 1994, Vol. 26, No. 1 | Genealogy Notes
By DeAnne Blanton
If your Civil War–era ancestor, whether free or slave, white or black, served the Confederate army in a medical capacity, it is possible that you may find documentation of his or her role in records at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Documentation of Confederate medical personnel is located in multiple records series of Record Group 109, War Department Collection of Confederate Records.
Record Group 109 chiefly comprises records created by the government of the Confederate States of America, with those of the Confederate War Department and army being the most voluminous. Many of these Confederate records were surrendered to or captured by Union forces during and at the end of the Civil War. Other Confederate records came into the collection during the second half of the nineteenth century through donation to, or purchase by, the federal government. This Confederate records collection remained in the custody of the U.S. War Department until transfer to the National Archives in 1938.
Prior to transfer, the Adjutant General's Office (AGO) cared for the Confederate records. The AGO reclassified Confederate record books and bound volumes into subject headings, called "chapters"; assigned numbers to the individual volumes; and added non-Confederate records to the collection, such as those created by the federal government or Union army relating to the Confederate government or military. The AGO also created reference compilations relating to individual Confederate soldiers and citizens and added these records to the larger collection of Confederate records.
Before embarking on genealogical research concerning Confederate medical personnel, one should note that records do not exist for every individual who worked in a medical capacity, military or civilian. Many records created by the Confederate States of America were deliberately destroyed by Confederate officials to avoid their falling into enemy hands. Further, untold Confederate government documents burned in the fire that broke out in Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital, on April 3, 1865. Additionally, extant records relating to medical personnel almost exclusively pertain to individuals who were paid for their services. It appears that the Confederate government did not document the assistance of uncompensated medical volunteers.
Confederate medical personnel mainly consisted of medical officers, civilian employees, and soldiers on detailed duty. Medical officers were surgeons and assistant surgeons in the military service. Civilian employees included hospital attendants, stewards, druggists, nurses, matrons, wardmasters, manual laborers, cooks, and laundresses. The records relating to civilian medical employees do not solely concern Caucasians. Some records relating to the medical employment of African Americans also exist. This article does not discuss detailed soldiers on medical duty because their activities are documented by compiled military service records for Confederate soldiers, which are also in the National Archives.
Surgeons and assistant surgeons served with regiments, higher army commands, in specified districts, or in specific Confederate hospitals. There are three main series of bound records created by the Confederate Medical Department pertaining to medical officers. These bound volumes are all found in chapter VI, the subject designation for medical matters.
Register of appointments of medical officers, 1861-1863 (vols. 141, 143), provides the officer's name, rank, date of appointment, assignment, and remarks. The remarks mostly concern dates of promotion, resignation, furlough, transfer, or retirement, and dates and causes of death, if applicable. These volumes are arranged alphabetically by initial letter of officer's surname. List of medical officers, 1861-1864 (Vol. 142), provides name, rank, assignment, date of commission, and remarks. For example, this small, unarranged volume shows that Waddy Thompson, surgeon, served with the Twelfth Virginia Light Artillery. He was commissioned July 28, 1862, and received a thirty-day furlough from July 5, 1864.
The most complete records showing the service of Confederate surgeons and assistant surgeons are in the reference file relating to medical officers for the period 1861-1865 (entry 461). This series, compiled after the Civil War by the AGO, comprises seven archives boxes of alphabetically arranged cards showing name of officer, rank, and citations to original Confederate records, such as correspondence files or regimental and hospital records, that mention, or provide further information about, the individual. The card for assistant surgeon V. Marcellus Neal reveals that his name appears on the muster rolls of the Thirty-seventh Alabama Infantry.
Genealogists researching Virginians should note records of medical officers from Virginia, 1861-1865 (entry 31). This series, also created by the AGO, includes a consolidated handwritten list and individual cards, both arranged alphabetically by name. The list and cards provide identical information about the Virginia officers: rank, date of appointment, place or regiment where he served, and remarks, which are similar in content to those found in the previously cited bound volumes.
To gain access to records pertaining to Confederate medical officers, one need only know the name of the individual. All of the series offer proof of service, and entry 461 (described above) contains leads to other records series one might investigate for more information. None of these records, however, offer any details about the officer's daily service and experiences or his medical and family background.
Confederate medical personnel, other than medical officers, were civilian employees of the government of the Confederate States of America who mostly worked in army hospitals throughout the South. The main source of information about, and references to, hospital personnel is hospital rolls, 1861-1865 (entry 28). This series comprises thirty-six boxes of trifolded muster and payrolls. (Muster rolls were descriptive personnel lists; payrolls note the amount and date of issue of wages.) In many instances, the extant hospital rolls cite black and white workers. These rolls were created at most, but not all, hospitals within the Confederate States of America. Temporary hospitals, such as those established on the battlefield, are not usually represented.
The rolls are arranged by state, thereunder by name and/or location of hospital, thereunder roughly by year and month. The individual rolls list the full names of stewards, wardmasters, cooks, nurses, matrons, and others employed at the hospital when the roll was filled out. However, enslaved African Americans are usually only listed under their first names. The names of the slaves' owners are also listed. Additionally, the rolls cite the employees' duties or job title, wages, and the dates they were attached to the hospital.
The role for the Empire Hotel Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, dated February 23, 1862, shows that Elizabeth Tatum was employed as a nurse at $10.00 Confederate a month; George W. Buckles was also a nurse, at $7.50 a month; William ("colored") was employed as a cook, with his $20.00 a month paid to R. Rogers; Teeny ("colored") was a laundress, with her $8.00 wages paid to L. B. Davis; S.A.R. Summerlin worked as a matron earning $18.50 a month. Many of the hospital rolls include an inspection statement. The Empire Hotel Hospital was found to be in "first rate condition."
In order to search the hospital rolls for references to a specific individual, one must know where the person may have been employed-either the name or location of the hospital. In the case of enslaved African American workers, one may need to know the name of his or her owner.
Record books relating to medical personnel survive for some Confederate hospitals, especially the larger ones. All of these hospital volumes are located in chapter VI; none have name indexes. What follows is a list of the Confederate hospital bound records that might be useful in genealogical research, if the place of employment is known. The volumes almost exclusively pertain to white employees and officers. While they can prove that a specific individual aided the Confederate cause in a medical position, the volumes do not offer details as to the individual's daily work experiences or family background.
- Record book, Fort Morgan [Alabama] Hospital, 1862-1864 (vol.5
- Record book, St. Mary's [Dalton, Georgia] Hospital, 1862-1863 (Vol. 4)
- Record book, Pettigrew General Hospital No. 13 [Raleigh, North Carolina], 1864-1865 (Vol. 525)
- Record book, General Hospital No. 2 at Lynchburg [Virginia], 1863-1864 (Vol. 529)
Hospitals in Richmond:
- Record book, General Hospital No. 4, 1863-1864 (Vol. 181)
- Record book, General Hospital No. 9, 1862-1864 (Vol. 81)
- Record book, General Hospital No. 13, 1862-1865 (Vol. 256)
- Lists of employees, General Hospital No. 21, 1862-1864 (Vol. 13)
- Record book, General Hospital No. 24, 1863-1865 (Vol. 122)
- Record of employees and patients, Chimborazo Hospital,1861-1864 (Vol. 33)
- Record book, Chimborazo Hospital No. 1, 1863-1864 (Vol. 448)
- Record book, Chimborazo Hospital No. 2, 1864-1865 (Vol. 80)
- Record book, Chirnborazo Hospital No. 3, 1862-1864 (Vol. 455 1/4
- Record book, Chimborazo Hospital No. 4, 1863-1865 (Vol. 317)
- Record books, Chimborazo Hospital No. 5, 1861-1863 (vols. 61 and 220)
- Rosters of employees, Howard's Grove General Hospital, 1862-1864 (Vol. 342)
- Requisitions for supplies and lists of employees, Howard's Grove General Hospital, 1862-1863 (Vol. 355)
- Record of employees and accounts, Howard's Grove General Hospital, 1861-1865 (Vol. 191)
- Letters and orders issued and received and personnel lists, Jackson Hospital, 1861-1865 (Vol. 414 1/2)
Multiple lists of matrons, Negroes (sic), and medical officers stationed at Camp Winder General Hospital in Richmond are found in lists of employees, Division No. 2, 1863-1864 (Vol. 218). For example, one list shows that Mrs. S. M. Christian, aged seventy, served as chief hospital matron from June 1, 1864. The multiple lists of black employees are arranged by occupation and provide date of employment and name of owner. The lists show that Gabriel, aged seventeen, was a nurse; Blake, aged twenty-five, was a cook; and Grace, aged twenty-two, was a laundress.
Five Confederate volumes created at Richmond hospitals provide information specifically about African Americans working within the facilities. These records are:
- List of colored employees, General Hospital No. 21, 1862-1863 (Vol. 14)
- Lists of employees and accounts for food purchased, Chimborazo Hospital No. 1, 1862-1865 (Vol. 307)
- Record book, Chimborazo Hospital No. 1, 1862-1865 (Vol. 310)
- Lists of employees, Chirnborazo Hospital No. 2, 1862-1865 (Vol. 85)
- Jackson Hospital, lists of employees, Division Nos. 1-4, 1863-1864 (Vol. 187)
All of these volumes are within chapter VI, and none are indexed. Volumes 310 and 85 are difficult to read, as the paper is darkened and the ink faded with age. If you suspect your African American ancestor may have been a slave or free person of color in Richmond during the period of the Civil War, the five hospital volumes cited above might be worth consulting. However, when researching slaves, one might need to know the name of the owner.
The hospital books provide the names of the slaves employed— mostly first names, but in a number of cases, surnames as well— and the full names of the respective owners. All except volume 310 list the occupation at the hospital, dates of employment, and remarks. Occupations are mainly cooks, nurses, carpenters, and hospital attendants. While the remarks sections are usually blank, some reveal dates of discharge, transfer, or death. Volumes 307 and 187 also cite the wages slaves earned for their owners. No other information about them is given in these records. Volume 187 shows that Jim Allen, owned by G. Mears, worked as a cook in the Second Division of the hospital; Julius, owned by Samuel Bailey, was a nurse in the Third Division; Leelia Taylor, a laundress, earned twenty-five dollars a month for E. S. Maynard; and Catherine, owned by Mrs. J. N. Cooper, began working at Jackson Hospital on October 10, 1864.
Although most of the black employees listed in these five bound volumes were slaves, we can also find documentation of some free blacks employed at the hospitals. For example, in volume 85, the "list of servants employed" shows that Candace Logan, listed as free, worked as a cook for five hundred dollars a year. William Jamison and George Cox, both listed as free, worked as nurses.
Researching a Southern medical officer or employee is not an easy task, but with a few clues to begin with, the records may provide the proof of their Confederate service, employment, or servitude. The Confederate records discussed herein have not been filmed as a National Archives microfilm publication. To view them at the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C., or to request further information, write to the Old Military and Civil Branch, National Archives, Washington, DC 20408.
DeAnne Blanton is an archivist in the National Archives and Records Administration's Old Military and Civil Branch. She received her M.A. in American history from Wake Forest University.
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