Report of Surg. William S. King, U.S. Army, Medical Director
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 344-345
ARLINGTON, DEP’T NORTHEASTERN VIRGINIA,
July 26, 1861
SIR: Being chief of the medical staff serving with the Army in the Department of Northeastern Virginia, I have the honor to make the following report of so much of the results of the action on the 21st at Bull Run as came within my charge. As the officers of the medical staff were attached to the different regiments and on duty with them, I deemed it proper to remain with and accompany the general commanding and staff from the beginning to the termination of the battle in order that I might be present if any were wounded, and also that I might be enabled to visit in this way every part of the field where the killed and wounded might be found.
After the action had fairly commenced and the wounded and the dead were seen lying on the field in every direction, I dispatched Assist. Surg. D. L. Magruder to the rear, with directions to prepare a church (which I had observed as we passed before arriving at the scene of action) for the reception of our wounded, and also to send the ambulances forward as rapidly as possible to pick up the Wounded and dead. In a very few minutes the ambulances made their appearance, and continued throughout the day to visit every part of the ground which was accessible, so as to be within reach of those parts of the field where the fighting was going on and wounded were to be found. It is due to the ambulance drivers to say that they performed their duties efficiently, and the results of their operations also show how absolutely necessary these means of conveyance are to the comfort and relief of the wounded, in giving them shelter and water when ready to perish with heat and thirst. By means of the ambulances also the men who go to the relief of their wounded comrades are separated but a short time from their companies, as, having deposited them in the ambulances, they can return to their proper positions.
As the general commanding visited almost every part of the ground during the conflict, with a view to encourage or direct the movements of the troops, my position as a member of his staff gave me every opportunity of seeing the results of the action. I therefore embraced the opportunity thus offered to give directions when needed to the drivers of the ambulances where to find the dead and wounded, and also to those carrying off the wounded where they could find the needed conveyances. The stretchers were found very useful and comfortable to the wounded, and were in constant requisition, conveying them to the nearest ambulances.
So far as I am informed, the medical staff belonging to the different volunteer regiments discharged their duties satisfactorily. I observed Acting Assistant Surgeon Miles busily engaged in dressing wounded men under the shade of a tree in a part of the field where the fire from the enemy was very hot. He addressed me a brief inquiry as I passed relative to the safety of his father, and then resumed his occupation. Surg. C. C. Keeney, of Colonel Hunter’s division, and Assist. Surg. D. L. Magruder, attached to the commanding general’s staff, did good service in the hospital church I have mentioned, and also in two houses near the church, where the wounded were placed after the church had been filled. These officers remained busily engaged in the discharge of their duties till the enemy’s cavalry made their appearance, and but narrowly escaped capture when they left. Drs. Swift and Winston, attached to the New York Eighth, remained with their sick, sacrificing all selfish considerations for their own safety in order that the wounded might not be neglected, and are now prisoners. I am informed that Assistant Surgeons Gray and Sternberg, of the Regular Army, and Drs. Homiston and Swalm, of the New York Fourteenth, also preferred to remain rather than abandon their charge. The conduct of these officers is worthy of all commendation.
It would be premature in me, in the absence of sufficient data–the reports of the regimental surgeons not yet being received–to express a positive opinion as to the number killed and wounded in the action on the 21st. There were, no doubt, many concealed from observation under cover of the woods and bushes; but, judging from the number that I saw in various parts of the field, and allowing a wide margin for those unobserved, I should think that the killed and wounded on our side did not exceed from 800 to 1,000.
The impossibility of making a careful survey of the field after the battle had ceased must be my apology for the briefness and want of detail in this report.
W. S. KING,
Surgeon and Medical Director, U. S. Army
Capt. J. B. FRY,
Assistant Adjutant-General, U.S. Army, Arlington, Va.