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Assistant Surgeon John T. Reily's Report

A Surgeon's report on the Campaign

[author biography]

... About five miles from Sharpsburg, the enemy appeared on the road leading over the mountain, at a point called Crampton's Gap or Pass. The troops of General Franklin were formed in line of battle, and advanced, driving the enemy before them, taking one piece of artillery, and killing or wounding about two hundred men. The batteries to which I was attached were not engaged, and lost no men. Our infantry, however, lost about one hundred men in killed and wounded. Hospitals were immediately established in Burketsville, and the wounded were properly cared for. The command remained on the field during the next twenty-four hours, and, on the morning of the 17th September, was ordered at daylight to move to the right, in the direction of Sharpsburg, where heavy firing was heard. When within a few miles of that place, we learned that the battle of Antietam had commenced.

General Franklin's corps was ordered across the stream, and put in position on the extreme right of the line. Having crossed Antietam creek, a small stream about twenty feet wide, we ascended a steep hill, in front of which was a plain. On the edge of this hill, our line of battle was formed. Our artillery immediately commenced firing. The infantry of the corps was brought forward, and the command occupied the ground just abandoned by General Sumner's corps.

The field was literally covered with killed and wounded, and it was extremely difficult to move on horseback without injuring the wounded. The great confusion which had prevailed whilst getting the troops into position, and relieving those which had held the ground, prevented the removal of the wounded, and they were consequently under fire several hours.

Surgeon W. J. H. White was killed early in the action, and much delay consequently occurred in getting the ambulances and litters engaged so as to work with any system. The wounded were nearly all moved to field hospitals by nightfall. The night was occupied in dressing wounds, arresting haemorrhage, and preparing for operations.

On the following morning, firing commenced early, and I rejoined the artillery reserve, and remained until a flag of truce was raised in the afternoon, when I assisted in removing the wounded who had fallen between the two armies. The truce was granted ostensibly for the purpose of removing the wounded and burying the dead, but the enemy took advantage of it to retreat, leaving his killed and wounded on the field without surgeons, or any assistance whatever. They were carefully removed, however, as soon as the field was explored on the following morning, and received the same attention as our own men, who lay side by side with them in the hospitals.

Having received orders to convey the wounded of the corps to Frederick, as soon as practicable, I started, a few days after the battle, with two trains of fifty ambulances, and removed them to Frederick without accident. When I arrived there, the medical director ordered me to take charge of a railroad train filled with wounded, going to Philadelphia the following morning. This duty completed, I rejoined the artillery reserve, and moved with it to Virginia. The health of the troops had improved during their stay in Maryland, and they went back to Virginia in good condition ...


Source: Second Extract from a Narrative of his Services in the Medical Staff, MSHWR 1


1   Barnes, Joseph K., and US Army, Office of the Surgeon General, The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, 6 books, Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1870, Part. 1, Vol. 1, Appendix, pg. 105  [AotW citation 19731]


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