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Federal (USV)


Hartwell Carver Tompkins

(1828 - 1903)

Home State: New York

Education: Vermont Medical College, Woodstock, VT, Class of 1853

Branch of Service: Medical

Unit: 61st New York Infantry

Before Antietam

Hartwell Carver Tompkins was born on March 15, 1828 in Henrietta, Monroe County, New York. His father was rarely present and his mother died when he was only six, leaving him to be raised mostly by his grandfather. Hartwell received a common school education in Henrietta, and would attend the Collegiate Institute in Rochester. By age nineteen, Hartwell began the study of medicine and surgery under Dr. E.M. Moon of Rochester.

On January 20, 1853, Hartwell married Orinda M. Garlick, daughter of Samuel Garlick of Pittsford, Monroe County. They would have four children, one of whom died at the age of three. In June 1853, at age twenty-four, Hartwell graduated with a degree in medicine at Vermont Medical College in Woodstock, Vermont. After graduation, Dr. Tompkins practiced medicine in Knowlesville, Orleans County, New York until war broke out between the North and South.

On February 25, 1862 he received a commission as Assistant Surgeon of the 61st Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, which was part of the First Brigade, First Division, Second Army Corps of the Army of the Potomac. He would stay with the 61st for almost a year, being promoted to Surgeon on August 21, 1862.

On the Campaign

As Surgeon-in-Chief of the Army of the Potomac's First Division, Second Army Corps' field hospital near Antietam from September 17th to September 29th, Dr. Tompkins had his hands full treating wounded and sick soldiers from both sides. His obituary notes, "After the battle of Antietam (the bloody battle) for want of assistants he was compelled to stand knee deep in amputated limbs." He performed the last operation made at this hospital on September 29th - the amputation of a thigh.

Dr. Tompkins dressed the first wounds received in battle by Colonel Francis C. Barlow, commander of the 61st NY Infantry.

Lieutenant Colonel Nelson A. Miles, acting commander of the 61st after Barlow's wounding, wrote in an after-action report filed in Antietam on September 19, 1862 that, "[The officers] were noticed as behaving in the most excellent manner; also Dr. Tompkins, who followed the regiment upon the field and rendered prompt assistance to the wounded."

The rest of the War

After almost a year of continuous service with the 61st, including Fredericksburg in December where he was compelled to perform many operations under direct artillery fire, Dr. Tompkins resigned from duty on February 18, 1863 with a Surgeon's Certificate of Disability. He was emotionally and physically spent.

After six months of recuperation, however, Dr. Tompkins felt he needed to get back to the war. On August 11, 1863 he received a commission as Assistant Surgeon of the 4th New York Heavy Artillery Regiment commanded by, among others, Colonel John C. Tidball, who later served as one of the early governors of the Alaska territory. He was quickly promoted to Surgeon on November 16, 1863, and would stay Surgeon of the 4th until the end of the war. Dr. Tompkins would serve with the 4th in Virginia in defense of the Capitol and during such battles as the Wilderness, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and the Appomattox Campaign.

He was mustered out of the United States service with his regiment on September 26, 1865 in Washington D.C., having served three years and one month in the Army of the Potomac.

After the War

After the war, Dr. Tompkins returned to his practice in Knowlesville, Orleans County. He became an important member of the community, serving as coroner, pensioner examiner, postmaster, and school trustee for many years. He was also an active member of the local G.A.R. Post. Dr. Tompkins passed away on August 5, 1903 at the age of seventy-five, and is buried at Tanner Cemetery in Ridgeway, Orleans County. It seems he lived a full and rewarding life. Dr. Tompkins' obituary probably best sums up what kind of man he was: "He will ever be remembered by all who knew him as a good citizen, a true friend, often giving his valuable services to the needy without charge. His family will remember him as a kind husband, an indulgent father. The whole community will miss him."

References & notes

This sketch by decendent Andrew Tompkins. He's also posted a portrait drawing of the Surgeon on RootsWeb. His sources for the biography were:
-Fuller, Charles A. Personal Recollections of the War of 1861, as Private, Sergeant and Lieutenant in the Sixty-first Regiment, New York Infantry. Sherburne, NY: News Printing House, 1906.

-Kirk, Hyland C. Heavy Guns and Light: History of the 4th New York Heavy Artillery. New York: C.T. Dillingham, 1890.

-Phisterer, Frederick, comp. New York in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865. Vol. 2. Albany, NY: Weed and Parsons, 1890.

-The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. XIX/1 [S#27].

-Pension Files, Hartwell C. Tompkins, National Archives

-Military Files, Hartwell C. Tompkins, National Archives

-Obituary, Hartwell C. Tompkins


03/15/1828; Henrietta, NY


08/05/1903; Knowlesville, New York; burial in Tanner Cemetery, Ridgeway, Orleans County, NY