(1838 - 1912)
Home State: Connecticut
Education: Cincinnati Medical College and Surgery, Class of 1857
Branch of Service: Medical
He came to America with his parents in 1848 and they first lived in Cincinnati, OH. The family moved to Hartford, CT in 1856 when his father Isaac became the rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel. Nathan was studying in Europe after graduating from medical school when the war began, but he returned to Hartford in January 1862 and enrolled and mustered as Assistant Surgeon of the 11th Connecticut Infantry on 10 March 1862. He was 5 feet and no inches tall.
On the Campaign
He marched through Maryland in September 1862 at the rear of his regiment, and assisted men who fell out along the way, ill. From 14-16 September he tended the wounded from the battles on South Mountain at "a little wayside house" nearby, then rode to join his regiment near Sharpsburg late on the night of the 16th.
At Antietam on 17 September 1862 he initially treated wounded soldiers - including Captain Griswold and Colonel Kingsbury - on the battlefield, but "rebel sharpshooters ... across the stream, soon drove [him] out" so he then organized and ran a field hospital on the Rohrbach Farm a little further east of the stone bridge.
The rest of the War
He remained near Sharpsburg treating the wounded on the Rohrbach and Otto Farms into October with Surgeon Storrs of the 8th Connecticut, then rejoined his regiment in camp near Harpers Ferry, VA. He was promoted to Surgeon of the 16th Connecticut Infantry on 9 January 1863 (vice Surgeon Abner S. Warner, resigned).
He was captured at Plymouth, NC on 20 April 1864 and was in Libby Prison in Richmond for a few weeks before being exchanged along with Colonel Beach and with other surgeons and chaplains. He was then assigned to Foster Hospital in New Berne, NC and in the Summer of 1864 survived an attack of yellow fever which sickened all and killed half (9) of the medical staff there. He mustered out at New Berne with the regiment on 24 June 1865.
After the War
He established a practice in Hartford, CT and was still a practicing physician there as late as 1910. He was appointed Surgeon General of Connecticut in 1872, was a founder of the St. Francis Hospital, and was President of the Hartford Medical Society in 1906. He was also the music and drama critic for the Hartford Times. He probably never married.
References & notes
His service from the Record.1 Personal details from Dr. Stanley B. Weld's A Connecticut Surgeon in the Civil War: The Reminiscences of Dr. Nathan Mayer (Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, July 1964), Mayer's Reminiscences (1904) themselves, and from the US Census of 1910. His gravesite is on Findagrave, source also of his photograph, contributed by Chris Van Blargan.
More on the Web
His Reminiscences manuscript is in the collection of the Library of the Hartford Medical Society, which also has an excellent c. 1890 photograph of him. Extracts were published by Doctor Weld in Connecticut Physicians in the Civil War, from the Connecticut Civil War Centennial Commission in 1965 [PDF], source of the quotes above.
Dr Mayer was the author of at least two novels: The Fatal Secret (1858) and Differences (1868), a pioneer work of American Jewish literature, in which he makes a cameo appearance as an Army Surgeon.
He wrote a memorial poem to the 16th Connecticut Infantry at Antietam which he read at the dedication of their monument on the battlefield on 11 October 1894. It's online from the Internet Archive, and includes a c. 1894 photograph of him. A few of its lines:
They send their lead down in the dance
Of Death, who sweeps with crimson hand
O’er the blue hills of Maryland.
12/25/1838; Bavaria, GERMANY
07/10/1912; Hartford, CT; burial in Beth Israel Cemetery, Hartford, CT
1 State of Connecticut, Adjutant General's Office, and AGs Smith, Camp, and Barbour, and AAG White, Record of Service of Connecticut Men in the Army and Navy of the United States during the War of the Rebellion, Hartford: Press of the Case, Lockwood, and Brainard Company, 1889, pp. 433, 619 [AotW citation 27052]