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Surg J. Letterman, USA

Surg J. Letterman, USA

Federal (USA)


Jonathan Letterman

(1824 - 1872)

Home State: Pennsylvania

Education: Washington & Jefferson College (PA), Class of 1845

Command Billet: Director of Medicine

Branch of Service: Medical

Unit: Army of the Potomac


see his Battle Report

Before Antietam

Dr. Letterman was a regular Army surgeon since 1849. In 1862, due to the unexpected size of casualty lists during the battle of Manassas where it took one week to remove the wounded from the battlefield, as head of Medical Services of the Army of the Potomac, he revamped the Army Medical Corps. His contribution included staffing and training men to operate horse teams and wagons to pick up wounded soldiers from the field and to bring them back to field dressing stations for initial treatment. This was the nation's first Ambulance Corps.

Dr. Letterman also developed the 3 tiered evacuation system which is still used today.
* Field Dressing (Aid) Station - located next to the battlefield. Dressings and tourniquets
* Field Hospital - Close to the battlefield (during the Civil War it would be Barns or Houses, today they are known as MASH units). Emergency surgery and treatment.
* Large Hospital - Away from the battlefield. For patients' prolonged treatment.

On the Campaign

Dr. Letterman's transportation system proved successful. In the battle of Antietam, which was a 12 hour engagement and the bloodiest one day battle in the entire Civil War, the ambulance system was was able to remove all the wounded from the field in 24 hours. Dr. Jonathan Letterman is known today as the Father of Modern Battlefield Medicine.

(Text above from the 1st US Cav site Medics, A Brief History)

After the War

Dr. Letterman resigned from the service in December 1864, and moved to California, practicing medicine in San Francisco. He was depressed by the death of his wife in 1867, and was often ill himself, dying in 1872.

More on the Web

See something about Fort Union, where Dr Letterman was an Assistant Surgeon in 1856, and more about Civil War Medicine, in general, in a nice piece by Jenny Goellnitz.




3/15/1872; burial in Arlington National Cemetery, VA