Report From the Medical Department Concerning the Battle of Cold Harbor

The hospitals of the Fifth, Sixth, and Second Corps were fully prepared for the emergency, and their supply was so complete that they were able to spare freely for the necessities of the other corps. The usual results of the lack of an ambulance organization were painfully perceptible in the Eighteenth Corps, 2 or 3 soldiers leaving the ranks with each severely wounded man, and forgetting to return, while the roads and woods were lined with stragglers, as the slightly, wounded preferred to go back to White House on foot rather than to go to a hospital where they knew there was no shelter and but scanty supplies.

A part of the stores of the Eighteenth Corps arrived from White House during the day, and among them forty hospital-tent flies, which, being pitched end to end and the sides fastened to a railing raised 2 feet from the ground, formed a series of very excellent hospital wards. About 1,100 wounded were left on the field from the day’s engagement, it being impossible to remove them, as they were between the lines and completely covered by the enemy's sharpshooters. The result of the battle was not decisive, the enemy retaining his original position at nightfall, while the hostile lines were at some points not more than 100 yards apart, each being protected by breast-works of logs and earth. On the 4th of June there was no fighting, except an occasional skirmish between the pickets. The day was occupied in collecting and bringing in from the field m many of the wounded from the preceding day's battle as could be gotten at. The number brought in was as follows:

Second Corps 494
Fifth Corps322
Sixth Corps154
Ninth Corps 25
Eighteenth Corps706

One hundred empty army wagons, obtained from the reserve supply train on the morning of the 4th, were divided equally among the several corps, and the corps medical directors were ordered to send all wounded to White House, using one-half of their ambulances if necessary. Forty-three new ambulances, which reported on the morning of the 4th, were sent to the medical director of the Eighteenth Corps to assist in the same work. Each medical director also had all of the corps' empty wagons. All the trains were loaded and on the way by 2 p. m., the number being sent was as follows:

Corps Sick Wounded Wagons Ambulances
Second Corps 17 606 29 84
Fifth Corps 43 420 66 40
Sixth Corps 87 639 60 64
Eighteenth Corps---400 25 43
Total 161 2794 255 289

No engagement of consequence occurred after this time and the position of the corps and hospitals remained comparatively unchanged for the following week. The hospitals of the Second Corps were moved to the Tyler house on the 7tb, an open elevated location, with excellent water. The wounded and seriously sick were sent back to White House almost daily, the total number sent from June 5 to June 13 being as follows:

Second Corps6319761607
Fifth Corps7555130
Sixth Corps157178335
Ninth Corps461203664
Eighteenth Corps1389041042

The number of sick in the army increased largely during the first half of June, and the severity of cases became greater. The constant labor and watchfulness of the previous month began to manifest its effects. The country was low and marshy in character, the water derived almost entirely from surface drainage, and the condition of the men in the trenches very bad, in a sanitary point of view. For over a month they had had no vegetables, and the beef used was from cattle who were exhausted by the long march through the country but scantily provided with forage. The men had to lie close behind the breast-works to avoid the sharpshooters, as it was almost certain death to expose one's person at certain parts of the line, and their cooking was imperfect and of the simplest description. Dead horses and offal of various kinds were scattered over the country everywhere, and between the lines were many dead bodies of either party unburied and decomposing in the burning sun. A large number of recruits joined the army at this place, and contributed greatly to swell the sick list. Malarial and typho-malarial fevers and diarrhea were the prevailing diseases. No distinct cases of scurvy were observed at this time, but a scorbutic taint was undoubtedly affecting the army and depressing its health and spirits.

[Source: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies Series I: Volume XXXVI, pages 245-247]