Army Medical History- Introduction

July 27, 1775 Congress established a medical department for the Continental Army. It had a rudimentary system of care. No designation of military rank was established. The new medical department was a pseudo-civilian medical department. Personnel were not exactly soldiers, no rank nor uniforms, but more than civilians because they were subject to the rules, regulation and procedures of the Army. This confusion continued throughout the 18th century through the War of 1812.

Below is a list of personnel and pay for the Continental Army Medical Department:

·       One Director General and Chief Physician, his pay per day, four Dollars. 

·       Four Surgeons, each ditto, one and one third of a dollar.

·       One Apothecary, ditto, one and one third of a dollar. 

·       Surgeon's mates, each ditto, two thirds of a dollar. 

·       One Clerk, ditto, two thirds of a dollar.

·       Two Storekeepers, each four dollars per month.

·       One nurse to every ten sick, one fifteenth of a dollar per day, or two dollars per month.

·       Laborers occasionally.

May 14, 1818, Congress passed an Act to reorganize the staff departments. It called for a permanent Medical department and one Surgeon General. The creation of a permanent central military medical organization which would allow for preventive medicine to be developed. Through periods of administrative issues, financial problems, development in knowledge and experience of war, the Medical department began to create medical practices to help the survival of their soldiers and strengthen the army.

Army surgeons stationed throughout the US were subject to the same overall discipline. With support from civilian physicians, the Army Medical Department collected significant statistics on weather, climate, and geographical features at the various forts. This information determined how meteorological factors influence the health and nature of diseases of soldiers under their care.

For further information about the creation of our nation’s medical department follow the link here: