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    Description

    Dr. John M. McCalla, Jr., Assistant Acting Surgeon in the Union Army, a Large Archive Relating to His Activities During the War. Approximately 116 pieces, dating from September 15, 1863 to November 20, 1865, documenting the service and activities of McCalla, including his contract with the U.S. Medical Department, letters to and from McCalla, orders of various sorts, requests for leave of absence, receipts for payment, documents pertaining to patients and treatments, 2 cartes de visite, 8 cancelled postal covers, and 23 blank medical forms.

    The earliest dated document in the collection is McCalla's contract with the U.S. Army, dated September 15, 1863, in which he is to serve as surgeon in return for $100 per month and "$113.83 and transportation in kind when performing service in the field." Included in the collection is an order from the Medical Director's Office, dated the same day as the contract, ordering McCalla to "report for duty without delay to...Seminary Hospital Georgetown D.C."

    Of the letters in the collection, there are 5 from grateful former hospital patients. One, dated November 3, 1863, from a former patient N. Millard, thanked McCalla for his aid: "Please accept my Kind regards for your attention to me since I have been in this Hospital. Although not well, I start this evening for my home in the far West. I regret exceedingly that I could not see you before my departure....I shall report here, health permitting, on the 24th of this month, at which time, I hope to be able to thank you in person." Another letter, dated March 27, 1864, from Cornelius McLean, a private with the New York 39th Infantry who was still in McCalla's care in the hospital, is a moving tribute in which he not only pledged to McCalla his deep friendship but enclosed a CDV of himself (included).

    Documents in this archive provide a fascinating and realistic glimpse of the workings of the U.S. medical department and medical treatment during the Civil War. Regarding the latter, for example, there is in the collection is a printed form, "Medical Descriptive List" completed in ink by McCalla, in which he provided notes regarding a soldier who died at the Seminary Hospital on December 28, 1863, two days after he was admitted. McCalla lists the treatment and food given to the patient. He recorded the disease or injury of the patient as "Nervous prostration," resulting in "Death." His detailed notes include the following:

    "This patient was admitted with an 'incised wound-dorsal surface of right foot,' and at the time of admission was in a low, nervous, typhoid condition....On the morning of the 27th, a patient in the same room, saw him take two 'large pinches' of a 'white' powder from a bottle (of which powder he said he had often taken before) when that bottle was found by the medical officer, it contained 20 grains of the sulphate of morphia. The bottle would hold, when full, 2 drachms. During the night the patient complained of violent pains in the abdomen...attended by nausea, and followed-toward morning, by a slight diarrhoea [sic]. On the morning of the 28th he was much prostrated, lying is a state of coma, except when roused forcibly, there was a continual twitching of the muscles of his face and upper and lower extremities, his pulse was winy and rapid....The cutting of the hair and the application of the blister back of the neck somewhat relieved the coma and the blister over the abdomen with the turpentine emulsion alleviated the nausea and stopped the diarrhoea but he continued to sink rapidly though stimulated freely, and died at 10.30 p.m."

    On December 29, the day after McCalla lost this patient, he was ordered by Henry W. Ducachet, Surgeon in Chief of the Seminary Hospital, to "take under you're your special supervision, & be responsible for, the policing & cleanliness of the Hospital and grounds connected with it, and see that the Hospital property generally is carefully preserved; that nurses do their duty; in short you will have...supervision of the Hospital exclusive of the Dispensary, Kitchens & dining rooms, linen & store rooms & guards quarters, and will be held responsible for the proper Condition of that part entrusted to you."

    After serving in the Seminary Hospital McCalla was ordered to report for duty at the U.S. General Hospital at Judiciary Square, Washington, D.C. on October 13, 1864. Soon after his transfer, McCalla received a letter, dated November 3, 1864, from a former patient, Augustus Hatch of the 35th Massachusetts Infantry, who sent his congratulations while expressing his sorrow "to hear that you have left the Seminary Hospl. For they need at least one cheerful face where the head is so grim." Hatch informs McCalla of his fears that his military career may be over due to the seriousness of his injuries. While Hatch had "seen enough bloodshed, and would gladly leave the service," he would, "rather than see this effort to crush the rebellion abandoned...I would crawl out upon the battle field and give up what may be left of this life in defense of Liberty."

    On November 19, 1864, McCalla requested that he be detailed on the steam ship State of Maine for a trip she was to make between Washington and City Point, Virginia. His request was granted and on November 24 he wrote a long letter from City Point to his wife Helen describing his trip, which included visits to two observation towers and seeing General Ulysses S. Grant: "My dear Helen... Instead of being back 'at home' to night with you-as I expected when I left, here am I at City Point Va. listening to a band in the bluff playing 'the Star-Spangled banner' and feeling quite subdued from the enormous dinner I ate....On yesterday, Dr. Finn procured an ambulance, a team and a driver and took Drs. Dunham And Chamberlain (two assistants,) and myself out sight-seeing. We rode two miles up the Appomattox river along continuous lines of splendid earth works-then crossed the river in a pontoon bridge...then by fortifications for two miles until we came to the first of Butler's lookouts-(called by the soldiers-'Butler's roost') which is a tall tower 150 ft high built of long pine logs fitted together in a hollow square; you ascend by long ladders at the end of which is a platform for resting; at the top is a little house-with a stove-bench and some chairs. It is a signal station and there is a soldier always in the watch with a powerful spy glass. Butler's second lookout-three miles distant-towards Richmond-is distinctly seen with the naked eye-and signals are constantly interchanged. From the top of this tower which I have just described, I could see Petersburg distinctly-and with the aid of glasses, I could distinguish the color of houses. For miles away-in all directions-could be seen the camp fires of our men and of the Confederates....The second lookout is 230 ft. high. We ascended in the same way. I was quite tired when I reached the top, but I was a thousand times repaid for the exertion and risk. I could trace the winding of the James for miles...in the distance I saw four spires of churches in the beleaguered city of Richmond and could see also the Confederate flag waving on the dome of the Capitol....We saw Genl. Grant receive a party of English visitors. The General is a much younger looking person than I expected-and I like his face-it is good and honest, but he is extremely awkward and coarse in his manners."

    On June 27, 1865, McCalla was ordered to report to duty at the Stanton U.S. General Hospital in Washington, D.C. On July 21, 1865, he was put in charge of wards 1, 2, 11 and 12 at the hospital, and on September 8, 1865, he was given charge of wards 7 and 8. Beginning in September 1865, McCalla was transferred to various hospitals. On September 23, McCalla was ordered to report to Rush Barracks "for duty to relieve Act. Asst. Surg. J. E. Winants." Within a week, on September 27, he was ordered to report for duty at the Douglas Hospital in Washington, D.C. Then on November 2, 1865, McCalla was sent to Harewood Hospital, which may have been his final post.

    The last dated document (November 20, 1865) in this extensive archive is a receipt from G. F. Schafer, a Washington, D.C. merchant and tailor, for McCalla's payment of $58 for the purchase on October 8, 1865, of a "Uniform suit." This purchase must have occurred right before he completed his service to the U.S. Medical Department.

    Born in Lexington, Kentucky, John Moore McCalla, Jr. (1832-1897) moved with his family to Washington, D.C. when his father, General John McCalla, a veteran of the War of 1812, received a government appointment from President James Knox Polk. McCalla received his medical education at Columbian College and National Medical College. In 1860, he served as Special Agent for the U.S. government on an American Colonization Society ship transporting a group of Africans rescued from a slave ship from Florida to Liberia. In September 1863, McCalla was contracted by the U.S. Medical Department to serve as an acting assistant surgeon for the U.S. Army. He served in this capacity until November 1865. He died in 1897 at the age of 65.

    Condition: Overall, items in the archive, several with horizontal and vertical folds, are in good condition. Documents in the collection, most measuring 7.75" x 10," the CDVs, and the postal covers are all housed in protective mylar sleeves.


    More Information:

    A letter from Cornelius McLean dated March 27, 1864:

    "My Dear, Dear Friend,

    I have many many times thought, since I have been in this Hospital, how unforeseen circumstances throw people together, for instance you and I. Many times I have heard persons talk of friends, for my part I never had one, acquaintances I have had many, but friends none. There are very few in this World that are worthy of that endearing name. And you Dear Friend are one. In you I know I have a friend, and one in whom I would trust my life and every thought or being that is Dear to me on Earth. In me you will find a friend who will sacrifice his life to do you a favor. Trust me and you find I am worthy of your Confidence. During my illness I have watched and waited for your comings, in your presence hours would fly with the swiftness of an arrow, in your absence minutes would become hours and hours, as whole weeks, such is the friend's life I have formed for you. We may shortly have to part, I to resume my duties in the field, you to continue yours here. Wherever I may be, I never will forget you, nor your many kindnesses during my illness."

    The blank forms included in the archive are as follows: "Order for Stimulants," 1865 (11); forms for using certain alcoholic beverages, Seminary Hospital, 1863 (2); invoices for "Account of Private Physicians Under Contract" (4); Form 30 "Requisitions for Fuel" (2); Sanitary Commission requests for purchase of food for a particular hospital, 1863 (2); and "Record of Treatment and Diet" (2).



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