The care of the State has been extended, during the year to the sick and wounded soldiers of the various United States' General Hospitals. It was a common complaint, during the previous year, among regimental and company officers, that, when they men were once sent to a General Hospital, they never rejoined their regiments and were practically lost to the service. Those who became convalescent were retained for the performance of hospital duty; and those who continued too unwell for duty were subjected to all the discomforts of crowded hospitals, and through the difficulty of obtaining furloughs, or discharged, lost all the benefit, which them might have obtained if they could have been sent to their native State.
Early in the year Frank F. Holbrook and Daniel L. Lyman were appointed Commissioners, in pursuance of the Joint Resolution of the last Legislature, to visit sick and disabled soldiers and procure their removal to this State, whenever their speedy recovery would be thereby promoted. An arrangement was effected with the War Department and the Surgeon General of the Army, under which the Commissioners were to be allowed to visit all United States' General Hospitals, obtain lists of all Vermont soldiers, whom they might find, procure those to be designated by the Surgeon in charge, whose recovery was not probable within thirty days, and who could bear removal to Vermont, and present lists of such men to the Surgeon General, by whom an order would be given for their removal. The commissioners were not to interfere in any manner with men in camp,k or in the field, but were only to act with reference to men who had been transferred to Hospitals. Under this arrangement, the United States' Hospital at Brattleboro', which was previously of limited capacity, was enlarged, at the expense of the State, and was furnished with beds and necessary hospital furniture and conveniences by the liberality of citizens of the State.
This arrangement, through the unwearied industry and faithful care of both Commissioners, until the resignation of Dr. Lyman, early in April, and of Mr. Holbrook since that time, has been carried into complete and successful operation. More than 2500 sick and wounded Vermont soldiers, in more than one hundred United States' General and Field Hospitals, located at various points in different States, have been visited, and examination made as to their condition, and more than 1000 of them have, through the direct agency of the Commissioners, been transferred to the Hospitals at Brattleboro and Burlington.
The Hospital at Brattleboro' has been in charge of Dr. Edward E. Phelps, U. S. Surgeon. At this Hospital there have been received, through the agency of the Commissioners, 922 sick and wounded men, of whom 158 have been transferred to the Hospital at Burlington, leaving 764 under treatment at Brattleboro'. Of these 277 have been returned to their regiments, 83 have been discharged from service, 8 have died, 56 have been transferred to the Invalid Corps or have deserted, and 340 still remain in Hospital. Of the entire number received in the Hospital, thirty-six per cent. have already been returned to duty, a much larger average than from any General Hospital known, situated further South. Of the 340 now remaining, a large share having become disabled, by wounds or sickness, during the recent summer campaign.
The results in the Hospital at Burlington, under charge of Surgeon Samuel w. Thayer, Jr., have demonstrated not less conclusively the beneficial effects, upon Vermont soldiers affected with chronic complaints incident to Southern climate, of a transfer to their native air. There were 26 men in Hospital at the commencement of the year, and 413 have been received during the year, making an aggregate of 439 under treatment. Of these 305, or nearly seventy per cent., have been returned to duty, 31 have been discharged, 5 transferred to other Hospitals, 5 died, 15 deserted, and 78 are now remaining in Hospital. Nearly the whole number of men in the Hospital during the year were transferred to the State through the agency of the Commissioners.
It is believed that the ultimate results of the action of the State, in this respect, will be to restore to health, and to duty in their regiments, at least fifty per cent. of the entire number of men transferred to the State, besides contributing greatly to the comfort and gratification of the men, in bringing them to points easily accessible by their friends. The average of men returned to duty from Hospitals at Washington, and other points further South, does not exceed, and seldom reaches, twenty-five per cent. of the number received. The experiment has proved entirely successful and eminently gratifying in its results; and the Commissioners and Surgeons, who have rendered it so,a re entitle to the thanks of the invalid soldiers of Vermont, and of the people of the State.
I annex, in Appendix C, the reports of Commissioner Holbrook, of Surgeon Edward E. Phelps, and of Surgeon Samuel W. Thayer, Jr.
But the labors of the Commissioners have accomplished another valuable purpose. Returns have been made by them, from time to time, of lists of all Vermont soldiers found by them in the numerous Hospitals visited, giving the name, rank, company, regiment, and, when practicable, the nature of the disease and the present condition of each man. These returns enable me, in many instances, to correct the regimental returns in respect to absent men, who are reported as deserters or as dropped from the rolls. Many such men, long absent from their regiment, without knowledge of their locality on the part of their officers, as so reported, when they have in fact been in hospital during the entire time of their absence, and in the way of their duty. When the report is received ,the State pay is suspended. But the Hospital lists received enable me, in many cases, to correct the record, to report the locality of the absent men to his officers, and to direct his payment by the State resumed. Lists have been received in this way, from Commissioner Holbrook, with full information of more than 2100 men.
Monthly reports have also been received from the Military Agents of the State at Philadelphia, Robert R. Corson, of the Vermont soldiers in the numerous Hospitals in and about that city, upon blanks furnished to him for that purpose, showing the name, rank, regiment, and company, with the full Hospital history of each man. These lists have answered the same valuable purpose, in enabling me to correct regimental returns of deserters, and men dropped, as those already mentioned as received from the Commissioner. The number of Hospitals at Philadelphia, and its location upon the line of transit between the North and South, have given to Mr. Corson's position peculiar importance, and imposed upon him the necessity for the exercise of constant care and watchfulness, both in respect to those in Hospital, and those passing through the city. The suggestions i the interesting report of Mr. Corson, annexed in Appendix C, are worthy of consideration. He gives a very clear and distinct account of the wants and necessities of disabled soldiers.
The State Military Agent at New York, Col. Frank E. Howe, has also, by his active exertions during the year, contributed greatly to the comfort of Vermont soldiers in transit through that city, and, by furnishing frequent lists of those relieved by him at the New England Rooms, and of those i the numerous Hospitals in the vicinity, with information in respect to each man, has rendered valuable assistance in perfecting, so far as has been practicable, the Hospital History of Vermont troops. I annex, in Appendix C, the report of Col. Howe.
The lists of soldiers in Hospital, received from these three sources, the Commissioners, the Agent at Philadelphia, and the Agent at New York,--comprise the men in all the General Hospitals north of Fortress Monroe. Being independent of the regimental returns, they are unaffected by any neglect of the Surgeons in charge to make reports to the regimental officers. They are of value to the State, in frequently giving information of discharges and deaths, not reported from the regiments, and thereby enabling the Treasurer, through the agency of reports from this office, to keep a proper check upon the payment of the State pay. They are important to the soldiers in Hospital, in enabling me, in proper cases, ti direct the State pay continued, notwithstanding a regimental report, that the man has deserted,or has been dropped from the Rolls. And they are of great additional value, as part of the military records of the State, in connection with the Roster kept in this office, in affording a history of each man, while in service, whenever, in the future, it shall become necessary, either for the purpose of aiding his claim to pension or for any other purpose, private or public. Should the war continue, the system can be made still more perfect, as the result of the experience of the past.
Immediately after the battle of Gettysburgh, a proposition was made by the State of Pennsylvania for the purchase of a Cemetery for the burial of the Union soldiers who fell in that engagement. The plan submitted will be found in the letter of Daniel Wills to the governor of this State, annexed in appendix C.
The medical officers of the several regiments have been appointed upon the recommendation of a board of Medical Examiners, who were commissioned as such in pursuance of a General Order from the War Department, requesting the Governors of the several States to appoint such Boards. The report of Dr. Samuel w. Thayer, Jr., Chairman of the board, is annexed in appendix C.