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Adjutant and Inspector General Reports

1863 Report
Appendix C

403 13th Street,
Washington, D. C., Sept. 26, 1863

P. T. Washburn, Adjutant and Inspector General of Vermont:

General, -- I now have the honor to transmit the enclosed list of 175 Vermont soldiers visited in hospitals, in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island since my last report, of the 14th ult., of whom 67 have been transported to Hospital's in Vermont. I shall have a new list to send you in a few days, and I expect to have another detachment transferred the coming week.

During the past nine months, from the 15th of December, when the Commissioners were appointed, to September 15th (inst.), I have to report that the Commissioners have visited, at different time, in all, some 2,500 sick and wounded Vermont soldiers, in over 100 U. S. General and Field Hospitals, located at various points, in seven States, principally in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia, of whom we have succeeded in having transferred by Government to the U. S. General Hospitals at Brattleboro' and Burlington, over 1,000 men, in different detachments, and we have arranged for most of the cases to go through in comfortable hospital cars, fitted up with every convenience, with easy berths for those cases not able to sit up, and each detachment under the charge of a skilful surgeon, and a sufficient detail of nurses, and usually one of the Commissioners has accompanied them to Vermont or as far as New York, to see that proper arrangements were provided for their further transportation and comfort. In accomplishing these results the Commissioners have traveled over 10,000 miles.

In doing this work we have had to contend with many obstacles and objections, which have been overcome. Among some of the objections, were these, viz:

If we got the soldiers transferred to Hospitals in Vermont, it was considered doubtful whether many could be returned to duty, even if our Surgeons should succeed in curing them in reasonable time; and especially when they were about returning to duty, it was thought a good many would be likely to get away, if they had not been able by some means to obtain a discharge. On the contrary, however, the experiment has proved that there is probably no military hospital in the United States that has succeeded in caring and returning to duty so large a per cent age of men, and in so short a time, ass our Hospitals have done, and it is further a matter of remark among the officials through whose hands the soldiers have returned to duty, that the Vermont soldiers are the most cheerful, orderly and best satisfied soldiers they receive from any hospital.

Again, as it has not been allowable to grant furloughs in any hospitals, except where it was done in certain cases in the Department of Washington, at Head Quarters, it was much doubted, under the circumstances, whether the soldier could be kept at the Hospitals in the State. It was thought they would be apt to slip off and go home, and when once away some might not return. The Commissioners have explained this matter about furloughs to the soldiers before they were transferred to the STate, and I have heard of no advantages being taken by the soldiers, and there has been no occasion for the Government to find any fault with the Vermont Hospitals, in this respect. Some would have been very glad to have had furloughs for thirty or sixty days, to visit home, but all must have understood that very few obtained such furloughs, anywhere, and only in special cases and circumstances.

Another objection raised, which would have been a serious one to the experiment, had it proved valid, was that the effect of moving the sick and wounded to the State would be likely to result injuriously in many cases. some, it was supposed, might die on the way; others might injure themselves by eating improper food, &c., on the way; and the ill effects of removal, altogether, would more than offset the advantages any could derive from the change of climate, &c., and of being near home.

But no serious objections have arisen from the transfer in any respect, while many men have immediately and wonderfully improved by the change, and by the new tone of spirits induced by the prospect of being near home again, and not a soldier has died on the way.

In the face of these and other objections, the Commissioners have endeavored to be very careful to have the selections for transfer properly made, taking only such cases as, in the opinion of the Surgeons, could safely bear the journey, and would not be well in thirty days, and we have tried to do our part strictly and faithfully, as well for the good name and best interests of the State, as for the interest of the General Government. If, perchance, we may have fallen short in some instances, in doing all that might have been done, still, i the end, it may prove the better policy to have fallen short sometimes, rather than to have overdone and hazarded all. Confidence is said to be a plant of slow growth, and it is, perhaps, as true as ever, when applied to those with whom we have had to deal, in effecting any arrangements in these matters.

The Vermont Hospitals already stand very high with Government officials in point of general excellence, healthy location and good management, and it is safe to say, even at this early day, that our Hospitals are excelled by none, and are equalled by only a very few, and they will still improve with more time, and may be of still large benefits in future. The period in which they have been in operation, has not been the most favorable to show the largest record, but could they have been put into operation six months sooner, which would have covered a period when there was more sickness among our soldiers, many valuable lives might have been saved, and many men returned to the service again, who were lost, either by death or discharge.

		Very respectfully,
			Your obedient servant,
				FRANK F. HOLBROOK,
					Commissioner of Vermont.