1865 Receipt for Sale of Surplus Hospital Inventory
As evidence of the sale of surplus medical supplies, we have an original receipt for government issued medical instruments and books purchased from the Medical Store Surplus Office, in Washington, D.C., 9/1865 by Civil War assistant surgeon Benjamin Pope for $89.50! These surplus items would have belonged to the Medical Department per their directive to the hospitals in 1865 to inventory and return all surplus supplies, which were then sold for over four million dollars at the end of the War.
"The War Department's order of 28 April 1865 to cut back on expenses was followed by the reduction of the department's small fleet of ocean-going hospital transports from four to one, the return of all its river transports to the Quartermaster's Department, the elimination of all hospital trains but one in the West, and the collection of excess medicines and hospital supplies for sale at public auction.
As can be seen in the end of the year report on transactions of the Medical Department, the monies received for surgical sets sold to medical officers and private physicians is minimal.
Statement of finances and general transactions of the Medical Department for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1865. Value of books and surgical instruments sold to medical officers and private physicians: $8,311.30 ( See: Article on budget items at the end of the War.) Which would not account for large numbers of sets or books. Most likely the bulk was sold at public auctions after the war.
Barnes dismissed the medical boards that had been examining surgeons for the wartime Army and ordered his purveyors to stop buying until all surpluses had been consumed. He began closing purveying depots, keeping open only seven distributing sites and the main depots at New York, Philadelphia, and Louisville. He started reducing the size of the department's laboratories. His medical directors intensified the process of consolidating patients, both Union soldiers and Confederate prisoners of war, and of converting large hospitals to post facilities, while Barnes began discharging contract doctors and hospital attendants. The surgeon general also decided that the department could loan its excess bedsteads, bedding, and blankets to soldiers' homes." (THE ARMY MEDICAL DEPARTMENT 1818-1865 by Mary C. Gillett )
"Disposal of hospital supplies: ... General hospitals, hospital transports and railroad trains, ambulance corps, and a number of medical purveying depots, have been dispensed with, and all perishable articles of medicines and hospital supplies in excess of the requirements of a peace establishment have been disposed of by public sale at advantageous prices. The proceeds of old or surplus medical and hospital property amount to $4,044,269 59." (History of the Civil War, by John W. Draper)
O.R.--SERIES III--VOLUME V [S# 126]
CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, REPORTS, AND RETURNS OF THE UNION AUTHORITIES FROM MAY 1, 1865, TO THE END.
Upon the termination of active military movements, immediate measures were taken to reduce the expenses of the Medical Department. Of the 201 general hospitals open on January 1, 1865, 171 have been discontinued. Three of the sea-going hospital transports have been discharged; the fourth is now constantly engaged in transfer of sick and wounded from Southern ports to the general hospitals in New York Harbor. All of the river hospital boats have been turned over to the Quartermaster's Department, and but a single hospital train is retained in the Southwest. The vast amount of medicines and hospital supplies made surplus by the reduction of the Army has been carefully collected at prominent points and is being disposed of at public auction, most of the articles bringing their full value, and in some instances their cost price.
EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.
Article on various sources of Civil War military surgical sets
The importance of this receipt is it confirms one source of government marked sets and imprinted medical books, (U.S.A Hosp. & Med. Dept), which ended up in the hands of former surgeons after the War. The sale of the medical surplus after the war was under the control of the Medical Purveyors and Medical Store-keeper office.
Another source of medical surplus after the war was the government resorting to public auctions of surplus instrument sets. One could purchase complete general operating sets for $40 to $75". (Advertisement, Surgical Instruments from Government Auctions, B.F.Wilson, Boston, Edmonson, American Surgical Instruments, p. 70; Truax, introduction, p. XIX)
Article on the Medical Purveyors and Store-Keepers during the war
"Received, Medical Store-Keeper's Office, Washington, D.C. August 9 -65 of Benjamin F Pope, Asst. Surg., 10th N.Y. Artillery, Eighty nine 50/100 Dollars for: 1 Personal Set; 1 Staff Pocket Cases; 2 Erichsen Surgery; 1 Bennet's Practice of Medicine; 1 Gray's Anatomy; 1 Smith's Handbook of Surgery"
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The United States army and navy journal and gazette of the regular ..., Volume 3, Feb. 1866
"The Medical Purveying Dep6t at Shrevoport Louisiana has been discontinued and Assistant Surgeon Walter Failing Eightieth US Colored infantry in charge of the depot has been ordered to transfer in packages all medical and hospital property pertaining thereto upon proper invoices to Assistant Surgeon CB White USA Medical Purveyor Depdt of New Orleans Assistant Surgeon Failing is ordered to join his regiment upon the completion of the above duty "
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Last update: Monday, December 12, 2016