The post surgeon was more then just the doctor for the post. He was a valued advisor to the post commander; he was responsible for keeping the post and its inhabitants as healthy and fit for duty as possible. He was responsible for examining new recruits to judge their state of health and had very strict guidelines for rejecting men. Men could be rejected if they had missing fingers or toes, or if their sight or hearing was impaired. They were rejected if they had what was felt to be contagious skin infections. Special attention was given to trying to keep out habitual drunkards. Bad breath is also cited as being a reason for rejection; bad breath can denote chronic pulmonary conditions, chronic tonsillitis, or chronic alcoholism.
The surgeon would have sick call in the morning and great care was made to keep any malingering to a minimum. The sickest of the men would be placed in the hospital for intensive therapy, while the less sick would simply be confined to the barracks while treated.
The post surgeon or regimental surgeon was also the scientist. He was responsible for recording weather data-specifically; temperature, wind direction and force, rain, and snow fall. This was done four times a day: before dawn, 9:00 am, 3:00 pm, and 9:00 pm. He also recorded data regarding the flora and fauna (vegetation and animal life) both around the post and on expeditions into rarely visited regions. Many were also keen observers of the different Indian tribes. An example is a report from Fort Scott in the 1850s showing how the ravages of measles, chickenpox, and alcohol had decimated the Osage Tribe native to this area.
The Army Medical department of the 1840s was small. It was made up of a Surgeon General, nine or ten surgeons, and forty to fifty assistant surgeons. The surgeons made the equivalent of a major's pay, assistant surgeons with five years of service made a captain's pay, and the less experienced assistant surgeons made the same as a first lieutenant. This amounted to between $50 and $60 per month.
An examination was given to physicians wishing to join the Army. It covered anatomy, physiology, surgery, pharmacology, and obstetrics. Although we have rather extensive records of the diseases and afflictions that were treated here, we do not have any medical records of obstetrical deliveries. We know that many babies were delivered, but because the wives were not officially part of the army, they were not included in the official records; it's also possible another army wife acted as the midwife, instead of the post surgeon attending the delivery.
Military service was quite valuable to the physician since he was exposed to many more cases of disease in a shorter length of time, than was the civilian physician of his day. Between 1842 and 1849 there were 3,034 medical cases treated at Fort Scott. There were 1717 cases of malarial fever treated here during that time.
The arrival of a new medical officer usually resulted in an increase at sick call, as the chronically ill and malingerers tried out the new doctor. The number of cases might increase by as much as 40 percent until the new medical officer had a chance to familiarize himself with his men. A young and inexperienced doctor was particularly at a disadvantage.