Determining the Facts
Reading 2: Fighting and Treatment at the Battle of Bentonville
The Battle of Bentonville was one of the last major fights in the Civil War. The following report from Surgeon John H. Moore, one of Gen. William T. Sherman's medical officers, showed how care and treatment had changed since First Manassas.
On the 19th of March a fierce attack was made by the whole rebel force, under Gen. Joe Johnston, upon the advance and flank of the marching column of the Left wing.
The wounded were well cared for in hospitals erected about half a mile in rear of the front or line of battle. On the 19th they came under fire and had to be removed.
Although this battle occurred nearly at the close of a long march--of two month's duration, without an opportunity of replenishing supplies--there was no lack of any article essential to the comfort of the wounded. Most of those wounded on the 19th were made as comfortable as possible in wagons and moved on the 20th to the vicinity of the Neuse river, opposite Goldsborough, a distance of about twenty-five miles. Army wagons were used in consequence of a scarcity of ambulances.
On the march the system of division hospitals was kept up and found to work well....After the last two battles some inconvenience was felt, owing to the deficiency of ambulances.
Most of those in use in this army were supplied during the first year of the war and are worn out. One hundred new ones have been received here. No instance of serious neglect of duty on the part of the medical officers has come to my knowledge, but on the contrary they have been faithful and zealous in the performance of duty, and the wounded have been promptly removed from the field to the hospitals. The new system of ambulance organization has been more or less completely carried into effect in all the corps and has worked well. The character of the wounds in the cases of those brought to the hospitals was of an unusually grave character, much of the firing being at short range. Of the 1,368 wounded brought to the hospitals 131 died within forty-eight hours. There were eighty-eight capital amputations in cases brought to the hospitals from the battles of the 16th and 19th of March.¹
Questions for Reading 2
1. Based on the background information given, where was Sherman's army heading at the time of the Battle of Bentonville? Why?
2. Compare and contrast Reading 1 and Reading 2. Which problems in 1861 had the Union solved by 1865?
3. Per Moore's report, do you think the Letterman Plan saves lives? Why?
¹Report of Surgeon John H. Moore: The War of Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 47, Part 1, 186-191.