Civil War Ambulance Wagons

Source for this article:  "The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion. (1861-65.)  --Part III, Volume II, Chapter XV.--Transportation Of The Wounded.  Ambulance Wagons"

        Ambulance wagons, or wagons especially designed for the transport of sick and wounded, had not been in use in the armies of the United States until a year or so before the outbreak of the War of the Rebellion. Transport carts, army wagons, ox teams, in fact anything that could be made available for the purpose, had been employed. In the War of Independence, in April, 1777, the Congress of the United States passed a bill "devising ways and means for preserving the health of the troops" which contained the following paragraph:(1) "That a suitable number of covered and other wagons, litters, and other necessaries for removing the sick and wounded, shall be supplied by the Quartermaster or Deputy Quartermaster General; and in case of their deficiency, by the Director or Deputy Director General." There is no record that such vehicles were supplied. During the war with Great Britain, in 1812-'14, there were evidently no ambulance wagons in the United States army, as Surgeon James Mann,(2) in his report of that campaign, is found to make the request that, "to facilitate the movement of the hospital department attached to an army, it should be furnished with a number of wagons and teams, so as not to be immediately dependent on the Quartermaster's Department, when requisite either to take the wounded from the field of battle, or transport the sick in case of a retrograde march, or remove invalids after having recovered from wounds to a remote hospital. The flying machines called volant, drawn by horses (an improvement of Larrey, Chief Surgeon of the French army), are useful in open countries, where a corps is assigned to accompany them on the field of battle, upon Larrey's plan." The same author (loc. cit., p. 126) relates that he transported, in February, 1814, four hundred and fifty sick men from Malone to Plattsburgh and Burlington, a distance of seventy miles, in sleighs, losing six patients by death. In the Florida war, in 1838, ambulance wagons are mentioned by Surgeon R. S. Satterlee, U. S. A., Medical Director south of Withlacoochee, in a report from Fort Brooke, Tampa Bay, dated January 5th: "I found the ambulances very serviceable, but as some of the wounded could not be transported in them, on account of the roughness of the road, between thirty and forty of them were brought a part of the way on litters between two horses." Surgeon Satterlee probably had reference to the ordinary transport wagons used on this occasion for conveying sick and wounded.
        In the General Regulations for the Army of the United Sates, Washington, 1847, page 123, paragraph 704, it was ordered that: "For the accommodation of the sick and disabled, a wagon will be attached to the rear guard, when necessary and practicable, and a surgeon will attend to give assistance, and to see that no improper persons are suffered to avail themselves of the accommodation." No ambulance wagons were attached to the American army in Mexico in 1846-'48, or to the expeditions in Indian territories before the outbreak of the war.
        In 1858 an ambulance wagon (FIGS. 452, 453) had been proposed by Dr. I. Moses, of New York, and on March 2, 1858, a Board of Officers, consisting of Surgeons R. S. Satterlee, O. H. Laub, and Assistant Surgeon C. H. Crane, had been appointed to examine and report on its merits. The report of the Board is appended: "The ambulance resembles an omnibus, is entered by two steps in the rear, contains seats for eighteen persons--fourteen inside and four on the front seat. By raising the flaps of the inside seats and supporting them by the

(1) BROWN (H.), The Medical Department of the United States Army from 1775 to 1873, Washington, 1873, page 36.

(2) MANN (JAMES), Medical Sketches of the Campaigns of 1812-13-14, Dedham, 1816, page 250.

uprights attached, and removing the cushions from the backs of the permanent seats, a bed is arranged which will accommodate one, two, or, on an emergency, three men lying down. With one man in a recumbent position, room for twelve men seated remains; with two men lying down, room for eight, and with three men lying down, room for six remains.
 
Fig. 452  The "MOSES" Ambulance Wagon
Front View



Fig. 453. The "MOSES" Ambulance Wagon
Rear View

        A canvas, stretched and suspended by cords from the top, will accommodate two men lying down where the roads are rough. A close-stool is provided in the vehicle. Two seats, separated from the rest, next to the door, are provided for the hospital steward and attendant. Two movable chests are placed under these seats to contain what may be required for daily use. The movable door closing the ambulance may become, by change of position, a table for writing or dispensing medicine. The interior is closed entirely by curtains of prepared canvas, or partly by curtains and Venetian blinds for free ventilation--windows admitting sufficient light when entirely closed. Under the front seat are placed two store chests. Underneath the carriage, on either side of the door, are two five-gallon kegs for water. Under the body of  the vehicle are hooks for camp kettles, pails, and cooking utensils.
 

Fig. 454. The "MOSES" Ambulance Wagon and Tent
        Two drawers are arranged on each side, between the wheels and under the carriage, which may be used as panniers when necessary. On the hooks surrounding the ambulance, five feet from the ground, canvas is stretched, extending ten feet on each side of the carriage, the front and rear being protected in the same manner, which forms a comfortable and ample tent protection for thirty sick men, and which may be arranged in a few minutes after arriving in camp by one or two men. In more permanent encampments, or in hot weather, this canvas may be fastened to hooks around the top of the ambulance wagon (FIG. 454), serving a better purpose by giving more space and freer ventilation. It is suggested that a light iron railing, about four inches in height, should surround the top of the ambulance, where, by having a suitable canvas cover, blankets and other indispensable articles might be securely carried. A lantern suspended over the front seat may be removed to the rear of the carriage, at will. It will admit of sufficient accommodation in the way of transportation and provide tent shelter for the sick of a regiment on marches. The dimensions are: extreme length, thirteen feet eight inches; height of floor from ground, three feet three inches; height of top from ground, eight feet four inches; height of inside, five feet; width, four feet four inches. Weight, two thousand one hundred and fifteen (2,115) pounds. When loaded with men, medicines, tent canvas, etc., it can be readily drawn by six horses or mules. The size of the wheels and the track of the same correspond with those of the government wagons. After a close examination of the ambulance, the Board is of the opinion that it is well adapted for field and frontier service, and for the comfortable transportation of sick and wounded men on long marches; that the tent arrangement forms a valuable, useful, and comfortable shelter for hospital patients. On marches it does away with the use of hospital tents, is easily arranged, keeps the hospital separate, and requires no detail of pioneers or extra duty men to pitch and arrange it. In submitting this opinion the members of the Board must also express their views, based upon their own individual experience, that to be made thus available and useful for the comfort and well-being of the sick the ambulance should be the property of the Medical Department, and that the team, harness, etc., should be under the exclusive control and direction of the medical officers under all and every circumstance." No action seems to have followed the recommendations of this Board, and no ambulances were built.
 
Fig. 455.  The "FINLEY" Two-Wheeled Ambulance Wagon--Front View


Fig. 456. The "FINLEY" Two-Wheeled Ambulance Wagon--Side View


        In October, 1859, a Board of Medical Officers, consisting of Surgeon C. A Finley, R. S. Satterlee, C. S. Tripler, J. M. Cuyler, and Assistant Surgeon R. H. Coolidge, had recommended: 1st, that ambulance transportation ought to be furnished for forty men per thou-sand--twenty lying extended and twenty sitting; 2d, that both two and four-wheeled ambulance wagons are necessary for the hospital service; 3d, that a two-wheeled ambulance wagon is the best for the conveyance of dangerously sick or wounded men * * *; that to each company one two-wheeled ambulance wagon, to a battalion of five companies one four-wheeled and five two-wheeled ambulance wagons, and to a regiment two four-wheeled and ten two-wheeled ambulance wagons be allowed; and that for hospital supplies to commands of less than three companies one two-wheeled transport cart, to commands of more than three or less than five, or five companies, two, and to a regiment four two-wheeled transport carts be assigned; and that the transport carts be made after the models of the two-wheeled ambulance wagons (their interior arrangement for the sick excepted). The same Board selected, from a number of the most approved plans laid before them. the two-wheeled wagons designed
 
Fig. 457.  The "COOLIDGE" Ambulance Wagon

by Surgeon C. A. Finley and Assistant Surgeon R. H. Coolidge. The bottom of the body of the Finley pattern (FIGS. 455, 456) was divided into two compartments, each containing a movable mattress frame or stretcher; four longitudinal pieces either in or upon the framework were grooved on their upper surfaces so as to receive the rollers in the mattress frame. The body of the wagon rested on four elliptical springs fastened upon the shafts, which extended the whole length of the body, crossing, and connected with the axle.
 
Fig. 458.  The "TRIPLER" Ambulance Wagon
Side View


Fig. 459.  The "TRIPLER" Ambulance Wagon
 Rear View

        The body of the Coolidge cart (FIG. 457) was hung on platform springs. The body was seven feet long, four feet wide, and one foot and eight inches deep, covered with a ribbed frame-work five and a half inches above the floor. Upon the relative merits of the two patterns of two-wheeled ambulance carts the Board hesitated to express an opinion, and therefore recommended "that one of each pattern be sent to the respective Military Departments of Texas, New Mexico, Utah, California, and Oregon, and two of each pattern to Fort Leavenworth, and that they be placed in service at the scene of Indian hostilities and on marches across the plains, in order that their practical advantages might be ascertained." The Board considered the two-wheeled cart as the most convenient for the conveyance of dangerously sick and dangerously wounded men. A number of these two-wheeled carts(1) were furnished to the troops in the early part of the war, but experience soon proved them useless; their motion was intolerable and excruciating; wounded men begged to be taken out, wounded officers insisted upon leaving them, and they were supplanted by four-wheeled vehicles, the earliest of which was the Tripler ambulance wagon recommended by the Medical Board of 1859 (FIGS. 458-460).
 

Fig. 460.  the 'TRIPLER" Ambulance Wagon
Longitudinal Section


Fig. 461.  The "WHEELING" or "ROSECRANS" Ambulance Wagon

        It was constructed to carry ten men,(2) four lying at length and six seated, and required four horses. The body of the wagon was ten feet long, four feet wide, and the sides three feet high. Upon the floor were permanently laid four parallel iron rails seven feet long and one-fourth of an inch wide and high, with convex faces. Two spring mattresses were run in upon these rails. Twenty-two inches above the surfaces of these mattresses another set of rails was fitted to the wagon, upon which another set of mattresses was run. In front of the wagon was a chest intended for instruments, dressings, etc., which, when closed, formed a seat for three persons. At the tail of the carriage was another seat for three persons. All or any part of the interior of

(1) On May 20, 1861, Acting Surgeon General R. C. WOOD wrote to the Secretary of War: "It is highly important that provision be made for the safe and comfortable transportation of the sick and wounded, and in conformity with the recommendations of a Board of Medical Officers convened by the Secretary of War. and their report approved by him in General Orders No. 1, January 19, 1860, I have to recommend that .two hundred of the two-wheeled ambulances be immediately constructed by the Quartermaster's Department. The recommendation was approved by the Secretary of War and the wagons were constructed and sent to the troops."

(2) LONGMORE (T.) (A Treatise on the Transport of Sick and Wounded Troops, London, 1869, page 382) erroneously states that this wagon was constructed to carry eight men, all lying down.

the wagon was arranged so that it could be removed at pleasure, making it available for the transportation of hospital supplies. The cover of the wagon was of heavy duck supported on five hoops. The carriage was hung on platform springs, and underneath the body was suspended a water-butt three feet six inches long and fourteen inches in diameter. This wagon was extensively used and answered the purpose, although it was cumbrous and very heavy.(1)
 

Fig. 462.  The "WHEELING" or "ROSECRANS" Ambulance Wagon--Rear View

        The Wheeling or Rosecrans ambulance wagon (FIGS. 461, 462) was also used in the early part of the war. It was built in the Government workshops after a design of General W. S. Rosecrans, U. S. A. It was lighter than the Tripler or the Coolidge, could be readily drawn by two horses, and would accommodate eleven or twelve sitting or two recumbent and two or three sitting patients. Two cushioned benches were attached to the two sides of the interior of the wagon, running along its whole length. From the edge of each of these benches, fastened by hinges, depended a cushioned seat the length of the benches. These seats could be readily brought on a level with the benches, and when thus elevated could be securely fixed by iron feet, folded in the suspended seat. For the ends of the iron feet receptacles were fitted in the floor of the wagon. When both seats were raised they met, in the middle of the carriage and made one continuous bed for two patients. When only one seat was raised it formed a bed for a recumbent patient, while the other bench, with its suspended seat, allowed space for at least four sitting patients. A water-tank, capable of holding five gallons, was stored away under the seats in the rear end of the ambulance wagon; not unfrequently stretchers took the place of one of the water-tanks. In front of the benches a transverse seat, accommodating the driver and two or three patients, was

(1) Detailed specifications for the TRIPLER ambulance wagon will be found in a Report of a Board of Officers to decide upon a Pattern of Ambulance Wagon for Army Use, Washington, 1878, page 50.

provided. Under the seat was a box for medicines and other articles for field use. Accurate specifications for the building of this ambulance will be found on page 59 of the Report of a Board of Officers to decide upon a pattern of ambulance-wagon above referred to. The body of the wagon rested upon four elliptical springs, two placed, transversely (one on the front and one on rear axle), and two on the rear axle running longitudinally. A frame of light wood, with canvas cover, protected the patients against the inclemencies of the weather, and on the sides curtains of canvas could be closely buttoned to the top and the body. At the rear of the wagon was a step to assist patients and bearers in lifting in the wounded. The weight of the wagon was between seven hundred and eight hundred pounds.
 

Fig. 463.  New "COOLIDGE" Ambulance Wagon
Side View

 

Fig. 464.  New "COOLIDGE" ambulance Wagon Arranged For Two Recumbent Perpendicular Section

        A four-wheeled ambulance wagon (FIGS. 463, 464). designed by Assistant Surgeon R. H. Coolidge, was very little used. The sills of the wagon were ten feet four inches long, and the body rested between two semi-ellip-tical springs seven feet nine and three-quarter inches in length (FIG. 463). It was intended to accommodate two patients in recumbent and four in sitting postures, two with the driver on the front seat, and two at the end of the wagon, one on each side (see FIG. 465). The beds for the two prone patients were so arranged that they could be changed into seats, as shown in FIG. 465, when the wagon would accommodate ten patients and the driver. Detailed specifications of this ambulance wagon will be found on page 61 of the Report of a Board of Officers to decide upon a pattern of ambulance wagon already referred to.
 

Fig. 465.  New "COOLIDGE" Ambulance Wagon Arranged For Sitting Patients--Perpendicular Section

        Other plans for ambulance wagons were proposed during the war, and for the information of those interested in this subject we will here refer to such as were submitted to boards of medical officers for examination and report. In June, 1863, A. W. Süs (Subject-Matter Index of Patents for Inventions issued by the United States Patent Office, Washington, 1874, Vol. I, page 14, No. 39,595) exhibited a wagon intended to carry four severely wounded men in a recumbent position. A Medical Board (Medical Inspectors E. P. Vol-lum and W. H. Mussey, and Surgeon J. H. Brinton, U. S. V.) considered an "increase in the carrying capacity advantageous and feasible," but was not prepared to endorse the plan of Mr. Sos in all its details. The Board was of the opinion that the Wheeling ambulance wagon, then largely in use in the army, could readily be altered to carry four patients in a lying position, as in Mr. Süs's plan. Mr. Süs, in April, 1864, offered an improved plan, which was, by order of Surgeon R. O. Abbott, Medical Director, Department of Washington, inspected by Assistant Surgeon W. E. Waters, U. S. Army, who reported, on June 2, 1864: "These improvements consist in adapting the ambulance for the conveyance of four patients lying down, instead of two, as with the present arrangement, while, at the same time, the carrying capacity for such as can sit up is' not at all interfered with. The improvement is effected by having the seats fastened with hooks to the side of the ambulance so that they can be detached and put upon the floor, thus forming a bed, on which the patient can lie with full as much comfort, as regards position, as with the present arrangement, while they are made more comfortable by the addition of elastic springs within the cushion." Surgeon Waters' report was approved by Medical Director Abbott, who recommended that ten or twelve ambulances fitted with these improvements be sent to the field for trial. In April, 1864, G. W. Arnold (Subject-Matter Index of Patents, etc., page 14, No. 45,152) brought to the notice of the Surgeon General an ambulance wagon for which he claimed advantages over the Wheeling ambulance wagon in the arrangements of the seats or beds. The Board (Surgeon O. A. Judson and Assistant Surgeon W. Thomson) to whom the examination of the vehicle was referred reported, on April 5, 1864, that "the only advantages it possessed over the Wheeling model was that its litters could be removed from the wagon, the patient, placed upon them, and then easily returned; but that the capacity for carrying men was diminished, and that the litters accompanying the wagon were too heavy, weighing about seventy pounds each, and would add, with their apparatus for suspension, nearly two hundred pounds to the weight of the ambulance wagon." On October 11, 1864, E. R. McKean patented an ambulance wagon (Subject-Matter Index of Patents, etc., page 14, No. 44,643) with litters or beds suspended by rubber rings. Surgeons R. O. Abbott, C. Sutherland, and Assistant Surgeon William Thomson inspected the wagon and reported, on March 25, 1865: "The principle of suspending the stretcher upon which the patient lies by rings of India rubber, in lieu of the springs of steel usually placed beneath the body of the wagon, is the main difference between this and the ambulance now in general use. However valuable this principle may be, the mechanical contrivances by which it is obtained in the wagon submitted are, in the opinion of the Board, too complicated, wanting in solidity and durability, and too liable to the loss of detached pieces, to render this ambulance fit for the severe test of field service." In September, 1865, an India rubber spring ambulance wagon, by Perot & Co., was brought to the attention of the Surgeon General by Brigadier General C. H. Crossman, U. S. Army. Surgeons C. McDougall, John Campbell, and A. K. Smith, and Assistant Surgeon C. H. Alden, appointed a Board to examine the rubber spring wagon, reported, on October 26, 1865: "The Board is very favorably impressed with the plan proposed, and as its peculiarities are best shown by contrast, would state the following as some of the particulars in which it is thought the India rubber spring is superior to the ordinary steel spring. It more perfectly controls the movements of the body of the ambulance in every direction, either upward, downward, or laterally, rendering the motion of those seated or lying within steadier and more equable. It is better adapted to carrying weights in the ambulance, acting with nearly the same effect with a light or heavy load. It is believed to be more durable. An ambulance built upon this plan was shown to the Board, belonging to the West Philadelphia Fire Company, which had been in use for several years, and which showed but little evidence of wear in the springs. It is easily repairable, as a spare spring can be readily carried in the ambulance wagon, and can be substituted for a broken one with but little delay and trouble. The India rubber springs weigh thirty-five and three-quarter pounds, which at seventy-five cents per pound would amount to $26.81. Steel springs of the same power would weigh about two hundred pounds and cost about $50.00."

Fig. 466.  The "RUCKER" Ambulance Wagon

        The most serviceable ambulance wagon used during the latter part of the war was that designed by Brigadier General D. H. Rucker, and built at the Government repair shops at Washington. It accommodates patients either in the sitting or lying postures. On the floor of the vehicle are two stretchers suitable for carrying one patient each, and each divided by a longitudinal hinge-joint. These stretchers have the usual handles, and run on elastic rollers so as to move readily longitudinally in the bottom of the wagon. When required as seats, the joints of the stretchers are bent and the two parts are made to assume (see FIG. 469) a position at right angles to each other, the half which has the horizontal position being hooked to the sides of the vehicle, the other part forming the support or leg for the front of the seat. When the lower bed or stretcher is thus bent to form a seat, the upper beds are turned down to make backs for the lower seats (see FIG. 469). These backs are only joined to the sides of the wagon by hinges at their upper edge, and the lower edge can be raised upward and inward, toward the middle of the carriage. When thus elevated the two backs meet in the middle of the carriage and are there supported by iron supports, which, being hinged to their under surfaces, can be readily lowered for the purpose. In the floor are springs for the reception of the iron supports. A platform is thus built on which two patients, on stretchers, can be laid (FIG. 468). These stretchers ordinarily are suspended from the roof of the carriage, each stretcher being slung with one side to the middle of the roof and with the other to the bend of the arched roof (see FIG. 469). The space between the upper surface of the lower and the lower surface of the upper stretchers was about twenty-one inches. This space was ventilated by lattice openings on each side of the body of the ambulance wagon, as indicated in FIG. 466. The body rested on platform springs, and the fore wheels were smaller than the hind wheels. The water-cask was under the driver's seat, and the spigot projected slightly through the side of the body. The weight was about one thousand one hundred and twenty pounds, exceeding that of the Wheeling, which only weighed from seven to eight hundred pounds, but the Rucker wagon was somewhat longer and broader. Detailed specifications of this ambulance wagon will be found on page 48 of the Report of a Board of Officers to decide upon a Pattern of Ambulance Wagon for Army Use, Washington, 1878.
 

Fig. 467.  The "RUCKER" Ambulance Wagon--Rear View

 

Fig. 468.  The "RUCKER" Ambulance Wagon
Arranged for Four Recumbent Patients



Fig. 469.  The "RUCKER" Ambulance Wagon Arranged for Ordinary Use

        In October, 1864, Assistant Surgeon B. Howard, U. S. Army, constructed an ambulance wagon (FIGs. 470, 471) for which he claimed many advantages. A full description, with illustrations, will be found on pages 981-994 of The Sanitary Commission Bulletin, Vol. I, 1866; an extract, omitting some of the minor details, is here reproduced: "To enable the badly wounded to be easily loaded and unloaded, two litters or beds are provided, made of wood, like an ordinary shutter, with sliding handles at each corner. Upon this the patient is easily shifted, and without any disturbance. The litter is slid into the ambulance wagon on rollers. In the same way the patient is removed on arrival at the hospital, and without being disturbed until he reaches his bed. If part, or all the patients are able to sit up, one or both of the litters can be slid into a compartment provided for that purpose under the floor of the vehicle. There are six permanent seats, each situated transversely, and each a corner seat with back and cushioned seats. This gives a comfortable purchase, secures the patients against much of the usual jolting, and prevents them being driven against each other in going over rough roads. The sides of the ambulance wagon, as also both sides of the back of the driver's seat, and the inside of the upper section of the tail-board, are cushioned, while the middle seats have for a back a leather strap, like that used in stage coaches; thus each seat is rendered very comfortable, and being transverse instead of longitudinal is in every respect easier for the patient. In order to diminish the motion of the body of the wagon and prevent rolling and pitching, so intolerable in the ordinary ambulance wagon, semi-elliptical springs have been substituted for the elliptical ones. In order that the limited motion
 

Fig. 470.  The "HOWARD" Ambulance Wagon

Fig. 471.  The "HOWARD" Ambulance Wagon
Rear View

thus obtained be so modified as to give least jar to patients, internal counterpoise springs are used, the delicacy of which may be modified to any extent desired. The platform or frame on which the seats and beds rest is as long but not so wide by about two inches as the inside of the body of the wagon. Between the inside of the body and the frame of the platform is an interspace; this is occupied by two lateral semi-elliptical steel springs on either side, fastened at the centre of their arc to the inside of the body of the vehicle,
 

Fig. 472.  Springs for Bed or Litter

the feet of which-play upon iron plates on the outside of the frame. Opposite the centre of the arc on the frame is fixed a block of soft rubber, so that on the application of much force it should be received by the rubber blocks, which thus act as buffers. The platform or frame on which the seats and beds rest stands upon four iron stanchions, each of which rests on springs like the lateral springs described above, but much stronger, as seen at FIG. 472, the iron stanchions resting on steel springs, the feet of which play upon iron plates let into the floor of the ambulance wagon. The spring is restrained in its motion upward by an iron staple, and when, by an unusual weight, it is heavily pressed down; the force is received by a block of soft India rubber enclosed within the staple. An impulse communicated to the floor of the wagon, instead of being propagated to the beds or seats, causes a counteraction downward of the spring, which, if the force be very great, spends itself upon the block of rubber. In this way, both laterally and perpendicularly, a constant poise is preserved, and what would otherwise be a very violent jar is reduced to little more than a vibration. The steadiness of the entire vehicle is preserved by the stout semi-elliptical spring beneath the body, and the delicacy regulated to any degree by the internal counterpoise springs within the body. That the water may be carried securely, immobility of the vessel containing it during transportation is necessary.
        This is effected by substituting for the casks in ordinary use a tank, which slides into a grooved bed and is secured by an ordinary fastening. In a military point of view it possesses a great advantage in this: that besides the prescribed articles which may be carried in the driver's box, a large amount of medical supplies may be carried in the body of the ambulance wagon without interfering with the comfort of badly wounded patients. There being but four stanchions, and these being close up to the side of the vehicle, the entire body beneath the platform is free for transportation of supplies. There is an arrangement for suspension of fractures of the lower extremity, which is very grateful to the patients. Two parallel iron bars are attached to the roof of the ambulance wagon longitudinally over each bed, between which runs a roller with a dependent hook. The fractured limb being placed in a double-inclined plane or other splint, a bandage is passed through terrestra of the box splint and then carried over the hook from which the limb is suspended. In this way, instead of the jolting and jarring so commonly experienced, simple oscillation is substituted, or, if desired, guys of bandage may be so extended to the uprights of the ambulance as to render the limb nearly motionless during transportation."
       
The weight of the Howard ambulance wagon was twelve hundred and thirty-two pounds. The plan of this wagon, with recommendations of some twenty officers of the Army of the Potomac, was submitted for examination by Surgeon T. A. McParlin, Medical Director of the Fifth Army Corps, to a Board of Medical Officers, consisting of Surgeon J. J. Milhau, U. S. A., Surgeon L. W. Read, U. S. V., and Assistant Surgeon George A. McGill, U. S. A., who reported, on October 6, 1864, that: "the ambulance wagon meets the approbation of the Board as one presenting some decided advantages over that now in use. It is recommended further that at least two to a division be furnished, so that a fair trial can be made of such vehicles." A number of the old pattern ambulance wagons were thereupon altered according to the plans submitted by Assistant Surgeon B. Howard, U. S. A., at the Government repair shops at Washington. But it seems that after nine months' experience in the field these ambulance wagons failed to meet the expected advantages. In a letter dated Medical Director's Office, Headquarters Fifth Corps, June 29, 1865, Surgeon Charles Page, U. S. A., remarks' "There have been two of the ambulance wagons in each division train of the corps, and for case to the patient the report is universal in their favor. They are apt to get out of order, and being heavy cannot be carried where the other ambulance wagons can go. For marches I think the Howard ambulance wagon is superior; but for field work, in time of action, I would prefer the present Rucker pattern of ambulance wagon." In a reply to a note of enquiry from the Surgeon Genera] dated June 29, 1865, Surgeon T. R. Spencer, U. S. V., from Headquarters of the Fifth Army Corps, takes a similar view: "So far as I can learn in this corps, it, is not regarded as an improvement upon the old one. It is so heavy as to require four horses, else it rapidly destroys two. It is so complicated as to be continually getting out of order. As now constructed the ambulance wagon does not ride as easy over all roads as the old one. The only advantage it seems to possess is in the greater convenience of loading and unloading; this soon results in the loss of the bed, as officers will not consent to be removed from the bed during transportation. Once lost, or taken from the ambulance wagon, the bed is never returned, and the wagon is henceforth useless."

Fig. 473.  An Army Wagon Fitted up as an Ambulance Wagon. [After LANGER.]


Fig. 474.  The Confederate Field Ambulance Wagon.
[After CHISOLM.]

        In the winter of 1864-'65 an ambulance wagon, proposed by Dr. I. Langer, was used at the Fifth Army Corps Depot Hospital before Petersburg. It was arranged to accommodate eight persons, four in sitting and four in recumbent positions, or six in sitting and two in recumbent, or all eight in sitting postures. The advantages claimed were, greater seating capacity, greater facilities for loading and unloading, greater comfort to patients, offering easier access to each single patient, superior ventilation, and that it had apparatus for suspending two patients with compound fractures of the thigh. In April, 1865, a Board was convened, consisting of Colonel R. O. Abbott and Assistant Surgeons J. J. Woodward and William Thomson, U. S. A., to examine and report on this ambulance wagon. The Board considered seriatim the advantages claimed by Dr. Langer, basing its opinions on comparisons with the Wheeling and the Rucker patterns then most generally in use- "The model examined is altered from a Wheeling ambulance wagon; the changes are radical and the additions numerous. So ingeniously complicated are the appliances, and so multitudinous the objects to be obtained, that the wagon would fail to meet the test of field service. The probable loss of its numerous detached pieces would rob it of all its special advantages, and leave it less useful than the Wheeling and Rucker wagons. In comparison with the former it has some advantages; but it fails to compete in practical usefulness with the ambulance wagon devised by Brigadier General Rucker." With regard to the apparatus for the purpose of transporting two thigh fractures the Board find: "The novelty of the method and the uncertainty of its practical value would not warrant the alteration of all the ambulance wagons in the service to fit them for transporting in this manner an occasional fractured femur." The Board refused to recommend the introduction of the Langer ambulance wagon into the service in preference to those then in use. At the same time Dr. Langer submitted to the Surgeon General for inspection an army wagon (FIG. 473) which had been fitted up with twelve beds for transporting patients. Dr. Langer claimed "that this change of the army wagon would not interfere with its design of conveying forage or other articles to and from a camp; that when the wagon is used for carrying forage the twelve beds are packed under a movable bottom, and the railing supporting them is stowed away on the sides, so that the capacity of the wagon box is not impaired; that in ten minutes after the wagon is unloaded it is changed into an ambulance wagon with all the equipments for transport--six patients in a sitting posture, six in a lying, two of which, if necessary, suspended on fracture beds of Dr. Langer's pattern; that there is room for all the equipments of the patients, for a water-keg, and for boxes with provisions and bandages, and that the wagon can be loaded from the front as well 'as the rear." As far as can be ascertained the experiment was tried but once. A drawing of the Confederate field ambulance wagon is copied from Chisolm(1) in FIG. 474. No description of the vehicle could be obtained.

This page last updated 10/19/06

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