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P&S Alumni in the Civil War

An online list of P&S Civil War veterans has been produced by the medical center’s Archives & Special Collections. The list can be viewed online here.

The list, compiled by archivist Jennifer McGillan, includes the name, rank, military unit, and dates of service of the 408 P&S alumni who served in the Army, Navy, or Marines during the Civil War. Of the 408, 399 fought for the Union and nine defended the Confederacy. The list notes the death of 19 alumni who died during their military service. For example, Abraham J. Berry, Class of 1828, died of dysentery while serving as a surgeon with the 47th Regiment of the New York State Volunteers. Frederick S. Weller, Class of 1839, drowned at Hatteras Inlet while serving as a surgeon with the 9th New Jersey Volunteers. Charles Ellery Washburn, Class of 1848 and also a surgeon, died of typhus. Benjamin Vreeland, a Class of 1848 graduate who served in the U.S. Navy as an assistant surgeon and surgeon/lieutenant commander, died of yellow fever while on board the sloop of war Kearsage. Charles Edward Terry, Class of 1853, an assistant surgeon with the 65th U.S. Colored Infantry, died in Baton Rouge of inflammation of the brain. William Morrow Knox, a member of the Class of 1854, was an assistant surgeon with the 78th Pennsylvania Volunteers when he died from an accidental skull fracture. Edward Augustus Pierson, Class of 1858, was killed by a shell fired from Fort Fisher in Wilmington, N.C., while serving as an assistant surgeon in the Navy. He also spent three months with the 1st New Jersey Volunteers as an assistant surgeon.

John Hurley, Class of 1859, was serving as an assistant surgeon when he was killed by a fall from a horse. He served with both the 53rd and 69th New York State Volunteers. Charles Henry Covell, Class of 1860, served as an acting assistant surgeon with the U.S. Navy and died of dysentery at sea off Fort Pickens, the year after graduating from P&S. George Herschel Olmsted, Class of 1862, served as an acting assistant surgeon in the Army but died of typhus while a house staff officer at Bellevue Hospital a year after graduating.

Typhoid claimed at least two graduates during the war: Daniel Wadsworth Wainwright, Class of 1854, and Charles Edward Halsey, Class of 1858.

Other interesting facts that Ms. McGillan uncovered in her research: The list includes Aaron Lopez, Class of 1822, who may have been the first Jewish student at P&S and was a member of a Sephardic Jewish family that came to American in the colonial era (he was one of the nine Confederate soldiers). William Rockwell Thrall, Class of 1853, served as a surgeon with the 27th Ohio Volunteers but also served in the Russian Army during the Crimean War. Carrington Macfarlane, Class of 1861, who served as an assistant surgeon with the 81st and 115th New York Volunteers, was given a special exam by Columbia Trustees while in the Army. Luther P. Fitch, Class of 1864, and assistant surgeon with the 47th U.S. Colored Infantry, was granted his diploma without the required Trustee exam; the special act of the Trustees took into account his military service (he couldn’t get away for the exam). John Crannell Minor, Class of 1865, served on floating hospitals for the U.S. Sanitary Commission. The oldest Civil War alumnus on the list is Robert C. Wood, Class of 1821, a career Naval surgeon. The youngest is Henry Thompson Peirce, Class of 1870, who was a medical cadet in the war before he entered P&S. Eight alumni served with African-American Union soldiers.

The list contains information about alumni from the Class of 1821 through the Class of 1870. Ms. McGillan’s work on the project grew out of research she did for the Columbia University War Memorial ( www.warmemorial.columbia.edu), an online compilation of all Columbia alumni who died in service to their country.

P&S has plaques or formal lists commemorating alumni who perished in the Spanish American War, World War I, and World War II, but this is the first effort to acknowledge Civil War veterans.

The Civil War sesquicentennial will be observed from 2011 through 2015.

Photos courtesy of the National Library of Medicine