December 02, 1861

Jewish Civil War Union Surgeon Morris Asch Rules on Another Surgeon’s “Exorbitant” Bill

Autograph Endorsement Signed
6 pages
SMC 157
When the Union marched to war in 1861, it was staggeringly flat-footed. It could not reliably supply a ration, provide medical care, or care for captives. Soldiers often had to supply their own uniforms and bedding; disease killed four times as many as battle; and prisoners had to be paroled on their oath that they would not take up arms again until properly exchanged, because there were no facilities to house them. The medical corps was particularly lame: at the outset of the war, it consisted of 83 surgeons and assistant surgeons, few if any of whom had ever treated a gunshot wound. This state of confusion is evident in the correspondence sent to Assistant Surgeon Asch, upon which he has indited an endorsement. A Dr. McCoy, accused by the Surgeon General of charging exorbitantly for emergency services rendered, has had his bill cut in half: here, in four closely-written pages, the doctor objects. He was, he says, responsible for as many as 916 men; in attendance every day and on call many nights; treating men in his office, because there was no hospital; and providing medicines, as well. He has, furthermore, inquired of his professional friends if his bill was fair, and was assured it was reasonable and correct…
McCoy’s petition stopped, apparently, at Asch’s desk, with this endorsement: “Respectfully referred to the Adjutant General. Dr McCoy has been informed from this office that Surgeon General sees no reason why the opinion expressed in the endorsement of November 6 should be changed.” Ruggles noted, in due course, that McCoy’s letter was returned to him.
Asch, who enlisted in August 1861, served on Sheridan’s staff and was his personal surgeon. He remained in the Army after the war, and saw active service in the Indian wars. In the early seventies, he resigned his commission, and went on to a distinguished practice in New York City.
Autograph Letter Signed in the hand of Dr. G.R. McCoy, 4 pages, quarto, Doylestown, November 19, 1861. To General George D. Ruggles.

Autograph Endorsement Signed, 1 page, quarto, Surgeon General’s Office, December 2, 1861.

With an Autograph Endorsement in the hand of General GEORGE D. RUGGLES, 1 page, quarto, Adjutant General’s Office, December 3, 1861.
View American Civil War Manuscripts.
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