Company "A" Hospital Corps,
U.S.A. General Hospital
Washington, D.C., September 22, 1906
To the Surgeon General, U.S. Army, Washington, D.C.
I have the honor to make the following report pertaining to the movement of this organization to San Francisco, California, on account of the late earthquake and fire of April 18, 1906:
The first intimation received of a movement of this organization to San Francisco, California, was on Saturday morning, April 21, 1906, when word was received from the Surgeon General's Office to the effect that the Company would probably be ordered sometime during the day. In less than one hour after receiving the message, Field Hospital No. 1, connected with the organization, and all extra tentage, cots, etc., was assembled on the parade ground and ready for shipment. The Company was then confined to the post limits until further orders. The order directing the movement was not received until 5:30 p.m., when immediately upon its receipt the depot quartermaster was consulted and the necessary transportation arranged. Eighteen wagons were required to remove the equipment from the post to the train, and one hour and twenty minutes was consumed to complete the movement. The R. R. transportation consisted of a special train of three Pullmans and two large baggage cars. At 8:30 p.m., the Company consisting of two commissioned officers, twelve non-commissioned officers and eighty-eight men, with thirty days rations, departed for the journey across the country. Chicago being reached in 17 1/2 hours, and Omaha, Neb. eleven hours later. The roads transversed thus far being the Pennsylvania lines as far as Chicago, and the Chicago and Northwestern to Omaha. Leaving Omaha, the train was sent over the Union Pacific as far as Cheyenne and from there on, the Southern Pacific, the latter roads being single line, slow time was made. Arriving at Grand Island, Neb., where we stopped for breakfast, three cars, containing Reed troughs and a third flat car and odorless excavator were discovered on a siding, and as these important sanitary devices were intended for San Francisco, California, the cars were attached to our train. Due to the large amount of special relief trains, our passage for the next three days was very slow. Along the route was gradually accumulated cars of relief until the end of our R. R. journey.
On Thursday morning, April 26., we reached Oakland, California, at 9:00 a.m., with a train consisting of nineteen cars. Here it was learned that there were no orders for the Company, and there being no way of communicating with the Commanding General, it was decided to go into the city without them. After some time it was learned that the Government tug "General Harris", was soon to start for the Presidio, San Francisco, so after much delay and considerable parleying with the Captain of the tug, the Company embarked and part of the property was loaded on this boat and carried to the Presidio Dock. Reaching San Francisco, I proceeded to Fort Mason and reported to the Commanding General, and learned that the Company was assigned to duty at Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. Late in the evening, the remainder of the property was brought over from Oakland, and when all assembled, it was immediately loaded on the many Quartermaster wagons at the dock and carried to the site where we were to establish the hospital. Major McIver, of the 4th Infantry, was in command of the park, and reporting to him, he kindly assisted me in the selection of a place for the establishment of the hospital. The camp site selected was on one of the main drives, about 300 yards East of the Spreckels Music Stand, and an ideal one too, it consisted of beautiful lawn surrounded by a grove of pines an much foliage, the median line of the hospital occupying a slightly grassy ridge, from which the ground fell away gradually toward each flank. On all sides of the hospital were many thousands of refugees. As the last of the equipment did not reach the site until nearly 10:00 p.m., and as the Company was well tired out, shelter tents were pitched and nothing more was done until the following morning.
Friday activities began, after an early breakfast, the hospital was laid out according to the Reynolds plan, and the work of erecting the wards commenced.
The Company was divided into sections, each under a non-commissioned officer, - one section had charge of erecting tents, another the ditching, another sinks, etc. The center section was first completed, including offices in front and kitchen in rear. The side sections were then put up with the same precision. Hardly had the formation of the hospital been decided upon before patients commenced to be sent in from the near refugee camps, temporary hospitals in stores, churches, etc., throughout the city. It soon became apparent that the regulation 108 bed field hospital would be entirely inadequate for the number applying, so having utilized all extra tentage, a request was made for more, and a large number of Quartermaster Store tents and many hospital tents were supplied. Two additional sections of tents were erected, and using the tented streets on either side of the center as mains, the large Q. M. store tents were erected six on a side and facing these streets.
Twenty-four hours after our arrival a large quantity of lumber was sent into the park, so arrangement was made to floor all tents, most of the work being done by members of the Company.
Small ward cupboards were also made and one of these was placed at the end of each ward and used as a receptacle for dirty linen, and the utensils of the ward. As soon as running water could be had, the sterilizing tent was erected, and here five Waterhouse Machines were put into operation, and not only the Company and the Patients in the hospital were supplied with sterilized water, but all who applied as well. As most of the patients received at the hospital were women and children, application was made to Colonel Torney, Chief Surgeon, for nurses, when 14 female nurses belonging to the White Cross Society from Chicago, were assigned to duty as well as two White Cross doctors, and their services proved of inestimable value.
To better facilitate matters the hospital was divided into Administration, Receiving, Commissary, Surgical, Dispensing, Laundry and Bathing sections, each section being under a non-commissioned officer.
Besides these divisions, a permanent guard was organized, and four posts were established daily. All patients were received at the Receiving Tent, and here a complete record was kept, including the place from which the patient was received, residence before the fire, etc. When possible the patient was given a bath before being assigned to a permanent bed. A large hospital tent was utilized for bathing purposes, it was erected in the third section, to the rear of the check in tent, in which all personal effects of the patients were placed on shelves erected for that purpose. The tent was divided by a cross partition into four sections for male and female patients, and officers and men of the Army and the Militia. Four showers were placed in the different divisions of the tent and the pipes coiled through an open fire in front so that warm water was always on tap, the waste water being rained into a large covered sink.
The Administration tent was the central tent on the first row and here all clerical work was done pertaining to the management of the hospital.
The Dispensary was under the charge of a non-commissioned officer, and here, four privates and one of the civilian physicians were placed on duty. This department was equipped as rapidly as possible and proved a very important place. Here the acetylene gas generator was established and piped into the different places, including the operating room, office and principle wards. In the equipment, one medical chest and additional supplies were first used, but it soon became apparent that this equipment would not last long, so additional supplies were ordered from the Medical Supply Depot, and from the Presidio Hospital. During the time the hospital was in existence over 5000 people were treated.
The wards were numbered 1 to 14 inclusively, and were also designated male and female wards, each ward containing 18 beds. Trained nurses were placed in charge, and under them were assigned the different members of the Company, who, when possible, did the nursing under the supervision of the experienced trained nurses. Daily, when the weather permitted, the sides of the wards were erected and the beds placed in the open to be aired and the floors cleaned. A maternity ward was also established, and here six cases were entered to be confined.
The Operating tent which consisted of hospital tents was established in the section to the rear of the Dispensary. The front tent contained the operating table, the second contained the dressings and the sterilizer, and the third used for applying dressings, etc. In this section two trained nurses and six hospital corps men were constantly on duty-, one nurse in charge of preparation of dressings an the other in charge of the operating tent, in this section an average of 50 dressings were made daily, most of which were burns, fractures and wounds in general.
A long Dining tent was erected behind the store tent in the center row, which was floored, and rough tables covered with white oilcloth, and benches were constructed and all convalescent patients were fed there.
The kitchens, three in number, were erected immediately to the rear of the center sections, and were in charge of two non-commissioned officers, one looking after the relief food, and the other the rations, these kitchens were not only floored, but were screened as well, and with an abundance of whitewash applied inside and out, were the subject of much comment from the many visitors on account of their clean appearance. Two Army field ranges were in operation in each kitchen, and the daily bill of fare was posted in front of each. Directly to the rear of the kitchens was a large store tent containing ice box and general stores.
Due to the destruction of the Presidio Laundry shortly after our arrival, and most of the cities laundries, a hospital laundry was established under the direction of a non-commissioned officer. A hospital tent was pitched near the hospital and the necessary paraphernalia, such as washboards, boilers, etc., was procured, and each morning all dirty hospital linen from the wars was gathered up and taken charge of by the non-commissioned officer, and each evening it would be returned. All convalescent patients who were able, were required to do their own washing, in other cases arrangements were made with the relief committee for this work.
A 120 bed Pavilion Hospital, consisting of four ward buildings, nurses home, administration building, laundry and fumigating building were erected in Deer Park, just to the right of the field hospital, under the direction of Colonel Torney, Chief Sanitary Officer. This hospital was designated as the typhoid fever hospital, and was held in reserve for cases of this nature. It was equipped by the relief committee and placed in charge of two civilian physicians, but later was connected with, and placed under the administration of the field hospital. When it became absolutely certain that there would be no epidemic of typhoid fever, the hospital was utilized for other cases. In the latter part of May and early June, the health conditions in the city and refugee camps became greatly improved, due to the excellent work of the Army Surgeons stationed throughout the city, and as a result, a decided decrease in the number of cases in the hospital resulted, dropping from the 200 mark to less than 100, and as the Pavilion Hospital could accommodate these, the field hospital proper was gradually taken down and turned over to Company B, Hospital Corps, per orders.
All records, etc., pertaining to the hospital were turned over to Contract Surgeon Henry du R. Phelan, when the hospital was transferred.
In compliance with orders received in Saturday, June 15, 1906, the Pavilion Hospital was turned over to Contract Surgeon Phelan, who was on duty with the organization.
June 16th., in compliance with S. O. No. 50, Department of California, June 14, 1906, 50 men of the Company were transferred to Co. B, H. C., and the remainder of the organization started for Washington, D.C. The return trip was made over the Santa Fe R. R. to Chicago, Ill., and from there on over the B. & O. R. R. Nothing occurred to mar the success of the journey until the end had practically been reached, when on the morning of June 22nd., the remains of Private Leon were found in his berth, he having expired sometime during the night from suffocation, due to an attack of epilepsy.
In conclusion, too much cannot be said of the good behavior and discipline of the non-commissioned officers and men with the organization, which was noticeable and commented on by all who came in contact with them.
Return to the 1906 Earthquake Exhibit.