Valerie Josephson on “Stirring Times, The Lives of New Jersey’s First Civil War Surgeons”
Even before President Lincoln called for 75,000 militia volunteers, four New Jersey regiments were forming for a three month tour. One surgeon and one surgeon’s mate were commissioned to each unit. They were not your average doctors. In a time when it was still possible to become a doctor by apprenticeship, two did and six attended prestigious medical schools. Six had gone to the American frontiers before the war. One was a graduate of the London School of Pharmacy who came to America to seek his fortune. When the three-month enlistment was up, only two did not apply for further service. Four entered the Volunteer Medical Corps, two served with four New Jersey regiments, and one was commissioned in the U.S. Navy.
Valerie described the four regiments, their mission in Virginia and the actions of the medical staff during this period. She provided a brief profile of each physician, but focused on the 4th New Jersey Militia, which was drawn from the Trenton-Camden area and their two medical men, Dr. Alvin Satterthwait and Dr. Elias B. Woolston.
Valerie Josephson is a retired medical editor with a long-standing interest in the Civil War. Her great-grandfather, Mansfield Ham, was a private in the famed 20th Maine Regiment and was seriously wounded at Little Round Top in the Battle of Gettysburg. Her first book, Who Would Not Be a Soldier!, a fictional account of his service, is geared toward young adult readers. He survived a serious wound, and she wanted to know how. After a two-year study of Civil War medicine, she established a website to honor surgeons of the war (www.cwsurgeonsmemorial.org).
To prime the pump, she selected nine medical men who served in four New Jersey Militia regiments to profile for the site. These were not your average doctors. Their experiences before the war were a complete surprise, their reasons for enlisting were diverse, and their dedication to their patients during the war was outstanding. The book, Stirring Times, is rich in New Jersey history and the medical history of the war.