TO THE FRIEN33S
OK THE FIRM OP
JOHN WYETH AND BROTHER,
IN IHE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA ANB ELSEWHERE.
TO THE FRIENDS
OV THE FIRM OF
JOHN WYETH AND BROTHER,
IN THE CITT OP PHILADELPHIA AND ELSEWHERE.
Since my return, within the last few days, to Philadelphia,
after an absence from my home of very nearly a year, I have
felt it my duty to acquaint myself, as far "as lay in my power,
with the proceedings of the Court Martial which was ordered
for the trial of Surgeon General Hammond. I have done so
for the reason that one of the specifications upon which that
officer was arraigned, directly afiected the character for
integrity and fair-dealing of the firm of druggists of which,
since its formation, I have been the senior partner.
Of the full weight of the testimony submitted to the Court,
I am of course unable to judge. I was not before it either
in person or by counsel, and the printed arguments which I
have seen of the Judge Advocate and of the counsel of Dr.
Hammond, however able they may be, supply but meagre
statements of the evidence which was presented. It may be
that hereafter the record of this case will be published. It
will then perhaps be incumbent on me to answer in detail
charges of which I shall, for the first time, have been fully
My attention has been called to one matter which more
than any other has given me pain. It is the intimation
which was made by counsel to the court, that I had left the
country in order to escape the service of a subpoena to testify
on behalf of the government. Nothing can be more unjust
or more untrue than this..
On the 23d of December, 1863, I sailed from New York
for Arizona, by way of San Francisco, on the eve, as it has
since turned out, of the ordering of the Hammond Court
Martial. My errand was one simply of business. As far
back as the preceding summer I had accepted the position
of manager of an important expedition involving large interests,
not only of my own, but of others. My destination, the object
of my journey, and the day of my departui'e, I am well
assured from letters and telegrams now before me, were all
known to the heads of more than one of the Departments at
Washington, and I have understood since my return that the
success of my undertaking was in a great measure due to
the kind suggestions of gentlemen high, not only in place,
but in the deserved confidence of the government.
Before I had completed the preparations for my journey,
having learned that a commission, of which the late Grovernor
Reeder of Kansas was the chief, was in session in Philadelphia,
investigating charges against the conduct of the Medical
Bureau, I addressed to that gentleman a letter under date the
3d of December, 1863, in which I mentioned that vague and
unreliable rumors had reached me to the effect that the tran-
sactions of my firm with that Bureau had been made the subject
of his unfriendly scrutiny, and I closed my letter with these
words: "I have, therefore, Sir, taken the liberty of addressing
you personally in order to enquire —
"1. Whether any charges affecting the integrity of myself or
of my firm have been entertained by your commission ; and
"2. If such be the case, to demand a specific statement of
these charges in order that I may at once take such measures
to rebut them before your commission as I may see fit — a priv-
ilege which I assume cannot be refused me."
To this I received a reply dated Easton, Penn'a, December
11th, 1863. The material part of this letter was as follows:
"The Commission having performed its functions is dissolved,
and for that reason, if for no other, your demand to appear
before us to make up and try an issue to decide upon the
integrity of yourself or your firm in such manner as you
'may see fit' cannot be complied with. In reply to your
other question I have to say that no such 'charges affecting
the integrity, &c., were entertained by the Commission.' "
It was, I am told, the report of this gentleman to the
Department of War which led to the preferment of charges
against Doctor Hammond. It was after the receipt of his let-
ter to myself that I made my final arrangements for leaving
home, secure in the belief that no action of his commission would
affect the integrity or standing of myself or of my firm.
I cannot now but regret that upon the publication of the
charges against Doctor Hammond some one of my friends '
did not intercept me at San Francisco with a telegram,
which would have enabled me to judge of the propriety of
an immediate return to my home. In a short time after my
arrival in that city I left it for a region of country which
has but infrequent communication by mail or otherwise with
It is not true as has been alleged that the first and only
dealings of my firm with the Government were through
Surgeon General Hammond. They commenced under his
predecessor, Doctor C. A. Finley, a gentleman whose purity
of character has, I believe, never been doubted.
The first requisition which we received was during his ad-
ministration. It was for medical supplies for 80,000 men
for four months, and embraced almost every article contained
in what is known as the supply table.
I give in full the letter from the Surgeon General's office,
which accompanied this requisition.
StJEGE on-General' s Office, "Washington Citt, D. C.>
September 21st, 1861.
By direction of the Surgeon-General, I forward to you the accompanying
Requisition of Assistant Surgeon C. R. Alexander, Medical Purveyor at St.
Louis, Mo., for 80,000 men, for four months, ending December 31st, 1861,
who wishes that Mr. Wyeth, of Philadelphia, may be directed to furnish the
articles. I have the honor to be.
By order. Very respectfully.
Your obed't serv't.,
L. A. EDWARDS,
SURGEON R. S. SATTERLEE, U. S. A., Surgeon, U. S. A.
110 Grand Street, N. Y.
Before the retirement of Doctor Finley we filled a munlber
of heavy orders received through Surgeon E. S. Satterlee,
on requisitions from the Surgeons in charge at Washington,
Louisville, St. Louis, and Cairo. I may particulary specify
one of these. It was for the medical outfit of the celebra-
ted Burnside Expedition, and bore date the 11th of January,
I have seen an official report made to Surgeon R. S.
Satterlee, U. S. A., the Medical Purveyor at New York, by
Doctor J. H. Thompson, the Brigade Surgeon at Roanoke
Island, acknowledging the receipt of the stores for this
Expedition, from which I make the following extract:
I would here remark that the stores were most carefully packed, and I do
not believe there is more than one bottle broken out of the entire invoice.
"So far as my judgment goes, Messrs. Wyeth & Brother are entitled to
great credit for the promptness and exceeding good order in which they put
up their supplies."
This report bears date the 7th of March, 1862, a month
before Doctor Hammond's appointment. It was doubtless on
file with others of a like commendatory character at the
time of that gentleman's accession to office, and I have
always attributed the continuance of patronage to my house
under his administration to our high standing with his pre-
decessor more than to any other cause.
When I first pressed upon Dr. Hammond our claims to a
share of the requisitions issued for medical supplies, I
especially called his attention to the many official reports which
had been received by his department, in which our firm was
I cannot but express in this conjunction the conviction that
we were indebted for our share of the government patronage,
under both Doctors Finley and Hammond, to the conscientious
and thorough manner in which we executed the orders we
received. Our long familiarity with every detail of the drug
business, our relations to the great manufacturing chemists
of Philadelphia, and the extensive and well-appointed labora-
tories of which we were the owners, certainly afforded us more
than ordinary facilities for filling the large requisitions which
were sent us. The many letters full of encouragement and
commendation which, from time to time, we received from
officers connected with the Medical Department, as well in the
field as in the hospital branch of the service, and which we
have carefully preserved, are to us sufficient evidence that we
did not over-estimate our ability to comply with the demands
which were made upon us.
Our entire business intercourse witli the Government, under
tlie administrations of the two Surgeons Greneral, was charac-
terized, on both sides, by the highest degree of confidence and
kind feeling. I recall but a single exception, which grew out
of the misconduct of a subordinate official.
In the beginning of my acquaintance with this person, I
had been led by his professions of friendship, and by the dispo-
sition which he evinced to aid our firm, to form an undeserved
estimate of his character. Inducements which subsequently he
cautiously held out to me, and which I felt convinced were of
an improper kind, as well as complaints connected with his
dealings with other firms, which reached me from more than
one quarter, forced upon me the belief that he was unworthy
of the trust which was reposed in him by the Government.
It was in the early part of November, 1862, that I submitted
to my legal adviser and to a personal friend, a gentleman of
high position in the medical schools of Philadelphia, certain
facts connected with his behaviour which had been brought to
my knowledge. Their advice only confirmed me in the resolu-
tion which I had already formed, of refusing, in very plain and
unmistakeable terms, to receive any orders for medical supplies
through his office. I believe that my own sense of self-respect
and my duty to the government left open to me no other
course. I may add that both of the gentlemen who advised
me in this matter have pressed upon me the freest use of
their names in this connection.
My refusal to liave any dealings through this person, leading,
as it did, to a great loss of patronage to my firm, excited
remark, and I was soon obliged, in obedience to a call made
upon me by the Medical Inspector General, to submit to that
officer a frank statement of the causes which had influenced
my action. To the enmity which my exposure of his
misconduct naturally engendered, I attribute the malignant
fabrications of which he was the author, and which, I am now
convinced, were at the bottom of the annoyance and misrepre-
sentation to which, during my absence, my firm has been
I do not know that I can better close this brief statement
to my friends than by formally referring them to those officers
through whom the dealings of my firm with the Government
were principally conducted, and who, therefore, had the best
means of forming a correct judgment of the fidelity with which
we discharged the duties assigned us.
Surgeon J. M. Cuyler, U. S. A., Medical Inspector U. S. Army.
E. P. Vollum, U. S. A.,
R. H. Coolidge, U. S. A., " " "
J. R. LeConte, U. S. A., " " " "
" R. 0. Abbott, r. S. A., Medical Director " "
" J. Letterman, U. S. A., " " "
Surgeon R. S. Satterlee, U. S. A., Medical Purveyor, New York.
'« R. Murray, U. S. A., " " Philadelphia.
" J. P. Taggart, " " Cairo, 111.
Surgeon C. C. Cox, U. S. A., Medical Purveyor, Baltimore.
" J. H. Thompson, U. S. A., " " Burnside Expedition.
" K. H. Alexander, IJ. S. A., " " Army of Potomac.
" C. T. Alexander, U. S. A., " " St. Louis, Mo.
'« D. L. Magruder, U. S. A., " " Louisville, Ky.
" A. P. Meylert, U. S. A., " . " "
" H. N. Rittenhouse, Medical Storekeeper, U. S. Army, and Acting
Medical Purveyor at Cincinnati, Ohio.
Surgeon .John Neil,^in charge of Hospital at Broad and Cherry Sts.Philad'a.
" I. I. Hayes, " Satterlee Hospital, West Philadelphia.
" J. Hopkinson, " Mower '< Chestnut Hill.
" W. Camac, " Officers' '* Philadelphia.
" W. Thompson, U. S. A., in charge Douglass Hosp'l,Washington, D. 0.
«' A. K. Smith, U. S. A., " U. S. Army Laboratory, Philad'a.
Professor J. M. Maisch, Chemist-in-Chief. " " "
Surgeon .J. Janvier Woodward, U.S.A., Medical Museum, Washington, D. C.
J. H. Brinton, U. S. A., " " "
" John Black, Officers' Hospital, Philadelphia.
" Robert E. 'Rogers, Satterlee Hospital, West Philadelphia.
" Edward Hartshorne, McClellan Hospital, Germantown.
" E. A. Page, Satterlee Hospital, West Philadelphia.
R. A. F. Penrose, " " "
" Isaac Hutchinson, " " "
W. F. Atlee, " » «<
" S. Weir Mitchell, Christian Street Hospital, Philadelphia.
G. R. Morehouse, " " " "
" Burpee, Summit House Hospital, Philadelphia.
" Strann, Chester Hospital.
" Bournonville, Fifth and Buttonwood Streets Hospital, Philad'a,
Victor Zoeller, (formerly) Medical Storekeeper at Philadelphia.
Many of these gentlemen had opportunities of knowing the
heavy labor and responsibility which were attendant upon fur-
nishing large amounts, of medical supplies, on requisitions, the
receipts of which could not be anticipated, and which the exi-
gencies of the service required should be filled with the greatest
promptitude. The requisition for supplies, for 80,000 men, for
four months, to which I have already referred, may be cited as
an illustration, not only of the trying demands that were some-
times made upon our resources, but of the completeness of our
business arrangements, at the very outset of our transactions
with the government. Within five days after the receipt of this
requisition, our firm had provided and placed in readiness for
transportation, all the supplies for which it called.
The fear that in the pressure to which we were occasionally
subjected, some oversight might occur, led us to request those
officers of the Medical Corps with whom we were brought in
contact, to frankly advise us of all grounds of complaint which
might arise. To this request, often and earnestly made by us,
we added the assurance of our readiness to replace all articles
which should be found defective in quality, or deficient in quan-
tity. The complaints reported to us were but few in number,
and these were promptly remedied. They referred to some
articles which we had furnished for hospital use, the value of
which, I am sure, did not exceed one hundred dollars.
Philadelphia, December 5th, 1864.
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