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Full text of "To the friends of the firm of John Wyeth and brother, in the city of Philadelphia and elsewhere"

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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 
the States. 

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., 

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 
favorably mentioned. 

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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