George Washington Papers

General Orders, 5 May 1777

General Orders

Head-Quarters, Morristown, May 5th 1777.

Parole: Bethlehem.Countersign: Easton.

His Excellency the Commander in Chief directs, that the strictest attention, and obedience, be paid throughout the Army, to the following resolutions of the Hon’ble the Continental Congress—viz.

Resolved. That there be one Physician and Surgeon General, for each seperate Army, who shall be subject to the controul of the Director General, and Deputy Director General, of the District wherein he acts—That his duty shall be to superintend the regimental surgeons and their Mates, and to see that they do their duty; to hear all complaints against the said regimental Surgeons and Mates, and make report of them to the Director General, or in his absence to the Deputy Director General, or in their absence from the said Army to the commanding Officer thereof; that they may be brought to trial by Court Martial for misbehaviour; to receive from the Director General, or the Deputy Director General, a suitable number of large strong tents, beds, bedding, medicines and hospital stores, for such sick and wounded persons, as cannot be removed to the General Hospital with safety, or may be rendered fit for duty, in a few days; and shall also see that the sick and wounded, while under his care, are properly attended and dressed, and conveyed, when able, to the General Hospital, for which last purpose, he shall be supplied by the Director General, or Deputy Director, with a proper number of convenient waggons and drivers—That whenever any regimental Surgeon, or Mate, shall be absent from his regiment without leave from the said Surgeon General, or the Commander in Chief of the Army, where his duty lies, the said Surgeon General shall have power to remove such Surgeon, or Mate, and forthwith appoint another in his stead.1

The Honorable the Congress having been pleased to appoint Doctor William Shippen Junr “Director General of all the Military Hospitals erected and to be erected for the Armies of the United States” Doctor Walter Jones and Doctor Benjamin Rush, Physicians and Surgeons General of the Hospital, and Doctor John Cochran Physician and Surgeon General of the Army in the middle department—They are to be obeyed and respected as such.2

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1These resolutions were passed on 7 April (see JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 7:235–36).

2Congress made these appointments on 11 April (see ibid., 253–54). Benjamin Rush (1746–1813), who graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1760 and received a medical degree from the University of Edinburgh in 1768, had a large private medical practice in Philadelphia and was professor of chemistry at the College of Philadelphia. He served as surgeon of Pennsylvania’s gunboat fleet from September 1775 to July 1776 and as a delegate to the Continental Congress from July 1776 to February 1777. In its appointments of 11 April 1777, Congress named Walter Jones physician general of the hospital in the middle department, and it made Rush surgeon general of the hospital in that department. On 1 July 1777 Rush succeeded Jones as physician general of the middle department’s hospital (see ibid., 8:518). Rush’s bitter criticism of Shippen’s administration of the hospital department resulted in a congressional hearing in late January 1778, and although Congress consequently made several reforms in the department, the continuing animosity between Rush and Shippen induced Rush to resign his office on 30 Jan. (see ibid., 10:93–94, 101, 128–31). Rush alienated GW a short time later when the unsigned letter censuring GW that Rush sent to Patrick Henry was forwarded by Henry to GW, who identified the handwriting as Rush’s (see Henry to GW, 20 Feb. 1778, PHi: Dreer Collection, and GW to Henry, 27, 28 Mar. 1778, DLC:GW). Rush later resumed practicing medicine and teaching in Philadelphia.

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