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Hammond, Dr. William A.

William A. Hammond (1828 – 1900)– Ex-Surgeon General of the Army  – Dismissed from the Army and Later Reinstated Upon Act of Congress by President Hayes.

Editor’s Note: This 1900 Obit from the New York Times was copied with permission and derived from the blog researched and developed by Linda S. Stuhler at

William A. Hammond, Surgeon General of the Army
William A. Hammond, Surgeon General of the Army
Photo: Library of Congress
Digital ID cwpb 05202

WASHINGTON, January 5, 1900 – Dr. William A. Hammond, formerly Surgeon General of the army, died at his residence in this city tonight from an attack of heart disease, brought on by hurriedly ascending a flight of stairs. He expired before a physician could be summoned. Dr. Hammond had been in the house but a short time before the attack. Arrangements for the funeral have not yet been completed.

Dr. Hammond was born in Annapolis, Maryland, on August 28, 1828. His father was Dr. John Wesley Hammond of Annapolis, a physician of prominence. When William A. Hammond was two years old his father removed to Somerset County, Pennsylvania, and when Rittner was elected governor of Pennsylvania he was appointed to a position in the Auditor’s office at Harrisburg.

His son began the study of medicine with Dr. Roberts of Harrisburg, and afterward went to New York City, studying in the medical department of the University of the City of New York. He was graduated from that institution before he was twenty-one years old, and received a permit to be examined before a board for a position in the United States Army.

In 1849 Dr. Hammond, having passed the examination, received a position as Assistant Surgeon, with the rank of Lieutenant. He served in Kansas, New Mexico, and elsewhere until a year before the breaking out of the civil war, when he received the appointment of Professor of Anatomy and Physiology in the Maryland University School of Medicine. He resigned his post in the army in order to accept this position, but when the war began he gave up his professorship and again entered the army.

At that time the army medical department was found to be entirely inadequate to meet the demands upon it, and in April, 1862, Congress passed a bill to reorganize it. Indorsed by General McClellan, then in command of the Army of the Potomac, and with the unanimous consent of the members of the United States Sanitary Commission, the post of Surgeon General, with the rank of Brigadier General, was offered to Dr. Hammond and accepted by him, his commission being signed April 25, 1862.

Innumerable difficulties were encountered by Dr. Hammond from the first, and, according to his statements, he was crippled at the outset by the refusal of the authorities to provide him with the means which he regarded as essential to his work. He, however, instituted a number of radical changes, established the Army Medical Museum by special order, and suggested the plan of the “Medical and Surgical History of the Rebellion.”

A number of acrimonious controversies followed the occupancy by Dr. Hammond of the post of Surgeon General, and charges were made against him. He was tried by court-martial and dismissed from the army in August, 1864, the President having approved the findings of the court. The charges upon which Dr. Hammond was convicted were in substance as

First – Violation of the act of Congress of April 16, 1862, by making purchases of medical supplies in person, and not through a medical purveyor.
Second – Corruption in ordering purchases of particular articles, sometimes of inferior quality, from certain persons at specified prices.
Third – Falsehood in stating that General Halleck had requested him as a particular favor to assign Surgeon Murray to duty in Philadelphia.

After his dismissal from the army, Dr. Hammond removed to New York, where he settled in the practice of his profession, making a specialty of diseases of the nervous system. He accompanied Eugene Langdon, grandson of the first John Jacob Astor, as medical attendant to Europe, receiving for his services a fee of $10,000. From 1867 to 1873 he was professor of diseases of the mind and nervous system at Bellevue Hospital Medical College, and in the latter year was elected to a similar chair in the medical department of the University of the City of New York.

He remained there until 1882, when he became one of the founders of the New York Post Graduate Medical School. He also delivered lectures in the medical department of the University of Vermont, and in 1870 became physician at the New York State Hospital for Diseases of the Nervous System.

In 1878 a bill was submitted to Congress authorizing the President to review the proceedings of the court-martial which convicted Dr. Hammond, and, if justice demanded, to reinstate him. This measure was passed almost unanimously by the House and Senate. In August, 1879, it was approved by President Hayes, and, after inquiry, he restored Dr. Hammond to his place on the rolls of the army as Surgeon General and Brigadier General on the retired list.

Dr. Hammond was the author of a large number of medical works, and also wrote several well-known novels, including “Dr. Grattan,” “A Strong Minded Woman,” and “Mr. Oldmixon.” His medical works include “Diseases of the Nervous System,” which has been translated into French and Italian; “Physiological Memoirs,” “Insanity and Its Medico-Legal Relations,” and “Physics and Physiology of Spiritualism.” Dr. Hammond was one of the originators of The New York Medical Journal, and he established The Quarterly Journal of Psychological Medicine and Medical Jurisprudence.

Two children survive Dr. Hammond. One is Dr. Graeme Monroe Hammond of New York and the other the Marchioness of Lanza, formerly Miss Clara Hammond.”

Source: Reprinted from “The New York Times” Published January 6, 1900, Copyright @ The New York

How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Stuhler, L. (n.d.). William A. Hammond (1828 – 1990) – Ex-surgeon general of the army – Dismissed from the army and later reinstated upon act of congress by President Hayes. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved [date accessed] from