CABINET CARD PHOTOGRAPH OF CHARLES O’LEARY, M.D., CIVIL WAR SURGEON

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Item Code: 450-124

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Cabinet card size is approx. 5 x 7 inches and is of heavy ivory stock. Bottom of mount is signed in period ink, “CHARLES O’LEARY M.D.”. No markings on reverse.

Image shows a side-view of O’Leary wearing a dark civilian frock coat.

Contrast is very good and image is clear. Edges have light wear and surface dirt.

Charles O’Leary was born in Ireland. He enlisted on August 3, 1861 as a Surgeon and was commissioned into the US Volunteers Medical Staff. O’Leary was appointed the Medical Director of the Sixth Corps just days before the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862. He was promoted to Lt. Colonel on March 13, 1865 by Brevet. He mustered out on November 22, 1865. O’Leary died on June 1, 1897.

These are excerpts of what O’Leary said in his official report after Fredericksburg: "Being appointed Medical Director of the Sixth Corps a few days prior to the battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862, I had the opportunity of putting in operation the Field-Hospital organization devised by the Medical Director of the Army, and witnessing its beneficial results. Within a very few hours after the positions were designated for the Field Hospitals on December 12th, all the necessary appliances were on hand, and the arrangements necessary for the proper care of the wounded were as thorough and complete as I have ever seen in a civil hospital. During the engagements of the 13th, the ambulances being guided 11 and governed with perfect control and with a precision rare even in military organizations, the wounded were brought without any delay or confusion to the hospitals of their respective divisions. Not a single item provided for the organization of the Field Hospitals suffered the slightest derangement, and the celerity with which the wounded were treated, and the system pervading the whole Medical Department, from the stations in the field selected by the assistant-surgeons with the regiments, to the wards where the wounded were transferred from the hands of the surgeons to be attended by the nurses, afforded the most pleasing contrast to what we had hitherto seen during the war. Both military commanders and medical officers agree that it would have been impossible for wounded to have received better care and treatment than they did in that battle.  A similar state of things characterized the operations of the Medical Department in the rest of the Army.”

Of Chancellorsville, Marye’s Heights, the Wilderness and Gettysburg he wrote, “In the operations at the time of the battle of Chancellorsville in the following May, the Sixth Corps charged and took Marye's Heights behind the town of Fredericksburg. The Medical Director of the Corps, in his report (pp. cit, p. 138), says: "The charge was made at 1 P.M. the heights were taken, and in less than half an hour we had over 800 wounded. Two hours after the engagement, such was the celerity and system with which the ambu­lances worked, the whole number of wounded were within the hospitals under the care of nurses. Our hospital organization was strictly on the plan prescribed in the circular of the Medical Director of the Army. Supplies of everything necessary were never for a moment deficient." It was not always that the exigencies of a battle permitted the use of all the means for the speedy care of the wounded that had been prepared with such labor and forethought. Such in fact was the case at the battle of Chancellorsville, in the Wilderness, where, despite Dr. Letterman's most urgent representations, but few ambulances and medicine wagons were allowed to come on the field; and again for a time at the battle of Gettysburg, where for three days the issue hung in the balance. In the last named battle the orders of the Commanding General had not only reduced materially the number of supply wagons for the Medical Department, but the exigencies of the closely contested 12 conflict did not admit of those that were at hand being brought on the field. But the ambulance organization was intact, and such was the perfection of its administration, that on the early morning of 4th July, the day after the battle ended, not one wounded man of the great number who had fallen (over 14,000) was left on the ground.”

Dr. Jonathan Letterman, Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac, in his memoirs wrote how the admiration of his corps of surgeons was great, and his confidence in them unbounded. Nearly all had come recently from civil life, and had entered upon novel and exacting duties without previous training; but as soon as a plan was presented to them by which their sick and wounded could be cared for systematically, and their own great personal labors made to accomplish speedy and effective results, they eagerly grasped at the opportunity, and on every battle-field of that great Army displayed professional and administrative ability and a devotion to their duties that Dr. Letterman omitted no opportunity to recognize and commend. He well knew, and none knew better, how much of credit was due to the surgeons from civil life. He had the aid at different periods of his administration of some few able officers of the Regular Army of military training. To those of the Regular Medical Corps, he gave on all proper occasions the fullest need of praise, but to those of the Volunteer Staff and to the Regimental Surgeons he knew the actual results attained were mainly due. In his work entitled "Medical Recollections of the Army of the Potomac," he writes in the highest terms of praise of the services of the able volunteers who shared with him the labors of his Department. He commended in brief and soldierly terms the services of O'Leary, Taylor, Dougherty, Heard, Pancoast, Janes, Holman, NcNulty, Oakley and never omitted an opportunity to extol them. In a letter addressed to the Commanding General of the Army on the eve of the battle of Chancellorsville, he attributed the in the great improvement in the vigor and health of the troops "to the 17 zeal and energy displayed by the Medical Directors of Corps and the Medical Officers of this Army generally, in inculcating the absolute necessity of cleanliness, and attention to the precautions for preserving the health of the troops," etc., and he adds: "My directions and suggestions have been carried out with an intelligence and zeal which it affords me great satisfaction to bring to the notice of the Commanding General." The President of the United States was then visiting the Army, and expressed gratification at the favorable exhibit of the health of the Army and at the just praise bestowed on the Medical Officers.     [SM]

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