William Alexander Hammond Banner


Maryland native William A. Hammond graduated from New York University's Medical College in 1848 and entered the U.S. Army the next year as an assistant surgeon. During his 10 year term of service he served in the West and at the Military Academy at West Point and was cited by the American Medical Association for his important research on nutrition. At the beginning of the Civil War, Hammond was assigned to duty as an inspector of hospitals and army camps.

Army camps at the beginning of the war were breeding grounds for disease, and Hammond's excellent work in attempting to clean up the camps and hospitals was noticed by the U.S. Sanitary Commission. In April 1862, the Sanitary Commission succeeded in exerting enough political pressure to have Hammond appointed over less competent senior officers to the post of surgeon general with the rank of brigadier general.

Hammond energetically began reforming the army medical service. He eliminated much of the red tape of the prewar medical department, created the general hospital service, saw that competent medical men were appointed to high-level positions, provided assistance and medical information to surgeons in the field, and oversaw the establishment of an efficient ambulance corps. Hammond also created two large government operated drug laboratories to produce high quality medicines for the army.

Hammond could be autocratic and tactless, and he clashed with Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. As a result, Stanton had him court-martialed on a petty charge and dismissed from the army in August 1864. Hammond's court-martial was overturned after the war, and he was restored to the rank of brigadier general, he retired in 1879.