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Scott Mingus photo of a diorama of the York U.S. Army General Hospital

John A. Weakley, Hospital Steward, 87th PA Volunteer Infantry to speak at York CWRT on July 21

John H. Ream III will be the featured speaker at the monthly meeting of the York CWRT at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 21st. The meeting will be held at the York County Heritage Trust at 250 E. Market Street in downtown York. The talk is free, as is parking. John will be portraying Civil War Hospital Steward, John A. Weakley, 87th PA Volunteer Infantry.

The program will be an overview of Medical Services during the Civil War with emphasis on the position of Hospital Steward. Who was he, what did he do, what did he look like? Position appointment, qualifications, pay, and dress will be discussed. A brief biography of John Weakley, York’s own 87th Regiment PA Volunteer Infantry will be presented. This broader overview of medical services will include theories of illness, treatment approaches, medications, organization and development and the aftermath.

John H. Ream III, M.S. is a graduate of York (PA) Junior College, Pennsylvania State University and Millersville University. He is a Pennsylvania Licensed Psychologist, Certified School Psychologist and Board Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress. John retired as Assistant Chief of Psychological Services, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. He also has over thirty years of experience as a volunteer first responder/trainer in fire/rescue/emergency medical services with local agencies, American Red Cross Disaster Services, and county Emergency Management Agency. He is a Life Member of the Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association and volunteers at the Daniel Lady Farm, a Confederate Field Hospital where he portrays Samuel Apperson, Hospital Steward of the Stonewall Brigade. John is also a member of the 87th PA, Company C, re-enactors unit, Society of Civil War Surgeons, Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, and York Historic Trust, where he portrays a Union Hospital Steward and provides information about the Civil War Hospital of York.

The lowest ranking members of Union and Confederate Medical Departments during the Civil War were usually hospital stewards, noncommissioned officers who received the pay and allowance of a sergeant major. Each regiment was authorized to have one hospital steward, who was often chosen by the regimental surgeon from the enlisted men in the unit.

Army regulations specified that men selected as hospital stewards had to be of good character: “temperate, honest, and in every way reliable, as well as sufficiently intelligent, and skilled in pharmacy. Temperance was an important quality since one responsibility of the hospital steward was controlling and dispensing medicinal whiskey. As he was responsible for keeping many medical records, the steward also needed to be literate and intelligent. His other duties included assisting the field surgeons in operations, supervising hospital cooks and nurses, and even prescribing drugs and performing minor operations during emergencies.

Regulations called for Union hospital stewards to wear the red-trimmed uniform of artillerymen. Their uniform insignia consisted of emerald green, yellow-edged, half-chevron that bore a two-inch-long yellow caduceus (staff with two entwined snakes and two wings at top). Hospital stewards of volunteer regiments, however, were known to wear a variety of different uniforms and insignia. Confederate hospital stewards’ uniforms and insignia were not officially regulated, but one surgeon recalled that on the uniform many wore, the chevrons on the coat sleeves and the stripe down the trousers very similar to those worn by an orderly or first sergeant, but were black in color.
Source: Atlas Editions; Civil War Cards