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James Mann, Surgeon, U. S. Army

James Mann (July 23, 1759—November 7, 1832) Surgeon, U. S. Army, was born in Wrentham, Norfolk County, Massachusetts. No record of his parents or ancestry has come do to us. After graduating with a degree in arts from Harvard College in 1776 he began the study of medicine with Dr. Samuel Danforth, one of Boston’s foremost practitioners, and on July 1, 1779, at the age of twenty years, became surgeon of Colonel William Shepard’s 4th Massachusetts Regiment. He was made a prisoner of war in June 1781 and spent several months in British hands on Long Island. On account of illness he resigned from the service on April 14, 1782, and returned to Wrentham, where he established himself for the practice of medicine. At this time Yale College conferred upon him the honorary degree of A.M. and Brown College did the same in the following year. It is not recorded what were the occasions of these honors. He joined the Massachusetts Medical Society and in 1791 sent the society a paper on Diabetes. He contributed two papers on obstetrical and gynecological subjects to the second volume of the society’s Medical Communications in 1803. He was given the Boylston Prize on December 31, 1806, for a paper on Dysentery. During the disorders in western Massachusetts in 1786-7, called Shay’s Rebellion, he was called for service with the militia by his old commander, General Shepard, who was charged with the protection of the Springfield arsenal and with the suppression of the revolt against the local government.

Later Mann moved to New York City for practice, and with the onset of the war with Britain in 1812 he joined the army oil April 9 as a hospital surgeon. On account of his previous military experience he was appointed medical director of the Northern Army which was being organized by General Henry Dear- born at Greenbush, across the Hudson river from Albany, N. Y. Here Surgeon Mann remained until March 1813, in charge of the general hospital in addition to his duties of medical director. These latter duties included supervision of medical personnel, sanitation, supplies, and of the hospitals which had been established at Plattsburg and Burlington, Vermont, and which he inspected in February 1813. Serving under Mann in the Northern Army were Joseph Lovell and Thomas Lawson, later to become surgeon generals of the army, and William Beaumont, just licensed to practice.

For more than a year of the war, until the appointment of James Tilton as physician and surgeon general on June 13, 1813, Surgeon Mann held the most responsible position in the medical service of the army. During this period sanitary conditions in the camps of the Northern Army were extremely bad, owing to the inexperience of the officers of the army and the attendant general lack of discipline. Respiratory diseases, including highly fatal pneumonias, were rife in the camps as were also diarrheas and dysentery. Mann was persistent in his criticism of existing conditions and of their causes. Considerable improvement resulted in some commands, while others persisted in their disregard of sanitation to the end of the war.

As part of a concentration of General Dearborn’s army, Mann accompanied troops from Greenbush in March 1813 by way of the Mohawk and Black river valleys to Sacketts Harbor, when he established a hospital at Watertown. On April 23 he was ordered into Sacketts Harbor and two days later he embarked with the troops in bateaux for Little York (Toronto) down Lake Ontario. Landing on the twenty-seventh, the town was captured with some boats and supplies. In evacuating the fort, the British blew up their powder magazine, killing Colonel Zebulon M. Pike, leader of the attack, and sixty soldiers, and causing mutilating wounds to one hundred and eighty. On May 4 the army sailed to Fort Niagara, where Mann put up a tent hospital. The bombardment, assault, and capture of Fort George, across the Niagara river, occurred on May 27 and further operations greatly increased the casualties. About the middle of June, Mann established a “flying hospital” under tentage at Lewiston and moved the patients there from Niagara. An unseasonably cold and wet summer brought much diarrhea and typhoid fever. When General Wilkinson, the new army commander, took the bulk of the army back’ to Sacketts Harbor late in the summer, Mann was left behind at the Lewiston hospital. This place being unsuited to winter occupancy he moved the patients in October to a new hospital in barrack buildings at Williamsville, near Buffalo, and late in November started overland to rejoin the army headquarters. He reached it on December 15 at Malone, N. Y., the army being in winter quarters at French Mills, to the north, after a futile attempt at Montreal by way of the St. Lawrence river. At Malone ‘he established a hospital in the town academy and adjacent buildings, the best accommodations thus far available. The camp at French Mills was one of the worst and the winter was one of sickness and death, due to overcrowding, exposure, lack of suitable clothing, and poor food.

On February 9, 1814, the army at French Mills was ordered to Sacketts’ Harbor and Plattsburg and it was directed that the patients from the Malone hospital should be forwarded with their respective commands. Surgeon Mann superintended the transportation by sleighs of four hundred and fifty patients to hospitals at Plattsburg and Burlington, a journey of three or four days. Arriving at Burlington on February 16 he took over the direction of that hospital. In August he was in charge of the hospital at Plattsburg and when on September 6, that post was invested by the British under General Prevost, he was compelled to transfer his patients to temporary shelter on Crab Island in Lake Champlain, from whence, after a naval battle, they were transferred to Burlington. The attack upon Plattsburg was the last major act of hostilities in this theatre of the war and peace was made before the end of the year.

Mann stayed on at Plattsburg until June 15, 1815, when he was “disbanded” under the legislation reducing the medical department, approved March 3, 1815. He returned to his old home in Wrentham and during the winter of 181546 he made visits to the towns of Sharon and Rochester in southeastern Massachusetts as a consulting physician in an epidemic of respiratory diseases which he designated “peripneumonia notha”. During this time he was busy preparing a volume on his military experiences which he published in 1816 at Dedham, Massachusetts. It is entitled Medical Sketches of the Campaign of 1812, 13, 14, to which are added surgical cases; observations on military hospitals attached to a moving army, also an appendix with a dissertation on the dystentery of 1806 and the winter epidemic in Sharon and Rochester, Mass., of peripneumonia notha in 1815-16.

The reduction in the medical department in 1815 was found too drastic and on May 3, 1816, Mann was reinstated in the service in his previous grade and ordered to duty at Detroit Barracks, Michigan, where he served for the two following years. During this time he was carried in the register as the ranking officer of the corps. On April 30, 1818, there was a reorganization of the medical department and a rearrangement of the medical officers on the staff list in accordance with length of service. Surgeon Lovell, six places below Mann on the previous list, was named surgeon general and Mann’s name was the twenty-fourth on the list of post surgeons. On May 21, 1821, there was a reduction of the army and a reorganization of the medical service. The regimental medical officers were consolidated in one list with the staff medical officers with titles of surgeons and assistant surgeons. Mann maintained about the same relative rank but was named an assistant surgeon, which grade he retained until his death.

From Detroit Barracks he was transferred in 1818 to Fort Independence in Boston Harbor and here he stayed for the next twelve years. In 1819 he was appointed on the consultant surgical staff of the Massachusetts General Hospital to succeed his old preceptor, Dr. Samuel Danforth, and served in this capacity for seven years. He became active in the affairs of the state medical society, and in 1821 was named a member of a committee “to report on what measures could be adopted to secure a better education of those persons who undertake to compound, put up, or sell medicines in conformity with the prescriptions of physicians”. In this same year he performed a successful amputation of the elbow joint which he reported in the Medical Repository of New York in 1822. In 1830 he was transferred to Fort Columbus, on Governor’s Island, New York, where he died on November 7, 1832.

Surgeon Mann was a talented physician and an able surgeon. His book shows him not only a man of original ideas but one well acquainted with medical literature. It is interesting to note that he advocated the use of ipecac in the treatment of dysentery. He was severe in his criticism of the abuse of calomel, but apparently approved of bleeding and purging as aids to wound treatment. During the war he was practically always in charge of a general hospital which was well conducted and maintained in good sanitation. His duties in connection with the transportation of patients over long distances are noteworthy and highly creditable. It was his frequent duty to inveigh against the un- sanitary condition of camps and hospitals which he inspected and to criticize the officers responsible. On the other hand, he was generous in his commendation of medical officers who exhibited industry and efficiency or bravery in combat. It may well be that the exceptional praise that he gave to Surgeon Joseph Lovell in his reports and his book had influence in the latter’s selection as surgeon general in 1818. Mann was much impressed with Surgeon General Tilton’s plan for hospitals of the hut type, but did not have much success in securing their adoption in the Northern Army. In 1814 he addressed a letter to the surgeon general urgently recommending that the pay and status of regimental medical officers be equalized with those of hospital officers. This reform was not brought about until 1821. All during the war he called attention to the difficulties brought about by the indefinite status of the medical personnel and advocated a better organization and the adoption of a code of regulations.

It may be asked why Mann was not selected as head of the corps in 1818. He does appear to have been the logical choice. But he came into the service at a relatively high age and in 1818 he was practically sixty years old. The choice of a younger man of about the same length of service appears to have been wise.

In addition to his other honors Mann was given the honorary degree of M. D. by Brown University in 1815. He was offered the post of lecturer on the theory and practice of physic at Fairfield Medical School, Fairfield, New York, but was compelled to decline. He was a member of the Society of the Cincinnati, of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a corresponding member of the Georgia Medical Society.

(H. E. Brown, Med. Dept., U. S. Army, 1775-1873, Wash. 1873; Army and Navy Registers of the U. S., 1776-1879, N. Y. 1888; Compilation of U. S. Army Registers, 1815-1837, Wash. 1837; Appleton’s Cyclop. Amer. Biog., N. Y. 1888; Kelly and Burrage, Amer. Med. Biog., Balt., 1920; N. J. Bowditch, Hist. of the Mass. Gen. Hosp., Bost.. 1851; James Mann, Medical Sketches, Dedham, 1816).

James M. Phalen,

Colonel, U. S. Army, Retired.