Jonathan K. Letterman – Major, United States Army

Born at Cannonsburg, Pennsylvania, December 11, 1824, he graduated from Jefferson College in 1845 and from Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, 1849. In June of that year, he was appointed Assistant Surgeon in the Army Medical Department.

He served in Florida in campaigns against the Seminole Indians until 1853, and after a year at Fort Riley, Minnesota, he was ordered to Fort Defiance, New Mexico Territory, where he saw action against the Apaches. In 1859 he was transferred to Fort Monroe, Virginia, and in 1860-61 was engaged in the Ute Campaign in California.

Late in 1861, he returned East and was assigned to duty with the Army of the Potomac. Named Medical Director of the Department of West Virginia in May 1862, was the next month appointed Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac with the rank of Major (Surgeon). In that post he completely reorganized the Medical Service, devising a system of forward first aid stations at the regimental level, mobile field hospitals behind divisions and base hospitals, all linked by a proficient ambulance corps under the control of medical staff rather than the Quartermaster Department, and arranging an efficient system of medical supply.

At the Battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862, in which the Army of the Potomac suffered 12,000 casualties, he proved the efficiency of his methods. His system was subsequently adoped by other Union Armies in the field and was established officially by an Act of Congress in March 1864.

After a period as Inspector of Hospitals in the Department of the Susquehannah, he resigned from the Army in December 1864 and moved to San Francisco. His “Medical Recollections of the Army of the Potomac” appeared in 1866.

He died in San Francisco on March 15, 1872. On November 13, 1911 the Army Hospital at the Presidio was named Letterman General Hospital in honor of the man who had revolutionized the care of battle casualties.

His private memorial in Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery reads:

“Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac, June 23, 1862 to December 30, 1863, who brought order and efficiency into the Medical Service and who was the originator of modern methods of medical organization in armies.”

His wife, Mary Digges Lee Letterman (October 17, 1833-November 1,1867) is buried next to him under a stone which reads:

“Blessed are the dead who died in the Lord.”

LETTERMAN, JONATHAN
MAJOR SURG USA

  • VETERAN SERVICE DATES: Unknown
  • DATE OF DEATH: 03/15/1872
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: Unknown
  • BURIED AT: SECTION S. C.  SITE 1869
    ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY

LETTERMAN, MARY L W/O JONATHAN

  • DATE OF DEATH: 11/01/1867
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: Unknown
  • BURIED AT: SECTION S DIV  SITE 1869
    ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
  • WIFE OF JONATHAN LETTERMAN – MAJOR SURG U S ARMY

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