William Alexander Hammond – Brigadier General, United States Army

Born: August 28, 1828, Annapolis, Maryland. After obtaining a primary education in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, he graduated from New York University Medical College in 1848. In 1849 he was appointed Assistant Surgeon in the Army Medical Corps and for 10 years served at various posts, in the meantime publishing in 1857 a widely read treatise on nutrition.

In 1860 he resigned in order to accept professorship at the University of Maryland, which he gave up the following year together with a profitable practice in Baltimore, to go back into the army. A prime example of evils of seniority system, “the length of his previous service and brilliance of his qualifications were ignored and he was entered at the bottom of the list of Assistant Surgeons.”

In the months that followed, his abilities were pressed upon the administration by a barrage of letters and physicians' delegations – in the main instigated by the pro-Hammond Sanitary Commission and George B. McClellan – with the result that he was appointed Surgeon General with the rank of Brigadier General, April 25, 1862. He began at once to revitalize the Medical Department: appropriations were increased tenfold; younger men were placed in prominent positions of responsibility; red tape was eliminated; and a much needed ambulance corps was organized.

Many of his edicts conflicted with other vested interests and soon his relations with all-powerful Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton began to deteriorate. At length, after being ordered away from Washington, DC and an acting successor named, he demanded a court-martial. Having engaged in a game of power politics with Stanton, he should not have been surprised that, upon the flimsiest evidence, he was convicted of ungentlemanly conduct and dismissed from the service. Nevertheless he enjoyed a most distinguished postbellum career; became a pioneer in treatment of nervous and mental diseases; wrote authoritatively on a variety of subjects.

He died at Washington, DC, January 5, 1900.

In 1878 Congress approved a bill authorizing restoration to service if justice so indicated. Accordingly he was restored and placed on the retired list with the grade of Brigadier General, making possible his eventual burial in Arlington National Cemetery. He lies there in Section 1, Grave 465. His wife, Ester Dyer Hammond (died April 13, 1925) lies with him.

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