Joseph Chase Rutherford Correspondence
An 1849 graduate of Woodstock Medical College, Joseph Chase Rutherford practiced medicine in Blackstone, Massachussetts and Orleans County, Vermont. He was an examining surgeon of recruits early in the war, and he also invented a method of...
Show moreAn 1849 graduate of Woodstock Medical College, Joseph Chase Rutherford practiced medicine in Blackstone, Massachussetts and Orleans County, Vermont. He was an examining surgeon of recruits early in the war, and he also invented a method of invisible writing that was used by the federal government during the war. Rutherford was commissioned from Newport on August 8th, 1862 and made an assistant surgeon of the 10th Vermont. He was promoted to surgeon of the 17th Vermont on March 6th, 1865. While operating on a soldier after the battle of Orange Grove, he developed an infection in his thumb that partially disabled him for the rest of his life. He returned home to his practice in Newport after the war.
Dr. Joseph C. Rutherford wrote faithfully to his wife Hannah from the time of his appointment as assistant surgeon of the Tenth Vermont Infantry in August 1862 to his mustering out as surgeon of the Seventeenth Vermont Infantry in July 1865. He informed her of his medical duties, his relations with the soldiers and officers, and news about soldiers from the Newport, Vermont area. Rutherford's letters convey a strong sense of pride in his work, but increasing frustration over his failure to win promotion, particularly after the severe battles of 1864. He finally received a commission as surgeon of the Seventeenth Vermont in March 1865. Rutherford described the battle of Orange Grove (Nov. 27, 1863) and Sheridan's Shenandoah campaign, but only one letter (May 17, 1864) survives from the nearly continuous fighting of May and June, 1864. Many of the letters contain advice to Mrs. Rutherford on financial matters and the treatment of their children's illnesses. Rutherford also expressed strong opinions about copperheads, traitors, and Southerners. The collection includes three letters from Edward Belville (d. 1864) of Derby, Vermont, a private in the Eighth Vermont Infantry. One of these (July 16, 1863) gives an account of the assault on Port Hudson, in which Belville was wounded.