1862: Surgeon’s Certificate by Isaac White

The Headstone of Isaac White

This interesting surgeon’s note was written in July 1861 by Capt. Isaac White (1837-1889). Isaac was born in Charlottesville and graduated in 1859 from the Medical College of Virginia. He married Mary Virginia (“Jinnie”) Day (1840-1922) on November 6, 1860. He and Mary bore two sons, John Day White (1864-1923), and George White.

On May 27, 1861, White was commissioned as an assistant surgeon in the Virginia Active Volunteer Forces, with the rank of captain. He was appointed as an assistant surgeon in the Confederate Army on September 2, 1861, and served in the 31st Virginia Infantry Regiment until his resignation on December 6, 1861. On May 13, 1862, he was appointed a major in the 29th Virginia Infantry Regiment, effective until his resignation on October 18, 1862. He served as acting assistant surgeon in Montgomery White Sulphur Springs Hospital (a resort before and after the war) in Montgomery County, Virginia, from September 8, 1862, until January 8, 1863. He was appointed assistant surgeon in the 62nd Virginia Regiment Mounted Infantry on March 24, 1863. It is unknown when he ended his service with this regiment. White was captured on December 10, 1864, and taken as a prisoner of war, until he was released at Camp Hamilton, Virginia, on January 6, 1865. After the war White was a resident physician at Montgomery White Sulphur Springs and Allegheny Springs resorts, and wrote for the Lynchburg and Richmond newspapers describing the history and social conditions of the local resorts as they were in the their glory days. Isaac White died on August 3, 1889, at his home in Shawsville, Virginia, and is buried in the family graveyard on the property. [Source: Virginia Tech]

A collection of Isaac White’s Letters from 1863-64 are housed in the Special Collections of Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va.

Headstone of Captain J. B. S. Alexander

The surgeon’s note pertains to the fitness for duty of Capt. James Barton Stone Alexander (1836-1861) —  a West Point Cadet who graduated 37th in the Class of 1856.  He was breveted a 2nd Lt. in the US 5th Infantry in 1856, serving in the garrison at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania. He was later commissioned a 2d Lt. in the 9th US Infantry with duty at Ft. Simcoe, Washington (1857-59) and Ft. Dalles, Oregon (1859-60). He resigned his commission in the US service on 9 May 1861 and accepted a captain’s commission in the Provisional Army of Virginia on 15 June 1861. It appears that by that time, however, he was suffering from an advanced stage of syphilis which most likely resulted in his death on 15 August 1861 at the age of 25. If the disease did not kill him directly, his death may have been caused by its treatment with mercury, which was still the practice in 1861. Capt. Alexander was buried in Maplewood Cemetery in Charlottesville.

[Note — This letter appears through the courtesy of Brennen Thompson of “40DeadMenPhotography” who authorized me to publish it here.]


Captain J. B. S. Alexander of the Infantry of the Provisional Army of Virginia — having applied for a certificate on which to ground an application for a leave of absence —  I do hereby certify that I have carefully examined this officer and find that he is suffering from a disease of the genital organs and in consequence thereof, he is in my opinion, unfit for duty and in my opinion will not be able to resume his duties in a less period than sixty days.

Camp at Monterey, Va.
July 20th, 1861

Asst. Surgeon Isaac White of Va. Vols.



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