William S. Dodge
June 12, 1861
William S. Dodge, of Portland, served as the 1st Maine Infantry Regiment’s only Quartermaster. The regiment had been newly formed in response to President Abraham Lincoln’s national call for volunteers in April.
Many of the details of combining 10 local militia companies into a single regiment prompted Dodge to ask for help frequently from Governor Israel Washburn. Dodge sought the Governor’s guidance in everything from how to resolve disputes between soldiers, to requests for supplies.
In July, 1861, the 1st Maine is deployed on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., where the regiment stands guard in case of an attack upon the capital.
Dodge writes to Gov. Washburn and asks that the 1st Maine be supplied with, "a suitable carriage, or in other words, one two Horse Ambulance for the conveyence of the sick & wounded."
By the Quartermaster’s description, the desired ambulance would be a light wagon that could be pulled by two horses and could carry about nine men. The ambulance is not needed to carry wounded soldiers from a battlefield. Early in the summer of 1861, there had yet to be a battle.
Illness, however, was another matter. Dodge reports that the regiment is suffering a lot of sickness. He guesses that the 1st and 2nd Maine Regiments are being plagued by "Camp Dysentery" whose most common symptom is severe diarrhea. Rather than a virus, Dodge speculates that the illness is "probably caused by change of climate and weather."
Ambulances would help, Dodge assures Washburn, "they are of the first importance and if practicable should be furnished every Regt. Indeed they cannot be dispensed with."
The 1st Maine Infantry Regiment, despite its attack of "Camp Dysentery," does not lose any men to illness during their 90-day call-up to active duty. The regiment returned to Maine in September.
- The United States did not maintain a large standing army until after World War II. This meant that the government had to raise armies and supplies in order to fight wars. What are advantages and disadvantages to maintaining a large standing army even in times of peace?
- The horse-drawn ambulance was different in design from other wagons with the regiment. What are some of the differences?
- How and why are today’s ambulances different from automobiles?