Though there were some 3.5 million Africans in the United States in 1860, the Northern army incorporated only about 186,000 black troops with which to invade the South. Most of the latter were either conscripts, reluctant enlistees or offered significant cash bounties for their service. Paid less than their white counterparts and segregated in black-only units, they suffered a higher mortality rate and less medical attention.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Black Doctors in the Northern Army
The high casualty rate suffered by Negro troops during the war was due in no small measure to the reluctance of the [Northern]War Department to assign a sufficient number of white doctors to Negro regiments. [The vast majority of black troops died of disease in camp], and Negro losses amounted to 37,300, the mortality rate of colored troops being 35% greater than among other troops, despite the fact that they were not enrolled until 18 months after the [war] began.
The War Department [was unwilling] to commission Negro practitioners during the Civil War was reflected in the fact that only eight colored physicians were appointed to the Army Medical Corps. Seven of the eight were attached to hospitals in Washington, DC.
During the critical years of the Reconstruction era, Negro doctors, eager to improve themselves professionally, sought admission into medical societies. On June 9, 1869, Dr. Alexander T. Augusta and Dr. Charles B. Purvis, two of the seven Negro physicians then practicing in Washington, DC, were proposed for membership in the American Medical Association [AMA].
On June 23, Dr. A.W. Tucker, another eminently qualified Negro physician was similarly proposed for membership in the Medical Society of the District of Columbia. Although all three Negro doctors were reported eligible for admission, their applications were rejected. About a month later, the Society’s leaders, in a published Appeal To Congress, answered [Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner’s condemnation] by saying that the question of membership in the medical body was a personal and social matter.
Senator Sumner responded by introducing a bill in the Senate on February 8, 1870, to repeal the society’s charter. But the Senate refused to act on the bill. On January 3, 1870, Dr. Howard Reyburn, faculty member of Howard Medical School and surgeon-in-chief of the Freedmen’s Hospital, introduced a resolution [to the Society], that no physician (who is otherwise eligible) should be excluded from membership in this Society on account of his race or color. By a vote of 26 to 10, the Society refused to consider Dr. Reybern’s resolution. On February 9, 1870, Dr. Joseph Borrows nominated Dr.’s Augusta, Purvis and Tucker for membership, but the nominations were declared out of order because they were not made at a stated meeting as required by the regulations.”
(International Library of Negro Life and History, Herbert M. Morais, Publishers Company, Inc, 1969, pp: 36-54)