The SAR Magazine

Fall 2018

The SAR MAGAZINE is the official quarterly publication of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution published quarterly.

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 20 of 47

SPRING 2018 13 FALL 2018 21 for any answer he thought should be "yes," Tilton first gained national recognition when he refused to leave the Continental Congress after his term expired. The measure of Tilton's passion for his newly formed country was evident in his continued attendance at meetings of Congress, even after he was no longer a delegate. Congress finally had to pass a formal resolution barring him from the chamber. 12 Tilton went on to serve repeated terms as a member of the Delaware State House of Representatives. And as if there weren't enough firsts for him, he was Delaware's first commissioner of loans under Alexander Hamilton from 1785 to 1801 when the U.S. Treasury Department was created. 13 Tilton's brother, Nehemiah, had become the burgess, or mayor, of Wilmington in 1799, and Tilton joined him by moving to Wilmington. In 1802, he built a house, originally on 63 acress, that received its official Delaware Historical Marker last October. Now known as the Tilton Mansion, the building at Ninth and Broom streets is home to the University and Whist Club, a private city-dining club. It is on the National Registry of Historic Places. In February 1813, while the country was yet again at war with Britain, Tilton published a small treatise entitled Economical Observations on Military Hospitals and the Prevention and Cure of Diseases Incident to an Army. It was dedicated to Gen. John Armstrong, secretary of war, and embodied his observations during the Revolutionary War. It also repeated his former recommendations regarding the construction and administration of military hospitals. 14 Under an act of March 3, 1813 (2 Stat. 819), President James Madison offered Tilton the position of the first army surgeon general of the United States. His appointment was confirmed by the Senate on June 11, 1813. In the meantime, on May 1, 1813, Madison had issued Rules and Regulations for the Army, and therein were prescribed the duties of the chief medical officer as follows: "It shall be the duty of the Physician and Surgeon General to prescribe rules for the government of the hospitals of the army, to see these enforced, to appoint stewards and nurses, to call for and receive returns of medicine, surgical instruments and hospital stores, to authorize and regulate the supply of regimental medical chests, to make out general half year returns of these and of the sick in hospital to the War Department, and yearly estimates of what may be wanted for the supply of the army." 15 One of the newly appointed surgeon general's first acts after assuming office was to make a tour of inspection of the hospitals and camps along the northern frontier. There, Tilton found that all of the lessons of sanitation learned from the last war had been forgotten. In both camps and hospitals, he found such utter contempt for sanitary measures and dire results of this neglect that immediate action was necessary. Tilton dismantled and moved the bad hospitals, establishing new ones, and by the elimination of incompetent personnel, he was able to do much in improving these unsatisfactory conditions. His efforts to improve hospital conditions and to rehabilitate the medical and hygienic service of the army resulted in the publication of his Regulations for the Medical Department, issued in the general orders of December 1814. 16 Soon after the publication on Dec. 7, 1814, it became necessary to perform a thigh amputation in order to prolong Tilton's life. He withstood the pre- anesthetic-era agonies of the amputation and even instructed the surgeon and his assistants regarding the details of his operation and how he wanted it performed. Tilton's original surgery slab remains in the basement of the Tilton Mansion to this day. You can see what is meant by "lion's share of firsts" regarding Dr. James Tilton, and this isn't even all of his story. His firsts are far-reaching and extend to agricultural firsts and meteorological firsts, all recorded in the Library of Congress. While this might be the first time that you have heard about Tilton, it is our hope that it is not the last. Dr. Alfred R. Shands, an orthopedic surgeon who helped found the Alfred I. du Pont Institute and who is its medical director emeritus, wrote in 1975, "Dr. Tilton undoubtedly was the greatest physician Delaware ever had." 17 It might be thought to be easier to compile such an impressive list of firsts in Tilton's day than it would be today. The annual Tilton Award for Medical Achievement in Delaware challenges that assumption by recognizing Delaware doctors and their contributions to medical advancements, some of which might indeed be firsts. Stacey Inglis is the director of sales and marketing for the Tilton Mansion, home to the University and Whist Club in Wilmington, Delaware. REFERENCES 1 The Morning News (Wilmington, DE), Wed., May 25, 1910 article titled "Early Doctors and Their Good Work," page 12 2, 8 Medical Department of University of Pennsylvania 1841, part of the 1842 papers of Elwood Harvey, digital archives 3 Year Book 1865, the Sons of Delaware of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, edited by Norris S. Barratt, historian, page 88 4 Letter from James Tilton to George Washington dated February 15, 1787 part of the Library of Congress Digital Collection 5 The Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia, PA), July 11, 1771, page 1 6 The U.S. National Library of Medicine Digital Series Collection 7 The Morning News (Wilmington, DE), Tuesday, August 12, 1975 article titled "Delaware Doctor Fought for Sanitation" by William P. Frank, page 7 9, 16 H.E. Brown, Medical Department of the U.S. Army from 1775 to 1873 10 H.H. Bellas, History of the Delaware Society of the Cincinnati 1896, page 11 11 Year Book 1865, the Sons of Delaware of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, edited by Norris S. Barratt, historian, page 89 12 The Morning News (Wilmington, DE), Friday, January 8, 1965, page 23 13 Original letter and envelope dated June 4, 1791, from the Delaware Historical Society's private vault collection 14, 15 The U.S. National Library of Medicine Digital Series Collection 17 Alfred R. Shands Jr.'s article, "James Tilton, M.D., Delaware's Greatest Physician (1745-1822)," which appeared in the January 1974 issue of the Delaware Medical Journal Treatise on military hospitals published by Dr.James Tilton in 1813. Part of the U.S. National Library of Medicine Digital Series Collection.

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The SAR Magazine - Fall 2018