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Charles T. Simpers (1821 - 1903)

(PID:31013257655) Source
posted by Mike Fitzpatrick alias Piedmont Fossil on Wednesday 16th of November 2016 01:41:16 AM

Summary Data State or Country of birth: Cecil County, Maryland Home prior to enlistment: North East, Cecil County, Maryland Occupation prior to enlistment: physician, M.D. Service: 6th Maryland Infantry, 1862 - 1864 Contract surgeon U.S. Army 1865 Rank at enlistment: assistant surgeon Highest rank attained: surgeon Principal combat experience: . . . Winchester, Virginia . . . The Wilderness, Virginia . . . Spottsylvania, Virginia . . . North Anna River, Virginia . . . Cold Harbor, Virginia . . . Petersburg, Virginia Casualties: POW, Winchester, VA Photograph by: Quinby & Mizener, Camp Parole, Md. Inscription in period ink on back: "C. T. Simpers, North East, Cecil Co. Md. Charles T. Simpers was born in April 1821 in Cecil County, Maryland. After taking training in medicine, he began practicing as a physician in the town of North East beginning in 1845. Simpers' medical career apparently was a success. He was described as being "Engaged in a large practice in the town and county." It was also reported that he was a slave owner, although the number of slaves he had and the type of work they were engaged in is not known. On May 4, 1853 in Philadelphia, 32-year-old Charles married 20-year-old Eliza A. Whitaker. Over the next few years they would have three children; Frank in 1855, Gertrude in 1858, and Charles T. jr., in 1860. Dr. Simpers continued to practice his profession until the second year of the Civil War. Although he was a slave owner, Simpers remained loyal to the Federal Government. In August 1862 he left his lucrative medical practice and offered his services to the Union. Simpers was appointed as an assistant surgeon, with the rank of 1st lieutenant, in the 6th Maryland Infantry. The regiment was just then forming and on August 25, Simpers was mustered in to fill an original vacancy. He was at this time 41 years old, or about twice the age of the average Union soldier. His wife remained at home with the three young children. The new regiment arrived in western Maryland on September 20, 1862, just a few days too late to take part in the battle of Antietam. But Dr. Simpers had his introduction to the aftermath of combat when he was placed on detached duty as a hospital surgeon at the Brigade Hospital located in Williamsport, Maryland. He remained on this duty, taking care of seriously wounded soldiers through the months of November and December. On February 24, 1863, he was again detached from the regiment for service at New Creek, Virginia. By spring he was anxious to rejoin his position with the 6th Maryland Infantry. On May 3, 1863 he sent the following letter to Surgeon C. F. Campbell, the Medical Director In charge of the Brigade. Camp Keys Romney Va May 3d 1863 Sir I very respectfully ask to be relieved of this command, and be returned to my Regiment if it is at all consistent with the interests of the service. There is quite a sufficiency of Medical aid in this Brigade without me. And as the several commands are camped contiguous to each other, this Battalion can be attended to by one from one of the other camps. Hoping this application may meet with your approval, I have the honor to be very Respectfully your Obt. Svt. C. T. Simpers, Asst. Sgn. 6th Md. Vols. His resultant transfer back to his regiment may have been responsible for his subsequent misfortune. The 6th Maryland was one of the regiments then guarding the Union position at Winchester, Virginia. But soon a large force of Confederates, pushing north on their way to invade Pennsylvania threatened the Federal garrison at Winchester. The occupying Federal forces had heavily fortified the city with forts and lunettes surrounding the town, as well as along the outlying turnpike approaches. These fortifications, or batteries, were linked by a system of trenches and were numbered 1 through 10, with the three largest receiving names. The Union's long-range heavy artillery was concentrated in the three largest forts. Smaller caliber field cannon were scattered among the lesser batteries. The 6th Maryland was positioned in Battery 3, the second largest of the works. This was known as the Star Fort and it held 8 big guns. The other two large forts in which the Union forces were concentrated were Fort Milroy and the West Fort. Outnumbered, the Union defenders held on as best they could as the Confederates attacked at dawn on June 14. After a heavy artillery fire masking an infantry assault, West Fort was quickly overrun by the Confederates who turned the captured Union guns on the remaining two forts. An intense artillery duel continued for the rest of the day until long after dark. The men of the 6th Maryland were hunkered down in the trenches protecting the Star Fort, almost under the very muzzles of the Union big guns firing towards the enemy. While the big shells went crashing into Confederate positions, the thundering roar of the "artillery fire overhead was heavy and continuous nearly all day" and would ultimately leave its mark on the Union defenders a well. Joseph Hill, one of the officers of the regiment later recalled, "On June 14/63, during the battle if Winchester, Va., Dr. Simpers was with his regiment in the trenches of the Star Fort. The cannonading that day was very heavy and after the fight, Dr. Simpers' hearing seemed to be much affected, he was very deaf. Our army was surrounded by the enemy at Winchester, & before daybreak on the morning of June 15/63, an attempt was made to evacuate the forts, the 6th Md. Vols. cut its way through the enemy's lines & escaped, but Dr. Simpers and a number of surgeons were captured. I did not see him again until the winter of 1863-64, when we occupied the same winter quarters at Brandy Station, Va. He was then very deaf & was suffering from rheumatism." It seems, from Hill's statement and other accounts of the battle, that several Union surgeons had remained behind in Winchester treating Union wounded as the rest of the army attempted to escape the trap that had befallen it. These medical men thus fell into the hands of the enemy. As early as 1862 both sides had variously agreed that doctors were to be treated as non-combatants and no longer subject to capture as prisoners of war. If taken, they were supposed to be allowed to treat their wounded and then were to be immediately released. It is not clear why this convention was not followed, but the surgeons captured at Winchester on June 15, 1863 were rounded up and sent with the other POWs to Richmond, Virginia, where Dr. Simpers ended up in Libby Prison. His regiment listed him as missing in action. Simpers was held with other Union officers in Libby Prison, a converted warehouse with filthy, overcrowded living conditions for the inmates. Looking out of a window was forbidden. The bare floor substituted for beds and chairs. Rations were notoriously poor in quality and insufficient in quantity. On month of this existence taxed Simpers' constitution. On July 23, 1863 he was admitted to Richmond's Hospital 21 suffering from a severe case of dysentery. Although the dysentery would continue to reappear it intervals, he was eventually returned to Libby. Scurvy, resulting from the lack of proper nutrition, led to the extraction of a tooth on November 11. On November 24, 1863, more than five months after being taken as a non-combatant at Winchester, he was finally paroled at City Point, Virginia, and returned north. Whether Dr. Simpers spent any time at Camp Parole in Annapolis following his release from Libby prison or if he was allowed to return to his Maryland home to recuperate is not clear. In any event, by mid December he had returned to his regiment, then in winter camp at Brandy Station, Virginia. Soon thereafter, on December 23, Charles Neilson the regiment’s surgeon resigned his commission. Assistant Surgeon Simpers was promoted to surgeon with the rank of major to fill the resultant vacancy. Simpers remained with the regiment and on duty throughout the winter of 1863-64. His hearing was adversely affected as a result of the cannonading at Winchester and growing worse. He also suffered from various aches and pains probably attributable to the lingering effects of scurvy, but the bouts of dysentery he had contracted while in prison seemed to have abated for the time being. Years later, John W. Horn, who at the time in question was colonel of the 6th Maryland, had this to say about Dr. Simpers; "...when the campaign towards Richmond, Va., opened in 1864, [he] was with his command and in good health, and that during the said campaign he was in the line of his duty continually, and that at about the 9th of May 1864, at the time the battle of Spotsylvania Va was being fought he was attacked with diarrhea, which disease increased during the subsequent movement of the army towards Petersburg. That said Surgeon Chas. T. Simpers continued with his command, rendering duty until the Third Division Sixth Corps was ordered from the front at Petersburg, Va. to repel an attack on Washington, D.C. in July 1864. That said Surgeon Chas. T. Simpers was totally disabled by said disease, that during the transportation of the troops from City Point, Va., to Baltimore, Md., said Surgeon Chas. T. Simpers was on the same transport with myself and other officers and men of the Sixth Maryland Regiment, and that during the period of passage between the places before named, said Surgeon Chas. T. Simpers was from said disease unable to be up, and that a few days after reaching Baltimore, Md. - about July 13th - he, being physically unable to proceed with his command, was ordered to Hospital for Medical treatment and was subsequently sent to Camp Parole Hospital under General Orders, after which he did not return to my regiment." Following the Battle of Monocacy on July 9, the defeated Union troops retreated to Baltimore (where Simpers was left behind) before taking up the pursuit of the rebels back into Virginia a few days later. The orders, signed by Samuel B. Lawrence, assistant adjutant general under Major General Lew Wallace, stated: Headquarters Middle Department Eighth Army Corps Baltimore, July 26th 1864 Special Orders No. 185 Surgeon C. T. Simpers, 6th Md. Vols. having reported to the Medical Director, in compliance with G. O. No. 213, A.G.O., C.S. 1864, and being found unfit for active service, but able to do Hospital duty, will report immediately at the Hospital at Camp Parole, near Annapolis Md. for such duty as the Surgeon in charge may require of him. By command of Major General Wallace It is interesting to note that the orders for Simpers' detail To Camp Parole were issued by the Middle Department, Eighth Army Corps, headquartered in Baltimore, which was responsible for rear echelon duties in Maryland and not by the Sixth Army Corps to which Simpers' regiment belonged. By July 26 (the day the orders were issued), the 6th Maryland Regiment was well on its way into the Shenandoah Valley chasing after the Confederates. Simpers shows up for the first time in the August 13, 1864 edition of "The Crutch" (a hospital newspaper in Annapolis) as one of 11 surgeons, assistant surgeons and acting assistant surgeons at Camp Parole Hospital. Sometime that fall he came down with a bad cough as a result of "colds and catarrhal affections" that he contracted while at Camp Parole. Examining Surgeon Warren Day remembered Simpers' from his time in Annapolis, although he apparently forgot, or perhaps never realized, that a period of eight months had elapsed since Simpers had been released from Libby Prison. "He [Simpers] had been in Libby Prison and came there [Camp Parole] on parole," Day recalled. "I took much interest in him because he was an exceptional man. He was suffering from rheumatism in the lumbar & cervical [i.e., neck] regions also in shoulders arms and thighs and along the course of the ischiatic nerve. He also suffered from a severe cough also the epiglottis glottis larynx and air passages to the upper lobes of the lungs were involved. He also had diseased teeth and gums the result of scurvy. Several of his teeth were loose and two or more dropped out." Based on apparently conflicting records, it seems as though Dr. Simpers' regiment in the field must not have been fully aware of his detached status. It was a classic case of the right hand not knowing what the left was doing. His monthly regimental muster rolls list him as "absent sick in General Hospital" for the months of August, September and October. Therefore it seems that his regiment in the field, as part of the 6th Corps with the Army of the Shenandoah, still thought of him as being a patient in Baltimore and was unaware that he had been detailed to Camp Parole in Annapolis by order of General Wallace in command of the Eighth Corps at Baltimore. As a result of the missed communications, his regiment only knew that he had been sent to the hospital in Baltimore and had been incapable of performing duty for more than 90 days. Not hearing anything to the contrary, Dr. Simpers was honorably discharged from his regiment on October 26, 1864, on the basis of "physical disability." Meanwhile, however, Dr. Simpers and the authorities in Annapolis were not aware of his discharge. He claimed that "during the autumn of 1864 and the winter of 1864 and 1865" he was "on light duty at Camp Parole Hospital near Annapolis, Md." His name as a surgeon from the 6th Maryland Volunteers continued to show up on the Camp Parole Hospital roster as listed in "The Crutch" until January 21, 1865. Additionally, records from Annapolis indicate he was granted a leave of absence for 48 hours on October 13, 1864 and another leave of absence for 48 hours November 8, 1864. (He could easily have traveled by train from Annapolis to his home in North East, Maryland, and back again within the two days allotted each time.) Based on his name continuing to show up in the "The Crutch" and the fact of him being issued a leave of absence the month after his official discharge, it is assumed that the news of his release did not reach him for several months. When it did, Simpers found himself without military standing. On January 26, 1865 he entered into a contract with Surgeon J. Simpson, U.S. Army, to serve as a civilian contract surgeon at Camp Parole Hospital. After a brief hiatus of several weeks his name reappeared in the Camp Parole Hospital roster in "The Crutch" but without a regimental affiliation. The photo of him was probably taken at this time. In it he does not wear any insignia of rank, nor does he have military brass button on his coat; both omissions seem consistent with being a contract surgeon rather than holding a military commission. Dr. Simpers continued as a contract surgeon at Camp Parole Hospital for the rest of the war. At the conclusion of the conflict, the number of patients declined. By mid June 1865 most patients in Annapolis had gone home or been transferred to more centralized facilities in Baltimore. On June 15, Simpers was relieved from duty at Camp Parole Hospital and ordered to report at Hicks Hospital in Baltimore. Rather than transfer, Simpers asked that his contract be annulled "at his own request," to which the military agreed, effective June 15, 1865. Charles Simpers was now free to return home to his wife and three children. Although only 44 years old, in his photo he looks much older. He was feeling the lingering effects of combat, prison and field life. Statements in his pension file claim, "After the battle [of Winchester] he experienced much difficulty in hearing, which difficulty continued to increase until by the following winter of 1863 and 1864, while encamped at Brandy Station, Va., he had become very deaf. At the time of his retirement from the military service of the United States, May 15th [sic] 1865, his deafness had become so great as to seriously interfere with the practice of his profession. He could not diagnose diseases of the heart and lungs, or hear distinctly when addressed in the loudest tone of voice." He also would later claim that intermittent bouts of dysentery, rheumatism and heart disease were a result of his stay in Libby Prison. Dr. Simpers tried to resume his former medical practice in North East, but gave it up after two years. A long-time neighbor observed, "That after his return from the Army of the U.S. in 1865 he was broken down in health and could not resume his former practice on account of the constant riding it required as it excited and aggravated the diarrhea he had contracted while in the U.S. Service." Simpers' virility however was not in question. In March 1866, nine months after his return home, his wife gave birth to their fourth child, Johnson Ford Simpers. And ten years later, in 1876 at the age of 55, Charles and Eliza would celebrate the birth of their fifth child, Bessie W. Simpers. Unable to continue his rural medical practice, Simpers moved his family to Philadelphia in 1867, but his ability to support his family continued to suffer such that his older children were put to work at an early age to provide additional income. Simpers eventually received a small government pension but, because "the records of Camp Parole Hospital Annapolis, Md. furnish no evidence of the treatment of this officer" and "the records [in the Surgeon General's Office] fail to show any evidence of disability in the case," it was not as large as he and his family had hoped. By 1900, Simpers had moved back to Cecil County, Maryland. The census for that year shows almost the entire family still living together. Although 79 and most likely retired, Charles Simpers is listed as a physician with Eliza as his wife. Frank is listed as working at a commercial seed laboratory, Gertrude is listed as an invalid suffering from dementia, J. Ford is listed as a beekeeper, and Bessie, the youngest at 24, had no occupation. Only Charles Jr. is absent; he still lived in Philadelphia, was married and was employed as a salesman. Dr. Charles T. Simpers died April 6, 1903 at his home in Blythedale, Cecil County, Maryland at the age of 82. His death certificate, signed by the attending physician George M. Stump of Perryville, Maryland, listed the primary cause of death as "Paralysis." This diagnosis angered at least one member of the Simpers family. The doctor's middle son, Charles Simpers, Jr., was still fighting for a retroactive increase in his father's military pension. He maintained that his father's death was directly attributable to his war-time debility and believed the death certificate should have reflected this. His claim was based on a collection of affidavits he had gathered concerning his father's health and general debility after the war. The younger Simpers also believed that there was some nefarious political motivation behind Dr. Stump's declaration on the death certificate. In a letter to the Pension Bureau following his father's death, Charles Simpers, Jr., wrote, "...In the second case the medical testimony is overwhelmingly in my father's favor, except the death certificate. It is surely a strange irony that a loyal soldier's pension, whose loyalty was the indirect cause of a very great change in his material fortunes, should be conditioned upon the word of a family disloyal, rendering no service to the government and making extortionate profits out of it. My father rendered faithful service to the government. You will find an original letter from Medical Director Simpson to that effect among the papers filed with his claim. During the war he gave, without expectation of return, supplies to federal troops and never made any demand for compensation, though later his necessities would have amply warranted it. He was one of those border state slaveholders who was loyal to the Union, an idealist without political pull. ...He went to Philadelphia in 1867 a broken down man, prematurely gray. The shadow of the Civil War has fallen heavily upon his family and is still there. I myself went to work at the age of 13, at work beyond my strength. I am paying the price. . . . If you will make inquiries you can easily substantiate my statements as to the secession sympathies of the attending physician." The letter had no effect. The Pension Bureau took no further action other than to close out the file on Dr. Simpers.

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