The Unpublished Archive, Spanning Decades, Of One Of America’s First College-Trained Veterinarians

The Birth of Veterinary Education & Practice in America.

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George H. Dadd and the Boston Veterinary Institute

George H. Dadd was a British medical man who immigrated to the United States and turned to veterinary practice about 1845. He was a visionary, and soon came to believe that veterinary medicine was just as much a science as human medicine, and that...

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The Unpublished Archive, Spanning Decades, Of One Of America’s First College-Trained Veterinarians

The Birth of Veterinary Education & Practice in America.

George H. Dadd and the Boston Veterinary Institute

George H. Dadd was a British medical man who immigrated to the United States and turned to veterinary practice about 1845. He was a visionary, and soon came to believe that veterinary medicine was just as much a science as human medicine, and that it merited similar respect and treatment. And so he took the project in hand himself. He wrote several pioneering books to diffuse his knowledge, among them The American Cattle Doctor (1850) and The Modern Horse Doctor (1854). He was a foe of bloodletting, and the first veterinarian to use ether as an anesthetic in an operation on an animal. An article entitled “George H. Dadd, Veterinary Reformer” published in the journal “Veterinary Heritage” states of Dadd, “He, more than any other individual, was responsible for instilling the spirit of medicine into veterinary medicine in America. But his greatest accomplishment was that he was the country’s first consistent and outspoken advocate of humane and rational medical treatment for animals…He is a heroic figure who should be remembered with pride by the veterinary profession.”

In early 1855 Dadd took two significant steps towards making his goal a reality. He started a periodical called the American Veterinary Journal, the first publication of its kind. Its first issue was October 1855. And he took on the even greater challenge of education, being one of the founders of the Boston Veterinary Institute, the first veterinary college in the United States. At that time there were just 15 trained veterinarians in the country and all had been educated in England. Dadd served as dean of the college and also taught pupils.

A notice about the institute was carried by the “Boston Medical and Surgical Journal” in its issue of July 19, 1855. It informed readers of the incorporation and cited the institute’s opening date as set for November 1855. As for its purpose, its mission statement, that publication quoted words that must have been provided by Dadd himself: “The object in view is to afford ample instruction to those persons desirous of qualifying themselves for the practice of veterinary medicine and surgery.” Dadd wanted nothing less than for “our domestic animals to have the benefits of scientific veterinary medication.”

The American Veterinary Journal, vol. 1, issue 4, dated January 1856, carried the Boston Veterinary Institute’s opening day address, which was delivered by D. D. Slade, M.D., its President. Dadd’s title was Professor of Anatomy and Physiology, and a colleague, Professor Charles M. Wood, served as Professor of Cattle Pathology. In the address, Slade made clear that this was a pioneering effort, and that no other veterinary school yet existed in the United States.

“We have met together on this occasion for a new purpose, for a purpose indeed worthy of celebration! This day witnesses with us the commencement of a new Europe in the cause of science and humanity, the foundation of the veterinary college. I congratulate you that this project is even now surrounded with so many brilliant auspices, and promises so much for the future, but especially do I congratulate you as our Massachusetts…is the pioneer among the states, in an enterprise fraught with so much value and importance… It is difficult to understand, neither shall I attempt to explain, why we, as a people, have so long shown such apathy in regard to veterinary science. Scientific and agricultural schools of been established, and have been largely endowed among us – but whilst every attention has been paid to other institutions, no thought has been given to the establishment of veterinary colleges… We ourselves have, however, now awakened to a sense of the importance of proper diffusion of knowledge on this subject, and we should earnestly hope that the establishment of this college may be speedily followed by others in our sister states, which may every year send forth men who will add dignity and importance to the art.”

Despite hopes, in the 1850s the country was just not ready to accept the concept of veterinary education. The Boston Veterinary Institute closed in 1860, with Dadd thereafter concentrating on his books. Some sources say that the school actually graduated only six veterinary surgeons (as they were called then). But Dadd’s larger hopes were realized, as observers around the country took note, and people were sensitized to the need. Other schools opened later, and in the Civil War the United States government actually passed legislation encouraging trained veterinarians to enlist to serve the U.S. Cavalry.

What was the curriculum of the nation’s first veterinary college? Were there lectures? Was there clinical training? Was there training in pharmaceuticals? Were all the students from the Boston area? What did Dadd’s his students think of him?  Such info had been scarce at best and more often non-existent.

One of Dadd’s students, and thus one of the first trained veterinarians in the United States, was George F. Parry, who graduated in 1859. He was from a Quaker family in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and after studying in Boston he returned to practice veterinary medicine in his native state. With the Boston Veterinary Institute graduating just a handful of students, he was likely the first trained veterinarian in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is interesting to note that his sister Susan graduated from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1858, and was one of the first trained female physicians in Pennsylvania.

Parry’s Civil War: pioneering veterinary medicine while serving at the front

According to the U.S. Army Medical Department, there is no reliable evidence that before the Civil War there were any trained veterinarians in the U.S. armed forces. The men assigned to care for the cavalry horses were mainly farriers, who were specialists in equine hoof care. At the beginning of the Civil War, the Union Army formed scores of cavalry regiments with many thousands of horses, and this meant finding men to care for them. In 1861 a veterinary sergeant was authorized for each of the three battalions in a cavalry regiment, and he received $17 per month. There were no qualifications required and medical care for horses was woefully inadequate. By March of 1863 there were just six men that could be considered veterinarians in the U.S. armed forces, though because of the miniscule number of American veterinary college graduates, it is unlikely that any of them had been trained in the United States.

The combination of the increasing need for horses and the continued decline in animal health resulted in what was a crisis for the cavalry. In March 1863 Congress moved to meet this crisis. In the first ever act to enlist qualified veterinarians in the U.S. armed forces, it authorized for each regiment of cavalry a veterinary surgeon with the increased rank of sergeant major and vastly increased pay of $75 per month. The increased grade and pay were clearly provided in an effort to obtain experienced personnel to provide veterinary service, and appointments were to be made by the Secretary of War himself, to satisfy him that the appointees could meet the need. The Army Medical Department believes that not more than a “very few” of the nation’s handful of graduate veterinarians applied for and received appointment, the bulk of the new Army veterinarians being untrained but having some experience in civilian life. One of these “very few” trained veterinarians was Dr. Parry, who responded to his country’s call and was mustered in on June 22, 1863, for 3 years, as the Veterinary Surgeon of the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry. This would make him among the first, and perhaps even the very first, U.S.-trained veterinarian to enter the service of the United States.

In 1863 Parry kept a diary of his Civil War experiences, and continued that habit during 1864 and 1865. After the war, Dr. Parry returned to Bucks County to practice, which he did for decades. And from 1867-1886, with just two years missing, he kept diaries of his practice every year of that span. All of these journals and diaries were discovered in the home of his descendants, and constitute what must be the fullest and most complete account by a pioneering, college trained veterinarian in the United States of his practice in war and peace. Since research has turned up no other veterinary materials from the 1850s, nor any more descriptive veterinary information from the Civil War, these papers vastly add to our historical knowledge of the birth of veterinary medicine.

The Notebook of Boston Veterinary Institute student George F. Parry

On the first page is written “George Parry, Sept. 14th 1858.” After joining the Union Army, he writes in a different pen, “Veterinary Surgeon, Seventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, 1863.” It consists of some 160 manuscript pages, including lecture notes (showing that Dadd lectured as part of the curriculum), case studies of on-site visits to sick animals (showing that there was a clinical aspect to the curriculum), entries of relevant material from reference books (showing that textbooks were utilized), detailed descriptions of animal illnesses and conditions (with diagnosis and treatments thoroughly covered), and many prescriptions explained and written out. A very small portion of the text, giving a general sense of the whole but by no means covering it, and with his idiosyncrasies of spelling and grammar, is below.

Brief Excerpt: There is one loose note sheet closely written on both sides. One side states, “Notes taken by Geo. Parry,” opposite which Parry inscribes “G.H. Dadd, V.S.” The other again gives his name and adds the date of “5 June 1858.” This elementary material on this sheet suggests that Parry started his course at this time. Here is an excerpt: “Etiology – history and causes of disease. Enzootic and epizootic- Epizootic signifies among animals in various locations. Enzootic signifies disease upon animals in various locations. Epizootic signifies a disease upon animals as a whole. Diseases are propagated into ways – by infection or contagion. There are four temperaments – sanguine, billius, nervous and lymphatic… Billius predisposes disease of digestive organs… Lymphatic is charged with creating a tendency to mucus… Nervous is marked by quickness and susceptibility, predisposes to for all forms of nervous diseases. Convulsions, and neuralgia, tetanus etc.”

Turning now to the notebook, which towards the back contains a page headed, “Veterinary Practice taught by G.H. Dadd, M.D., V.S.” The first section of the notebook contains information on sick animals visited, and how they were diagnosed and treated. This is clearly a clinical portion of the curriculum. The first dated entry is “Boston, Sept 15, 1858.” and the last “28th December [1858]”.

Excerpt: “Sept. 23, 8 AM. Charlestown. Spasmodic colic. Diagnose. Pulse 44, extremities cold, tongue coated, down on his side, up on his feet, occasional spasms. RX sulpheric ether, canidas indica. Gave as enema in about 10 minutes tie lob, sulpheric ether. Applied stimulants to the abdomen RX lind oil, aquia amna fort. 4 PM. Much better, spasm absent. Bowels constipated, RX podophellum, aqua fort. 24 September 7 AM. A normal state, left tonic powders and discharged.” Another example: “October 12th. Laryngitis. Bay horse. Stable hot, fetid odor from another horse. Symptoms: head carried a little lower than ordinary, extended neck. Eyes bright. Respiration 42 per minute, extremities also hot, membranes injected, schneiderman covered with slimy coating. Auscultation discloses very great impediments in laryngeal region, a gurgling sound in biforcations of bronchia, crepitating gurgle plainly discernible. Treatment Fluid Ext Belladona, aqui fort. Bathed the parts with Trachia slurnum & submaxillary space Tie Capisi, oil ceday. Gave in a few hours Liq Aeit Ammonia. Oct. 13. Called and found the horse about the same, extremities warm, respiration about 40, pulse weak. Gave Liq Aeit Amonia. Oct. 14th 4:30. No change for better. Gave Aquia Ammonia and Blood Root. In mash gave Blood Root Aquia ammonia in aquia fort. 8:00 respiration 21, surface warm, pulse normal state. Larynx much more free. Gave then Blood Root, milk. Much better. October 15 called and found much better and gave drench of syrup garlic and balsom.”

Following this are his “Miscellaneous Notes” on horse biology, a section “On the classification of the causes of disease,” and assessments of horse temperaments. The next section is “Properties and action of some of the medicines used in veterinary practice.”

Excerpt: “Clorid Sodium is a very valuable apparent and antiseptic, has been used with great success for peurperal fever. Its equivalents are one of sodium, one of chlorine and when dissolved in water is hydrochloric of soda, a valuable remedy for rot in sheet, a valuable vermsfuge good in cases of hydratid of liver”; “Alum is what we call a triple salt, it contains alumina poltasa and sulfuric acid. It is a very powerful astringent and tonic. Is very good in heaves where they are symptomatic. Dose from 3ii to 3iv and the same for dysentery diarrhea. A solution of alum is very good in apthe thrush in mouth, 1 ounce to 16 of water. Very good to dry out a mare’s milk.”

There are notes on the diseases of horses, describing them and their treatments. With this comes pharmaceutical information, with prescription medicines, their components, and specific directions on how to mix them. For example, the remedy for colic contains carbonate soda, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, carraways, golden seal, peppermint, alcohol and aquia fre.

Excerpt: “Macerate 14 days. Dose from 1 to 4.” The section on pneumonia reads: “Inflammation of the lungs, consists of congestion of substance of the lungs. Sudden changes in the atmosphere. Commences with shivering fit, heat and sweating, quick respiration and pulse, laborious breathing, straddling of fore extremities. Won’t lie down, head droops but shows no soreness of throat. Breathes more with nostrils than lungs. Treatment RX Aquia ammonia three times a day in water to prevent it acting like caustic on the surface. If cold extremities, give three times a day aromatic ammonia. Apply contra irritants to the side and pectoral muscles. Mustard and vinegar. Keep the extremities warm by rubbing or bandage, apply capiscum to the limbs. If the bowels are constipated give physic ball [medicine recipes and additional treatments follow].” For scarlet fever: “Diagnostic symptoms are scarlet patches on the seynerdan, and elevated patches on various parts of the body. Usually makes its appearance in the spring. Always have swelling of hind extremities, the legs become very large. Pulse accelerated and the conjunctively membranes injected. Tongue coated and feverish as in every form of fever. Treatment in early stage – give liquor acetate ammonia, order a half bucket of sloppy diet and in it put nitre, dampen him over with carbonate of soda and aquia font. As soon as the spots look a little purple, stop the antiphlogistic and put on tonics and stimulants – Ext cammile, nitris sweet spts. Light sloppy diet and flaxseed tea to drink. If his is extended his thrash will sore, then put in the liquor Aci ammonia. Fluid ext belld. 3ii. Give only one dram at a dose. When they begin to convalesce rub their legs. If castive give cream tartare and sulfur [amounts indicated].” A few times other authorities, such as Morton, are mentioned.

The students did autopsies as part of the program.

“Pleurisy. This day held autopsy of a horse which died of having pleurisy on the eighth day. The left cavity of chest contained several quarts of straw colored cerum. From the cavity some albumous and fibrine were removed. These deposits formed a false membrane which was connected with the pleura… in chronic pleurisy you meet with a white false membrane. The false membrane consists of the same elements as blood fibrin albumen salts…”


As for surgery, in part: “Tumors – the mode of operations for the removal. All tumors have an origin from the common integument. Should if possible be removed by ligature. A tumor with large base should have a double armed ligature from the center and tie into equal halves. Tumors having a narrow neck should have an annular ligature. All ligature must be very fine and strong. these fine warts that we find about the eyes should have a horsehair for ligature.”

Under the heading naming Dadd as lecturer, he then describes various types of oils that are used by the veterinarian, saying “You can always detect adulteration of the vegetable oils, they are adulterated by animal oil, by taking a piece of white paper and dipping it in the oil and it will if the oil be pure all dry off and not leave any greasy fill.”

There is a list of “Medicines used in veterinary practice,” illustrated here, their purpose and effects, sorted by category, such as stimulants, tonics, cathartics, etc. Afterwards, he relates what was taught about Cattle Pathology, also covering a few diseases of sheep. His last entry is “Method of ascertaining the age of cattle by their teeth.”

The Civil War in Veterinary Medicine, 1863-1865

Parry joined the Union Army immediately after Congress passed legislation calling veterinarians to service, being one of the first college trained veterinarians to do so. On his way to the front he met Andrew Johnson, and later was involved in the Battle of Chickamauga, where he was wounded.

The selected excerpts represent a tiny fragment of the material, divided into 3 full diaries, which is an important and unpublished primary resource on the Civil War and on Veterinary Medicine on the battlefield.  Subjects include: the performance of veterinary duties, comments on horses, battle content, eye-witness accounts of important events, etc…  Bolded elements added.

July 24: “Called over to see a gray stud four years old Arabian stock, the property of General Turchion”

Excerpts, 1863: “June 5 letter from seventh Pennsylvania cavalry with the appointments of vet. June 7 called on Colonel Wynkoop who appointed me veterinary surgeon to 7th Pennsylvania Calvary as soon as mustered in.… June 22 left Harrisburg at 2 o’clock for Pittsburgh, to breakfast at Altoona. Arrive to Pittsburgh at 12 o’clock, stopped at the Monaghan house. The stores and factories of Pittsburgh are all closed and have been for a week, the men outside of the city digging earthworks. Traveled around Nashville. Called on Gov. Johnson of Tennessee at the capital, the finest building I ever saw. Gov. Johnson a very strong Union man…. July 3 Stone River very high, dead horses and mules go floating by. Return to tent early hour and 9 o’clock. Surrender of Vicksburg…. July 8 Road roan gelding to Murphreesboro. Received our horses. I got a brown horse 15 1/2 hands hi, three white legs and white face, 10 years old with small ears…. July 24 sent in my requisition for medicine. Called over to see a gray stud four years old Arabian stock, the property of General Turchion…

“July 26 I had a talk with General Turchion on veterinary medicine. Wants me attached to headquarters of his division…. July 29 Saw a number of camp horses. Called on Capt. Rickett’s mare, ordered her shot. July 30. Called on Col. Sipes on my account, offered me a roll of greenbacks for medical attendance on horses. I did not take it…. August 14 found some horses in the woods tied up, been there two days and nights without anything to eat. Reported them…. August 24 in camp till 4 o’clock reading and prescribing for horses…. September 1 accompanied by Capt. newcomer and the squad of 20 men. We left camp at seven, proceeded to the Tennessee River. Here I was shot at and very near hit by rebel sharpshooters, a number of balls came whizzing by us. Scouted the country in search of mules and horses, found some. Went down to Blye Ferry and amused ourselves by shooting at the rebel pickets along the river…. September 12 up at 12, in the saddle and marched to Tennessee River opposite Chattanooga. A long train waiting to get across the river. Rebel deserters coming in all the time Bragg’s army bound for Atlanta Georgia. September 13 battle raging.

“Left Chattanooga forefront at 4 o’clock. Passed into Georgia at 6 PM, marched till 1 o’clock some 20 miles…. September 14 in saddle at six and moved front. Laid in woods all day. I night moved 5 miles to the front come- a very fine site at night with the fires burning for miles and the signal lights of burning on the many hills and the telegraph working by signals…. September 19 battle raging, reinforcements come up all night. Terrible battle raging all day. Our men killed by the thousands. Saw men wounded and killed by hundreds. Lost 1200 killed wounded 7000. Slightly wounded in neck by shell…. September 22 hour army fell back to Chattanooga, fighting all day. October 6 Pontoon being built across the river. Many poor horses being starved to death. No feed here, sent my horse 30 miles back for feed. October 9 took a walk over the camp field, saw many hungry and many meals and horses starving for the want to feed. Saw some of Gen. Grant’s men. October 12 sharpshooters shot 75 mules for us on Sunday night. Teams returned with forage…. December 30 picked out 14 horses for general crop. Turned over my medicines to division headquarters.”

At the end of this diary in a category for memoranda, Dr. Parry has listed prescriptions for various medications for horses for a variety of diseases and conditions.  Some of these include cathartics, nerve stimulants, diuretics, fevers and sedatives. For example, for fever he gave potassium and as a sedative belladona mixed with aconite and laudanum. There are also lists with financials transactions, including prices he paid for medicines, etc.

Parry was with Sherman’s army during the Atlanta campaign. He was involved in the battles there, watched Atlanta burning, saw the destruction in the South, and began his entries on all matters veterinary for an army fighting and on the move.

June 1: “Ordered to be ready to move at light. Horses starving to death by hundreds.”

1864: “April 5 received a new veterinary medicine chest complete with a splendid lot of medicine. April 6 picked up seven horses for officers and 60 for men in regiment. Middling good horses…. April 8 from commissary Nashville 805 horses. Divided out to the companies 209 horses….  April 14 drew hundred and 25 horses. 4th regulars and 4th Michigan. Disagreeable orders to pick out all unsound horses to be sent to Nashville for good ones by Gen. Sipes.

“April 18 ordered a mule killed. issued 24 horses to company by order from Gen. Sibert. Received our new arms, Spencer carbine shot seven times…. April 25 rode over to brigade headquarters to find out about the horses. Issued them. Received order to inspect the horses with other officers on the 26th and make out a report…. May 16 at dark boots and saddles sounded and commenced to march. Everything in a state of alarm. Brigade wagon train came up, marched fast all night and crossed the river in the morning and encamped on the battlefield of yesterday. Last night march very hard. Slept till 1 o'clock then onward towards Rome. Rebels leave as our army advances…. May 19 marched at 5 and after a round about way came to Kingston and drove the rebels out. our cavalry made a charge on town and 5 miles beyond and saved the bridge over the Casasoc river. Heavy fighting all the afternoon. Rebels dreadfully routed by our men, many captured and killed and wounded. Kingston nearly destroyed and town completely sacked…. May 22 turned over all our unserviceable horses and prepared to move in the morning…. May 25 took some breakfast – crackers, coffee and onions. Our division of cavalry moved around to the right of Dallas. Infantry fighting there very hard. Gen. Hardee in command of the rebel forces. Very heavy cannonading. Horses fed plenty. Moved at dark in double quick to the front of the town. Very dark and rainy. Halted in the woods, orders to sleep on our arms, not to unsaddle. Afternoon- picket drove in, our regiment sent to reinforce them. Then dismounted to fight on foot. Very hard fighting and the rebels drove back. Heavy cannonading to our right. Our forces took Dallas…. May 27 very heavy fighting both infantry and artillery commenced at daylight. Regiments in line of battle all day, quite a number killed and wounded. One battalion of horses captured and recaptured. The rebels hold their own ground. No feed for our horses…. May 29 Dallas full of wounded, dead and dying. Most dreadful sights. All kinds of surgical operations on hand. Major Jennings and I went back to wagon train, moved to left that night. Very heavy fighting in the night on left of our army. This has been a dreadful day…. May 30 regiment moved into a woods, encamped. Our horses for days without food and great many die from starvation. Not much fighting today, only with the sharpshooters…. May 31 encamp all day. Very heavy fighting on the right. Rebels trying to retake Dallas. Hundreds of men wounded being on the battlefield between the armies, neither side will let the other tend to them. Poor fellows, how they must suffer…. June 1 ordered to be ready to move at light. Horses starving to death by hundreds.”

August 14: “Rode out in the evening with Capt. Newcomer, White and Hartranft to view Atlanta – on fire from our shells. A grand sight!

“June 2 Went in to camp about noon. Hard thunderstorm in afternoon. Horses give out today by hundreds and had to be left. June 11 up at 3 o'clock and moved out on the rebels at five. Drove them 8 miles, had a hard fight with them. One man in our regiment killed and many wounded. This was a very exciting day….  June 22 moved our camp back one mile and rode down to Big Shanty. Gen. Logan, Gens. Hooker and Thomas storming the rebels off of the mountain in front of Kennesaw Mountain…. June 24 Thomas still on the mountain fighting. Hooker made a brilliant charge on the rebel works, captured a fine lot of rebel guns. June 27 regiment dismounted and fighting on foot. Saw order about veterinary surgeons rank and pay. Found a dead rebel head off and the flesh cleaving from the bones…. July 5 rebels burnt the bridge over the river. Scouted the country near all over and all the rebels across the river. Encamped a mile from the river. Found two British flags hoisted today, one over a factory…. July 22 proceeded on towards and arrived at Covington, captured two trains of cars. Burnt them, also destroyed $1 million worth of cotton. Burnt depots of cars and tore up the railroad. Fell back 10 miles and camped for a few hours in a woods. Then marched on in a northeast direction, capturing a great amount of horses, destroying much cotton…. July 26 all unusable horses and pack stock sent back to Marietta. No feed for our horses….  August 1 wagon train came up and brought rations for men and horses. Moved at dusk about 5 miles, men dismounted and ordered to fight on foot. Horses left back some 6 miles…. August 3 visited the battlefield. Dead rebels in abundance, both buried and unburied, some most all decayed. 500 dead rebels near camp, some all fly blown, and a large spring gutter filled with them, water running over them….. August 4 called to see Gen. Garrard's horse…. August 12 condemned 13 horses, turned loose. Killed two horses…. August 14 rode out in the evening with Capt. Newcomer, White and Hartranft to view Atlanta – on fire from our shells. A grand sight!

“August 15 regiment relieved from duty in the ditches near Atlanta. Horses sent to them and the man. Pack mules and convalescent horses sent back to river. Horse feed very scarce. Wounded coming into field hospital by hundreds…. August 23 up at light and joined the command at or near Atlanta. Bad news – the regiment lost 52 men and Capt. Taylor, White, Thompson – all good men. The 4th regulars lost also heavy. The raid destroyed the railroad between Atlanta and Macon, also burnt one town…. September 2 our forces this morning took possession of Atlanta. Our regiment some of the first in the place…. September 8 rode into the city, saw the guns and ruins of five ammunition trains burnt by the rebels. Moved into and around city. September 16 made up a headquarters team six mules…. October 13 moved on the rebels at daylight. Our brigade mounted and the 7th Regiment in advance on the road, the other brigade dismounted and battle line each side of the road. Rebels fought well with artillery and small arms. Our regiment was ordered to charge. With drawn saber we flew into the rebel ranks, killing and capturing their artillery, 60 prisoners and killing 70. Charged on full run, two charges. Rebels completely routed…. October 17 grand news from Gen. Thomas. Hood badly beaten. March towards Rome till night then camp. Passed by a rebel hospital, by request our surgeon operated on them in surgery…. October 21 moved on the rebels at light on same road of yesterday. Our brigade in advance. Found them in force and drove them across river beyond the Blue Bond where they made a stand and fortified. Our brigade charged them and was repulsed. Charged again and drove them nicely, capturing and killing a few…. October 27 our regiments turned over all its serviceable horses to Wilders command – 66 horses and 23 mules…. November 10 orders to go to Correll, mounted the men and took charge of 800 horses and mules and to proceed to Nashville…. December 19 went out over to company D and inspected their horses…. December 22 rode into Louisville, had requisition approved and drew some medicines…. December 23 took a lot of horses to Oakland and received some new ones. Picked out a horse for Maj. Andrus…. December 24 clear and nice. Ordered all the smiths at work shoeing horses…. December 27 very busy all day. Inspection of horses. Made out record of all horses and color in regiments. Took 99 horses to Correll and had 77 received.”

At the end of this diary in a category for memoranda, Dr. Parry has listed prescriptions for various medications of horses. Some of these include expectorant, colic, salves, and for various kinds of strains. For example, for colic he made a mixture of peppermint, cinnamon, ginger, carraways, soda and laudanum. There are also lists with the numbers of horses and mules serviceable, horses received and condemned, and for other functions performed in his position. Plus pay notations.

Parry’s unit was part of the Alabama and Georgia campaign. There were some battles, but with the war ending he describes fraternization between the sides, the southern soldiers coming home, the slaves coming into Union lines for freedom, and his citing of a captured Jefferson Davis. And, of course, how he dealt with all matters veterinary for the army.

February 6:“Inspected the horses and found company G 1/3 not groomed. Called the colonel’s attention to it by a written statement of a few facts. Placed under arrest Lieut. McKay.”

1865: January 8 This night six of our men belonging to Wilder’s command was caught by guerrillas, tied to trees and shot. Only one escaped and he was shot through the shoulder…. January 18 reveille at 3 o’clock, moved out at seven, forded river. Crossed the pack mules on pontoon bridge, passed through Columbia and encamped splendid grove on Mount Pleasant Pike. Inspected the horses with the brigade inspector. Found 156 horses and 6 mules that by all means should be turned over. January 21 Sgt. Paul and Sgt. Hilbish, a corporal and two men from company A, deserted, took with them carbines, pistols, best of horses and left in the night, supposed to have started for Mexico…. January 23 very cold and disagreeable. Portion of regiment moved out at 12 o’clock with brigade wagon train. Rest moved at 1 o’clock, marched over one of the worst roads ever marched over. Trains stop by tens. Horses mired and give out by hundreds…. January 25 the hardest day’s march I ever made. Very cold all day and excessive cold at night. General Wilson’s headquarters at Gravley Springs. Horses on short allowance of forage, one quart for a horse….  January 30 inspected the horses after dinner, classified them in three classes. Some headache today, living on nothing but flour and water. The boats bringing up rations arrived today. Great rejoicing by the man. Six days without rations. Drew one day’s ration, the first for six days. New detail for to take care of unserviceable horses…. February 1 inspected the horses and picked out the horses of the third class – (150) horses and four mules. Sigmond with 50 men ordered to take them to Eastford, Mississippi…. February 4 had order issued to have all horses groomed….

March 2: “Horses in bad condition from poor feed – musty corn. Suffering from diarrhea, colic and indigestion.”

February 6 inspected the horses and found company G 1/3 not groomed. Called the colonel’s attention to it by a written statement of a few facts. Placed under arrest Lieut. McKay….. February 16 inspected the horses and classified according to orders from the War Department in four classes…. March 2 horses in bad condition from poor feed – musty corn. Suffering from diarrhea, colic and indigestion. Made out report of the bad condition and sent it in…. March 10 cold and clear. Inspection and testimony in regard to forage issued the horses of this command since March 1. Testimony of quartermaster forage master and veterinary surgeon: number of horses died from bad feed – diarrhea – 20 since March 1. All feed issued to the regiment in bad condition, spoiled. Horses done well up to that date…. March 18 ordered to report in person to Maj. Gen. Wilson commanding Cavalry Corps. He asked me a few questions in regard to diseases of horses, the proper mode of treatment, et cetera…. April 2 25 miles north of Selma. Began our March at light, our brigade in advance. The country the finest I ever saw, rich and highly improved. The rebels fled to their entrenchments a few miles from the city. Our lines formed for battle on both sides of the city at 2 o’clock. After a steady fight for some time were ordered to charge the rebels. It was done. The rebels broke, drove them to their second line of works. Our men charged again and at dark had possession of Selma. Our losses heavy but gained the day. Called on Gen. Wilson to extract ball from his horse…. April 11 Niggers in great abundance joining us by hundreds. News of the capture of Richmond Virginia by rebel papers…. April 13 Slaves coming in and a joining us by hundreds. Pleased to death at our arrival…. April 19 moved out at 9 o’clock, marched till three and encamped. News by the citizens that General Lee and army captured. Splendid day, pass over fine country and destroyed some fine mills and large amount of cotton. April 23 rode into Macon. Rebels in abundance in the streets without arms. Our men also with the arms. Hotels full. Got shaved and boots blacked $10 in Confederate money. Many fires taking place. Bad news of death of Abraham Lincoln by hand of assassin…. April 24 camp rumors about death of Lincoln. April 25 received news of General Lee’s surrender to Gen. Grant. Moved camp and fixed up quarters. Much rejoicing on account of the good news. Rebel generals in abundance in town on streets on parole….

May 11-12: “Reached Abbeville at sunrise and received news that the 4th Michigan cavalry had captured Jeff Davis and staff, wife and three children, five wagons, three ambulances et cetera. Yankee Doodle! We will hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree. His dress was in style of a planter and all very poorly dressed. He looked much younger than I expected, rode with his wife and children in ambulance.”

“May 11-12 at 2 o’clock a portion of our command moved out in pursuit of rebel Jefferson Davis who is reported to be 48 hours ahead moving southwest. Reached Abbeville at sunrise and received news that the 4th Michigan cavalry had captured Jeff Davis and staff, wife and three children, five wagons, three ambulances et cetera. Yankee Doodle! We will hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree. His dress was in style of a planter and all very poorly dressed. He looked much younger than I expected, rode with his wife and children in ambulance. Camped near Hawkinsville.

“June 2 received an appointment as first lieutenant in the United States colored troop with orders to report at once. Did not report, my position as veterinary surgeon much better….. November 17 walked around city. Called on Dr. Dadd who took me around and introduced me to number of gentlemen.”

Parry took sick in Georgia in June and was in hospital for some time. The troops there were shipped to hospitals in the north, and he tells of his journey home. In the fall he was recuperating, and in November went to Chicago to see Dr. Dadd, indicating his affection for his former professor. At the back of the book are extensive notes and memoranda, some quite significant. There are recipes for horse medications (right down to the RX symbol denoting that they are prescriptions), detailed notations on the numbers of horses issued to companies and killed on account of disease, payments for veterinary medicines and other necessities, lists of number of horses classified and abandoned, lists of his personal necessities and financial transactions, and an address book complete with contact information for Dr. Dadd.

Parry’s post-war practice: the diaries

Parry left diaries for 1867-69, 1870-1875, 1877-1882, 1884-86. The final entry is November 28, 1886, and he died twelve days later, December 10, at the age of 48. His notebook, diaries, and photographs were put away by his family at that time, and have been passed down through the generations until we obtained them from descendants this year. Their existence was unknown all that time, and we bring them forward for the first time ever.

In his diary for 1867-69, we see him established in veterinary practice in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He also operated a farm, showing how in those very early years being a veterinarian was not yet a full time calling. He kept the diary for 1867 through June, then over the following two years left off and simply made occasional notation. The content was mainly personal, with lists of financial transactions, but he did include numerous visits to sick animals in his veterinary role. A few examples are: “Called to see Edward Leedom’s mule, found it dead. Opened it and found all right but small intestines inflamed – mule very fat.” “Called to see John Tomlinson’s big cow with bloat. Cow large and fat, weighs 2140 pounds. Called over to Ann Cooper’s to see a cow.” “Called down to Samuel Buckman’s to see a cow with peurpural fever.” On March 11 he notes that he got married. The couple went to Washington on their honeymoon, and he notes visiting the White House, Smithsonian, and Capitol. He continues, “Walked down to Pres. Grant’s residence, saw General, wife and children starting for church.” At back is a list of a few hundred payments to him, from whom, amount owed, and paid. Based on how his diaries are set up, we would speculate that these represent veterinary calls made.

By 1870 his practice was established, and the diaries for that year and years subsequent each list hundreds of veterinary services, for whom and amount paid. It is a full record of his practice, and it is thus possible to calculate his income from veterinary medicine; and because many of the listings contain diagnoses, it is also possible to determine what ills the pioneering veterinarian treated. This record of his practice starts on New Year’s Day, January 1, 1870, when he visited Lukens Tyson to treat his bay horse for lung fever and James Van Horn to treat his horse with a sore throat. The next day, the bay horse of William Glinn received a physic. And so on. It seems his average charge was $1.50.

Parry’s post-war practice: the ledger

Parry kept a ledger from 1874-79, on which 184 pages appear his veterinary services and charges, sorted by customer. There are scores of customers, of which many are regular ones, and many hundreds of entries. Page 89, chosen at random, is typical of the others. The customer was James Morris: July 1875 Roan horse, cut in leg, $1.50; October 1875 Horse, medicine inf.$1.50; December 1875 Horse was kicked $.50; January 1876 Bay horse, swelled foot $1.50; February 1876 Cow cough medicine $.50; February 1876 Horse salve $.50; August 1876 Cow pneumonia $2.50; March 1877 Horse sore throat $1.50; June 1877 Cow foot rot $3.00; November 1877 Cow chronic cough $1.00; November 1877 Grey horse stiffness $2.50; June 1878 Horse sore throat $8.00; July 1878 Bay horse colic $2.50; and September 1878 Mule abcess $1.00.


The George F. Parry archive is of the utmost historical importance, and adds significantly to our knowledge of the earliest days of veterinary medicine. Nothing comparable to it in scope and content exists, and a book could, and indeed, should, be written to develop its information and make it available.

Also included is an album of Parry family photographs, including two of George F. Parry, one of which is in uniform.

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