The War of 1812 and the Boston Marine Hospital

Cranial section with saber wound

Section of frontal and right parietal bones with healed saber wound. Wound received on board a United States vessel during the War of 1812.

The Boston Marine Hospital was founded in 1799 and was first temporarily located on Castle Island. In 1804 the hospital was moved to the Charlestown Navy Yard. David Townsend was the Medical Officer in Charge during the War of 1812. Dr. Townsend had previously served as a surgeon in the Revolutionary War. The Marine Hospital's number of patients increased during the War of 1812, beginning with the battle between the Constitution and the Guerriere in August 1812. Many of the wounded from both ships were transferred to the hospital after the engagement. Many American patients admitted during the war suffered from scurvy, in spite of the fact that the disease had been eradicated from the Royal Navy following recommendations from James Lind’s 1753 treatise on scurvy.

Ticket granting privileges to the Marine Hospital at Charlestown, with engraving

Portion of an engraving and ticket from the Marine Hospital at Charlestown.

The War of 1812 preparations in the Warren Anatomical Museum were donated to the Boston Society for Medical Improvement by Solomon D. Townsend and Charles H. Stedman. Solomon D. Townsend, son of David Townsend, was a student at Harvard Medical School during the War of 1812 and was one of several medical students who assisted at the Marine Hospital. After his graduation in 1815, he served as a naval surgeon after the War on board the Independence in the Mediterranean from July until November along with Amos A. Evans, previously the ship surgeon for the Constitution. Dr. Townsend then served as an assistant for his father at the Marine Hospital from 1819 to 1829. Charles H. Stedman, graduate of Harvard Medical School in 1828, replaced David Townsend as the Medical Officer in charge for the Marine Hospital in 1829.

The War of 1812 and the Boston Marine Hospital