4 Replies Latest reply on Mar 31, 2021 7:06 PM by Bob Murphy

    Were armed Union Army ambulance drivers non-combatants?

    Bob Murphy Newbie

      Were ambulance drivers for the Union armies considered non-combatants?  The General Orders creating the Ambulance Corps GO# 147, Army of the Potomac (issued 8/1862) indicated ambulance drivers were allowed to carry side arms.  Given that Army medical personnel were considered non-combatants under Article 53, General Order #100 issued by Lincoln on 4/24/1863, did this practice put them at risk?

        • Re: Were armed Union Army ambulance drivers non-combatants?
          J. Andrew Scout

          "did this practice put them at risk"

          Everyone in the vicinity of warring armies at risk, whether they are technically combatants or not.  I'm not sure that it is possibly to provide any military records that would meaningfully answer your question, however it stands to reason that if the Army did not consider that medical personnel would have had a need to defend themselves and their patients, they probably would have have gone through the trouble and expense of arming them.

            • Re: Were armed Union Army ambulance drivers non-combatants?
              Bob Murphy Newbie

              From the limited resources  I have found (diary excerpts of actual ambulance drivers, civil war surgeon memoirs, ambulance corps officers' recollections..etc litter bearers and ambulance drivers were not fired upon most of the time. However, due to  dense woods, heavy smoke, poorly maintained ambulances without proper markings ... these vehicles may have been  mistaken for quartermaster/ammunition wagons and thus be considered combatants. 

            • Re: Were armed Union Army ambulance drivers non-combatants?
              Ceri McCarron Wayfarer

              Dear Mr. Murphy,


              Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!


              We searched the National Archives Catalog and located the 6 series in the Records of U.S. Army Continental Commands (Record Group 393) that consist of daily reports of the Ambulance Corps during the Civil War. The reports may include the status of the ambulance drivers. For more information, please contact the National Archives at Washington, DC - Textual Reference (RDT1) via email at archives1reference@nara.gov.


              Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pursuant to guidance received from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), NARA has adjusted its normal operations to balance the need of completing its mission-critical work while also adhering to the recommended social distancing for the safety of NARA staff. As a result of this re-prioritization of activities, you may experience a delay in receiving an initial acknowledgement as well as a substantive response to your reference request from RDT1. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding and patience.


              We also located an article on the website of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine about Insignia and Medical Evacuation that explains the history of the ambulance corps, the challenges they faced, and the dangers of the job.


              We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your research!