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Edward Ruggles to U.S. Officer Commanding Post, 3 April 1865

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Captain George W. Whitman of the 51st Reg't New York Volunteers, having applied for a certificate on which to base an extension of leave of absence, I do hereby certify that I have carefully & several times examined this officer and find that he has Rheumatism, with swelling & weakness of legs & Debility resulting from six months incarceration in Rebel prisons at Salisbury3 and Danville,4 (from which latter place he was paroled one month since,)—and that in my opinion it is now unsafe for him to travel, & will be injurious & unsafe for him to travel for the period from the 4th to the 24th of April, the latter inclusive.

signed, Edward Ruggles M.D. 5 N. 5 East Baltic St. Brooklyn

Sworn this 3d day of April 1865 before me Charles H. Thomson Notary Public Kings Co New York


Personally appeared before me this third day of April [illegible]1865 Edward Ruggles M.D. to me known to be a practicing physician in good standing in the City of Brooklyn aforementioned who being by me duly sworn according to law did depose and say that the foregoing certificate is true and correct

Charles H. Thomson Notary Public Kings Co NYork
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1. (Sent to U.S. Officer Commanding Post, Annapolis Md. April 3, 1865. Duplicate attached to furlough.) [back]

2. Medical Certificate of Extension of Leave of absence from April 4th to April 24th 1865. [back]

3. Salisbury prison was one of the earliest Confederate prisons for Union prisoners of war, located in Salisbury, North Carolina. An abandoned cotton mill was adapted for the purpose, with 120 soldiers imprisoned on December 9, 1861; the facility would hold 1,400 by May 1862. Early in the war, prisoners were treated well. But by October 1864, the population grew from 5,000 to 10,000, and death rates soared as prisoners began dying from overcrowding, with mass graves being constructed for the bodies. [back]

4. Danville, Virginia (located in south-central Virginia) began to hold Union prisoners of war in November 1863. According to Encyclopedia Virginia, "hundreds and even thousands of prisoners at a time were held in the dark, grimy warehouses from which they were forbidden even to look out the windows. The food rations were not terrible by most standards, and the prisoners were allowed to use the unused portion of the Green Hill Cemetery for a garden" (Catherine M. Wright, "Danville During the Civil War," Encyclopedia Virginia, 27 Oct. 2015, [back]

5. Edward Ruggles (1817–67) was a Brooklyn physician who befriended the Whitman family and became especially close to Whitman's siblings Jeff and Mattie. Late in life, Ruggles lost interest in his practice and devoted himself to painting cabinet pictures called "Ruggles Gems." Jeff attended Ruggles's funeral on March 15, 1867 and "long lament[ed]" Ruggles's absence (Dear Brother Walt: The Letters of Thomas Jefferson Whitman, ed. Dennis Berthold and Kenneth M. Price [Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1984], 40, 119). [back]

6. Certificate involving extension of leave of absence of Capt. Geo. W. Whitman of 51st New York Volunteers—from the 4th to the 24th of April 1865. [back]

7. Captain Geo W Whitman 51 N.Y. Vols SC 20 days [back]

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