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History 50th Year Anniversary Overview Timeline Brig. Gen. Tripler

Brigadier General Charles Stuart Tripler

General Charles Stuart Tripler On June 26, 1920, the Department Hospital, Territory of Hawaii, was redesignated Tripler Army Hospital in honor of Charles Stuart Tripler, Brig. Gen. MD., U.S. Army Medical Department.

It may seem unusual to honor a man who's career seemed outwardly uneventful. During his lifetime he was never publicly recognized for his contributions to military medicine.

 

This 19th century medical department officer, veteran of three wars and author of one of the most widely read manuals in Army medical history, the "Manual of the Medical Officer of the Army of the United States," has left a legacy of his works that still serve as an inspiration to the current operations at Tripler.

It was only after his death, following repeated petitions friends and Tripler's wife that President Andrew Johnson promoted Tripler to a brigadier general. The orders, signed by Johnson, on March 7, 1867, gave the date-of-rank as March 13, 1865. Charles Stuart Tripler was born Jan. 19, 1806, in New York City. He graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York in 1827 and served in the city's Bellevue Hospital. He entered the Army at West Point, New York, and received a commission as an assistant surgeon in 1830.

rmy medical practice of the time was crude and rudimentary. There was no system to remove the wounded from the field of battle at the time and sanitation measures were ineffective. But due to Tripler's perseverance, many of these hazards were corrected.

In 1835, Tripler saw his first combat action in the Florida Seminole War. After three years in Florida, he was sent to Detroit Barracks, Mich., where he married Eunice Hunt on March 2, 1841. In 1846, Tripler, then an Army surgeon, was made medical director of a regular troop division during Gen. Winfield Scott's advance against Mexico City in the Mexican War. He was reassigned to New Orleans in 1848.

Four years later, he accompanied troops to the West Coast via Panama on a harrowing journey in which he cared for men plagued with cholera, malaria and dysentery. Upon returning East for Duty at Newport Barracks, KY., in 1858, Tripler wrote and published his famous "Manual of the Medical Officer of the Army of the United States."

Prior to publication of his manual, the pages of another Tripler-authored book rolled off the presses of the printing firm of Wrightson and Company, New York City, and received a drab brown cover stamped in gold lettering.

This manual was to become the bible of countless thousands of medical officers who followed Tripler by standardizing the physical requirements for Army recruits. He may have never known it, but his publications were widely read by a majority of the Army physicians of that era.

In 1861, Tripler wrote, "Handbook for the Military Surgeon," with Dr. George C. Blackman. He received $350 for the first 750 copies of the manual from the War Department. He intended to revise the book but failed to have the original copyrighted before he died.

Tripler's two manuals may have seemed inconspicuous at first, but he was attempting to standardize many of the Army's medical practices.

Also in 1860, at the beginning of the Civil War, Tripler became the first medical director of the Army of the Potomac. He was with Union General McClellan during the bloody peninsular campaign, ending with a series of Battles of the Seven Days before Richmond. While Confederate General Robert E. Lee still controlled the South's capital, Tripler was ordered to Detroit as chief surgeon of the Department of the Lakes.

Tripler died Oct. 20, 1866, in Cincinnati, and was buried with military honors in Detroit. His grave was later marked by a monument erected by subscription from Medical Corps officers.

It would be hard to discuss Tripler's contributions without mentioning his wife, who supported him throughout his career.

Eunice Hunt Tripler

Eunice Hunt Tripler was born Oct. 11, 1822, in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Capt. Thomas Hunt and granddaughter of Col. Thomas Hunt.

During her 88 years as an Army child, wife and mother, she knew and entertained many notables including Gen. Lafayette, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, President and Mrs. Lincoln and seven commanding generals of the Army. She knew and worked with pioneer women in Washington, D.C., California and Kentucky.

The Mexican War, Civil War and the opening of the Erie and Panama canals were all known to Eunice Tripler. She recalled much from her childhood, incidents and customs typical of her age. During electrical storms, for instance, children were put in a feather bed because feathers were protection from lightning.

When Eunice was a student a popular question for debating societies was: "Shall Girls Be Admitted to the Study of Algebra, Chemistry and Biology?"

At 18, Eunice was married to Dr. Charles Tripler, a young Army doctor then twice her age, on March 2, 1841. The convenience with which Army wives and children accompany husbands around the world today is a far cry from the difficulties Eunice encountered. The longest period the family was together at one time was five years. On one occasion they were separated almost four years.

Eunice longed for a life of refinement as a young girl. There was much of financial struggle, illness, cholera epidemics and inadequate facilities in her Army life to prevent the realization of her dream, but she didn't lack determination and courage.

During the Civil War she went directly to Gen. McClellan and said, "General McClellan, my husband doesn't know about my visit, but I want you to know that he's a very sick man. He's suffering dreadfully from insufficient rank. What are you going to do about it?"

She also pointed out her husband, only a major, was responsible for 250,000 troops while the quartermaster officer who gave him no cooperation was a general. As a result of the visit, Dr. Tripler was given "carte blanche" in the field to issue orders for medical supplies, "by order of Gen. McClellan."

Dr. Tripler was appointed Colonel by Brevet in 1864, his commission signed by President Lincoln. He was appointed brigadier general posthumously in 1867.

Her living philosophy is exemplified in the advice she often gave. "We must not denounce because we question."

In retrospect she proudly recalled her husband had said to her, reverently and often with tears in his eyes, that, "he didn't deserve me nor the blessings of his home," to which she'd add in telling, "He had a far too exalted opinion of my capabilities and character generally."

How like a truly great woman to show humility. Gen. Tripler could not have made his contributions to the United States Army without those blessings of home and family which Eunice Tripler gave him and for which he was so grateful.

Further research into Tripler's past has uncovered an early design for the four-wheeled ambulance wagon. A device that seems crude by today's standard, but may have saved countless lives during America's early wars. While he never really received credit for his invention, it was much more stable and safe that the two-wheeled cart be used previously that bounced around to much it frequently complicated the patients condition.

Tripler's legacy of perseverance and courage lives on today at his namesake hospital, and his, wife who was truly ahead of her time, shares his contributions to our nation.