Biography of Samuel Henry Melcher

Samuel Henry Melcher is the son of Woodbury Melchor, Esq:, and a grandson of Capt. Samuel B. French, was born in Gilmanton, N. H., October 30, 1828. Was educated at Gilford and Gilmanton academies; graduated at medical department, Dartmouth College, in Grafton county, N, H.; then in Boston, Mass., until 1859, when he traveled South and through Texas; and at the close of that year, settled in Potosi, Washington county, Missouri. On the breaking out of the war, he offered his services at once to Gen. Lyon, at St. Louis arsenal; and was mustered in as assistant surgeon 5th Regt. Mo. Vols. (three months), May 7, 1861. Was with his regiment at the battles of Carthage, July 5, 1861; Dug Spring, August 2, 1861; Wilson’s Creek, August 10, 1861, where he was the last officer on the field after the forces fell back, and brought off the body of Gen. Lyon and delivered it to Gen. Schofield the same night, as narrated on other pages of this volume. By order of Gen. Schofield, he remained a prisoner in the hands of the Confederates, to take care of the Union wounded. Was in Springfield when the “Fremont Body Guard” made their terrific charge, and attended the wounded on both sides; was furnished with wagons by Gen. Sigel, and moved the wounded in all that region to Rolla, thence by rail to St. Louis, arriving November 24, 1861, thus ending his first campaign.

He was commissioned brigade surgeon December 4, 1861, reporting to Gen. Schofield; and during the spring and summer of 1862, was in charge of the Hickory Street Hospital, and Gratiot Street Hospital for rebel prisoners, and U. S. Marine General Hospital at the same time. [The records of the Western Sanitary Commission show that the Hickory Street Hospital was most favorably reported; that a testimonial was awarded the U. S. Marine Hospital, and the Hospital at Jefferson Barracks, as the two best hospitals, all things considered, that were in the Department of the Mississippi. The Marine Hospital in charge of Surgeon S. R. Melcher, and the Jefferson Barracks Hospital, the committee could not decide between, and so gave certificates to both. The awards made were fully approved and concurred in by the medical director of the department and Assistant Surgeon General Wood.”—Extract from report of Hon. James E. Yeatman, President Western Sanitary Commission.]

By request of Governor Gamble, he received temporary leave of absence to organize the Thirty-second Regiment E. M. M.; was commissioned colonel, and commanded the regiment six weeks; during which time he dispersed the guerilla bands in Washington and adjoining counties, captured several rebel mails, and large quantities of arms, horses, and medical stores. October, 1862, he returned to his proper duty as medical director of the “Army of the Frontier.” January 8, 1863, he was engaged in the battle of Springfield, Mo., against the forces of Marmaduke, turning out 400 hospital convalescents, thereby saving millions of property, the winter supplies for Gen. Schofield’s army. About this time, he performed a celebrated operation on the shoulder joint of Gen. E. B. Brown, [See Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion; part 2, vol. 2, Surgical History, page 522.] saving his life, and giving him a good arm. [Five inches of the shaft and head of the humerus removed by excision.] April, 1863, the army being reorganized, he was assigned to duty in charge of the hospital at Ironton, Mo. May 24, 1863, he was commissioned lieutenant colonel 6th Cavalry Mo. S. M., and assigned to duty as assistant inspector general of the department of the Missouri, and served in this capacity until Price’s raid in 1864, when he was ordered to the field as aid-decamp to Gen. Pleasanton, commanding the cavalry; and, in his report of the destruction of Price’s army, Gen. Pleasanton mentions Col. Melcher for “gallantry and fidelity.”

Col. Melcher’s last service in the army was in command of the post of Jefferson City, Mo., where he was active in fowarding troops to Gen. Thomas, at Nashville, Tenn. Much debilitated from hard service, he resigned December 24, 1864. After the war, he resided four years and a half in Tennessee, and was in the Freedman’s Bureau. May, 1870, he was appointed Surgeon U. S. Marine Hospital, St. Louis, Mo. February, 1871, he was appointed by the Governor of Missouri a manager of the State Lunatic Asylum. In 1873, he moved to Chicago, where he now resides.



Holcombe, Return I. History of Greene County Missouri. Western Historical Company, St. Louis. 1883.

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