Moore oversaw each hospital in the South through personal and military correspondence and established large general hospitals, such as Chimborazo in Richmond. His greatest accomplishment might have been the vaccination of the entire Southern army against smallpox in only six weeks, a controversial decision in 1862.
Surgeon general of the Confederacy. Born in Charleston on September 16, 1813, Moore was the sixth of nine children born to Stephen West Moore and Eleanor Screven Gilbert. Following his graduation from the Medical College of South Carolina, Moore was commissioned an assistant surgeon in the U.S. Army in 1835. He spent the next twenty-five years at a variety of western and southern military posts. During the Mexican War, Moore’s administration of the American General Hospital at Carmago impressed a young Jefferson Davis, the future president of the Confederacy. By 1860 Moore was serving as medical purveyor at New Orleans.
In 1861 Moore resigned from the U.S. Army and sought a commission in the Confederate military. Jefferson Davis selected Moore as acting surgeon general of the Confederacy. Moore faced the daunting task of creating Southern medical services from scratch. Known as a stern disciplinarian, he was able to field a medical corps of approximately three thousand officers. This was a major feat considering that only twenty-four officers had served in the U.S. Medical Corps and only twenty-seven of his physicians had surgical experience. One of the more imaginative ways Moore achieved this was to establish a scholarship program so that young Southerners could attend Richmond Medical College. Not only did he have to recruit personnel, he also had to create a system of laboratories to supply medical units. He supplied Confederate women with poppy seeds to cultivate so that the South had a homegrown supply of painkillers. Similarly, he purchased four distilleries to provide six hundred gallons of medical alcohol each day and promoted the appropriation of Union stocks. When a lack of Southern manufacturing facilities led to a shortage of medical equipment, Moore located and acquired instruments from retired or deceased doctors.
Moore promoted research throughout the war. He ordered the surgeon Joseph Jones to search out the causes of unusual infections and diseases affecting soldiers. In 1863 he organized the Association of Army and Navy Surgeons of the Confederate States to gather and disseminate information. This group would outlast the war and merge with the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States in 1914. He also instituted a monthly professional periodical, The Confederate States Medical and Surgical Journal, to better educate those under his command.
Moore oversaw each hospital in the South through personal and military correspondence and established large general hospitals, such as Chimborazo in Richmond. His greatest accomplishment might have been the vaccination of the entire Southern army against smallpox in only six weeks, a controversial decision in 1862. In 1913 the Southern Medical Journal stated, “Looking back upon what he achieved, at what he created absolutely out of nothing, the marvel grows until it impresses one today as an impossibility.”
After taking the oath of amnesty in Richmond on June 22, 1865, Moore retired from the medical practice and focused on managing his financial holdings. He died in Richmond on May 31, 1889, after a violent coughing attack. He was buried in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond.
Brooks, Stewart. Civil War Medicine. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas, 1966.
Cunningham, H. H. Doctors in Gray: The Confederate Medical Service. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1958.
Farr, Warr Dahlgren. “Samuel Preston Moore: Confederate Surgeon General.” Civil War History 41 (March 1995): 41–56.