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Vol. 60

The Outlook

The Treatment of the

Sick Soldiers

Published Weekly

September 3, 1898

The condition of our returned soldiers at Camp Wikoff has greatly improved during the past week, partly because of reforms and cutting of red tape which followed Secretary Alger's personal visit to the camp, partly because of the generous efforts of private citizens and associations, and partly because the lapse of time has made it possible to bring things into a more satisfactory condition. There are still about two thousand sick men at Camp Wikoff, and there is unquestionably room for improvement. On another page we speak editorially of Secretary Alger's defense of the War Department and its various branches against the charges of incompetency, delay, and criminal neglect. Since that defense was printed Secretary Alger has issued another statement, in which he declares that no investigation is necessary, that everything has been done that could be done, and that the failures were inevitable. This second defense is weak in many ways; to instance a single point, it is admitted that the condition of affairs on board the transport Seneca was abominable; but Secretary Ager, following his usual course, promptly throws all the blame on some one else; in this case upon the captain of the boat. This is a typical defense. No one can fail instantly to see that the captain of a transport should not have been free to do or not do precisely what he chose; and the serious point of the charges in this case is that the captain had no proper direction or inspection. So, tco, in Secretary Alger's defense of the diseasestricken camps. He insists that the camps were inspected by General Miles and others, and that everybody thought they were ideally located. Here again the blame is shuffled off upon others, though all accounts show that the prevalence of disease was due not so much to the original choice of site as to the unsanitary conditions which

No. 1

were allowed to prevail, and the lack of medical and nursing facilities when the disease began to spread. Two or three incidents of the week throw light on the methods of the War Department. Thus, an excellent order was issued directing surgeons in the hospitals to purchase, within certain bounds, anything needed for the diet of the soldiers; but this order seems to have been tied up by the official red tape at Washington, and for at least four days was held back at the very time when its enforcement was a matter almost of life and death. No reasonable explanation of this fact has been given to the public. In another case it is asserted that General Wheeler ordered large quantities of supplies for the sick, and that they were stopped for some time by Commissary-General Eagan, solely because of some technical defect in the requisition. Such instances— and others might be quoted-show that there is truth in the belief, now gaining ground constantly, that the basic trouble is in the organization of the branches of the War Department. The Quartermaster-eneral Department, the Commissary Department, the Subsistence Department, and the Transportation Department are managed alnost independently, whereas they should be coordinated and work in the closest union. Back also of this difficulty lies the well-known fact that the War Department is honeycombed with political favoritism.

The members of the The Peace Commission Peace Commission of the United States have now all been selected. As was expected, the Commission is headed by Secretary Day; the other members are Senator Davis, of Minnesota, Senator Frye, of Maine, Justice White, of the Supreme Court, and Mr. Whitelaw Reid. Popular report indicates that, of these, Judge Day and Justice White are the two members more

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