Dr. Orson Quincy Herrick (Regiment: 34th Illinois Infantry, Co: HQ, Rank: Surgeon, Residence: Kansas, Illinois. Date of muster 13 January 1862; mustered out: 12 January 1865) served in the Civil War as a surgeon on General George H. Thomas' staff, 14th Corps.
At the Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia, in September 1863, Orson was taken prisoner and sent to Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia. According to his family, he was captured after his horse ran for 25 miles and died. When Orson was exchanged, he and two others drew up a memorial regarding the management of Libby Prison, the bad food and the ill-health of the prisoners. This memorial was presented to President Lincoln.
Dr. Orson a. Herrick, son of Lott Herrick and Lola Sutliff, was born 8 July 1831 and died 19 August 1873.
The following two letters were written by Orson to his brother George Washington Herrick, who was studying law at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (and would go on to practice law in Farmer City, Illinois).
Headquarters, Fourteenth Army Corps,
Department of the Cumberland
Chattanooga, Tenn. Feb., 19th 1864
Dear Brother George,
I learned by letter from my wife that you were now at Ann Arbor. Electa also I believe wrote me that you were there.
I have at different times written every Relative that I have on Earth almost and but few have seen fit to reply since I have been in the Army. If it is because I have changed my political views since I have been in the Army that I cannot find a correspondent, all right. I expect never to retract one jot. The history of the world shows clearly that society is in transitional state and when any institution has served the object of its organization it will decay. Slavery assisted to enrich and develop the resources of this country; to increase our commerce and aid manufacture but the time has arrived when the form of our institutions must change or Slavery go down.
However much this may be reasoned against and explained away I am entirely satisfied of the fact. The large class of ignorant whites in the south must be educated or self government will be a failure. Any man is wilfully ignorant or a knave that denies the degrading effect of Slavery upon the poorer class. The Negro feels himself the superior of the poor white man that works by his side, and why? Because his master treats him with more respect. No poor man, this for south, expects to associate with or be in the company of the rich man. Schools are only for the rich and such an idea as manhood having here any existence without property I presume was never generated.
The man has read history to little purpose that doubts the change that will be made in our government by this war.
The south has staked its all on slavery and so surely as God is just they must fail. The Negro will be in worse condition, more deoendent than they are in slavery when freed, but the change is necessary to fit the whole county for self government. Is Dr. Goodell & Catharine at A.A. yet. I wrote him in January but got no reply.
Med. Insp. 14th A. C.
Office Med Insp 14th A. C.
Chattanooga Tenn March 29, 1864
I received your favor and photograph today. I am sorry to hear you say you wish you had studied medicine. I would never study medicine again or any other profession but if any, not medicine.
A pleasant life is not found in any profession but more especially in medicine. Constant labor, care and mental anxiety are ever attendant and no hour tells of rest.
I intend to quit the service as soon as the spring campaign is ended and as soon as possible get me a little farm and no longer be dependant upon the public for a living.
You have a bright prospect before you as the world says. You are young, have health and ability and have only to "launch out." If you get a good law practice in five years, it is as soon as you can expect. I would not go through again what I have the last ten years for all the world calls fame. Contentment is all that gives happiness but alas no man believes it at the right time.
You can succeed in law or anything else but as you value your life never study medicine. Don't think of it. A few years good law practice is worth more than a life time in medicine.
To night this city is full of Generals. Here are Major Generals Sherman, Thomas, Granger, Buell, Sheridan, Palmer, Barry, McCook, Crittenden, Howard, Hooker and several others. Do you think I would give a quiet little home for all their glory. Believe it not. My ideas of ambition have wonderfully changed. The mental anxiety and watchful care that is inextricably interwoven with public trust robs it of all its fancied enjoyment as soon as obtained.
Please write me.
Med Insp 14th Army Corps