Thursday, August 19, 2010

Edward A. Whiston

Years Served: 1865 to 1867

Edward A. Whiston, Boston’s eighth port physician was born on November 19, 1838 the son of Francis C. Whiston and Mary Eliza Andem. He graduated from Harvard Medical School in March 1861 after completing his thesis on anesthetics. Undoubtedly he was in contact John C. Warren who was the leading expert in the use of anesthetics and also had served as one of Boston’s Consulting Physicians from 1824 to 1857. Five months after graduating from medical school he was commissioned assistant surgeon the Sixteenth infantry regiment at the rank of first lieutenant on August 1, 1861. His commander was Colonel Powell T. Wyman of the Sixteenth regiment. The 16th regiment was recruited at camp “Cameron” Cambridge and was mostly composed of Middlesex County men. He left the Commonwealth for the seat of war on August 17, 1861 under the command of Colonel Powell T. Wyman, a West Point graduate and an accomplished officer. He spent over a year in Virginia providing medical support to his regiment during some of the most horrific battles of the Civil War including Kettle Run (August 27, 1862) and Bull Run (August 29th and 30th, 1862).

He was in charge of the 3rd corps hospital at Gettysburg and a field hospital of the army at Potomac. He was promoted to major surgeon of the Massachusetts First Infantry on March 5, 1863. He then mustered out on May 28, 1864. By May 25, 1865 he was admitted to the Massachusetts Medical Society as a fellow. Mayor Frederick Walker Lincoln Jr. appointed him Port Physician for the City of Boston from June 7, 1865.

His appointment lasted until February 28, 1867 a two year stint of duty which was one of the most important transition periods for the city’s quarantine station. During this time, its detention center was expanded from Deer Island to include the more remote Gallop’s Island, a 16 acre island named after the Indian fighter Captain John Gallop.

His marriage plans and desire to lead a normal life undoubtedly influenced his decision to step down as Port Physician. The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal of October 20, 1870 noted his marriage to Miss Emily P. Call of Charlestown on October 13, 1870. According to the Boston Globe he died on February 23, 1909 at the home of his daughter on Rockrimmon Avenue in Springfield, MA. He was survived by a son William E. Whiston of Boston and a daughter from Springfield, MA.


1. Accessed online: Massachusetts Vital records for Edward A. Whiston.\

2. Shattuck, George C., Annual Address delivered to the Annual Commencement of the Medical School of Harvard University, March 6, 1861, Boston, David Clapp Printers, p. 16.

3. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Massachusetts in the Army and Navy during the war of 1861-1865, vol. 2, p. 391.

4. Annual Report of the Adjutant General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, December 1, 1862, Boston, Wright and Potter State printers, 1863, pp. 186-190.

5. Harrington, Thomas Francis, The Harvard Medical School, A history, Narrative and Documentary: 1782-1905, Vol. II, New York, Lewis Publishing Co., 1905, p. 956.

6. Military Affairs, Boston Daily Advertiser, March 16, 1863, Vol. 101, Issue 77, p. 1.

7. Medical Communications, Massachusetts Medical Society, January 21, 1866; 10: American Periodical Series Online, p. 137.

8. Boston Daily Advertiser, June 7, 1865, Vol. 105, issue 133, p. 1. The advertiser announced his appointment by the Board of Aldermen.

9. Miscellany, Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, October 20, 1870, p. 260.

10. Boston Globe, Well Known in Boston, Dr Edward A. Whiston Passes Away at Springfield, Boston Daily Globe, February 24, 1909, p. 3.

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