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Tag Archives: United States Navy

- “Muzzled Doctors vs. Unmuzzled Guns”: Lieutenant William Armistead Gills, M.D., versus the United States Navy


Gills, William Armistead, Scrapbook, ca. 1920-1940, Visual Studies Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.

“Muzzled Doctors vs. Unmuzzled Guns” was a provocative phrase used by retired naval officer William Armistead Gills, M.D., to describe the poor condition of medical care for seamen during the first half of the twentieth century. Why would Gills, a World War I veteran and dedicated officer, pen such forceful criticism, hinting at military unpreparedness? A voluminous scrapbook and his War History Commission Questionnaire at the Library of Virginia reveal the details of this fascinating story.

A native of Amelia County, William Armistead Gills graduated from Richmond’s Medical College of Virginia in 1900. Demonstrating an affinity for the military, he served as a lieutenant in the Virginia National Guard medical corps for several years while attending the Army Medical School in Washington, D.C., from which he graduated in 1906. A faculty member at the Medical College of Virginia from 1904 to 1908, he served on the staff of Governor Claude Swanson. After serving in the United States Army medical reserve corps from 1910 to 1913 he entered private practice in Richmond.

With America’s entry into World War I in 1917, Gills enrolled as an assistant surgeon in the medical reserve corps. Commissioned a lieutenant, in October he was assigned to the U.S. naval base at Block Island, Rhode Island, where he directed the medical department. In January 1919 the influenza pandemic struck the base … read more »

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- “Our share in the war is no small one”: Virginia Women and World War I, Part I

This is the latest entry in a series of blog posts spotlighting stories and records of Virginia’s involvement in World War I. It is the first of a two-part blog post adapted from an article originally written for the Summer 2001 issue of Virginia Cavalcade. The second half will run next week.


Group of nurses at Base Hospital 45

As soon as the United States entered the war on 6 April 1917, Virginia women sprang into action at home and abroad. Some women worked in traditional ways, knitting socks for soldiers in their social clubs and conserving food at home. Others were employed in industry, laboring on assembly lines to put together shells and airplane motors and to apply camouflage paint. They were “the girls behind the men behind the guns,” noted the Ladies’ Home Journal. Other women faced the guns themselves, enlisting in the military to fill clerical roles and serve as nurses. They treated patients, took dictation, fried doughnuts, drove ambulances, and operated switchboards.

 

The need for military nurses was pressing. The federal government ran full-page advertisements in the Ladies’ Home Journal, calling on women between the ages of nineteen and thirty-five to enroll in the U.S. Student Nurse Reserve. When slots opened up, applicants attended one of the 1,579 training schools in the nation. Schools waived most expenses, including tuition … read more »

- Not Black and White, But Different Shades of Gray




With examples dating back to the 1750s, Norfolk County chancery causes offer an interesting set of solutions to some of the myriad problems associated with a growing county, especially in the form of injunctions. These were legal remedies filed by plaintiffs hoping to stop or halt a particular action.  The resulting court order would enjoin and restrain the defendant from committing the action. During this process, the plaintiff filing the injunction was required to post a bond, although monetary relief was not usually the end result. Instead, injunctions helped to preserve the status quo in the community and prevent possible injustice. Failure to comply with an injunction resulted in punishment for contempt of court.

The chancery cause Bernard (Barnard) O’ Neill v. Lewis Warrington, et. al., 1840-007, filed in Norfolk’s Circuit Superior Court of Law and Chancery on 27 June 1838, highlights the sometimes complex issues involved in an injunction. Barnard O’ Neill alleged title to 55 ½ acres of land around the town of Portsmouth.  His bill of complaint states that he received a patent for this land from the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1826.  An adjoining property owner sold 60 acres of his property to the U.S. Government in 1828. According to Richmond C. Holcomb, M.D., writing in 1930, the western boundary between O’Neill’s property and this government property had been … read more »