The public is invited and a video will be posted later to the Mormon Battalion Association website.
Dr. George B. Sanderson served the Mormon Battalion during the Mexican War during 1846-1847. While not a member of the LDS church himself, Sanderson had been a neighbor of the Mississippi Saints in Monroe County Mississippi and in western Missouri. Dr. Sanderson’s Mexican War journal gives no indication he held personal animosity towards his fellow servicemen. Despite them calling him “Doctor Death,” there were only two or three men who may have suffered from his medical care which was standard for the Army and time period.
A shadowy figure ever since Sgt Daniel Tyler’s 1881 text, “A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion”, Sanderson had few people pay attention to his background. Sherman Fleek in his text “History May be Searched in Vain – A Military History of the Mormon Battalion” (2006) was the first author to provide a modern look at Sanderson’s medical skills. A complete transcription of Sanderson’s journal is being prepared for publication next year. To put ‘flesh on the bones’ of Dr. Sanderson for the book, extensive research is ongoing to better understand his life.
When his grave was located, only a sad, broken, acid rain etched marker existed. The Mormon Battalion Association and other interested persons purchased a marker to identify Dr. Sanderson and his wife Ellen. The new tombstone will be dedicated this Saturday, June 3 at 7:15 AM at Calvary Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri. The public is welcome to attend.
Signs will direct people to the family plot in Section 13 and a short (20-minute) memorial will be held. Kevin Henson (Midland, Michigan) will speak briefly about some recent findings regarding Dr. Sanderson’s life.
The full press release follows:
‘DOCTOR DEATH’ GETS STONED
A new tombstone for the 1846 Mormon Battalion’s Army Doctor to be placed tomorrow at Calvary Cemetery, St Louis. The public is invited and a video will be posted later to the Mormon Battalion Association website.
St. Louis, MO – June 2, 2017
Interested persons will gather at Calvary Cemetery tomorrow, Saturday June 3rd at 7:15 AM to dedicate a new grave marker for Doctor George B. Sanderson. Sanderson served the US Army’s ‘Mormon Battalion’ during the Mexican War.
“We have been looking for Doctor Sanderson for years”, said Laura Anderson, senior historian for the Mormon Battalion Association. “When we made the connection to Calvary Cemetery in St Louis, we found there wasn’t a marker identifying his grave. Since he has no living descendants, we decided to place a fitting memorial for him.”
George B. Sanderson was born in Yorkshire England and immigrated to America with other family members. At Weston Missouri in 1846, Sanderson was picked by the Army to be the physician for a 500-man battalion of volunteers. The group was known as the ‘Mormon Battalion’ since most of the men belonged to the LDS Church. Sanderson wasn’t member of the LDS church himself, but had dealings with the Mormon for years.
Doctor Sanderson practiced medicine according to Army regulations using the favored techniques of the time. “Calomel – a mercury compound – was used to ‘clean you out’. Blood letting and cupping were also used. Such was the primitive standard medical care of the time”, said Kevin Henson who researches the Battalion’s trail. “The Mormons weren’t happy with Dr. Sanderson’s ministrations since they preferred herbal medicines and believed in faith-healing.”
After a couple of deaths occurred on the march west, the officer was given the nickname of ‘Doctor Death’. “It was undeserved”, Henson believes. “When a Battalion history was published in 1881, Dr. Sanderson got a healthy dose of criticism. Recent research in the journals shows his medical care influenced only two of the twenty total deaths. These new findings are giving us an appreciation for how good he actually was.”
After leaving the Army, Sanderson was involved in many business dealings in Wisconsin and Missouri. Moving to St Louis in 1857, he became president of the M&M Bank. His step-son, John, married into the Chouteau family.
In May 1861, Dr Sanderson got into a heated political argument, was cut in the abdomen with a knife and died of infection two weeks later at age 57. There are no direct descendants though people descended through his step-children are still in the St Louis area.
Calvary Cemetery gates will open at 7 AM for those wishing to attend the short ceremony. Signs will direct attendees to the family plot in Section 13.
For those not able to attend, the proceedings will be recorded, edited and posted later at the Mormon Battalion Associations’ website. Go to: http://www.mormonbattalion.com/
ABOUT CALVARY CEMETERY:
Calvary Cemetery is the second oldest cemetery of the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis. Established in 1854, it contains the graves of many noted persons identified with the very beginning of St. Louis, its later development and in national affairs. Many memorials and lot designs are of architectural interest. A self-guided tour begins at the main entrance of the cemetery, West Florissant at Union Avenues. For more information, visit: http://archstl.org/cemeteries/content/view/91/233/
ABOUT THE MORMON BATTALION ASSOCIATION:
The Mormon Battalion Association was formed to honor the 1846 US Army military unit and its participants. Focusing on history and accomplishments, the Utah based not-for-profit organization encourages descendants and interested persons to learn about the original 500-man Mormon Battalion. For more information go to: http://www.mormonbattalion.com/
Kevin R. Henson
p & text: 989-708-1504 (Eastern Tzone)
1) The Mormon Battalion at the Gila River by George Ottinger, 1881 (provided with permission of the LDS Church History Museum)