Skip to main content

Military Health System

Remembering Dr. Alexander Augusta, the U.S. Army’s First Black Doctor

Image of A photo of Maj. (Dr.) Alexander Augusta among the Seventh Regiment of U.S. Colored Troops where he served as regimental surgeon during the Civil War. . A photo of Maj. (Dr.) Alexander Augusta among the Seventh Regiment of U.S. Colored Troops where he served as regimental surgeon during the Civil War. (Photo: National Park Service)

Recommended Content:

Our History | Paving the Way for African Americans in Military Medicine: A Look Across Time

Alexander Thomas Augusta was born in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1825. His parents were free African Americans. Growing up in Baltimore, he worked as a barber while he pursued his dream of attending medical school.

After earning his medical degree in Canada, Dr. Augusta offered his services to the U.S. military. In a letter to President Abraham Lincoln, he offered his services as a surgeon.

But Augusta was initially rejected due to his race. Nevertheless, he traveled to Washington, D.C., to plead his case and was finally accepted.

In April 1863, he passed the Army's medical examination and the Army commissioned him at the rank of major. He became a surgeon for African American troops, making him the Army's first African American doctor.

At the time, Augusta was the highest ranking African American officer. He served as the Regimental Surgeon of the Seventh U.S. Colored Troops. He was awarded a promotion to lieutenant colonel in March 1865.

Dr. Alexander Augusta was the first African American to be an Army doctor.
Dr. Alexander Augusta was the first African American to be an Army doctor. (Photo: National Park Service)

During his extraordinary career, Augusta became America's first black hospital administrator, and the man responsible for the desegregation of train cars in Washington D.C.

In 1865, after the Civil War had ended, President Lincoln invited him to the White House. African Americans visiting the White House was very rare and the event was widely reported across the country.

Later in life, Augusta served as the head of the Lincoln Hospital in Savannah, Georgia. Later he was the attending surgeon to the Smallpox Hospital in Washington in 1870. And eventually he went on to teach anatomy at Howard University. He was the first African American faculty appointed to any medical college in the United States.

At the age of 65, Augusta died in Washington, D.C. He became the first black Army officer to be buried in the Arlington National Cemetery. Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Alexander T. Augusta's tomb can be found in Section 1, at Grave 124A.

You also may be interested in...

Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Visiting Nurse Program Celebrates 100 Years

Article Around MHS
12/2/2022
Shannon Williams, visiting nurse for Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society

The Visiting Nurse Program of Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) organization provides specialized care to the communities they serve around the world. Founded on November 25, 1922 when Nell Watson was hired as the first visiting nurse at the Parris Island Branch Auxiliary, the program celebrated its centennial anniversary Nov. 25, 2022.

Recommended Content:

Nursing in the Military Health System | Our History

The “Human Bomb”: How Air Force Surgeons Made Medical History in Vietnam

Article Around MHS
11/29/2022
U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. James Humphreys

On November 5, 1965, Air Force surgeons were confronted with a bomb, literally. But instead of coming face-to-face with a device, they were confronted with a patient who had a live grenade embedded in his back, essentially making the patient a walking human bomb.

Recommended Content:

Our History

History of Navy Medicine's Research and Development Global Enterprise

Article Around MHS
11/2/2022
Historic image of the Naval Medical Research Institute

Before there was the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC) there was the Naval Medical Research Institute (NMRI).

Recommended Content:

Our History | Research and Innovation

Born in Harm's Way: The Advent of Navy Medicine in the Revolutionary War

Article Around MHS
10/21/2022
The Bonhomme Richard vs. HMS Serapis infographic

The U.S. Navy recognized Oct. 13 as its official birthdate. It was on this day in 1775 that the Continental Congress authorized the construction of the first Navy ships as well as a special committee to oversee the administration of this service.

Recommended Content:

Our History

Dedicated Korean War Navy Medic Worked “Feverishly” to Save Lives

Article
9/22/2022
Profile photo of a sailor

U.S. Navy Hospitalman Francis Hammond was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor for selflessly saving lives and risking his own during the Korean War.

Recommended Content:

Our History

From a Small Twig Comes 75 Years of Medical Readiness

Article Around MHS
8/15/2022
Military personnel celebrating MSC milestone

For 75 years, the Navy Medical Service Corps has long been regarded as the most diverse corps, comprised of health care administrators, clinicians, and scientists.

Recommended Content:

Our History

Air Force Women's History: First Commissioned Female Physician

Article Around MHS
6/23/2022
Capt Dorothy Armstrong Elias sworn in

On March 14, 1951, Capt. (Dr.) Dorothy Armstrong Elias became the first woman physician sworn into the Air Force.

Recommended Content:

Our History

Facility Dogs Play a Vital Role in Recovery for Patients Across the MHS

Article
5/27/2022
Luke is a German Shephard facility dog.

Each dog has his or her own rank, service, and uniform and is inducted in an enlistment or commissioning ceremony. Today, the Facility Dog Program at WRNMMC includes Sully, a yellow Lab who was former President George H.W. Bush’s service dog.

Recommended Content:

Our History | Health Readiness & Combat Support

'America’s First Brain Surgeon' Served During Civil War and World War I

Article
5/17/2022
Dr. William Williams Keen Jr was a medical surgeon during the Civil War who afterwards advocated and researched medical advances so the horrors of Civil War-era medicine would not occur again. He also served in the Army during World War I.

The Army’s Dr. William Williams Keen helped to shape military medicine for more than 50 years – from the Civil War to World War I.

Recommended Content:

Our History

Military Medical Museum Celebrates 160th birthday with mobile app

Photo
5/17/2022
Military Medical Museum Celebrates 160th birthday with mobile app

National Museum of Health and Medicine, Silver Spring, Maryland, visitor uses the NMHM mobile app while looking at objects from the Innovations in Military Medicine Gallery.

Recommended Content:

Our History

Vietnam War Commemoration Presents DHA Director with Commemorative Flag

Article
4/28/2022
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ron Place, Defense Health Agency director, receives a commemorative Vietnam War flag from Army Maj. Gen. (Retired) Peter Aylward, The United States of America Vietnam Commemoration director. (Photo: Sonia Clark, MHS Communications)

Lt. Gen. Place receives Vietnam War commemorative flag.

Recommended Content:

Our History

A History of the Combat Helmet and the Quest to Prevent Injuries

Article
4/25/2022
Lt. Gen. George S. Patton and Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. are pictured here in 1943 wearing the standard M1 helmet, sometimes called the "steel pot." (Photo: 1st Infantry Division Courtesy Photo)

The combat helmet has evolved over time to improve protection against projectiles and shock waves to reduce the risk of fatal blows and traumatic brain injuries.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Our History | Injury Prevention

Ceremony Marks New Name for RIA Health Clinic to Woodson Health Clinic, Honoring World War II Combat Medic

Article
4/21/2022
Stephen Woodson looks at the plaque painting of his father, Staff Sgt. Waverly Woodson Jr., a World War II First U.S. Army combat medic hero, following the unveiling of it during a renaming dedication ceremony at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, April 14. The health clinic was renamed Woodson Health Clinic. (Photo: Jon Micheal Connor, ASC Public Affairs)

The Rock Island Arsenal Health Clinic received a new name in honor of a heroic First U.S. Army Soldier in a moving ceremony here in Heritage Hall April 14. The new name is the Woodson Health Clinic in honor of Staff Sgt. Waverly B. Woodson Jr.

Recommended Content:

Our History

Women's History Month highlight: All-women medic team supports mission welcoming Afghan allies

Article Around MHS
4/5/2022
Military personnel taking a walk

In late August 2021, the Department of Defense issued a call for volunteers to support Operation Allies Welcome, the federal government’s effort to safely resettle Afghan refugees.

Recommended Content:

Our History

Success Leaves Footprints: DHA Observes Black History Month

Article
2/16/2022
The Defense Health Agency celebrated Black History Month by hosting a panel discussion called, “success always leaves footprints.” The panelists shared stories of their cultural pride as black Americans and their perspectives on the lessons we can learn from studying black American history.

The DHA hosted a panel discussion called "success always leaves footprints," which highlighted the importance of studying black American history.

Recommended Content:

Paving the Way for African Americans in Military Medicine: A Look Across Time
<< < 1 2 3 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 3
Refine your search
Last Updated: March 02, 2022
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery