The post surgeon was the cornerstone of army medical care. He was either a medical officer or a local civilian. At Fort Lowell, 21 men served in this capacity, assisted by enlisted hospital stewards. The surgeon maintained the health of all military personnel, including wives, children, and civilian employees. He also regulated sanitation. He had no one else to consult, relying solely on his education, experience, and medical books.
By the 1870s, the post surgeon used antiseptics. A decade later, he had such anesthetics as sulfuric ether and chloroform. The soldiers' ailments commonly included malaria, diarrhea, venereal diseases, alcoholism, rheumatism, headaches, sprains, and gunshot wounds.