Skip main navigation

Military Health System

Clear Your Browser Cache

This website has recently undergone changes. Users finding unexpected concerns may care to clear their browser's cache to ensure a seamless experience.

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)

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...

Article Around MHS
Jun 11, 2024

Stories of Valor and Sacrifice: Navy Medical Heroes at Midway

historic photo of military personnel on the USS Yorktown 1942

The Battle of Midway stands as a pivotal moment in World War II, a turning point that decisively shifted the balance of power in the Pacific. For the Navy, June 4, 1942, remains a sacred date, one that not only celebrates a historic victory but also encourages us to look back on the tremendous courage and sacrifice of all who served. This includes the ...

Video
Jun 5, 2024

D-Day Medic Waverly B. Woodson, Jr.

DDay Medic Waverly Woodson

World War II medic Waverly B. Woodson, Jr. was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest U.S. military honor, for saving countless lives during the Allied Invasion of Normandy of World War II. Waverly was only 21-years-old, serving in the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, when he was deployed to France. He spent over 30 ...

Article
Jun 4, 2024

The Heroic Nurses of D-Day: ‘I Could Not Sit Idly By’

The Heroic Nurses of D-Day: ‘I Could Not Sit Idly By’

U.S. Army Corps nurses played a pivotal role in the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion of Normandy, France, the largest sea, air, and land invasion in history. Eighty years ago, the allied forces, including nearly 160,000 American, British, and Canadian service members, landed on the beaches at Normandy and began pushing inland. Nurses were deployed soon ...

Article Around MHS
May 27, 2024

Revolutionizing Mental Health Support: The Game Changing Role of the U.S. Navy Special Psychiatric Rapid Intervention Team

Navy Medicine graphic

Seven sailors died, and 48 others were injured when the guided a missile frigate and the aircraft carrier collided while performing nighttime exercises on Nov. 22, 1975. For years, the traumatic experience of that collision scarred many sailors who escaped physical injury but carried the invisible weight of the tragedy. The psychiatrists involved in ...

Video
May 24, 2024

The Nurses of Normandy

The Nurses of Normandy

Military nurses were saved many lives during WW2. 1LT Marian Charlotte Jones and 1LT Edna Nina Statman both served in the Army Nurse Corps during World War 2. They share their stories of caring for our military men after D-Day in Normandy, France. Watch their full interviews via the Library of Congress: Jones: https://www.loc.gov/collections ...

Video
May 22, 2024

Nurses of Vietnam - Liberty's Rosary Beads

Nurses of Vietnam - Liberty's Rosary Beads

Lt Col Frances Liberty, with the US Army Nurses Corps, recounts the heartwarming story of a soldier she cared for during the Vietnam War, the lasting impression they made on each other, and the keepsake he recieved from her, an item which he still holds dear to this day. Interviews courtesy of the Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov/item ...

Video
May 22, 2024

Nurses of Vietnam - The Women of Vietnam

Nurses of Vietnam - The Women of Vietnam

Three nurses recount their experiences during the Vietnam War, stationed both on land and sea. From deployment to the lasting bonds they created, these women tell a story of heroism, perservierence, and lifelong friendship. Interview Courtesy of the Library of Congress: Lt Col Frances Liberty: https://www.loc.gov/item/afc2001001.02548/ LCDR ...

Article Around MHS
May 6, 2024

U.S. Navy Medicine Announces Sailor of the Year

Military personnel with award

U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Peter Munoz from Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Twentynine Palms, California, was announced as Navy Medicine's 2023 Sailor of the Year, on April 24, 2024.

Skip subpage navigation
Refine your search
Last Updated: July 11, 2023
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on X Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery