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Great Fires: 1906 Great Earthquake & Fire

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Appendix A.
Earthquake in California, April 18, 1906
Special Report of Maj. Gen. Adolphus W. Greely, U. S. A., Commanding the Pacific Division

towns and cities and also as to the congested state of adjacent towns from the overflow of destitute refugees from San Francisco. At the earliest possible moment attention was given to these sufferers, which is treated under the heads of Oakland, Alameda, Berkeley, San Jose, Santa Rosa, and Sausalito districts, and relief of the Chinese. The number of destitutes outside of San Francisco was variously estimated at from 75,000 to 90,000, which, with those in the city, made an aggregate certainly exceeding 400,000.


While the calamities in San Francisco from their magnitude overshadowed those in other parts of California, yet the relief work in that city was not permitted to entirely engross the attention of the army. An inspector sent on April 23 to Santa Rosa reported that the entire business portion of that thriving town had been destroyed by earthquake, but fortunately the sanitary conditions remained good and excellent order prevailed. Under an energetic local relief committee all homeless people were provided with shelter. Relief stores had been received, and the only stores needed were certain medical supplies, which were immediately forwarded. On April 30, in company with Secretary of Commerce and Labor Victor H. Metcalf, Governor Pardee, and Doctor Devine, I visited Santa Rosa, when the situation was found to be well in hand, there being no urgent need for further supplies.

Santa Rosa suffered very severely from the earthquake, its relative financial loss being perhaps greater than in San Francisco, but fortunately Santa Rosa escaped the horrors of expensive fire. Relief operations have been conducted under local committees, which have been supplied liberally with funds, food, and medical supplies. Matters rapidly assumed normal conditions, and the only criticism which could be made was the variety and quantity of food issued, which was lavish from an army standpoint. Efficient safeguards were instituted by the relief committee against fraud and imposition.


Conditions were investigated on May 6, when the situation was found to have been thoroughly cared for by the local relief committee. Fortunately charge of this work fell upon Mr. Hersey, whose energetic, businesslike, and persistent efforts admirably handled the entire situation. A small Federal guard was asked for and promptly ordered, but was ordered back on telegraphic information that the necessity therefor had passed. The business portion of San Jose was seriously damaged, and the calamity was enhanced by the deaths of 21 persons during the earthquake. Near San Jose a State asylum for the insane (Agnew's Asylum) was totally destroyed, the casualties aggregating 81. San Jose not only provided for its own destitutes, but extended aid in various forms to San Francisco refugees therefrom.


Berkeley was practically uninjured by earthquake, but it became a refuge for a thousand or more destitutes from San Francisco. Through the efficient and timely efforts of the president of the University

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of California, Benjamin Ide Wheeler, and of Mrs. Wheeler, the relief was ably and satisfactorily handled by a local committee. While the possibility of military supervision was once under consideration, yet at that time neither officers nor men were available. It transpired that the local efforts, so ably directed, were equal to all demands. Berkeley was supplied with relief stores in like manner as Oakland had been, but happily the administrative burden of prompt and suitable distribution did not devolve upon the army.


Oakland fortunately escaped any serious injuries from earthquake, and was spared the calamity of fire. It was, however, filled with refugees from San Francisco, the number in the early days being estimated from 50,000 to 75,000. The situation was promptly taken in hand by an energetic relief committee, of which the Rev. E. E. Baker was chairman. Fifty thousand dollars was allotted Oakland from the funds sent to San Francisco, but I am uninformed as to whether or not additional sums were sent to Governor Pardee and Mayor Mott for specific use in that city. Large quantities of relief supplies were shipped direct to Oakland, and whenever these were deficient in quantity or quality they were promptly supplemented by supplies billed to San Francisco, the diversions being made through Capt. Jesse M. Baker, the efficient quartermaster at Oakland pier, so as to avoid transshipment.

Realizing that the extent and continuance of the relief problem were overtaxing local resources and forces, Governor Pardee and Mayor Mott, in a conference with me, expressed the opinion that the time for military supervision in that city had arrived. There was absolutely not an officer or man who could be spared for that work. Fortunately, Gen. Charles A. Woodruff, retired, an officer of marked ability and intelligence, volunteered his services as civil aid, and served in that capacity in connection with the relief operations of Oakland, Alameda, and Berkeley from May 1 to May 8. He placed himself in communication with Mr. J. P. Edoff, the representative of Mayor Mott, and the Rev. E. E. Baker, chairman of the Oakland relief committee. General Woodruff found many different relief organizations in Oakland, all working independently and without controlling central authority. Noble as were these efforts in spirit and theory, yet their disassociated action had the consequential results of extravagance and waste, not to mention the encouragement of repeaters and impostors. General Woodruff, by tactful methods and personal appeals, succeeded in gradually concentrating the greater part of these organizations.

The rations issued originally by the generous-hearted people of Oakland were, to say the least, of a most liberal character, both as to quantity and quality. Gradually the great variety of food was reduced to absolutely essential articles—bread, vegetables, meat, sugar, coffee, and tea. The sick and delicate were, however, liberally supplied with a special diet suited to their physical needs, as recognized by medical officers and other officials.

Doctor Baker and Mr. Edoff heartily cooperated in General Woodruff's efforts to concentrate the destitutes and reduce the lavish generosity of issue to a plain living ration.

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General Woodruff performed his difficult duties with very marked success until an officer was available for his relief. This officer, Maj. James B. Erwin, 9th Cavalry, entered upon his duties with energy and zeal. The relief committee, although gradually withdrawing from the work, cooperated as fully as circumstances would permit with Major Erwin, and furnished allotments to cover all his operations which were in the direction of economy and concentration.

In view of the very large number of destitutes and their scattered condition, there was ordered to Oakland for cooperation in relief work five troops of the 1st Cavalry, under command of Maj. O. J. Brown, the whole force being placed under Major Erwin's orders as far as relief work was concerned. These troops, under Major Brown's careful supervision, conducted their operations in Oakland with the same efficiency as regards relief work and with the same good conduct as has characterized the work of the army in San Francisco.

Basing his line of operations on those formulated by me in San Francisco, Major Erwin steadily labored to concentrate the refugees into selected camps, where meals were furnished. He immediately placed himself in relations with the relief committee, of which the Rev. E. E. Baker was chairman, and Messrs. James P. Taylor and James P. Edoff energetic financial members. The expenses of the work were met by allotments from the funds at the disposal of the relief committee, which in the aggregate received $100,000 from San Francisco.

Major Erwin reports that the Oakland relief committee performed most efficient work through its subcommittees on registration, housing, health, employment, investigation, etc. It was estimated on April 20, when the work was organized, that there were about 60,000 destitute refugees in Oakland, which number had been reduced to about 30,000 when Major Erwin took charge. As showing the efficiency of the Oakland relief committee and the high character of the refugees it may be stated that employment was found by the committee for 7,538 males and 2,835 females—in all, 10,373.

The Oakland committee had the same phases of experiences as elsewhere, its early operations being marked by lavish issues of all kinds to every applicant. As Major Erwin says:

The idea of affording relief was forgotten in extending a boundless hospitality to the unfortunates of a sister city, and the real objects for which the relief committee was formed were lost sight of. However, the idea of the committee that the relief extended should be prompt and sufficient, when deserved, was right and proper.

Major Erwin recognized the necessity of systematizing the methods of transportation, storage, and records, which was promptly put in operation. He wisely placed his employees on the pay basis, and made efficiency the guaranty of continued employment. The issue of food and clothing to refugees was based on the principle that after the first emergency only the worthy deserved assistance, and that the wisest plan was to rehabilitate applicants as soon as possible. On assuming charge there were no less than 50 separate camps and stations caring for 24,407 destitutes, while possibly 5,000 more were scattered through the city independent of these depots. The necessity of concentration was evident, and this was done through the medium of a camp at Adams Point, where all were brought, except the Chinese,

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who were retained in a separate camp. Major Erwin recognizes the services of Capt. Jacob F. Kreps, 22d Infantry, in arranging and establishing the camps, which was carried on in the same admirable manner by Capt. De R. C. Cabell, 1st Cavalry, and Capt. John T. Nance, 9th Cavalry, who were in turn successors. A liberal and varied diet was furnished through the medium of a general mess. The sanitation was excellent, connections having been made with the sewers, and water plentiful. Good order was maintained, and the policing was always good. The camp was discontinued in June, 578 people with their tentage and baggage being transferred to San Francisco camps, while the other occupants, by receiving supplies for thirty days or more, were placed on the basis of independent support.

The Chinese, in a camp established independently on Lake Merritt, were cared for in the same systematic and satisfactory manner as were the occupants at Adams Point. Under a Chinese superintendent the camp was maintained in excellent condition, its occupants never causing trouble, and, although located in the resident portion of the city, it was so admirably handled that its presence was never a cause of complaint. His excellency the Chinese minister inspected carefully the Chinese camp near the end of May, and was so gratified with the proper care of his destitute countrymen that he arranged for the future location, under Major Erwin's supervision, of the destitute Chinese in permanent wooden structures.

The services of the 2d Squadron of the 1st Cavalry, under Maj. O. J. Brown, and Troop I, 1st Cavalry, under Capt. W. G. Sills, were most efficient and satisfactory. Major Erwin says:
The conduct of the men of the 2d Squadron was most excellent and their deportment, as well as military appearance, both on and off duty, was a matter of most favorable comment by the citizens of this city, Alameda, and Berkeley.

I am indebted to Maj. O. J. Brown, commanding this squadron, to the officers in it as well as to Captain Sills and Lieutenant King, of Troop I, for a steady and loyal support which never failed me.

Major Erwin reports that from May 7 to June 3 there were issued 499,315 rations, and the cost of the relief work to the date of its closing, while under his charge, aggregated $25,722.45. He followed the same lines of restriction as had been formulated and applied in San Francisco.

Major Erwin's work has been praised by his excellency Governor Pardee, and Mayor Mott, of Oakland. The Oakland relief committee formally expressed its appreciation of the work done by Maj. James B. Erwin, Capt. R. R. Raymond, and First Lieut. Harris Pendleton, jr., by a formal resolution which mentioned the ability and courtesy of these officers in successfully solving the difficult social problems assigned to them.


It is estimated that about 10,000 destitutes from San Francisco sought refuge in Marin County, across the bay, from Sausalito north to Bothin. The scarcity of officers and men made it impracticable at first to exercise much supervision over these unfortunate refugees. Food was freely supplied from San Francisco and distributed by the local relief committees to every applicant. On assuming charge of the relief work I declined to continue such arrangement, but formulated regulations under which requisitions for food must be made by the supervisors or other executive authority.

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On the arrival of selected officers, the care of these people was intrusted to Capt. Parker W. West, who with his assistants were actively engaged in eliminating the unworthy and providing suitable accommodations for the remainder. The number of these destitutes, originally some 10,000, was reduced to about 500 on June 30. They were scattered in outbuildings through the outlying districts or camped in detached bodies, but eventually these were concentrated near San Rafael. There was never extreme destitution among them, but they received such careful attention as their condition demanded.


My intimate relations and knowledge of these officers cause me to speak of their services with hesitation, but to ignore them would be unwarranted. First of all should be stated the fact that all of the division records were saved through the devotion, energy, and foresight of these officers. The physical work alone was exhausting, as the office was on the eighth floor of the building, with no elevator running. No record of any value is known to have been lost.

Col. S. P. Jocelyn, my chief of staff, was a wise counselor and valued inspector. He left May 1 for Europe. The efficient work of Colonel Heizmann, of Lieutenant-Colonels Lundeen, Torney, and Febiger, and of Majors Devol and Krauthoff are mentioned elsewhere. Lieutenant-Colonel Wisser increased his reputation as an officer of special ability, his services as a general inspector being greatly enhanced by his intimate knowledge of San Francisco. Major Dunning, as military secretary, by systematic efforts and close application, has admirably handled the immense volume of additional business which has devolved upon an untrained and insufficient force, themselves serving under conditions of difficulty and hardship. Captain Haan's services have been invaluable, not only in the early days, but especially since May 1, when he has acted as chief of staff. Capt. F. L. Winn, acting as my aide-de-camp, performed especially valuable research work, which placed before the country the first definite list of fatalities and seriously wounded in San Francisco. Later his accumulated data completely disproved the current rumors that murders were committed by regulars, not a single person being thus killed.

Col. W. H. Heuer's professional advice regarding the water supply, electric railways, and other engineering questions made his services most valuable to me. Major McKinstry was most zealous and energetic in providing temporary shelter.

All these officers worked excessively, the hours of duty averaging seventeen daily until May 1, gradually diminishing thereafter. It is gratifying to recall that as an evidence of the fine vitality of the American officer, that not one has missed an hour's service by illness or disability. Practically the same statement is also true of the entire military force in San Francisco.


As has been stated elsewhere, the enlisted men of the Regular Army, almost without exception, displayed high qualities of manhood throughout the extended service. They were courteous in deportment, conciliatory in bearing, and considerate of the people, besides being faithful in their military duties. Verbal reports have been

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made to me of frequent cases in which enlisted men of the Regular Army, whose names are unknown, contributed greatly to the comfort of homeless people, removing the sick, making personal sacrifices, and furnishing supplies for persons to whom they were unknown. Probably the most striking instance of the sound sense, mental appreciation of the situation, administrative ability, and practicability were exhibited by three privates, Frank P. McGurty, William Ziegler, and Henry Johnson, all of Company E, 22d Infantry. Two of these men, separated by the fire from their command on the afternoon of April 19, were later joined by the third. They applied themselves to the relief of the destitute people in their vicinity on Jones street. These destitutes, numbering nearly 3,000, consisted principally of Italians, with a few Chinese and Japanese. Stopping the individual seizing of stores, these privates established a relief station at the corner of Bay and Jones streets, opened a bakery, and worked day and night, until they were found by Maj. C. A. Devol, depot quartermaster, and continued in their work by Inspector-General Febiger. These men cared for nearly 3,000 people in the way of food and shelter, and later distributed blankets and shoes issued from the army stores at the Presidio. They also secured 50 tents and organized a camp capable of accommodating 500 people, and arranged for the accommodation of about 1,500 others in shacks adjacent to the camp. In this case the division commander has recommended the issue to each man of a certificate of merit for most efficient and humane services and for voluntarily taking charge of the administration of relief to several thousand destitute refugees in San Francisco immediately subsequent to the great fire of April, 1906.


The services of the army in San Francisco is a unique page in military history. They have been formally recognized by the division commander in General Orders, No. 42, hereto attached, with all other pertinent general orders of the division since April 18.

Despite the strict professional training of the United States Army, it has shown unexpected powers of adaptability to unprecedented and difficult conditions. Accustomed to supreme command, it has known in a great public calamity how to subordinate itself for an important civic duty—the relief of the destitute and homeless. In this work there were no signs of military degeneration, in officers or men. Thrown into intimate relations with the State and municipal authorities, serving side by side with the National Guard of California, and with the police department of San Francisco, cooperating with the great civil organization of the Red Cross, its operations have been free from violence, from quarrels, and even from bickerings. It has received only commendation from the State, the municipality, and the local press.

I do not think it too much to claim that this service demonstrates the adaptability of the average American, who makes an unsurpassed soldier without impairing his higher qualities as a man and as a citizen.

Very respectfully,

Major-General, Commanding.
War Department, Washington, D. C.

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San Francisco, Cal., April 22, 1906.

1. The regular troops, including the United States Marine Corps, on duty in the city of San Francisco, will control all of Golden Gate Park, all of the territory north and east of Golden Gate Park along H street to Stanyan, along Stanyan to Oak, along Oak to Fillmore, along Fillmore to Bush, along Bush to Powell, down Powell to Market, along Market to First, along First to include the Pacific Mail dock.
2. This territory is divided into six (6) districts and troops assigned with location of district headquarters as follows:


To include all ground north of Golden Gate Park between the beach and Devisadero street, including the Presidio reservation, but not including Fort Miley.
Headquarters, at the Presidio, San Francisco, Cal.
Commanding officer, Col. Charles Morris, Artillery Corps.
Personnel of command, all Coast and Field Artillery on duty in the city of San Francisco and at the Presidio, San Francisco, Cal.


To include all ground north of Union street, between Devisadero and Hyde streets, including also all of Fort Mason reservation, except the post proper.
Headquarters, at Fort Mason, Cal.
Commanding officer, Colonel Reynolds, 22d Infantry.
Personnel of command, all that part of the 22d Infantry now on duty in the city of San Francisco.


To include all ground bounded as follows: Hyde, from the bay south to Bush street, thence on Bush street east to Powell, thence on Powell south to Market, thence on Market northeast to First, thence on First southeast to water front, thence along water front to foot of Hyde street, not including wharves.
Headquarters, at Portsmouth Square.
Commanding officer, Col. Marion P. Maus, 20th Infantry.
Personnel of command, six (6) companies of the 20th Infantry.

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To include all ground bounded by streets as follows: Beginning at the corner of Devisadero and Union streets, south on Devisadero to Oak, east on Oak to Fillmore, north on Fillmore to Bush, east on Bush to Hyde, north on Hyde to Union, west on Union to Devisadero.
Headquarters, at No. 2040 Broadway.

Commanding officer, Lieut. Col. Lincoln Karmany, United States Marine Corps.
Personnel of command, all of the United States Marine Corps on duty in San Francisco.


All of Golden Gate Park.
Headquarters, at the Park lodge.
Commanding officer, Maj. G. W. McIver, 4th Infantry.
Personnel of command, two (2) companies of the 20th Infantry and one (1) troop of the 14th Cavalry.


To include the wharves between Fort Mason wharf and the Pacific Mail dock, both inclusive, in charge of the Navy.


Headquarters, at Fort Mason reservation.
Commanding officer, H. C. Benson, major, 14th Cavalry.
Personnel of command, two (2) troops of the 14th Cavalry.

Each officer designated in this order as a district commander will establish his headquarters immediately at the point designated and will distribute the troops under his command so as best to protect the property and keep order in his district.

The chief signal officer will, as soon as possible, connect each district headquarters with division and department headquarters by wire communication.

At a conference with the Mayor of San Francisco, Cal., it was concluded that normal conditions should be established as soon as possible. To accomplish this, district commanders will instruct the troops under their commands to prohibit the seizure of all vehicles of transportation by all persons within their districts unless they have a written order signed by the Mayor or division commander and dated April 22, 1906, or later.

3. Lights are authorized between sunset and 10 p.m. In case lights are burning after this hour, sentinels will investigate quietly and inform the occupants that orders require lights to be extinguished at 10 p. m. In houses no fires will be permitted in stoves, grates, furnaces, or other fireplaces having exit through chimney flues, unless the occupants of the house hold certificates issued by authorized inspector showing the chimneys in proper condition. The importance of this provision is emphasized by the fact that no effective means are at hand for stopping fires. Oil stoves may be used.

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4. All persons except suspicious characters will be permitted to pass sentinels without interruption provided they are orderly and do not destroy or otherwise molest or appropriate property not their own.

5. The division commander desires to impress upon the troops the importance of temperate action in dealing with the unfortunate people who are suffering from the awful catastrophe that has befallen them. He desires also the assistance of the people for whom every possible effort is being made and whose forbearance already bespeaks their courage under circumstances impossible to fully comprehend without experiencing them. In spite of their unfortunate condition we must ask this cooperation and assistance. Food supplies, tentage, and blankets are beginning to come in very rapidly and in a very few days it is believed that sufficient supplies of all kinds will be regularly distributed daily for the absolute want of all. It is particularly requested that no person permit himself to receive more of any kind of supplies than are absolutely necessary. Our greatest danger in the future may be expected from unavoidable insanitary conditions, and every person is cautioned that to violate in the slightest degree the instructions of the sanitary officers would be a crime that could have no adequate punishment.

By command of Brigadier-General Funston:
Colonel, General Staff, Chief of Staff.
Military Secretary.


San Francisco, Cal., April 24, 1906.

1. In order to facilitate the work at division and department headquarters; to avoid confusion and misunderstanding; to relieve, in part, the heavy strain on the department commander and his staff, and to simplify matters as much as possible in avoiding duplication of work, the duties relating to the following subjects will be handled exclusively at division headquarters:
(a) All general arrangements for cooperation with the municipal and State authorities relating to the control and supply of the homeless in San Francisco.
(b) All matters relating to sanitary arrangements.
(c) Distribution of troops. Under (c) all orders for change of station of troops, when not accomplished by general or special orders, will be communicated directly from division headquarters to the troops concerned, and in each case a report thereof will at once be made to the department commander.
2. The part of the command on duty in San Francisco and not assigned to specific duty in the city of San Francisco will be known as the Division Reserve. It will take station at the Presidio of San Francisco, Cal., under command of the senior officer, and will be under the orders of the division commander.

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3. That part of paragraph 2, General Orders, No. 12, Pacific Division, 1906, headed "Sixth district," is hereby modified to read as follows:


To include the wharves between the east line of Fort Mason reservation and the Pacific Mail dock, including the latter, in charge of the Navy.

By command of Major-General Greely:
Colonel, General Staff, Chief of Staff.
Acting Military Secretary.


San Francisco, Cal., April 26, 1906.

1. Hereafter the commanding general, Department of California, will have entire charge of the distribution of all troops, all departmental transportation, and in general will consider all complaints and requests that come from individuals outside of the military forces.
2. The division commander will retain control of sanitation and all general arrangements for cooperation with the municipal and State authorities relating to the control and supply of the destitute in San Francisco.
3. In case it becomes necessary to redistrict the city of San Francisco, Cal., the commanding general, Department of California, will prescribe the limits of the districts and designate the location of the various headquarters and give such instructions to the district commanders as in his opinion will most efficiently control the situation.
4. All orders in conflict with the provisions of this order are hereby revoked.

By command of Major-General Greely:
Colonel, General Staff, Chief of Staff.
Acting Military Secretary.


San Francisco, Cal., April 28, 1906.

The following regulations for the government of the several military sanitary divisions of San Francisco are announced and will be strictly followed by all concerned:
1. A commissioned medical officer of the Army has been assigned to each sanitary division by the department commander with a sufficient

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number of assistants to perform the requisite duties and with authority to see that the provisions of this order are properly executed.
2. The medical officer so designated will assign sanitary inspectors whose duty it shall be to inspect the general police of the camp, its quarters and streets, the kitchens, the food, its quantity and quality, method of preparation, etc., the condition of latrines and urinals, and the general health of its population. The sanitary inspectors will make to the surgeon of the sanitary division a report of any unfavorable conditions or unusual increase in sickness, with their remarks and recommendations in the premises, these reports to be promptly forwarded to the chief sanitary officer.

3. At retreat night-soil buckets and urine tubs will be furnished at convenient places for the use of females and small children, including boys not over eight years of age, and in a separate locality similar provisions will be made for boys and men. These conveniences will be inclosed by suitable structures and will be removed at reveille by scavengers, who will clean them and place necessary disinfectants in them for use the next night.

4. The sanitary officer will provide an ample force of scavengers, who will be employed and paid by the Quartermaster's Department, to clean the latrines and urinal tubs. They will also remove all kitchen and other garbage and either cremate it or dispose of it in such safe place as the sanitary officer shall direct.

5. All persons living in camps should be warned that the drinking water, under existing circumstances, is unsafe for use unless it has previously been sterilized by boiling, and efforts should be made by inspectors to require them to put in daily practice these precautionary measures.

6. Kitchens should be located at as great a distance as possible from latrines, and people should be instructed in the fact of the easy transmission of disease by flies passing from latrines to the kitchens and infecting the food. These latrines should be located when practicable on the leeward side of the camp to avoid the blowing of infected dust on the food. It must be borne in mind that while the sanitation of these camps is now in fairly good condition there has not yet been time for the development of infectious disorders, such as typhoid fever, etc., and every means should therefore be used to protect the food supply from such infection.

7. Daily sick calls should be held in each division and slight cases of sickness treated, but all serious cases or those likely to be ill more than a few days should be sent to the Army General Hospital, Presidio, or to the temporary hospital in Golden Gate Park.

8. If any infectious diseases appear, the case should at once be sent to the Harbor View Hospital or the Hospital for Contagious Diseases at Golden Gate Park and every precaution taken for thorough disinfection to guard against a further spread of such disease.

By command of Major-General Greely:
Colonel, General Staff, Chief of Staff.
Acting Military Secretary.

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