Blogging from A to Z: T is for Lt. Col. George H. Torney
Maman also went to visit Lieutenant Colonel Torney, the commander of the general hospital, to see how we could all help out. Between the regular hospital and the field hospital, they were horribly short-handed. The Presidio General Hospital was the first to allow women from the Army Nurse Corps, and so Colonel Torney, whom Maman called Georges (his first name was the English George) accepted Maman’s offer of assistance.
So, many mornings, Maeve, Maman and I would be on the wagon over to the field hospital in Golden Gate Park. We helped distribute food, write letters … whatever was needed. Maman’s staunch attitude in the face of horror saw her helping out the orderlies in surgeries. Maeve Kaye and I agreed that we could not have borne it ourselves; Maeve had never seen my Papa’s face (which I must admit was becoming harder for me to recall to mind) nor heard about Philippe’s burns. Maman was made of sterner stuff than one might ordinarily credit her. Beau-Père always said her frailties were well-hidden. — From my novel, In The Eye of The Storm
Brig. Gen. George H. Torney. U.S. Army photo
In my earlier post about earthquake cottages, I talked a little about the U.S. Army’s involvement in the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Along with building the little houses, the Army treated many of the injured victims at the Presidio General Hospital, in building 1006 (this is the building in which I worked when I was deputy public affairs officer for Letterman Army Medical Center), as well as in field hospitals deployed in various parts of the city.
The hospital commander at the time was Lt. Col. George H. Torney. He had come to the hospital originally for treatment a couple of years before the earthquake, and was eventually appointed not only its commander, but chief surgeon for the Department of California. He would eventually rise to the rank of brigadier general.
At the time of the earthquake, Torney soon put command of the over-taxed hospital in the hands of his deputy/adjutant, and designated himself as the chief sanitary officer for the city. He went around to the various encampments to make sure disease was not spreading, ensure that food and water were safe and clean, etc. You can read his report to the Secretary of the Army concerning the earthquake here.
Brig. Gen. Torney passed away in 1913, just a few months before he would have been eligible to retire, of bronchial pneumonia.
I got to know the history of the hospital, and the various buildings in which it was housed (Building 1006 was the second of three) during my time working on the Presidio of San Francisco. Lt. Col. Torney was surely one of the heroes of the earthquake recovery process, and I delighted in including him in my story.