Cochran, John

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Cochran, John

COCHRAN, JOHN. (1730–1807). Last medical director of the Continental Army. Pennsylvania. Born on 1 September 1730 in Sadsbury, Pennsylvania, John Cochran entered British service as a surgeon's mate during the Seven Years' War. Cochran saw a great deal of action, taking part in the battle of Fort Oswego in 1756, Colonel John Bradstreet's capture of Fort Frontenac in 1758, the British defeat at Fort Ticonderoga in 1758, and General Jeffrey Amherst's campaign up Lake Champlain in 1760. By war's end Cochran was a specialist not only in the treatment of wounds, but also in inoculation. Having made friends with Philip Schuyler during the war, Cochran settled in and married Philip's sister, Gertrude Schuyler. In 1762 he moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey, and helped found the New Jersey Medical Society in 1766, becoming its president in 1769. With the outbreak of the Revolution, Cochran volunteered. He was present with General George Washington during the crossing of the Delaware and at winter quarters in Morristown. He also collaborated with William Shippen, Jr. in preparing the plans that were used to reorganize the army medical department after 14 February 1777. On 11 April 1777 he was named physician and surgeon general of the Middle Department, and on 6 October 1780 he became chief physician and surgeon for the army. Among the hundreds of serious wounds he treated were those of General Lafayette (Joseph Paul Yves Roche Gilbert du Motier) at the Battle of Brandywine and Benedict Arnold at Saratoga. Following the traitor Benjamin Church and the Philadelphia doctors John Morgan and William Shippen, on 17 January 1781 he ascended to the top position in the army's medical department and served to the end of the war. In this position he was able to correct many of the inefficiencies he so vehemently deplored.

After the war Cochran settled in New York City, and in 1790 President George Washington had him appointed commissioner of loans. After suffering a paralytic stroke in 1795 he retired to Palatine, New York, where he died on 6 April 1807.

SEE ALSO Shippen Family of Philadelphia.


Saffron, Morris H. Surgeon to Washington: Dr. John Cochran, 1730–1807. New York: Columbia University Press, 1977.

                        revised by Michael Bellesiles

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