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Jonathan Messersmith Foltz
Born (1810-04-25)April 25, 1810
Died April 12, 1877(1877-04-12) (aged 66)
Place of birth Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Place of death Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1831–1872
Rank USN commodore rank insignia.jpg Commodore
Commands held Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery and Surgeon General

Jonathan Messersmith Foltz (25 April 1810 – 12 April 1877) was a military surgeon of the United States Navy, who served in the Mexican–American War and American Civil War, eventually rising to the rank of commodore and serving as Surgeon General of the United States Navy in 1871-72.


Foltz was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He studied medicine as the apprentice of Dr. William Thompson from 1825–28, and graduated from Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, in 1830.[1]

Foltz entered the Navy as an assistant surgeon on 4 April 1831, serving aboard the frigate Potomac, and in February 1832[1] landed with the storming party at Quallah Battoo, Sumatra, being specially commended in Lieutenant Irvine Shubrick's official dispatch.[2] Potomac finally returned to Boston in June 1834, and Foltz then served at the Medical Bureau, Washington, D.C., being stationed at Washington Navy Yard. In 1835 he published his observations on the voyage of the Potomac, and in 1837 received an honorary degree of Master of Arts from Yale College. In February 1838 he was present at the duel between William J. Graves and Jonathan Cilley[1]

On 8 December 1838 Foltz was examined and received promotion to the rank of Surgeon in the Navy, and on 1 April 1839 was appointed Surgeon of the Naval Hospital at Port Mahon, Minorca. On 13 March 1841 was assigned to the frigate Brandywine, and 30 October 1843 to the frigate Raritan. Between 1844-46 he served as Fleet Surgeon aboard the Raritan during the Mexican War and was present at the battles of Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, the blockade of Vera Cruz, and the battles of Alvarado and Tabasco.[1] Foltz remained aboard Raritan in the Brazil Squadron until 1847, and served in the Jamestown of the same squadron in 1851-54. He was fleet surgeon of the Western Gulf Squadron in 1862-63, and was with David Farragut on the Hartford in all his battles during those years. He occupied the same place on the Franklin during Farragut's voyage to Europe in 1867-78.[2]

Foltz was president of the naval medical board in 1870-71,[2] of which he was one of the founding members in 1857.[1] He became medical director on 3 March 1871, and was appointed "Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery" and "Surgeon General", with the rank of commodore, on 25 October of that year. He was placed on the retired list on 25 April 1872.[2]


  • The Medical Statistics and Observations during a Voyage around the World, on board the United States Frigate "Potomac", in the years 1831-4 (1835)
  • The Pernicious Fevers of Africa (1838)
  • On the Employment of Steamships of War in the United States Navy (1842)
  • On the Endemic Influence of Evil Government as illustrated in the Island of Minorca, with Notes on the Climate, Topography, and Diseases of the Island (1843)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>"Jonathan Messersmith Foltz : Biographical Information" (PDF). F&M Library: Archives & Special Collections. 2009. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Appleton's Cyclopædia (1900)


  • Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900) "Foltz, Jonathan Messersmith" Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography New York: D. Appleton 

Further reading

  • Foltz, Charles S. (1931). Surgeon of the Seas: the Adventurous Life of Surgeon General Jonathan M. Foltz in the Days of Wooden Ships. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company. 

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