From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Dr. Bodo Otto (1711–1787) was a Senior Surgeon of the Continental Army during the American Revolution. He was one of the early settlers of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, having emigrating from the British Colony of Hanover in what is now Germany in 1755.[1]

During the Revolution the Second Continental Congress appointed Otto to establish a military hospital in Trenton, New Jersey for the treatment of smallpox. He was present during the Battle of Long Island in 1776.[2] He was also assigned to the Continental hospital at Valley Forge and located in the Uwchlan Meetinghouse.[3] Later during the Revolution, Otto was put in charge of the hospitals in Yellow Springs (in what is now Chester Springs, Pennsylvania), where he and his son treated the ill soldiers from Valley Forge.[1] IOn Christmas night of 1777,Dr. Otto and his son crossed the ice choked Delaware River with General Washington and his army and surprised British troops and Hessian mercenaries encamped at Trenton. He was widely respected for selflessly treating wounded and dying Hessians. There were only a smattering of casualties on the American side.

His three sons were also physicians for the Army, and assisted him as Junior Surgeon and Surgeon Mates.[1]

Otto did not retire from his Army service until the age of 70.[1]

Prior to the Revolution Otto publicly opposed the Stamp Act and also served on the Berks County Committee of Public Safety.[2]

Some of his medical training he received at the University of Göttingen.[4] Bodo used Trinity Lutheran Church in Reading as a hospital to treat wounded soldiers from the Battle of Brandywine.

Otto died in 1787 and was buried in Reading, Pennsylvania at the Trinity Lutheran Church (where he was a member) Cemetery.[5] Many of his surgical instruments as well as a portrait of him and his wife are in the collection of the Historical Society of Berks County in Reading.

A great grandson, William Todd Otto, a Judge from Indiana, served in Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet as Assistant Secretary of the Interior. According to the New York Times, Judge Otto was one of twelve men permitted at Mr. Lincoln’s bedside when he died.


  • Early settler of Colonial Philadelphia area (emigrated from Germany, 1755).
  • Served as a Senior Surgeon of the Continental Army, American Revolution.
  • In February 1777, Congress appointed him to establish a military hospital for the treatment of smallpox in Trenton, to inoculate the troops.
  • December 1777 assigned to the Continental hospital at Valley Forge, where Federal records include specification for construction of hut (windows, chimney, shingles) for the “Flying Camp” (M.A. S.H.).
  • Spring of 1778 he was placed in charge of the hospitals at Yellow Springs where many of the sick from the camp at Valley Forge were treated for epidemics of smallpox and typhus following that famous winter encampment of misery and hardships.
  • Held the title of Hospital Physician and Surgeon until his retirement from the Army at the age of 70, one of the last to leave the service in Feb. 1782, several months after the surrender at Yorktown.
  • His three sons, also physicians for the Continental Army, assisted him, serving as Junior Surgeon and Surgeon Mates.
© Copyright - The Dr. Bodo Otto Association