Colonel John Van Rennselaer Hoff

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John Van Rennselaer Hoff, Kolonel

Birthdate: (72)
Death: 1920 (72)
Immediate Family:

Son of Colonel Alexander Hoff (USA) and Ann Eliza Hoff
Husband of Lavinia Day
Brother of Caroline Clay Hoff

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Colonel John Van Rennselaer Hoff

John van Rennselaer Hoff was born at Mt. Morris, N. Y., on April 11, 1848, the son of Colonel Alexander H. Hoff. He received his B.A. degree in 1871 and the M. A. degree in 1874 from Union University, and his M. D. from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1874. From 1874 until 1879 he served at posts on the Western frontier in Nebraska and Wyoming. In 1882 he was post surgeon at Alcatraz Island, and then relieved Surgeon George M. Sternberg at Fort Mason in 1884. In 1886 Hoff took a year's leave abroad and studied at the University of Vienna. On return to the United States, he organized the first detachment of the newly-authorized hospital corps at Fort Reno, Indian territory, and then became post surgeon at Fort Riley. He organized the first company of instruction for the hospital corps and wrote the first drill regulations for those units while at Fort Riley.

In November, 1890, Hoff took the field with eight troops of the Seventh Cavalry Regiment and participated in the last battle of the Indian wars. His gallantry was noted in Gen. Order No. 100: "Major John Van R. Hoff, Surgeon, U. S. Army, for conspicuous bravery and coolness under fire in caring for the wounded in action against hostile Sioux Indians, at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota." As evidence that service on the frontier at that time was not a sinecure, it should be noted that immediately on his return to Fort Riley from this battle he was ordered to proceed to Florence, Kansas, to care for troopers of the Seventh cavalry who had been injured in a railroad accident at that point. On June 15, 1891, Hoff was promoted to major and surgeon. In 1892 the cavalry and light artillery school was officially established by War Department General Order No. 17, although academic work did not begin until 1893. In that year Hoff was transferred, and subsequent tours included the position of chief surgeon in Third Army Corps, Department of Puerto Rico, U. S. Forces in China, Department of The Lakes, Department of the Missouri, Department of the Philippines, and Department of the East. In addition, Hoff found opportunity to be an instructor in ophthalmology at the University of California, a professor at the Army Medical School, Instructor at the General Staff College, and professor of military sanitation at the University of Nebraska.

Hoff was an observer in the Russo-Japanese war. For several years he was editor of The Military Surgeon and was the third president of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States. He was commissioned a lieutenant colonel of volunteers in May, 1898, and promoted to colonel and assistant surgeon general in 1905. He retired April 11, 1912, but was assigned to active duty in the office of the surgeon general in 1916. Hoff was a recognized pioneer in the military science of army field medicine. While at Fort Riley, Hoff's medical and teaching staff included First Lieutenants and Assistant. Surgeons Benjamin Brooke, Joseph Taylor Clarke, Henry C. Fisher, James Denver Glennan, Merritte Weber Ireland, Frank Royer Keefer, and Francis Anderson Winter. Doctor Hoff died in 1920.

Captain John Van Rennselaer Hoff was a forty-two-year-old assistant surgeon and ranking medical officer at Wounded Knee. At the Wounded Knee investigation he testified that he did not believe any soldiers were killed or wounded by friendly fire. In 1891, he was commended by the Commanding General of the Army in General Order 100 for “extraordinary heroism.” Hoff retired from the Army as a Colonel in 1912 and died in 1920. In 1925 he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions at Wounded Knee.

Hoff, John Van R.

Captain (Assistant Surgeon), U.S. Army

Home: New York, New York

Medical Corps

Date of Action: December 29, 1890

General Orders No. No. 3, W.D., 1925


The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to John Van R. Hoff, Captain (Assistant Surgeon), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action against hostile Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, December 29, 1890.

When the Indians made a sudden treacherous attack upon the troops Captain Hoff, with utter disregard for his personal safety, attended to the dressing of the wounds of fallen soldiers.

John van Rennselaer Hoff




1920  (72)  

Immediate Family:

Son of Colonel Alexander Hoff (USA) and Ann Eliza Van Rensselaer

Husband of Lavinia Day
Brother of Caroline Clay Hoff
view all

Colonel John Van Rennselaer Hoff's Timeline

Age 72