After visiting Antietam
Battlefield, Eric & I
went to the National
Museum of Civil War
Medicine in the 1800s was on the cusp of life saving advances. Thousands of aspiring doctors were studying medicine in medical colleges across America.
This painting shows the first time
Ether was used during surgery. at
on October 16, 1846.
Dr. John CollinsWarren is removing a tumor from a patient's neck while anesthetized with Ether. The general anesthesia was administered by a dentist named William T. G. Morton. Now patients could skip the pain of surgery and proceed to recovery.
By the numbers: Union soldiers: 2,672,341 Confederate soldiers: 750,000 to 1,227,890
Civil War Battles: 50 major battles, 100 other significant battles, 10,350 other military engagements, ex. skirmishes, raids
Hundreds and thousands of
men were living in primitive
conditions in the field.
The camps had poor sanitary facilities. Often, the men's diet was poor. Military doctors in camp were busy keeping soldiers healthy.
Soldiers presented at sick call
with numerous complaints.
Living in close quarters with poor sanitary conditions led to many ailments including diarrhea and dysentery. Of the 620,000 Union and Confederate soldiers killed during the war, 413,333 died from disease.
Medical care on the battlefield:
Surgeons & medical staff
treated the wounded during
Removing the wounded from battlefields took time... Hours and sometimes days after larger battles. Soldiers continued to bleed as their wounds went unattended. They went into shock, became dehydrated, infections started...
The wounded were taken by
horse drawn ambulance
to the closest field hospital.
At the beginning of the Civil War, ambulances were two wheeled carts that were not built to transport injured people. A four wheeled covered wagon with springs was more efficient and comfortable for men in pain. Corps of ambulances were dispatched to move the wounded, two per ambulance, as quickly as possible.
Two views of the wounded
in the Lutheran Church
Many soldiers who had been struck by Minie Balls went "under the saw." This type of bullet, with a hollow base, splinters after impact inflicting horrible damage on its victims. Many soldiers with gunshot wounds had arms and/or legs amputated.
Surgeons of this era did not know that germs caused diseases. They didn't know that bloody, contaminated medical equipment allowed germs and bacteria to infect wounds. Statistics from the amputations done throughout the Civil War show that the closer the amputation is to the body, the higher the mortality rate. Forearm amputations had a mortality rate of 14 percent. Hip amputations had a mortality rate of 88 percent.
A reenactor tells visitors
about a surgeon's medical
Medical treatment continued aboard Union trains that were retrofitted as hospitals. The Union Navy converted ships for use as floating hospitals to care for injured soldiers.
A scale model of Hammond
The beds had generous
space between them.
Civil War hospitals relied
on women... nurses & nuns
with medical experience
to care for recuperating
Soldiers with broken legs
Recovering amputees needed
prosthetic arms & legs.
Experimentation, innovation and customization led to advances in artificial limbs.