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Monday, November 14, 2016

The National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland

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

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.

Fort Sumter was attacked by the Confederacy on April 12, 1861.  As America sent its sons to fight for the Union and for the Confederacy, doctors use all their skills to save lives of soldiers from the North and from the South.

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

Throughout the four years of the Civil War. over 3 million American men took up arms.  Many of the battles and military engagements occurred throughout the South.

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. 

The wounded were treated as quickly as possible, in hastily created field hospitals:  homes, barns, schools, hotels, churches by those at hand... doctors, nurses, local citizens.

Two views of the wounded
in the Lutheran Church 
in Frederick

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

A scale model of Hammond

Each wing housed about sixty men.  The current medical theory was that miasma (bad air) caused disease.  Open, airy wards with were believed to be the healthiest places for wounded soldiers to recover from their wounds.

The beds had generous
space between them.

Civil War hospitals relied
on women... nurses & nuns
with medical experience
to care for recuperating
Civil War pain killers included alcohol, morphine and opium.  After the war ended and soldiers returned home, many of the wounded dealt with drug and alcohol dependency.

Soldiers with broken legs
  needed splints.

Recovering amputees needed
prosthetic arms & legs.

Experimentation, innovation and customization led to advances in artificial limbs.

War is hell.  There is much physical pain, death and loss of property.  The chaos and horrors of war demand innovation and improvisation to care for the wounded.  Treatments and techniques make their way into the mainstream and the general population benefits with better health care.

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