Thousands might die in a day on any Civil War battlefield, and thousands more would die in the days following. With no antibiotics, gangrene ran riot as did camp fevers and dysentery. The doctor was a "saw bones" who might or might not have a medical degree. Women volunteered as nurses in makeshift battlefield hospitals. It was a bloody, terrible scene played out again and again, but the doctors and nurses did what they could with what was available to them.
"...surgeon and medical historian Rutkow argues that it is impossible to grasp the realities of the Civil War without an awareness of the state of medicine at the time. The use of ether and chloroform remained crude, and they were often unavailable--so many surgical procedures were performed without anesthesia, on the battleground or in a field hospital. This meant that "clinical concerns were often of less consequence than the swiftness of the surgeon's knife." Also, the existence of pathogenic microorganisms was still unknown, as was disinfection. From the soldiers who endured the ravages of combat to the government officials who directed the war machine, from the good Samaritans who organized aid commissions to the nurses who cared for the wounded, this book presents a story of suffering, politics, character, and, ultimately, healing."
(From the publisher's description)
Nurses' and doctors' own words add an additional poignancy to a history which often relies on statistics and formal reports. Includes selections from Louisa May Alcott and Walt Whitman, both of whom served as nurses.
By Natalie Babbitt and Laura L. Behling
The care of the sick, wounded, and dying during the American Civil War was a complex endeavor that brought ordinary men and women into contact with the terror of the battlefield. Hospital Transports is a compilation of letters and other papers written by physicians and nurses serving aboard the Union hospital steamboat Daniel Webster in the summer of 1862. The text details sleeping arrangements, cooking and feeding schedules, medical practices, and the incorporation of liberated slaves from the Lee plantation into the daily work of the ship. Clearly described are the emotional, visceral reactions of the corps of medical personnel who, as their ship makes its way along the Potomac picking up casualties, question the philosophies at the root of war, and the metaphysical questions concerning the definitions of life and death.
This eBook was originally published in 1863. Click here for more information on how to access eBooks in our collection.
This gathering of memories from 98 Union nurses was first published in 1895.
A very readable work that looks at both sides of the conflict and particular areas of interest: Medicine at Sea, Stonewall Jackson Struck by Friendly Fire, The Introduction of Women Nurses, and more. Many photos.
By George Worthington Adams
Considered a classic work on the medical history of the Union Army, Adams account has many fascinating statistics and tells the story behind them. For example, only 1/3 of the 300,000 Union soldiers who died during the Civil War were killed by the Confederate Army. Disease took the rest. Also available: Doctors in Gray.
Bollet compares Civil War medicine to that used during the Crimean War (shortly before) and during the Franco-German War (immediately after) and comes to the somewhat surprising conclusion that the Americans were doing extremely well compared to their European counterparts. Lengthy and with many statistics.
First-hand accounts from letters, journals, reports, and diaries from both sides of the conflict tell the story of the struggle to treat the wounded in the Civil War. Items are arranged chronologically from January 1862 to October 1865. Includes black and white photos.
A good choice for getting a grounding in the subject or school reports. Many illustrations.
Phoebe Yates Pember penned the story of her time as chief matron at Chimorazo Hospital in Richmond shortly after the Civil War.