Civil War Hospital Ship

The U.S.S. Red Rover, a captured Confederate vessel, was refitted as a hospital ship.

Evolution of Civil War Nursing

The evolution of the nursing profession in America was accelerated by the Civil War.

The Practice of Surgery

Amputations were the most common surgery performed during the Civil War.

Army Medical Museum and Library

Surgeon-General William Hammond established The Army Medical Museum in 1862. It was the first federal medical research facility.

Civil War Amputation Kit

Many Civil War surgical instruments had handles of bone, wood or ivory. They were never sterilized.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Angel's Glow at The Battle of Shiloh

From: americancivilwarstory.com

At the Battle of Shiloh a strange phenomenon took place which came be known as Angel's Glow...

As you may know, the Battle of Shiloh was a very bloody battle. With men desperately contesting the battle non-stop from dawn to dusk, the wounded and dying were left to find their own help. On top of that, neither army's medical services were prepared to deal with this level of carnage. As a result, many men were left lying in the field for days.

This was a wet swampy region, which meant many of the wounded spent their waiting hours lying in mud and foul water. To compound their misery, it also rained part of the time, especially the first night. All told, it took two days and two nights for all the wounded to be recovered from the battlefield at Shiloh.

So what does this have to do with Angel's Glow? Good question...

During the night, as men lay in the mud, muck, and rain, too wounded to crawl to safety, something strange began to happen...

Some men's wounds began to glow faintly!

For no apparent reason open, bloody wounds were giving off a faint greenish blue glow...

Spooky, right?

Well, the soldiers thought so too, until they were finally treated and began to recover. That is when things started to get even stranger...

It was then that medics discovered something odd. Men who reported that their wounds had been glowing during the night seemed to have definite advantages over those whose wounds did not glow. Those who had glowing wounds reportedly had a much higher survival rate than those who did not. Also, wounds that glowed seemed to have less infection, seemed to heal faster, and seemed to scar less than their non-glowing counterparts.

This was apparently not isolated to a few incidents either, because, it was prevalent enough to earn a nickname from soldiers. The glowing wounds were dubbed "Angel's Glow."

These stories have often been dismissed as folklore and legend, but now there seems to be a viable explanation for the legendary Angel's Glow...

The Angel's Glow Explanation...
An explanation for the possible cause of the Angel's Glow phenomenon was finally offered in 2001. This explanation was put forward by two high school students in their science fair project...

You read that right, SCIENCE FAIR PROJECT!!!

Kind of puts the old soda and vinegar volcano to shame, doesn't it?

The kids were 17 year old William Martin and 18 year old Jonathan Curtis. Granted, they got some assistance from Martin's microbiologist mother, but she insists that the idea was theirs and that they performed the experiments themselves...

So here is what they came up with...

It all starts with tiny parasitic worms called nematodes. These worms carry a bacteria called Photorhabdus luminescens, which glows in the dark. A nematodes preferred modus operandi is to burrow into an unsuspecting insect, puke out the Photorhabdus luminescens bacteria, wait for the bacteria to kill the insect, and then feast. What is interesting about this bacteria is that not only does it kill the insects, it tends to kill any competing bacteria it may find.

Therefore, the boys' theory was that nematodes were drawn to insects which might frequent gruesome wounds, and in puking bacteria into the insects also spilled some into the soldier's wounds. This would have caused the wounds to glow, while at the same time killing bacteria that causes gangrene and other dangerous infections. Which would in turn lead to better survival rates and quicker recovery.

There was one problem, Photorhabdus luminescens can not survive at warm temperatures like those found in the human body. So, there is no way this bacteria could survive in the wounds of soldiers; because, their warmth would kill it. If this good bacteria is dead, it can't kill the bad bacteria, which means no more Angel's Glow.

The kids came up with a solution to this problem, too. The Battle of Shiloh took place in early April when temperatures were still fairly cool. Also, the men involved lain out for long periods of time in wet, cold, muddy ground and got rained on. It is likely that many soldiers developed hypothermia. This would drive down body temperatures to levels not lethal to the good bacteria.

This also provides an explanation for why the soldiers did not develop Photorhabdus luminescens infections. Yes, it can cause an infection just like any other bacteria. The "good" bacteria killed off all other infection causing pathogens in the wounds, but when the men were taken to the hospital and warmed up, they naturally killed off the Photorhabdus luminescens, preventing it from causing an infection. Men whose wounds didn't glow, probably never got cold enough for hypothermia to set in, preventing the good bacteria from taking hold. Who knew it could be good to develop hypothermia?

There you have the amazing story of Angel's Glow and what is believed to have caused it...

Image: Battle of Shiloh - April 6-7, 1862

A Brief History Of The Dog Tag

By Sarah Sicard, 1-15-16

The use of the iconic form of identification has its roots in the Civil War.

During the Civil War, the inability of the military to identify battlefield casualties created the need for a soldier identification method.

According to the U.S. Army Quartermaster Foundation, prior to the Battle of Mine Run in northern Virginia 1863, Gen. George Meade’s troops wrote their names and unit designations on paper tags and pinned them to their clothing. At the same time, other soldiers created prototype identification tags out of pieces of wood, perforating one end so that they could be worn on a string around their necks.

Between 1862 and 1913, while the military considered a number of options for identifying soldier remains on the battlefield, individual soldiers continued to utilize makeshift identification methods. In 1906, a circular aluminum disc was presented. By 1913, identification tags were made mandatory by the military.

The circular tags, handstamped with name, rank, serial number, unit, and religion were used during World War I.

Dog tags, name tapes and memorabilia are displayed at the top of Mount Suribachi in Iwo To, formerly known as Iwo Jima, Japan, Dec. 17, 2014.

By World War I, soldiers wore two tags. “One tag remained with the body, tied around the legs or ankles or feet,” Luther Hanson, curator at the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum, told The New York Times in a 2013 interview.

Dog tags, name tapes and memorabilia are displayed at the top of Mount Suribachi in Iwo To, formerly known as Iwo Jima, Japan, Dec. 17, 2014.

Around World War II, the circular tag was replaced by the more oval shape used by the military today. Its resemblance to dog collar tags led to the designation of “dog tag.” The tags used during World War II were stamped by a machine and had a rectangular shape with round ends and a notch on one side.

A gruesome rumor circulated that the notch was put in the tag so that the tag could be placed in a dead soldier’s mouth hold it open to prevent the body from gaseous bloating. However, the real reason for the notch was that the stamping machine required it to hold the tag in place during embossing.

The point of the tag ultimately is to be left around the neck of a casualty, staying with the remains at all times.

According the Library of Congress, during the Vietnam War, “changes were made to the information on dog tags.The dog tags went from the earlier eight digits with their prefix to the current nine-day digit Social Security number. You could have both stamped on your tag if you wanted; but, from this point on, the Social Security number was the main identifying number.”

Additionally, tags worn by the Marine Corps had a variety of additions including the size of their gas mask. A number of religions were added and full names were spelled out as well.

Current dog tags still utilize a two-tag system, with one on a long a chain around the neck and one interlinked by a smaller chain. The point of this method is to have one that remains around the neck and another for the toe for the coroner’s purposes.

Though the dog tag has remained largely unchanged since the Vietnam War, the Army is currently developing and testing several new dog tags known by various names including the soldier data tag, individually carried record, meditag, and the personal information carrier.

The new dog tags will contain microchip or USB technology, which will hold a soldier’s medical and dental records, reported The New York Times.

Sarah Sicard is a staff writer with Task & Purpose. Follow Sarah Sicard on Twitter @smsicard

From: taskandpurpose.com

In 19th Century,Rabies Was Menacing

By Bill Kemp, Archivist/librarian; McLean County Museum of History 12-5-10

BLOOMINGTON — “Kill your dogs!” declared a panicky Bloomington newspaper in November 1860. “Better every one of them should die than that one human being should suffer.” At issue was an outbreak of hydrophobia (known today as rabies) among the canine and feline populations of the city.

The appearance of rabies often sparked such overreaction in the 19th century. A virus usually transmitted via saliva from the bites of infected animals (including people), rabies attacks the central nervous system, and once symptoms appear it’s almost always fatal. The late stages of the disease beggar all description: hydrophobia (fear of water), hallucinations, hypersalivation, difficulty swallowing, extreme agitation, uncontrollable violent acts and paralysis.

Until Louis Pasteur and Emile Roux developed a vaccine in the mid-1880s, bite marks from rabid or suspected rabid animals often were treated by cutting away the flesh in and around the infected area and then cauterizing the wound with “lunar caustic” (fused silver nitrate).

In May 1852, The Bloomington Intelligencer, a predecessor to The Pantagraph, reported a dog belonging to Kersey H. Fell (brother of town of Normal founder Jesse Fell) was killed “having previously exhibited the most indubitable indications of hydrophobia.” The Intelligencer called for a city ordinance “against the running at large of the canine race,” hoping further that such action would “lead to the extermination of a few hundred of the curs with which our town is infested.”

That August, the city did pass an ordinance for registering dogs and prohibiting them from running at large. Residents were required to register their animals with the city marshal and pay an annual tax of $1.25 for each male and $3 for each female. Registered dogs wore a metal collar supplied by the city marshal. There was a steep fine for keeping unregistered pets, and during a rabies scare the city marshal and his deputies were given the power to shoot all free-ranging canines, be they registered or not.

Misinformation was a frequent bedfellow of hydrophobia. Perhaps the oddest belief surrounding rabies was that of the supposed curative powers of madstones, which were not stones at all but rather hard, roundish, porous-like concretions found in the stomachs of deer.

Well-accepted folk medicine tradition held that a madstone placed on the suppurating bite wound would soak up blood and “poisons.” When “full,” the stone would drop off, and after being cleaned in water and dried, the process would be repeated until it would no longer “adhere” to the wound.

In late 1900, The Pantagraph detailed the story of a madstone in the possession of Mrs. D.T. Crocker of South Lee Street in Bloomington. According to the article, the madstone had been in the family for more than 200 years, arriving in the U.S. with an ancestor from Wales. In the mid-19th century, the stone was split in two, with Crocker’s mother, Scynthia A. Ewing, getting one of the pieces. Ewing was said to have treated some 120 cases “with great success,” and the daughter continued the family tradition. Crocker, for instance, had seen a girl from LeRoy, and the madstone “adhered to the wound 18 times,” reported The Pantagraph.

Rabid dogs running wild remained a serious concern well into the 20th century. In December 1936, to cite one example, a “stray brindle mongrel” bit at least five city residents before the animal was “dispatched by means of a police bullet.” The state health department delivered five packages of free anti-rabies vaccine to Dr. Benjamin Markowitz, Bloomington’s public health director, and those bitten received the appropriate ministrations.

In January 1943, a rabid dog ran wild in Mt. Hope and Funk’s Grove townships in southwestern McLean County until it was shot dead by farmer Marvin Haughey. It had bitten and infected dairy cows, hogs and other dogs. “Farmers in the vicinity have been advised to kill less valuable animals, and to have the more valuable treated,” noted The Pantagraph.

Farmhand George Boeker, working on the Haughey place, was attacked by a rabid hog. “He managed to beat off the hog with his heavy boots and finally killed it,” read the news account. “The second hog went mad the same day in the lot with a drove of others. It was killed, but it is believed to have done much damage among the other hogs.”

Though rabies is no longer the scourge it once was, it is still with us. Just this summer, the McLean County Health Department reported the highest number of rabies-positive bats in 20 years.

From: pantagraph.com

Elmira Prison

From: nps.gov

Elmira, New York, is situated five miles from the Pennsylvania line. In the beginning the camp was used for new recruits, but by May 15, 1864, some of the barracks were set aside for prisoners-of-war. A twelve foot-high fence was constructed, framed on the outside with a sentry's walk four feet below the top and built at a safe distance from the barracks. Housing consisted of thirty-five two-story barracks each measuring 100 by 20 feet. Two rows of bunks were along the walls and as the prison became crowded some prisoners lived in "A" tents.

The first group of prisoners, shipped from Point Lookout, Maryland, arrived at Elmira on July 6 and numbered 399 men. By the end of July, 4,424 prisoners were packed in the compound with another 3,000 en route. By mid-August the number leaped to 9,600. The inmates of Elmira weathered hunger, illness and melancholia but, even worse, exposure to the elements. Late in the winter of 1864-65 some stoves were distributed to the prisoners but not enough for everyone. The southerners were exposed to temperatures of ten to fifteen degrees below zero and many succumbed to freezing.

Of the total of 12,123 soldiers imprisoned at Elmira, 2,963 died of sickness, exposure and associated causes. The camp was officially closed on July 5, 1865. All that remains today of Elmira Prison is a well-kept cemetery along the banks of the Chemung River.

Something Must Be Done: The Construction and Dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg

By Hannah Christensen ’17

Not only did the armies leave something of a state of chaos behind them after the battle of Gettysburg; they also left their dead buried poorly almost everywhere. Within days, the combination of rain and pigs rooting around the battlefield had exposed multiple skeletons and partially-decomposed bodies. The smell was horrendous, and residents and visitors alike were shocked by the state of the burials.

Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin was among these visitors. After seeing the state of affairs during his tour of the battlefield on July 10th, Curtin appointed local attorney David Wills to act as his “agent” in affairs related to Pennsylvania’s dead. As agent, Wills did everything from helping families locate loved ones’ bodies to disinterring and sending those remains home. This process was made more complicated by the fact that those grave markers that existed were only partially legible, if at all.

Wills also got to know other state agents, including William Yates Selleck of Wisconsin and Henry Edwards of Massachusetts. It was Edwards and Massachusetts officials who brought up the idea of purchasing part of the battlefield to turn into a cemetery. Wills also got the head of the Christian Commission of Pennsylvania, Andrew B. Cross, in on the idea. When Wills wrote to Governor Curtin about it on July 24th, the governor quickly authorized him to get to work.

Three developments impacted the success of the cemetery project before it really began. First, the military commander at Gettysburg, Colonel Henry C. Alleman, halted the exhumation and shipping home of any more bodies, inadvertently assuring that more would be buried in the proposed cemetery. Second, a fight over the organization of the cemetery occurred between Wills and the Massachusetts representatives. The representatives wanted the dead buried by state, while Wills planned to mix them together. Wills deferred to Massachusetts to keep them on board. Last was a fight over control of the cemetery. The governing body of the local Evergreen Cemetery wanted it under their control, which nearly derailed the entire project when state agents threatened to pull out if the cemetery got its way. Thankfully, Wills was able to out-argue the association, and the cemetery project continued as planned.

Between his first letter to the governor on July 24th and his second on the 30th, Wills took steps to purchase the necessary land, get more states on board, and write to the governors of the other Union states with his plans. By July 30th, Wills already had eight state agents on board and believed that the rest would eventually follow suit. He also had the potential location and cost of land for the cemetery site. After a telegram to the other state governors explaining his plan, Wills went ahead and purchased a total of seventeen acres for $2,475.87.

At the same time, Wills got the Connecticut and Wisconsin agents to help draft a circular to the state governors, drafted specifications and advertised for bids to rebury the Union soldiers in the cemetery, and contacted one William Saunders to lay out the cemetery grounds. Wills included this information, as well as the total cost of the project–under $35,000–in his circular to the state governors on August 12th. He also asked the governors to appoint agents to work on the cemetery project and inquired if they wanted to purchase their state’s portion of the cemetery.

Wills’s report to Governor Curtin in mid-August indicated that progress was being made. Fifteen of seventeen governors had responded, the location and layout of the cemetery had been set, and Wills was ready to move ahead. His suggestion for some kind of dedication ceremony was also well-received and he was immediately authorized to plan one. Wills turned to the other states for suggestions for the ceremony. They were in unanimous agreement with Wills’s invitation to Edward Everett of Massachusetts to give the main oration.

Everett’s attendance would dictate the date of the ceremony. Wills had originally planned for the dedication ceremony to be on October 23rd, but Everett would not be able to do it before November 19th. So, the ceremony was moved to the 19th; this meant the reburials would start about a month before the ceremony. Now that Wills had the date for the ceremony, he sent out the rest of his invitations: President Lincoln, whom Wills invited to give “a few appropriate remarks;” Vice President Hamlin, the cabinet, foreign ministers, and generals were all invited. Wills also invited the House chaplain, Reverend Thomas Stockton to give the invocation, Reverend Henry Baugher (president of the Gettysburg Seminary) to give the benediction, and several bands to provide music for the occasion. To manage the ceremony and the procession, Wills chose Ward Lamon, the U.S. marshal in D.C. and Lincoln’s bodyguard. Wills had high hopes for the dedication ceremony, but several officials were unable to attend, and a few railroad companies backed out of running special trains for the occasion.

As November 19th got closer, Wills took care of several last-minute details, and guests began to arrive. Edward Everett arrived on the 17th, President Lincoln arrived after dark on the 18th, and Governor Curtin did not arrive until around midnight. On the morning of the 19th, the weather was perfect, but the masses of people who had arrived for the ceremony made it hard for Ward Lamon to get everyone in line for the procession by the intended start time of 10 o’clock. According to the program, the military was supposed to form up at 9 o’clock just north of the square, all the civic bodies (except for citizens of states) were supposed to be in line elsewhere at the same time, and the citizens of states were supposed to be in line at 9 o’clock as well. The procession did not start until nearly 11 o’clock.

Once the procession reached the cemetery, the program began. It started with a funeral march from one of the bands, followed by the invocation from Reverend Stockton and a performance from another band. Then, Lamon introduced Edward Everett, who gave a two-hour long speech recounting the entire battle. Everett was followed by a choir, and then President Lincoln was introduced. His short “Gettysburg Address” was interrupted repeatedly by applause and ended with even more applause. Once the applause died down, a choir of Gettysburg residents sung a dirge, and Reverend Baugher gave the benediction. With the ceremony essentially over, a battery of the 5th New York fired an eight-shot salute, and the attendees dispersed. Wills, the president, and several other prominent guests headed back to Wills’s house and later back to Washington.

While the dedication ceremony was officially over, there was still work to be done. The reburials still had to be finished—the process would take until March of 1864. In addition, a commission had to be set up to handle cemetery operations, and a monument had to be erected. While the commission was selected in December 1863, the cornerstone of the monument was not laid until July 4, 1865. The process of creating and dedicating the cemetery was far longer and far more complicated than just the dedication that people celebrate today.

Klement, Frank L. The Gettysburg Soldiers’ Cemetery and Lincoln’s Address: Aspects and Angles. Shippensburg, PA: White Mane Publishing Company, 1993.

“Program Containing the Order of Procession and Order of Exercises for the “Inauguration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, PA, 19 November, 1863,” Gettysburg Battlefield

Memorial Association, Civil War Vertical File Manuscripts, Gettysburg College Special Collections.

Image: President Lincoln at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, November 19th, 1863. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

From: gettysburgcompiler.com

The Women of Winchester, Virginia

By Virginia R. Bensen, 11-30-11

We are happy to welcome guest author Virginia R. Bensen.

This is the Introduction to a series of articles that will follow over the next few months about the Civil War women of Winchester, Virginia. What is interesting about these women is each represents either a Unionist or Secessionist perspective. The articles in this series will sometimes focus on just one woman from Winchester or Frederick County, Virginia. In other articles, there will be a bantering of diary entries between two or more women.

At first I thought I would write about all Secessionists, and then all Unionists, or all about the younger women or older women, but in thinking about presentation, I decided it would be more interesting to mix up these women and present the series more in a chronological order. This will provide the reader an opportunity to make easier comparisons of perspectives and attitudes of the women.

Scholarly work that has been presented about Southern women has been primarily about the wealthy plantation mistress. Only during the past twenty years has the focus changed to examining the lives and experiences of other classes and races of women of the Civil War period. All of the women of course who wrote diaries were literate and fairly well educated. In reading these diaries and manuscripts, it appears that when the women are occupied by their enemy, it is at that time they are prolific writers. The articles will span a focus from the wealthy socialite to the mercantile store keeper, and to those in between. Most of the writers are widowed or single and the ages range from a 14-year-old to a 45-year-old. Unlike the plantation mistresses or belles who were found in the Deep South, these women represent the women who lived in the Shenandoah Valley region.  Their values and beliefs in some ways are similar to those in the Deep South, but in other ways they are quite different.

The women of Winchester, Virginia regardless of whether they supported the Union or the Confederacy, tended to be tenacious in their loyalties. This brought about a tension that built over time between those who were pro-Union and those who were pro-Confederate. To complicate the situation, Winchester changed Union and Confederate occupations over 70 times during the Civil War. The town’s majority of civilians supported the Confederacy, and the women although restricted from fighting in the military demonstrated their support for the South in many ways that were within the boundaries and sometimes slightly over the boundaries of womanhood for that time.

In order to fully understand the complexity of the situation, here is a very brief background of Winchester, Virginia. At the beginning of the Civil War, Winchester dominated the lower Shenandoah Valley because of its network of seven major roads that radiating out in various directions to connect it to other large towns and cities in Virginia. Two of the roads were macadamized and connected Winchester to both the lower and upper Valley – Martinsburg to the north, and Staunton to the south. The road system made the town a major trade center for the Valley. In 1860 Winchester had a population of 4,392, which included 680 free blacks and 708 slaves. (Click here for a map of the area.)

The majority of whites were non-slaveholders.  The town itself had multiple shops, taverns and hotels.  It was one of the few towns in the Valley that had gaslights and a water system.  There were warehouses and a railroad depot.  It also had two banks, two newspapers, more than fifty stores several fire companies and ten churches.   In addition, it housed the Winchester Medical College which was the first medical school in Virginia, and four private schools for educating the children.  For the most part, the community “embraced a middle class work ethic, which was similar to that of a Northern market region than to the hierarchical slave society.”   Sheila Phips observes, that Winchester during this time “Had all of the amenities expected of an urban area, if on a smaller scale.” In the words of historian Jonathan Noyales, “The strategic location of Winchester promoted its economic prominence and that location brought about its wartime problems.”

Prior to secession the majority of civilians in the town were against leaving the Union, but when Virginia seceded, that majority became the small minority in the town.  Many who supported the Confederacy did so because they felt the United States had abandoned them in many ways.  For the most part, they did not want to secede from the Union, but did so because they believed they had a higher and deeper loyalty to their state of Virginia.

When Virginia seceded, the townspeople went into a mass celebration. The young men were in a frenzy to join the militias to serve the Cause.  The romance of war became a fever, and the women encouraged that fever.  There is a story that is told among historians of Winchester, that is probably from oral history, since no one can find the source. One young man was reluctant to join a local militia unit. Some of the younger women in town had a gift package delivered to his home.  When he opened the package it contained a pair of ladies bloomers with frills and lace. Lying on top of the pantaloons was a note that read, “If you don’t sign up to fight, you might as well put these on. The next day the young gentlemen joined the militia. Throughout the Civil War the Secessionist women encouraged their men to continue fighting for the Southern Cause.  Even during the Union occupations, many smuggled letters to their “boys” and also smuggled contraband goods such as sugar, coffee, fabrics, thread and needles from Baltimore into Winchester not so much for civilian use, but to feed and clothe the Confederate sick and wounded.

During the initial Confederate occupancy in 1861 and early 1862, the women of Winchester participated in the usually expected activities such as organizing sewing and knitting groups to make socks, shirts, and caps for the Confederate troops. During the early part of summer of 1861, many of the troops became ill with measles, and the women took those soldiers into their homes and cared for them during their recovery.  Both Union and Confederate sympathizers housed the Confederate soldiers during this timeframe.

Although there were some minor skirmishes during June 1861, it was not until after the First Battle of Manassas, that the Winchester woman witnessed the horrors of war. In diaries there were descriptions of men with their faces mutilated, gut shot men, dead men, and of piles of amputated limbs.  Many Winchester women, especially of Confederate loyalty described going to the hospitals and nursing “their boys.”  Nursing to many of these women meant reading, writing, and feeding the wounded, not cleaning or bandaging wounds.

Although tensions between the Unionist and Confederate civilians were fairly amicable in the beginning of the war, when General Stonewall Jackson began arresting many of the prominent Winchester area Unionists in the fall of 1861 and winter of 1862, tensions intensified.  Jackson’s arrests started a total distrust by the Unionists toward the Secessionists.  On the other hand, the Secessionists by the end of 1861 withdrew from any socializing with the Unionists, and only made contact with them when absolutely necessary. By the time General Nathaniel Banks took occupation of Winchester in the spring of 1862, relations between the Unionists and Confederates rose to a hostile level.  Because of this tension, civilians identified with either the Unionists or the Secessionists. Remaining neutral meant that you were open to hostilities by both the Unionists and Secessionists.

After spending hours reading these diaries and manuscripts, it seemed that I was becoming friends with these individuals.  Through their writings I was invited into their inner most thoughts and feelings, and sometimes I wanted to shout at these women for acting like such fools, or for being so stubborn about some of the pettiest issues. Then, it dawned on me that these women have been dead for over a hundred years! I do not live in the nineteenth century, I live in the twenty-first century. What I consider to be a petty issue, to the women living in the 1860s that same issue was far from petty.

Through these diary accounts of the Civil War experiences of the women of Winchester, Virginia, there becomes a serialized story of the Winchester Civil War civilians and in particular the women’s experiences. This story contains drama, intrigue, romance, as well as comedy.  Each woman relates her own perspective. Yet, each contributes to the rich tapestry of the Civil War history itself.

About the Author: Virginia R. Bensen has a doctorate in Higher Education Leadership, an MBA and has taught a variety of college business courses. She has designed award winning workforce and education programs.  After finishing her doctoral dissertation, she decided to write a historical novel focusing on the civilian and women’s experiences in Civil War Winchester, Virginia.  Although familiar with social science research methods, but feeling rather intimidated with historical research, she enrolled in a Masters of American History program at American Public University. Her research interests are Civil War women and women’s identity change. She enjoys writing both popular and scholarly history.

From: emergingcivilwar.com

War Surgery

From: bhatmanjim.weebly.com

The U.S. Army had more doctors than it needed prior to the Civil War.  Surgeons and their assistants found themselves working in remote outposts, spread throughout the country and on the Western Frontier.  Their patients were a small numbers of soldiers who saw little conflict.  Only diseases such as malaria and yellow fever were troublesome.  Surgeons were rarely involved with such diseases however.

As the Civil War approached the quality of medical training had decreased tremendously.  These inexperienced, unknowledgeable surgeons and doctors soon found hundreds of injured and dying men dependent on them.

The Union and Confederate armies shared similar medical practices.  Each regiment had one surgeon, and one assistant surgeon.  Their duties included daily examinations of soldiers’ ailments, and dealing with battlefield injuries.  The instruments and medications used for surgery were often the personal property of the particular surgeon.  Anaesthesia had not become familiarized on the battle field and opium was the primary drug used by patients to cope with severe pain.

Surgery in Civil War field stations and hospitals was quick and barbaric.  Oftentimes lines of soldiers would have to wait and endure the sight of their fellow soldiers being hacked, while they waited their turn.  As the war progressed anaesthesia was used on surgeries in medical hospitals.  Chloroform and ether were utilized in preparation to remove bullets or amputations.  This was done as quickly as possible, both because of the surgeon’s need to see other patients, and the continuation of the tradition of speedy surgery from the time before anesthetics.  Gangrene and maggots were common sights in Civil War hospitals as infection would overtake peoples’ wounds and as bodies would rot, quickly decomposing after death.  Needless to say, the survival rate of Civil War surgeries was not very high.  Many patients died from poor care or major infection.

Letter from Charles Francis Adams, Jr. to Abigail Brooks Adams, 8 January 1865

From: masshist.org

Writing across the Atlantic to his family stationed in Europe, Union soldier Charles Francis Adams, Jr., reports here on his new duties commanding an African-American regiment at the Confederate prisoner-of-war hospital in Point Lookout, Md. With his own health nearly broken by a recent bout with malaria, Adams struggles to professionalize his new corps. And, as the conflict winds to a bloody close, Adams reassures his mother that Southern prisoners are receiving adequate treatment from a federal government still capable of "Christian spirit & forbearance." Knowing that "war is cruel in all its parts," Charles was determined to confirm that years of bloodshed had been followed by measures of Northern mercy.

Charles Francis Adams II (1835-1915) was a soldier, businessman, historian, and president of the Massachusetts Historical Society from 1895 until 1915. The son of Charles Francis Adams (1807-1886), the American minister to Great Britain, and Abigail Brooks Adams, he served with distinction as a Union officer during the Civil War. Then Charles entered the railroad industry, rising to the presidency of the Union Pacific Railroad from1884 to 1890. From 1890 to 1915, Adams spoke and wrote widely on historical, educational, economic, and political subjects as an active member of the Harvard Board of Overseers and the Anti-Imperialist League. Adams's works include biographies of Richard Henry Dana and of his father, as well as two key contributions to local history entitled Massachusetts: Its Historians and Its History and Three Episodes of Massachusetts History.

The young cavalryman's path through the war had been an unusual one. He punctuated long months of battle with periods to rest from severe illness, and took a Continental hiatus to visit family. Longing for a career in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry over more predictable genteel skirmishes in the family field of law, Charles reported for duty in Boston in late 1861. His enlistment enraged brother Henry and deeply alarmed their parents. As the cavalryman later confessed in his Autobiography, he was, from the start, an unlikely soldier. He was "not quick, daring, or ready-witted, robust but not muscularly agile." Adams claimed "no personal magnetism" and was, he thought, "rather deficient in mind in time of peril."

The Civil War reshaped Charles as a soldier, historian, and leader. A few miles outside Boston, Adams's commanding officer proved too drunk to guide the handpicked corps of Brahmin rookies, and Charles found himself at the regiment's head. Though he felt "in no way heroic," Adams saw plenty of action. He solicited management tips as a general's aide. He learned to survive on black coffee and half-rotten beef. When winter quarters permitted, Adams holed up in his tent, poring over biographies of British generals who conquered India, soaking up their professional inspiration. After two full years of service, Charles took a quick leave to spend Christmas 1863 in London with Henry and the rest of the family. Then he plunged back in. When Charles suffered on the battlefield, he pulled out rosier memories of Queen Victoria's London and replayed the happy reunion in his mind. "I would like to act it all over again & do not know of one thing I should desire to change from the moment I got up feeling rather blue & that in which Henry put his hand on my shoulder to the last moment where I went to sleep in London," Charles reflected later, on picket in Virginia. "It is all gone now like a dream, but it has left a pleasant track behind it." By January 1865, Adams believed that three years of intermittent conflict had hardened him into, at the very least, an "above average" soldier. At Antietam and Gettysburg, waiting wearily in the deafening dark with his troops; the drone of cannons lulled Charles into a heavy doze.

Another furlough in late 1864, this time to the Adams family farm in Quincy, helped Charles to convalesce from malaria. Like many of his peers, Charles showed signs of difficulty in reconciling the regimen of war with daily life on the Northern home front. At the ancestral home, the same ornaments and paintings lined the walls, and every morning Charles awoke to the excited babble of his nieces and nephews. But Charles, articulating the trauma of the generation of Northern and Southern soldiers who returned to a drastically changed America, already felt like the war had made him a man set apart from society: "I am a solitary, restless stranger visiting the cradle of my [early] life & the grave of my race," he wrote. Again, Charles returned to the now-familiar scene of war, accepting command of the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry. When Richmond fell, he swept into the desolate city, riding proudly at the head of an African-American regiment.

Back at the American legation in London, Charles's dispatches from the Southern front were shared, discussed, and addressed by family members with greater attention than most. Letters to and from Charles stitched together popular literary quotes, philosophical musings culled from the Harvard recitation drills that all Adams men endured, and snippets of Scripture. One of Charles's final missions before his August 1865 discharge came at the special request of his mother, Abigail, who was horrified by newspaper reports of prisoner abuse and photographs of coffins stacked at Point Lookout. The site, where prisoners more often died from malaria or scurvy than hunger, lacked regular supplies of clean water, and the professional medical staff were few. Point Lookout inmates, who built stoves to heat their tents, suffered from the same illnesses—exhaustion and vitamin deficiency—as did their guards, like Charles.

Acting at Abigail's request, Charles inspected the camp hospital and interviewed prisoners, at least one of whom he remembered capturing three years earlier. Then Charles wrote to reassure his mother that Confederate prisoners of war—enduring a state that he called the "purest form of squalid misery to which God's image is anywhere reduced" in any war—were treated with "liberal" and "Christian" standards of care. The young soldier's mission resonated with the needs of the hour, and also with the social concerns of the day: to provide adequate Christian succor to those in suffering. The rise of Civil War memorial societies, along with professional morticians and sanitary aid commissions, would radically alter American politics within a quarter-century.

Readied for public service by his days of war, Charles Francis Adams moved on, too. That November, he married Mary Hone Ogden, and commenced a prolific career in civil leadership.

Sources for Further Reading:
The Adams Family Papers contains the correspondence, letterbooks, diaries, literary manuscripts, speeches, legal and business papers, and other papers of John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Charles Francis Adams, as well as papers of many other Adams family members and incoming correspondence from hundreds of major and minor figures in America and Europe.

Family dispatches about the Civil War era are found in the Adams Family "All Gens." section. Although Charles Francis, Jr., destroyed the bulk of his wartime diary while writing his Autobiography, his papers, pamphlets, and diaries, are held here.

Adams, Charles F., Jr. Charles Francis Adams by His Son. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1900.

----. Charles Francis Adams, 1835-1915: An Autobiography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1916.

----. Massachusetts: Its Historians and Its History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1893.

----. Richard Henry Dana: a Biography. Boston: Hougton Mifflin, 1890.

----. Three Episodes of Massachusetts History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1892.

Ford, Worthington C., ed. A Cycle of Adams Letters, 1861-1865. 2 vols. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1920.

---. "Charles Francis Adams (1838-1915)." Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 53 (1918):776-780.

Gillispie, James M. Andersonvilles of the North: The Myths and Realities of Northern Treatment of Civil War Confederate Prisoners. Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2008.

Perkins, Elliot, John A. Abbott, and Thomas B. Adams. "Three Views of Charles Francis Adams, II." Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 3d ser., 72 (1960):212-237.


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