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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Civil War Medical Students

In 1860 there were five medical schools in the South, 27 in the North and three in the border states. It was customary for Southern medical students to attend schools in the North or in Europe.

Many of the formally educated doctors who served in the war, both Union and Confederate, had trained in Philadelphia at Jefferson Medical College or the University of Pennsylvania. In 1859, over 1200 medical students resided in the city. The 650 students from the South constituted the largest bloc of Southern sympathizers in Philadelphia.

The developing hostilities between the North and South during the 1850’s had begun to affect the medical community, demonstrated by the declining enrollment of Southern students in Northern medical schools.

When the news of abolitionist John Brown’s October, 1859 raid on Harper’s Ferry reached Philadelphia, two young men from Virginia led a mass exodus of about 200 Southern students from the city. One of these men, Hunter H. McGuire, would become personal physician to General Stonewall Jackson and later, a president of the American Medical Association.

Of the Southern schools operating at the start of the war, only the Medical College of Richmond, Virginia continued to train physicians throughout the Civil War. Many medical schools in America were forced to cut back their services, or close their doors.

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