The U.S.S. Red Rover, a captured Confederate vessel, was refitted as a hospital ship.
The evolution of the nursing profession in America was accelerated by the Civil War.
Amputations were the most common surgery performed during the Civil War.
Surgeon-General William Hammond established The Army Medical Museum in 1862. It was the first federal medical research facility.
Many Civil War surgical instruments had handles of bone, wood or ivory. They were never sterilized.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
In the Civil War era, many of the medications we now take for granted did not exist. There were no antibiotics and hardly any vaccines, as no one knew that germs (microorganisms) caused many diseases. Nevertheless, pharmaceuticals played an important role in Civil War medical care.
In 1861, before the start of the war, there were only six colleges of pharmacy in the United States. The first, the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, had been founded in 1821. The pharmacy school curriculum included chemistry and medical botany, as many medicines of the time were derived from plants and taken in liquid or pill form. Formal training in pharmacy, however, was relatively rare. There were no licensing or state board exams for pharmacists. Rather than a profession, pharmacy was usually seen as a trade, with most training gained during a two- or three-year apprenticeship. Of the 11,000 pharmacists in the country in 1860, fewer than 5 percent had any formal course work.
The war spurred the expansion and industrialization of the field. In 1860, there were 84 manufacturers of pharmaceuticals in the United States; just 10 years later, there were 300. Philadelphia was an important manufacturing center for all war materials, and medications were no exception. For instance, the firm of John Wyeth & Brother was founded in 1860 by two graduates of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. Their drugstore and small research lab grew quickly during the war to become a large wholesale business, selling beef extract and a range of medicines to the army.
Another Philadelphia company, Powers & Weightman, had introduced quinine sulfate (cinchona bark extract) for malaria treatment to the United States in the 1820s. Rosengarten & Sons was also a quinine supplier. Together, the two firms served most of the Union Army’s quinine needs. Civilian firms, though, could not give the army all the medications it required. Two Army Medical Laboratories were begun in 1863, one in New York and one in Philadelphia, to produce dozens of medicines in large quantities. Even though medications were being manufactured on an industrial scale, there was little quality control and regulation was uneven.
Army Quartermasters were originally responsible for drug supplies. Later, however, this work was transferred to the Surgeon General’s office. Medications were distributed through a network of depots and subdepots, with New York and Philadelphia serving as main depots. Volunteer organizations, most notably the United States Sanitary Commission, also aided with distribution of medical supplies. Surgeons carried small amounts of drugs in satchels for use in the field, and special medicine wagons transported larger quantities of supplies. Hospital stewards were administrators as well as pharmacists, overseeing many aspects of hospital operations in addition to compounding and distributing medications.
Some common medications included chloroform and ether used as anesthetics for surgery. Contrary to popular belief, virtually all Civil War surgical operations were performed with the patient rendered unconscious by anesthetics. Post-operation pain was often treated with morphine, a derivative of opium. Morphine was perhaps the most widely used painkiller during the war, despite its addictive qualities. Alcohol, particularly whiskey, was frequently employed as a base for liquid medicines and as a tonic. It was also the main ingredient in many popular over-the-counter patent medicines.
A nearly universal but perilous drug was calomel, a mercury-based compound, used for constipation as well as diarrhea and dysentery. Since mercury is poisonous, calomel was dangerous in large quantities. Union Surgeon General Dr. William A. Hammond banned its use in 1863, causing much controversy among army physicians.
Image: Man in Uniform of Hospital Steward with Medications. Hand-colored photograph, 1866. Courtesy of The Army Quartermaster Museum, Fort Lee, Va.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Horses were an essential part of the Civil War military. They were responsible for transporting food, supplies and artillery. Sickness among horses could have a devastating effect on the course of a campaign.
Confederate surgeon Herbert M, Nash was treating soldiers with malaria, when the unit's horses began to stumble and tremble.
"While the men were thus suffering with malaria, the horses became affected with blind staggers and many died. Without horses the artillery could not be moved, and they could not be replaced.
"I made autopsies and became convinced that the same or a similar poison was acting on both men and horses, and rode to Richmond, reported the facts to the Surgeon-General and appealed to him for an issue of a dozen ounces of quinine to treat the horses.
"He at first declined to issue the quinine for horses when he could not issue it for the men. I replied very earnestly that this was a most extraordinary condition which should be combated with every possible available means, and that I should be obliged to report to army headquarters the object of my visit and its results.
"Seeing the intensity of my conviction he finally relented and gave me the quinine, with which I speedily returned to the bottoms, to drench each horse as soon as the symptoms appeared with one ounce of quinine to the quart of water.
But one such dose was given to each sick horse. I am glad to relate that not another horse died, and I subsequently had them removed a mile back from the river to the pines, when the cases of staggers ceased to occur."
Saturday, March 9, 2013
BUSY FINGERS: KNITTING STOCKINGS IN THE CIVIL WAR
By Lynne Zacek Bassett, from Knitting Traditions, Spring 2012
South Carolina resident Mary Chesnut commented in her diary late in the summer of 1861, "I do not know when I have seen a woman without knitting in her hand." In the North as well as in the South, knitting needles clicked incessantly during the Civil War years (1861-1865).
Although machine-knitted stockings were widely available, they were considered inferior to handknit stockings and wore out quickly from the rigors of long marches and insufficient washing.
The call for handknitted stockings went out throughout the country. Stories of soldiers going barefoot or suffering from blistered, swollen, and infected feet from wearing their boots without stockings spurred females young and old to take up their knitting needles.
Winslow Homer's engraving "Christmas Boxes in Camp—Christmas 1861," which appeared on the cover of the January 4, 1862, Harper's Weekly, depicts a group of soldiers joyfully receiving a crate of gifts, including new stockings. John L. Hayes, a wool lobbyist, called stockings" . . . the class of clothing the most indispensable for the health and comfort of our soldiers."
Women and girls often enclosed notes offering Christian instruction, encouragement, or even jokes along with their stockings to the military camps and hospitals. Teenage girls, finding the idea of corresponding with a soldier romantic, wrote notes such as this one published in Mary A. Livermore's My Story of the War:
"MY BRAVE FRIEND,—I have learned to knit on purpose to knit socks for the soldiers. This is my fourth pair. My name is—and I live in—. Write to me, and tell me how you like the foot-gear and what we can do for you. Keep up good courage, and by and by you will come home to us. Won't that be a grand time, though? And won't we turn out to meet you, with flowers and music, and cheers and embraces? 'There's a good time coming, boys!'"
Beyond the practical accomplishment of supplying seemingly endless quantities of stockings, knitting answered the emotional need of women and girls who were desperate to participate in the struggle for their country. Woman's Work in the Civil War: A Record of Heroism, Patriotism, and Patience (1867), states, "Men did not take to the musket, more commonly than women took to the needle. . . ."—the sewing or the knitting needle."
Monday, March 4, 2013
(Attended by his personal physician, Dr. Hunter H. McGuire)
Sunday, March 3, 2013
American Civil War nurse and poet Walt Whitman observed the new social phenomenon of seeing nuns and lay women in hospitals in Washington:
"There are many women in one position or another, among the Hospitals, mostly as nurses here in Washington, and among the military stations; quite a number of them young ladies acting as volunteers. They are a great help in certain ways, and deserve to be mention'd with praise and respect."
Men weren't accustomed to encountering women in the hospitals, and some of the soldiers had never seen Catholic nuns before. A Sister of Charity in Pennsylvania wrote in her journal:
"Our small-pox patients appeared to think that the Sisters were not like other human beings, or they would not attend such loathsome contagious diseases, which everyone else shunned. One day I was advising an application to a man's face for poison--and I told him this remedy had cured a Sister who was poisoned. The man looked at me in perfect astonishment.
"'Why!' said he, 'I didn't know the Sisters ever got anything like that.' I told him 'To be sure they did. They are liable to take disease as well as any one else.' 'To be sure NOT!' he said, 'For the boys often say they must be different from other people, for they do for us what no other person would do. They are not afraid of fevers, small-pox or anything else.'"
PAINTING: "The Death of a Sister of Charity", 1850, by Isidore Augustin Pils
The use of the yellow flag in the U.S. dates back to 1700's. The flag was used as a quarantine flag for ships suspected of carrying contagious disease. "An act to prevent Sickly Vessels from Coming into this Government" City of Philadelphia 1699. A yellow flag was also used to mark the location of hospitals in the "Marine Hospital Service" July 16, 1798 Federal Public Health Law "An act for the relief of sick and disabled seamen" signed by President John Adams.
Among Florida doctors serving with distinction during the war was T. M. Palmer MD. All three Palmer family doctors have been outstanding practicing physicians, leaders in the state, and presidents of the FMA.
Young Tom came to Monticello in Jefferson County in 1829, eight years old and eight years after Florida became a United States territory.
After graduating from the University of Maryland, he returned to Monticello where he spent his life in practice except for the Civil War. He served in the Constitutional Convention of 1861, which passed the Ordinance of Secession. During the war he served as a surgeon in the Confederate Army, chiefly in Virginia near Richmond.
It was Dr. Tom who discovered Confederate officers looking over a site for headquarters that he had already chosen for a field hospital. Approaching the leader, he urged him to seek another location for battle purposes so that he could retain the shaded area for the wounded. Complying promptly with his request, the officers galloped away to another site.
On the next day, Dr. Palmer was introduced to that leader, General Robert E. Lee. Undaunted even by the presence of Lee, it is not surprising that Dr. Tom later during the stormy reconstruction caused a Republican governor to yield to his demand, in a face to face confrontation, for Democratic representation in Jefferson County government. Dr. Tom Palmer was president of the FMA in 1876.
At the time of the Civil War, turpentine was routinely prescribed for oral and topical use in America and Europe. During the war, when quinine wasn't available to them, Confederate surgeons substituted turpentine.
After the war, Confederate surgeon Herbert M. Nash remembered:
"During the siege of Petersburg, in July and August, 1864, malarial fevers of every type attacked our men, so that scarcely enough of the whole number could be had to man the two mortar batteries in use upon the banks of the river. There was no quinine issued at that time, and the men were treated with decoctions internally and friction of turpentine to the spine and twenty drop doses internally. These cases all recovered."
IMAGE: Collecting turpentine in North Carolina
Saturday, March 2, 2013
African American Union Doctor
By Robert G. Slawson, M.D., F.A.C.R.
Dr. John van Surly DeGrasse is the third man known to have received a commission. Dr. DeGrasse was the second African American to be graduated from an American medical school. He was graduated from Maine Medical School, affiliated with Bowdoin College, in Brunswick, Maine, in 1849..
Following graduation, he went to Paris and there was Assistant Dresser to the famous French surgeon, Velpeau, for two years. He returned to the United States and first practiced in New York. Later he moved to Boston and did very well there; he became a member of the Massachusetts Medical Society.
After the war started and regiments of Colored Troops were formed, he applied for a medical commission. He was commissioned "Assistant Surgeon" with the Thirty-fifth Infantry Regiment, United States Colored Troops.
After the war, Dr. DeGrasse returned to Boston and resumed his practice. The Governor of Massachusetts presented Dr. DeGrasse with a ceremonial surgeon's sword to show appreciation for his service in the Civil War.
Reprinted from: "The Journal of Civil War Medicine", Vol. 7, No. 2, April/May/June 2003
At the beginning of the war, available buildings were converted and used as hospitals, but later, both sides came to favor the newly designed pavilion hospital.
These facilities featured long, narrow, well-ventilated wooden buildings, frequently built like spokes on a hub. Specialized areas of the hub included operating rooms, kitchens, offices, supply rooms and "dead house".
Although overall sanitation was still poor, pavilion hospitals were usually equipped with rudimentary toilet facilities. Medications, food, laundry and supplies moved much more efficiently through the pavilion hospitals and the quality of convalescent care improved.
Quinine was one of the most effective medicines available to Civil War doctors. Quinine is a drug made from cinchona tree bark, whose active ingredient is the alkaloid “quinine.” Spanish missionaries observed its use in South America in the 1500’s.
The frame curving around the ear glasses are definitely a post war invention. Most typical had the lenses very small when compared to those of today, the pair I have were originally a set of sample/display glasses. The lenses aren't much larger than my eyes, you are forced to look straight at whoever you are talking to. There is NO peripheral vision with these. Some of the others I was shown that dated to the 1860's and prior were square or hex shaped. There was also a set that were designed to be folded up, those were surprisingly beefy.
Construction was from Brass, braided copper as well as steel. He also had a pair of 1860's glasses that had been coated with gutta percha.
An Optometrist was one of the most highly paid in the medical profession at the time and often traveled quite a bit. He would able to often put together a pair of glasses while you waited from the stock he carried. The collector owned an 1880's Optometrists tool chest which was rather large but still portable. When full he would have been able to both figure out & fill the needed prescription for well over a hundred people. The tools were very similar to a watchmakers or jewelers set and many an eye doctor hand made the frames as well as he could do so more cheaply than sending off for them and it was almost 100% pure profit for him. Needless to say the quality might vary rather dramatically.
Original eye glass frames didn't usually have screws but were fastened with a molten lead plug, which makes it almost impossible to put new lenses in an original set and is a way to date them. As I recall tt was actually during the ACW, in the US, that screws started to be commonly used.