Sunday, April 24, 2016

Myths About Wounds


Everyone thinks about the Hollywood version of the Civil War surgeon doing
amputations of limbs after battle, with profuse bleeding and the soldier in
horrible pain.

The truth is, the surgeons treated many more wounds caused by horses (they kick
and step on people), campfire and gunpowder burns and metal shards from musket
percussion caps that ended up embedded in people.

Hollywood movies suggest a few swallows of whiskey or a bullet to bite on were
all that was offered to help the soldier through their treatment which often
meant amputation of a limb. The military almost universally used ether as general
anaesthetic in its field hospitals, which was instrumental in proving to other
surgeons that ether was a safe and effective surgical anaesthetic. Ether continued
to be widely used in surgery well into the 20th century.

Modern Civil War medical re-enactors associated with the National Museum of Civil
War Medicine near the Antietam National Battlefield, have fired a Minie ball, a
type of muzzleloading rifle bullet into ballistic gel to prove a Minie ball could
travel through as many as four human bodies — possibly infecting each with germs
from the animal fat that lubricated the projectiles.

Many more soldiers died from disease during and following the Civil War than from
wounds sustained on the battlefield. The idea of cleanliness and infection control
were just beginning to be considered and many doubted the importance of handwashing,
cleaning instruments and disinfectants to help prevent post-surgical infection. For
example, tetanus bacteria thrive in soil and when introduced in deep wounds, can be
deadly. (Tetanus vaccinations were not widely available until WWII--National Network
for Immunization Information, Jan 2007)

Antietam National Battlefield is where nearly 23,000 casualties occurred September 17,
1862, including an estimated 3,700 killed, 17,300 wounded and 1,800 captured or missing.
It is known as the bloodiest day in U.S. military history.

Sources: Rita, Oconto County Coordinator, WiGenWeb  and Joan Benner, Adams and Marquette County WiGenWeb Coordinator


Post a Comment


Facebook Twitter Delicious Stumbleupon Favorites