By Elizabeth M. Shepard on May 31, 2013
When the war broke out, each state began forming volunteer regiments. Most of the New York Hospital doctors who served in the war began their service as volunteer surgeons in the regiments from New York State. Often doctors who were recruited for these regiments were small town physicians who had no training in military medicine and were ill prepared to treat wounded soldiers or perform amputations. Surgeons had to pass an exam and be approved by the war department. Their first task was to conduct the exams for the enlisted men and officers. These surgeons were responsible for treating the soldiers in the camps or after the battles in makeshift field hospitals. In the first year of the war, surgeons got some of their medical supplies from their states as well as the Medical Department.
Starting in 1862, the supplies were distributed by brigade surgeons to the regiment surgeons. Regimental physicians were furnished with medicine chests designed to be carried on horseback. Orderlies carried knapsacks with essential bandages, instruments, and medicines. Each surgeon had four sets of surgical instruments: major, minor, pocket case, and field case.