Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Medical-Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion

Military precision proved a blessing to medical record-keeping, providing structure within the chaos. To organize, staff, stock and manage the vast hospitals, the military and the Sanitary Commission created new record-keeping systems.

Case histories were well-documented and autopsy reports were made for the future of medical education. Follow-up was extensive, and many post-surgical photographs were taken. Union Surgeon-General William Hammond improved the Army’s system for collecting and organizing medical data. Information and statistics on diseases, wounds and surgical procedures was carefully stored for future publication. This research laid the groundwork for many of the developments in medicine after the war.

The resulting six huge volumes, known as the Medical-Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, (1861-65) were considered by the European medical community to be America’s first great contribution to academic and scientific medicine.

The Medical-Surgical History was a remarkable work. It was lauded as the greatest contribution of the era to military medicine and surgery. Records of approximately 6.5 million diagnoses of illness were recorded, substituting English names for the Latin. The Confederate Medical Department had kept similar records, retaining the Latin names, but most were destroyed in a fire in Richmond, Virginia in 1865.


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