Civil War Hospital Ship

The U.S.S. Red Rover, a captured Confederate vessel, was refitted as a hospital ship.

Evolution of Civil War Nursing

The evolution of the nursing profession in America was accelerated by the Civil War.

The Practice of Surgery

Amputations were the most common surgery performed during the Civil War.

Army Medical Museum and Library

Surgeon-General William Hammond established The Army Medical Museum in 1862. It was the first federal medical research facility.

Civil War Amputation Kit

Many Civil War surgical instruments had handles of bone, wood or ivory. They were never sterilized.

Friday, May 31, 2013

A Case of Feigned Insanity

By J. Theodore Calhoun, Assistant Surgeon in the United States Army, And Surgeon in Chief, 2d Division, 3d Army Corps

A most remarkable case of feigned insanity occurred in a regiment under the charge of a friend of mine. A supposed insane man was kept in the regiment for several months and his every action carefully and closely watched.

He would sit for hours together on the color line or in the neighborhood of camp, with a pole, and imagine himself fishing. He was at length discharged, and when leaving his camp, one of his old company said to him: "Bill, what did you make such a d-d fool of yourself as to sit out in the sun all day pretending to be fishing." Pulling out his discharge papers he replied, with a quiet smile, "I was fishing for these papers."

Excerpted from: The Medical and Surgical Reporter, August 15, 1863

IMAGE: "My Civil War Obsession": Patriotic Cover: Uncle Sam Goes Fishing

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Attack on Black Doctor in Army Uniform

From the U.S. National Library of Medicine
In early 1863, Alexander T. Augusta and Anderson R. Abbott, two black physicians, wrote letters to President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton requesting appointments as surgeons to the newly formed "colored regiments." Augusta received a military commission as a major, and Abbott was offered a position as contract surgeon with the rank of lieutenant.
Both men wore the uniforms of Union Army officers as symbols of pride and patriotism despite the risk to their personal safety. Their appearance in officer uniforms stirred pride in many former slaves and free blacks, but provoked anger in others, both white and black. They represented a change in the role and position of African Americans that some were reluctant to accept.
While on a train in Baltimore, Maryland, Augusta was singled out for wearing his major's uniform and violently attacked by several young white men. Responding to the incident in a letter to the weekly black newspaper, The Christian Recorder, Augusta defended his right to wear his uniform in public saying, "…my position as an officer of the United States, entitles me to wear the insignia of my office, and if I am either afraid or ashamed to wear them, anywhere, I am not fit to hold my commission."

In contrast to the hostility he faced in Baltimore, Augusta received a jubilant response when he appeared in uniform at the mustering of the first two companies of contraband soldiers in Washington, D.C. and at a public celebration of the D.C. Emancipation Act. In him, black soldiers and former slaves saw a reflection of the possibilities that freedom could bring.

On April 16, 1863, a celebration of the one year anniversary of the signing of the D.C. Emancipation Act was held at the 15th Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. The appearance of Alexander T. Augusta in uniform was reported the next day in The Evening Star newspaper.
PHOTO: Dr. Anderson Abbott

IMAGE: President Street Station, where the attack on Dr. Augusta took place

Dr. Augusta Faces Segregation in Washington, D.C.

From the U.S. National Library of Medicine 
[Dr.] Alexander Augusta's public presence was often controversial, but proved to be a catalyst for change.
On a rainy day in February 1864, Augusta, in full military uniform, headed to a court martial in Washington, D.C. where he was scheduled to testify. He hailed a streetcar and attempted to enter the covered seated area. The conductor informed Augusta that he would have to stand up front with the driver as was usual for black riders. When Augusta refused, he was forcibly ejected and had to walk through the rain to reach the hearing.
Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, a noted anti-slavery supporter, was outraged after hearing of the incident. Within a week, Sumner brought a resolution before the United States Congress to abolish the exclusion of blacks from railroad privileges in the nation's capital. The resolution resulted in the desegregation of streetcars in Washington, D.C. within a year.

Chimborazo Hospital Employs Free Blacks

From the U.S. National Library of Medicine
Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond, Virginia, the largest Confederate hospital, relied on the slaves of local plantation owners and hospital surgeons to fill positions such as nurses, cooks, and laundresses. With over 5000 beds in 150 buildings and tents, Chimborazo treated over 77,000 patients during the war. After the fall of Richmond in 1865, it became a hospital for black Union soldiers.
James Brown McCaw was the chief administrator and surgeon-in-charge of Chimborazo Hospital during the Civil War. McCaw recognized the necessity of employing blacks at the hospital for the hospital's own survival.
Hundreds of African Americans, mostly male and enslaved, served as nurses at Chimborazo Hospital. George Cox, and a woman known only as Candis were among the few free blacks that worked there. Their wages were paid directly to them while slave owners received the wages for the work of their slaves. Enslaved African Americans working in Chimborazo had a chance to move from a private to a public work environment where they worked alongside free blacks.
IMAGE 1: Recorded list of "Negroes Employed in Chimborazo Hospital No. 2, 1864"Courtesy National Archives , Washington, D.C.
IMAGE 2: Dr. James Brown McCaw

African Americans Join the War Effort

 FROM: The U.S. National Library of Medicine
African American women and men joined the war effort working at hospitals, on the battlefield, and with relief organizations such as the United States Christian Commission. Their service was critical to the care and comfort of wounded soldiers.
IMAGE: Illustration of an African American man assisting a medical officer on the battlefield, Harper's Weekly, August 20, 1864


Dr. William P. Powell, Jr.

African American Surgeon

William P. Powell, Jr. was one of thirteen African American surgeons who served during the Civil War. Powell, a resident of New York City, received his medical education in England. In May 1863, he was hired as a contract assistant surgeon at Contraband Hospital in Washington, D.C., a medical facility that cared for emancipated slaves known as contraband. Assuming the duties of surgeon-in-charge six months after his appointment, Powell remained at the hospital for one year during which time he hired several black nurses and made requests for camp improvements including perimeter protective fencing.
From: The U.S. National Library of Medicine

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Night Blindness

By Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein  
Night blindness, the inability to see at night while having normal vision during the day, is a result of vitamin A deficiency. Not surprisingly, the problem became worse as the war progressed because more soldiers had had poor nutrition for a longer period of time. At the time some doctors observed an increase in night blindness when scurvy increased. This is logical because both are related to vitamin deficiency, although not the same vitamins.
Other doctors considered complaints of night blindness to be a form of malingering. It seemed particularly to be an excuse to get a furlough because night blindness tended to disappear at home where the soldiers ate a more balanced diet. Few soldiers were hospitalized for night blindness because they could function perfectly well to fight during the day. There were significant problems with night blindness among William T. Sherman’s Union troops during the Atlanta Campaign and also in Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.
Excerpted from: The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine

Eye Ailments

By Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein
During the Civil War many Union and Confederate soldiers suffered from eye problems. These problems tended to fall into three categories: disease, injury, and nutritional deficiency. Though Civil War physicians treated eye problems according to current knowledge, one important innovation on both sides was to establish special wards or hospitals devoted to eye disease and staffed by a skilled doctor. The Union forces had eye infirmaries in St. Louis, Missouri, and Washington, D.C., while in 1864 the Confederate Army of Tennessee had the Opthalmic Hospital at Athens, Georgia.

Eye diseases were often labeled ophthalmia, meaning a severe inflammation of the eye or eyes. Then, as now, these problems could be caused by germs or irritants. A number of soldiers developed ophthalmia as a consequence of having measles, a “childhood disease” that spread rapidly through new regiments when they joined the army. Eye injuries resulted from accidents or gunshot wounds.
Excerpted from: “The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine”
PHOTO: Civil War bullet wound of the eye, 1864. The Burns Archive
Learn more about Civil War opthomologists at

Hospital Gangrene

By Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein

Hospital gangrene was a severe streptococcal wound infection that proved fatal to many soldiers, both North and South, during the Civil War. Because it was much more serious than other types of gangrene and developed only in large hospitals in major cities where many kinds of infections were treated, researchers suggest that it may have resulted from a combination of several types of bacteria.

Hospital gangrene was extremely contagious and fast moving. A soldier with a healthy wound could contract the disease and be dead in several days. The edges of the infected wound turned a grayish color and the surrounding tissue was destroyed rapidly, as much as an inch per hour in some severe cases. The gangrene caused blood clotting in the small arteries leading to the tissue, causing the tissue to die and drop off, leaving gaping wounds.

The first step in caring for a hospital gangrene patient was to move him to a tent or separate building to prevent the further spread of gangrene. Here he and fellow sufferers were provided with their own sponges, towels, and sheets, which were frequently washed. Dressings and bandages were often reused elsewhere but not in the gangrene ward.

In cases where gangrene affected a limb, doctors might amputate to prevent the spread of the disease. Where gangrene infected a previous amputation, doctors might amputate again further up the stump. Despite all medical efforts, about 46 percent of hospital gangrene patients died. Many of the survivors had permanent deformity in the affected area.

Excerpted from: The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Rochester City Hospital, New York

From: Rochester General Health System

The American Civil War is considered one of the most defining periods in American history.  The war touched the lives of every American and influenced the early history of the Rochester City Hospital.  The magnitude of combat casualties prompted the creation of the Army Medical Corps.  The efficient organization of hospitals coupled with medical advancements such as camp sanitation, improved methods of transportation, and hospital design helped to decrease mortality rates and left a lasting effect on medical science for decades. Additionally, the Civil War became the training ground for many surgeons who would later become respected members of Rochester City Hospital’s medical staff.

Rochester City Hospital opened in February 1864 and from the beginning admitted furloughed soldiers as patients.  Although only St. Mary’s Hospital was designated as a U.S. Army General Hospital, both St. Mary’s and Rochester City Hospital treated local wounded union soldiers.  Federal funding of $5.50 per week compensated the hospitals for treating wounded soldiers and in 1865, this revenue accounted for seventy-five percent of the City Hospital’s income.

James Baxter Bean, Confederate Dentist

By Colin F. Baxter, East Tennessee State University
James B. Bean was perhaps the single most important dental surgeon of the Civil War. Born in Washington County, June 19, 1834, James Bean could trace his heritage to the first white settlers of the state. He was the great-grandson of William and Lydia Bean, grandson of Russell Bean, and son of Robert and Mary Hunter Bean. Since Dr. Bean practiced dentistry in other states, left no direct heirs, died on Mont Blanc and was buried in Chamonix, France, his brilliant dental accomplishments during the Civil War have largely escaped the attention of his own state.
Bean attended Washington College Academy, studied medicine, and later practiced in Micanopy, Florida, where he also collected many wildlife and ornithological specimens for the Smithsonian Institution. He received his dental degree from Baltimore College of Dental Surgery in 1860 and married Hester M. Bovell, daughter of Dr. William W. Bovell, in Jonesborough, on October 30 of that year. After the outbreak of the Civil War, Bean moved to Atlanta, where he offered his services to the Confederate medical authorities. His dental device, the "Bean splint," allowed him to treat successfully over one hundred cases of gunshot wounds to the jaw and face while preventing the facial disfigurement and deformity that frequently resulted from such wounds. In January 1865 the Confederate Medical Board in Richmond, Virginia, unanimously recommended adoption of the Bean splint. Bean supervised Richmond dental surgeons in the use of his device.
After the war, Bean established a dental practice in Baltimore. He pioneered in the use of aluminum for dental plates and in 1867 took out a patent for an aluminum denture base. Although his painstaking experiments were not successful, Bean's method of casting aluminum plates was an important step in the development of the casting process in dentistry.
Bean died in 1870 at the age of thirty-six, when he and ten others were caught in a blizzard on the summit of Mont Blanc. Bean's notebook, recovered on his body, recorded his last hours as he froze to death. Mark Twain included extracts from the notebook in A Tramp Abroad (1879).

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Camp Itch

By Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein

"Camp Itch" was a painful skin disease, involving itching, lesions, and inflammation, suffered by soldiers both North and South during the Civil War. Doctors debated the cause of the itch. Certainly some cases were really scabies, a very contagious skin disease caused by mites and quickly spread by shared blankets as well as in crowded conditions. Some doctors, however, stated that camp itch was not scabies as no "animaliculae" were present. Whether scabies or not, the itch resulted from the poor hygiene of troops who bathed infrequently, suffered numerous scratches and bites, and were generally very dirty. Then, when afflicted, the men scratched, making the problem worse. The itch became so severe in some cases that 31,947 Union troops and quite a number of Confederates had to be hospitalized for treatment of the infections that followed.

The standard remedies were evidently sulphur and arsenic taken internally, plus external alkaline baths. Some doctors also prescribed a wash of sulphur and lime. Because many ingredients were difficult to get in the South, Confederate doctors sought to develop treatments using indigenous plants, some of which were tested on patients at Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond, Virginia. Several doctors reported their treatments in the Confederate States Medical and Surgical Journal.

Surgeon John H. Claiborne, in charge of the hospitals in Petersburg, Virginia, reported success in mild cases of camp itch by having the patient change clothes frequently and bathe in a decoction (prepared by boiling) of poke root once or twice daily, followed by washing with soap and water. This regimen generally produced a cure in a week to ten days. Patients with more serious cases found the poke baths too irritating. For them, Claiborne recommended washing with a decoction of broom-straw root or slippery elm, three or four times per day, until the soldier was able to take the poke root baths. Claiborne also recommended a diet of vegetables and grains, as well as a light laxative for the patient. If mercury and arsenic were available, he would give the usual doses in addition to his other treatments.

FROM: The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine

President Lincoln and Medical Malpractice

An improperly healed fracture was the most common reason for the medical malpractice crisis between the 1830s and 1860s in the United States. As a practicing lawyer in Illinois, Abraham Lincoln defended physicians in medical malpractice law suits. One of these was Dr. Powers Ritchey, who was sued for malpractice in 1855.

Lincoln agreed to represent Dr. Ritchey in 1858 as the case was appealed to the supreme court of Illinois. In the interim, Lincoln defended two indicted murderers and won the acquittals for both. Between the two murder trials, Lincoln debated Stephen A. Douglas while running for U.S. Senator from Illinois. Lincoln believed Ritchey's case poorly represented in the lower court. Ritchey's prior attorneys did not file a bill of exceptions to the testimony of the plaintiff's expert medical witnesses. Lincoln attempted to rebut the allegation of a lack of reasonable medical care and diligence by Ritchey, and he sought to secure a new trial for his client. In its decision, the supreme court of Illinois did not find any error and affirmed the lower court's judgment.

From: "On Target", the Target Health, Inc. newsletter, March 22, 2004

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The United States Naval Academy Hospital

After the South captured Fort Sumter, authorities worried that the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, was vulnerable to a secessionist attack and moved the school to Newport, Rhode Island, for the duration of the war. The Academy was temporarily turned over to the Union Army which used it for a military hospital.

The soldiers sent to the Naval Academy Hospital suffered from long-term illnesses or severe wounds. Many were not expected to make a full recovery. The hospital received a large number of patients in July and August of 1863 from the Battle of Gettysburg, and continued to receive many patients until of the end of the war. Tents were erected on the grounds to relieve the crowded buildings.

Nurses Adeline Blanchard Tyler, Louisa Titcomb, Mary E. Dupee, and Emily W. Dana were assigned to the Naval Academy Hospital in August 1863. Over twenty female nurses served at the hospital during the war. So many of the female nurses came from Maine that they were called the "Maine stay" of the hospital.

Each nurse had a certain number of patients assigned to her care and worked the wards alongside male Army nurses to comfort the sick. Mary E. Dupee was assigned thirteen wards for regular visitation, placing up to 104 soldiers under her care. Emily W. Dana's patients were soldiers just released from Belle Isle and Libby Prisons. There were frequent deaths in her ward from the effects of starvation and old wounds. According to a post-war account, Dana always strove to keep the spirits of the patients up. She was impressed with the uncomplaining endurance of the soldiers and recalled that she rarely heard a word of regret.

Before breakfast, the nurses checked that each meal was properly served since many of their patients were on special diets. During the day, the nurses observed the sickest patients and visited each one to make them as comfortable as possible. They read to the soldiers and wrote letters for them in addition to their other duties. The soldiers called the nurses "sunbeams." Families of soldiers who received care at the hospital wrote to thank the nurses for their efforts.

With the end of the war, the Army closed the hospital and the Naval Academy returned to Annapolis during the summer of 1865. After years of hard use as a military hospital, the grounds would take years to recover their pre-Civil War beauty.

IMAGE: The Naval Academy viewed from Annapolis Harbor showing the grounds in use as a general hospital during the Civil War.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Management of Jaw Injuries in the American Civil War

By Richard A. Pollock, M.D., University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Lexington, Kentucky
James Baxter Bean published a series of articles in the Southern Dental Examiner in 1862 describing his work with “plaster and its manipulations.” This early experience included a new way of managing jaw fractures, with customized splints uniquely based on pretraumatic occlusion. Bean's oral splints and their method of construction, using an articulator, became the standard of care in the Atlanta region during the American Civil War and, by 1864, throughout The Confederacy. In short course, Bean's approach also swept The Union, following in large part the efforts of a colleague in the North, T.B. Gunning. Thus, what began in the early 1860s in a dental laboratory in the southeast swept the continental United States and revolutionized management of jaw-fractures during, and immediately after, the American Civil War.
Bean was born July 19, 1834, in eastern Tennessee, attended Washington College in Limestone (in the tri-cities area of the State), and in 1860 graduated from the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery. He briefly practiced in Micanopy, Florida (south of Gainesville), and it was from there that he authored articles on “Plaster and its [Dental] Manipulations.” While awaiting publication of his four-part series in the Southern Dental Examiner in 1862, Bean moved to Atlanta, Georgia, to be closer to the South's only dental supply house, Brown & Hape, and to enjoy the stability of transactions in Georgia currency or in gold-and-silver coin.
After the fall of Atlanta to Union forces, the management of jaw injuries was relocated to a dedicated ward at the Blind School Hospital in Macon, some 90 miles south of Atlanta. Personnel and the resident dentist there were already versed in the ways of Bean.
IMAGE: The Bean splint

Friday, May 17, 2013

Use of a Fork to Lift a Depressed Skull Fracture

By Alfred Jay Bollet, M.D.

On at least one occasion, Dr, Hunter Holmes McGuire, Stonewall Jackson's medical director and personal physician, attempted neuro-surgery in the field. A friend recorded:

"I have seen him break off one prong of a common table fork, bend the point of the other prong, and with it elevate the bone in a depressed fracture of the skull and save life."

(This describes an instrument not unlike some modern bone "elevators" that surgeons still use.)

Excerpted From: Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs

Angela Gillespie, Mother Superior, Sisters of the Holy Cross

From: Department of the Navy--Naval Historical Center

Eliza Maria Gillespie was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania, on 21 February 1824. After graduation from Visitation Academy in Georgetown, District of Columbia, in 1842, she performed charitable and other work in her parish and taught school in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

In 1853, she joined the Sisters of the Holy Cross, a French order of Roman Catholic Nuns, taking the name Sister Mary of Saint Angela. During the next several years she directed the U.S. branch of the order and its school, Saint Mary's College, in South Bend, Indiana. Under her leadership, the Sisters of the Holy Cross became one of the Nation's leading teaching orders.

During the American Civil War, Mother Angela and the Sisters of the Holy Cross undertook nursing service in the Mississippi River area. Among other endeavors, they established and ran a large general hospital at Mound City, Illinois, and provided nursing staff for the U.S. Navy's hospital ship Red Rover.  Mother Angela continued in the leadership of her order after the conflict. She died at Notre Dame, Indiana, on 4 March 1887.

IMAGE: U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lafayette Guild, Confederate Medical Director

From: Encyclopedia Virginia

Philadelphia-trained surgeon Lafayette Guild poses in his U.S. Army uniform while holding his medical service sword in this hand-colored daguerreotype. Appointed as an assistant surgeon in the U.S. Army in 1849, Guild served for a time on Governor's Island in New York harbor; while there, he conducted pioneering studies of yellow fever and its spread. At the beginning of the Civil War, the Alabama-born Guild returned to the South and offered his services to the Confederacy.

In the midst of the fighting during the Seven Days' Battles in the summer of 1862, Confederate general Robert E. Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia and appointed Guild as that army's chief medical officer. It was a daunting task, as Guild later explained, being "assigned suddenly and unexpectedly to the onerous and responsible duties of medical director of this large army, without instructions of any kind and without knowledge of the previous orders and assignments of medical officers of an army already engaged in action." Guild remained in that position until the army surrendered at Appomattox in 1865.

During his tenure, Guild was frustrated by the lack of medical supplies, but was also instrumental in improving care on the battlefield, and in establishing protocols—including the creation of a "Sanitary Camp," which quarantined soldiers afflicted with contagious illnesses—that helped prevent the spread of disease among the troops.


General Robert E. Lee Confronts Disease in Recruits

By Alfred Jay Bollet, M.D.

The problem of sickness led General Lee to write to Secretary of War Randolph on October 8, 1862, three weeks after the Battle of Antietam (or, as he would have called it, Sharpsburg):

"The medical director reports that . . .about 4,500. . .sick from this army are now accumulated in Winchester, and they are principally, if not altogether, the conscripts and recruits that have joined since we have been stationary. They are afflicted with measles, camp fever, &c. The medical director thinks that all the conscripts we have received are thus afflicted, so that, instead of being an advantage to us, they are an element of weakness, a burden. I think, therefore, that it would be better if the conscripts be assembled in camps of instruction, so that they may pass through these inevitable diseases, and become a little inured to camp life."

FROM: Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs

Maggots and Rats: Nature's Surgeons

By Alfred Jay Bollet, M,D.

According to soldiers' letters, swarms of flies harassed them in every encampment and hospital. Because flies deposited their eggs in any open wound or in wounds covered with the standard moist dressings (apparently, the eggs could penetrate through several layers of moist muslin), maggots rapidly appeared in wounds. Although the maggots caused no pain, they disgusted the volunteer female nurses and their wiggling bothered the wounded men. Clinicians, therefore, used oil of turpentine, petroleum, kerosene, tobacco, chloroform, and antiseptics to kill the maggots when flies were present. In well-run hospitals, strict cleanliness usually prevented their appearance.

Yet, some Civil War surgeons ultimately realized that maggots could have beneficial effects: they painlessly cleansed wounds by digesting and removing dead tissue without injuring healthy tissue. Confederate Surgeon Joseph Jones, for example, reported that "a gangrenous wound which had been thoroughly cleansed by maggots healed more rapidly than if it had been left by itself." In recent times, physicians have rediscovered the ability of maggots to debride wounds, often more carefully than the best surgeon.

In her memoirs, Phoebe Pember noted the skill of rats in removing dead tissues in a wound without damaging healthy tissue or hurting the soldier. "The rat surgeons," she noted, "could have passed the [medical examining] board." A Virginian named Patterson was wounded in the center of the instep of a foot; the wound sloughed, and a large mass of "proud flesh" (newly formed growing tissue, now called "granulation") formed an island in its center. According to Pember,

"The surgeons feared to remove the mass, thinking it was connected to the nerves of the foot and lockjaw might ensue. Patterson was very glum, but [after the rats got to his wound, he] brightened one morning, and he exhibited the foot with great glee, the little island gone, and a deep hollow left, but the wound was washed clean and looking healthy."

FROM: Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs

Monday, May 13, 2013

Amy Morris Bradley, Nurse, Matron, Teacher

From Duke University Libraries

Amy Morris Bradley was born in East Vassalboro, Maine on September 12, 1823, the youngest of several children. In 1840, she began work as a school teacher, first in her hometown and later in Charlestown and East Cambridge, Massachusetts. After several years of suffering from respiratory illness, she elected to leave New England in late 1853 for San Jose, Costa Rica, where she served as a governess and teacher. She established the first English-language school in Central America and taught there for three years, returning to the states in 1857 when her elderly father fell ill. After his passing she relocated to the Boston area where she served as a translator.

The day after the first Battle of Bull Run, on July 22, 1861, Bradley wrote to George Brickett, the acting surgeon for the Third Maine Regiment, volunteering her services. She began employment as his field nurse in late August 1861, and by October was serving under him as matron of the regiment for the Fifth Maine. The following spring she joined the U.S. Sanitary Commission, serving on transport boats and later running a home for invalid soldiers in Washington, DC. From December 17, 1862 to September 12, 1865, Bradley served as a special relief agent at the Convalescent Camp in Alexandria, Virginia. She served for the entire life of the camp, arriving before the barracks had been erected and remaining until the hospital was decommissioned.

Following the war, the Soldier's Memorial Society and the American Unitarian Association recruited Bradley for missionary work in Wilmington, North Carolina. Once there, she determined the greatest need was for a school for poor white children, which she opened in January 1867 to three children. Within a week, more than sixty had enrolled. Bradley founded a number of schools over the next few years. Within five years, Bradley with support from Boston philanthropist Mary Tileston Hemenway raised the funds necessary to construct a modern school building. Opened in 1872 and known as the Tileston School, this was the first free public school in Wilmington. Bradley continued to teach there 1891. She passed away on January 15, 1904 in her small cottage located on the school's grounds.

"Dead Beats": Malingerers and Feigned Diseases

By J. Theodore Calhoun, Assistant Surgeon in the United States Army, And Surgeon in Chief, 2d Division, 3d Army Corps

The term malingerer, which has always been in use in the army to designate a soldier who feigned disease, has been almost entirely superseded by a slang term, of the origin of which I am as ignorant as I am of its orthography, but which is pronounced "Dead Beat."

I may be pardoned for introducing it here, as its use is so universal among all ranks and classes, from Major-Generals to drummer boys.

The incentives to feign disease in the army are great, and the army practitioner has to be constantly on the alert to detect the true from the false. A regimental medical officer, if he knows his regiment as he should, will soon be enabled to single out the "Dead Beats," and know who to suspect. But woe be to a medical officer fresh from civil life who takes charge of a "sick call" in an old regiment. Every malingerer in the regiment makes his appearance at the "call," and such pains as he suffers, and such complaints as he pours into the ear of the medical officer will almost make the latter believe that his predecessor has been some heartless brute who has been maltreating the poor fellows; but let him order them "on duty," and he will see at the afternoon drill the crippled rheumatic of the morning the erect and active skirmisher of the afternoon.

These malingerers are often very ingenious. They understand very well what diseases can be "played," (as they term it) and what cannot.

Excerpted from: The Medical and Surgical Reporter, A Weekly Journal, August 15, 1863

IMAGE: "Playing the Old Soldier" by Winslow Homer

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs

Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs
by Alfred Jay Bollet, M.D. /

Amputations on screaming, unanesthetized men is the image of Civil War medicine for most people. Dr. Bollet's extensive research has proved that this is a myth. Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs presents the remarkable story of healthcare workers' dedication and heroism in the face of a terrible war.

Using a blend of first-person accounts, historical data, and modern medical knowledge, Dr. Alfred Jay Bollet revisits the battlefields, hospitals, and horrific conditions in which Civil War surgeons had to labor. He details the first dismal year, when a war expected to last a few short months instead left tens of thousands of soldiers dead and wounded. The widely reported tragedies of that year formed the images of Civil War medicine that have endured-even to this day.

Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs shows, however, that after that first year, the medical teams on both sides of the Civil War delivered care and produced survival rates for diseases and injuries far better than either the civilian physicians of the time or European practitioners in subsequent wars. Rising to the unprecedented challenges of an unexpectedly long and brutal war, they developed innovations that later became standard components of battlefield and disaster medicine. In the face of devastating shortages of medical supplies and equipment, Civil War surgeons organized a trained ambulance corps, a field hospital system to care for the wounded, and huge, well-run military hospitals. The first organized nursing corps admirably served both sides-at great personal risk.

Dr. Bollet challenges the outdated images of barbaric and ignorant practitioners-replacing them with a balanced narrative of the heroic efforts of the largely unsung Civil War physicians and nurses. The Civil War provided a true test of American medicine's ability to adapt, innovate, and provide quality care in extraordinary times; Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs shows they did just that.

Order your copy today!

Other books by Alfred Jay Bollett, M.D.


John Meck Cuyler, M.D.

A Confederate Surgeon's Sacrifice

John M. Cuyler was born in Savannah, Georgia on March 9, 1810. He entered the Regular Army as an Assistant surgeon in 1834, being among the first to pass the rigid examination instituted in 1833.

Dr. Cuyler was a graduate of the West Point Military Academy. He was actively engaged in the Creek War of 1838, and the Seminole War of 1840. He served with distinction through the Mexican War, receiving promotion as Major and Surgeon on February 16, 1847. From 1848 until 1855,he served at West Point.

When the secession crisis and Civil War ensued, he chose to remain with the U.S. Army. He was the senior medical officer at Fort Monroe during the first years of the war. He served as Medical Inspector and Acting medical Inspector General. He served on examining boards. Dr. Cuyler was promoted Lieutenant Colonel and Medical Inspector on June 11, 1862.

He served at the II Corps field hospital at Gettysburg. While operating upon a gangrenous wound, his scalpel slipped and cut into his finger. Realizing that the wound would becoming infected, and wishing to avoid spreading the infection to this other patients, Dr. Cuyler had his own finger amputated immediately. He took this action at a time when the germ theory of infection was only a suspicion and not an accepted medical fact.

He was breveted Colonel on November 29, 1864 and Brigadier General on March 13, 1865. He retired on June 30, 1882, and died on April 26, 1884, in Morristown, New Jersey.

Excerpted from: The Journal of Civil War Medicine, Vol. 10, No. 3

Friday, May 10, 2013

Microscope Use in the Civil War

By Alfred Jay Bollet, M.D.

Civil War physicians routinely used microscopes to make diagnoses and to study the pathologic changes due to disease. Nevertheless, some historians have asserted that the "backward" Civil War physicians did not know how to use the microscope. Although it had been invented two centuries earlier, "the headquarters of the Army Medical Department did not have [a microscope] until 1863," and the Harvard Medical School catalogue didn't acknowledge possession of a microscope until 1869.

The truth is considerably different. The microscopic study of minute anatomic and pathologic tissue changes developed rapidly in the United States and elsewhere during the two decades before the Civil War. Oliver Wendell Holmes taught microscopy to medical students at both Harvard and Tremont medical schools from the 1840s on, using his own instruments and a set of slides he prepared himself. Medical schools usually did not own any microscopes, but the professors did.

Advertisements by microscope manufacturers appeared in the medical journals of the time. Several American scientific societies had sections devoted to microscopy, and at least one national society entirely devoted to microscopy was founded before the Civil War.

Excerpted from: Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs

Medical Examining Boards

By Alfred Jay Bollet, M.D.

Examining boards for physicians seeking regular army commissions met in various cities almost continuously throughout the war. Officially appointed by the secretary of war, each board consisted of "not less than three medical officers" who were designated by the surgeon general. State examining boards oversaw physician appointments to the volunteer regiments.

The Confederate army had the same system of examinations at the state and national levels. Typically, the examinations would last three or four and sometimes as long as six days. There was a high failure rate. Many candidates, fearing failure, cancelled their scheduled examination, and about half of those who did appear withdrew before the exam was completed, apparently too discouraged by their performance or too stressed to continue. Many of the latter blamed illness, and one candidate had an epileptic seizure while being questioned.

FROM: Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs

Soldiers Learn to Cook Bacon

By Robert E. Denney

Among the many things the new soldier had to learn was how to prepare food. A tract published for the Army of the Potomac explained to the soldier how to cook bacon.

Bacon should be well washed and scraped and put to soak all night. In the morning, put it to boil slowly; simmering is better. After it has once boiled, throw the water off and fill up with fresh water; then let it simmer for three hours. When thoroughly done, the rind comes off easily, and the meat tastes fresh and sweet.

The above assumes that there is time for the soldier to do all the soaking and boiling; that the bacon isn't so maggot-infested as to be inedible; and that the tools to do all this will be at hand. To add to this, directions were given for frying bacon.

The great secret in frying is to have the fat as hot as the fire will make it before putting the article to be cooked into it. The object is to close up the pores of the flesh at once, and prevent the fat from penetrating it, rendering it greasy and indigestible. After the bacon is well soaked, cut it into think slices, and fry it crisp. It is is cold bacon, slice it into a pan, cover it with bread crumbs--stale bread grated--add very little fat, and put it over a quick fire for four or five minutes; then turn it, and cook the other side. 

FROM: Civil War Medicine: Care & Comfort of the Wounded

Food Rations for Union Troops, 1861

By Robert E. Denney
May 1861
Food was another problem. The Regular Army had its own way of doing things and that method was carried over into the volunteer organizations. There were no "company messes" as such, nor were there any "company cooks." The rations were issued to the individual, and he was supposed to be able to fix his own in whatever manner he chose. At this time in the war, the ration consisted of:
Pork or bacon, 12 oz.; fresh or salt beef, 1 lb, 8 oz.; flour, 1 lb. 2 oz., or 12 oz. hard bread, or cornmeal, 1 lb. 4 oz. For each 100 rations there was added beans or rice, 10 lbs., or 9 lbs. 12 oz. desiccated potatoes; mixed vegetables, 6 lbs. 4 oz.; green coffee, 10 lbs.; sugar, 5 lbs.; vinegar, 1 gal.; and 1 lb. of candles.
Not all items were available every day, so the troops saw mostly bacon, hard bread, and beans. The vinegar was to combat scurvy, which disease was a real threat to the men during most seasons of the year. The desiccated vegetables, commonly referred to as "decimated vegetables," weren't a popular item, and fresh vegetables were seldom, if ever, issued. No fruit was available except what could be stolen from orchards or bought from local farmers.
Desiccated vegetables consisted of potatoes, cabbages, turnips, carrots, parsnips, beets, tomatoes, onions, peas, beans, lentils, celery, etc. These vegetables were cleaned, dried, and pressed into a compact "brick" form, sealed in tin boxes, and then packed in wooden crates. A "brick" was one foot square and two inches thick, weighed about seven pounds and contained about 112 rations of one ounce. This mess, when reconstituted, would swell to 16 times its compressed bulk! It was to provide vegetables for 100 men for one meal.
The rice issued wasn't long-grain rice, but was either brown rice, or short- to medium-grain white rice. The salt issued was in a variety of forms, from coarse mined salt, to finely milled salt. This was usually measured by the "handful," which converted to about 1/2 cup of modern measure. Usually too much salt was used in cooking, resulting in dietary problems.
The beef or pork not issued fresh was preserved with salt, and usually packed in barrels. Much spoilage occurred, and not a little of it was from bad meat sold by dishonest contractors. Bread was issued in a 22-ounce loaf per man for the day, or the equivalent made up with 18 ounces of hardtack crackers. A "marching ration" in the Union Army consisted of 16 ounces of meat, 22 ounces of bread, and 4 ounces each of coffee and sugar. Usually some of the meat was cooked and some taken as issued--i.e., salted.
FROM: Civil War Medicine: Care & Comfort of the Wounded

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Lincoln Orders a Discharge for "Insanity"

By Thomas P. Lowry, M.D.

Pvt. John Beiser, 32nd Indiana Infantry, deserted at Camp Fry, Kentucky, in April, 1863. When captured, he was convicted and sentenced to be shot.

Much of the trial transcript centers on his mental condition. His officers offered these comments, "He used to be crazy some of the time, with spells of lunacy lasting six to 24 hours, once or twice a week. . . He accused me of having sexual intercourse with Mrs. Beiser, even though she was a hundred miles away . . .He said he could hear his wife crying. . .He is much worse during a full moon. . . He once jumped out of his tent and fired his gun."

The court petitioned for clemency because of "insanity."

The case came to the Executive Mansion, Lincoln's Judge Advocate General, Joseph Holt, prepared his report. "June 5, 1863. Private John Beiser was convicted of Desertion and sentenced to be shot. The court recommended that on account of the state of his health the sentence be remitted and he be discharged from the service. General Rosecrans approved the findings, and forwards the record for the action of the president, enclosing the Report of a Board of Medical Examiners, who decided that the man was insane. . .The accused was sent to an Insane Asylum [at Nashville] to await the decision in the case. It is recommended that he be discharged." Lincoln wrote: "June 16, 1863. Sentence remitted & accused ordered to be discharged."

The symptoms noted in the records suggest a contemporary diagnosis of Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder.

Reprinted from The Journal of Civil War Medicine, Vol. 12, No.2

PHOTO: 32nd Indiana Infantry Monument in Cave Hill National Cemetery

Learn more about Civil War medicine at

Remarks on Dentistry in the Army

By Wm. B. Roberts, M.D. Of New York

June 29, 1861
It is well known to the dental profession that all the diseases common to teeth can not only be cured, but may be prevented by proper and timely treatment. After having thus enumerated the evils appertaining to a defective condition of the teeth, a condition which experience has found to exist among the army to an extraordinary extent, and having shown the importance of such diseased condition being avoided and changed to aid in establishing a proper sanitary condition among these men who risk their lives for their country's service, and have neither time, means, nor opportunity for themselves discharging their duty in this respect; we desire to urge upon the proper authorities, that a corps of dentists, or dental staff, should be attached to the United States army, similarly organized with the surgical department, who would act in connexion with, and as an efficient aid to, that department, besides performing their own duties in a proper manner

Holding this to be a great sanitary measure, as well as an economical and humane movement in behalf of those affected by it, we would especially offer these suggestions to our "Sanitary Commission," believing that in the scope of their noble field of labor there could not be performed a more important act, than the procuring of the passage of a bill through Congress at the approaching session, which should incorporate into the army an efficient DENTAL staff, strengthened with all the powers necessary to enable it to become most serviceable to the cause of health.

Excerpted from an article in the June 29, 1861 issue of the American Medical Times.

Learn more about Civil War Dentists at

Friday, May 3, 2013

Civil War Thermometers

By Alfred Jay Bollet, M.D.

Civil War physicians are . . .criticized for their failure to use even the few thermometers they had. Yet they were by no means behind their contemporaries in Europe in this regard. Thermometers were cumbersome to use, as they were usually placed in the armpit for a long period of time, and so w ere just "not used very much." Body temperature was ascertained only during the investigation of unusual diseases, such as in Confederate physician Joseph Jones's study of "traumatic tetanus" published during the war. Not until 1867 did German professor of medicine Carl Wünderlich introduce thermometry to bedside medicine. The profound impact of his work is summarized by the expression: "He found fever a disease and left it a symptom." After Wünderlich's report, thermometer use became widespread among American physicians.
FROM: Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs

PHOTO: 1860 axilla clinical thermometer with ivory scale

Surgeon-General Moore Suggests a Substitute for Quinine

Richmond, Va., December 5, 1863
Surg. R. POTTS,
Medical Purveyor, Macon, Ga.:
SIR: Below you will find a formula for a compound tincture of the indigenous barks to be issued as a tonic and febrifuge and substitute as far as practicable for quinine.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Surgeon-General C.S. Army
Dried dogwood bark, 30 parts; dried poplar bark, 30 parts; dried willow bark, 40 parts; whisky, 45 degrees strength; two pounds of the mixed bark to one gallon of whisky. Macerate fourteen days. Dose for tonic and anti-febrifuge purposes, one ounce three times a day.
Learn more about Civil War medications at

Confederate Opium and Quinine Shortages

By Alfred Jay Bollet, M.D.
Quinine and opium were the most urgently needed drugs during the war and strenuous efforts were made to find plants that would serve as alternatives. Confederates tried to substitute extracts of a variety of tree barks for the Peruvian bark, separately and in combination, but none worked. At the suggestion of Surgeon General Moore, fields of opium-producing poppies were widely planted in the Confederacy, "but very little opium was gathered," and almost all the opium and morphine used was brought in through the [Naval] blockade.
Confederates established drug (called "chemical") manufacturing facilities to produce ether and chloroform, and to research the medicinal properties of various indigenous plants. Such facilities were located in Richmond, Charlotte, and Lincolnton in North Carolina; Columbia, South Carolina; August, Macon, and Atlanta in Georgia; Mobile, Alabama; and Knoxville, Tennessee. In the "Trans-Mississippi," there were similar laboratories in Tyler, Texas, and Arkadelphia, Arkansas.
FROM: Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs

Drugs in the Field

By Alfred Jay Bollet, M.D.

Writing more than 50 years after the war, Charles Beneulyn Johnson, hospital steward of the 130th Illinois Volunteers, remembered the items supplied to regimental surgeons in the field:

"During a campaign our stock of medicines was necessarily limited to standard remedies, among which could be named opium, morphine, Dover's powder, quinine, rhubarb, Rochelle salts, castor oil, sugar of lead, tannin, sulphate of copper, sulphate of zinc, camphor, tincture of opium, tincture of iron, tincture opic, camphorata, syrup of squills, simple syrup, alcohol, whiskey, brandy, port wine, sherry wine, etc. . . Practically all the medicines were administered in powdered form or liquid state and pills were far from being as plentiful as they are today,. The result was the most powders were stirred in water and swallowed. . .The dose, thus prepared, was a bitter one. The bromides, sulfonal, trional, and similar soporifics had not yet come into use, and asafetida, valeriaum and opium and its derivatives were about all the Civil War surgeon had to relieve nervousness and induce sleep."

FROM: Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs

Mother Bickerdyke's Home Remedies

By Robert E. Denney

June, 1864
In Georgia, Mother [Mary Ann] Bickerdyke and Mrs. [Eliza C.] Porter were following Sherman's fifteenth Corps, doing all they could for the sick and wounded. One major problem was the lack of medicines and drugs, since the army made little provision for the treatment of the patients.

This was the period when Bickerdyke's knowledge of botanical medicine came into play. for her, the woods abounded with plants (weeds, to some) that could be used effectively. Blackberries were plentiful, and blackberry cordial could be used to treat diarrhea, Painkillers could be made from the jimsonweed, and heart stimulants from wild cherry and bloodroot. Chigger bites, always a big problem when living in the woods, she treated by rubbing the bite with a bit of wet soap, saying that the scratching was the problem, not the bite.

Bickerdyke wasn't the only one in the South to use "homegrown" remedies. With the blockade of the Southern ports cutting off most of the supply of drugs and other medicines the "old" recipes for specifics were dug out from grandmothers' cookbooks and used liberally. The slaves' medicinal lore was also tapped for treatments. Many of such medicines were very effective.

FROM: Civil War Medicine: Care & Comfort of the Wounded

Dr. Chase's Home Remedies

"DR. CHASES'S RECIPES or Information for Everyone"


Born in Cayuga County, New York, Alvin Wood Chase (1817-1885) spent his early years peddling household wares and medicines along the Maumee River near Toledo, Ohio where he also collected folk remedies. His first publication of A Guide to Wealth! Over One Hundred Valuable Recipes for Saloons, Inn-Keepers, Grocers, Druggists, Merchants and Families Generally was published in 1858 and by the 1863 edition, the book contained over 800 recipes. In 1897 he published Dr, Chase's Third, Last and Complete Receipt Book. His books were great sellers especially among pioneers and settlers who were eager to have a multi- purpose how-to guide to assist them in everyday life.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Western Sanitary Commission

By Robert E. Denney
June 1, 1863
The Western Sanitary Commission, originally established on September 10, 1861, in St. Louis, Mo,, had by this date distributed more than 752,938 articles since November 1, 1861 (no records were kept during September and October, 1861). These articles, valued at $395,335.96, consisted of blankets, pillows, sheets, comforts, bed sacks, shirts and drawers, socks, slippers, towels, handkerchiefs, dried and canned fruits, jellies, pounds of butter, pounds of zwieback, pounds of crackers, packages of farina, bushels of vegetables, bottles of wine, brandy, and whiskey, etc.
The articles were provided as free gifts from the women and other agencies of the North and were distributed solely through the Sanitary Commission agents to hospitals i Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas. The fleet of hospital ships wasn't neglected in this distribution. Supplies were also furnished to the R.C. Wood, D.A. January, City of Memphis, Nashville, Empress, Imperial, City of Alton, and the Navy's hospital ship Red Rover.
Since September 1861, in excess of 42,776 sick and wounded had been inmates of the hospitals of St. Louis and vicinity, and about 30,000 had been transported on the hospital steamers. This, in addition to the more than 75,000 sick and wounded, who also benefited in the regimental hospitals from the Sanitary Commission largess, put the total number of men assisted to more than 150,000.
FROM: Civil War Medicine: Care & Comfort of the Wounded

Sarah Emma Edmonds, Union Nurse and Spy

By Christie Hoerneman

Historians believe at least 400 women served in the Civil War as soldiers, but documented cases are very few. One woman who served with a Michigan regiment and witnessed the Battle of Fredericksburg, Emma Edmonds, documented her time serving with Company F, the Flint Union Greys, of the Second Michigan Infantry Volunteers   by writing a memoir, Unsexed; or, The Female Soldier (which was reprinted a year later as Nurse and Spy in the Union Army.

Edmonds was born as Sarah Emma Evelyn Edmonds in New Brunswick, Canada, in December of 1841. There were not many opportunities for a young woman to support herself, consequently Edmonds dressed as a man and took the name of Franklin Thompson. With her new identity, she sold Bibles in Canada and eventually went across the border where she continued to sell Bibles in Flint, Michigan as Thompson. The Civil War broke out while Edmonds was living in Flint.

Although Edmonds was not an American citizen and had no obligation to participate in the war, she argued that she could not allow so many people to suffer while she had a comparatively easy life. In her memoir, Edmonds stated, "It is true, I was not an American—I was not obliged to remain here during this terrible strife . . . . It was not my intention, or desire, to seek my own personal ease and comfort while so much sorrow and distress filled the land." On May 17, 1861, Edmonds joined the Flint Union Greys of the Second Michigan, which was the first three-year regiment assembled in Michigan, and it was the first western regiment to reach Washington, D.C..

Edmonds served with the Second Michigan in various capacities until she contracted malaria in the spring of 1863. She had endured many injuries, which she had attended to herself in fear that a medical examination would lead the army to discover her true identity, throughout her time as a soldier. However, malaria cases were too dangerous not to be admitted into a hospital, so she was determined to desert rather than have her sex found out. She later returned to female clothing and rejoined the war as a female nurse.

Edmonds's duties as a soldier ranged from that of a male nurse to the regiment's postmaster, and finally a mail carrier. In addition to duties as a nurse, which included burying the dead soldiers, she picked up a gun and participated in the Battle of Williamsburg and the Seven Days' Battles. Edmonds witnessed some of the most infamous battles of the war, including First Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. Edmonds recounted her experiences for later generations in her 1864 memoir. In her memoir, Edmonds described the conditions around Fredericksburg, the cold weather, the mud, and the bad roads, the Rappahannock River, and the battle.

The United States government recognized her role in the Civil War by granting her a pension of twelve dollars a month and removing the desertion charge from her record. Edmonds's wartime activities were further recognized in 1897 when the George B. McClellan Post of the Grand Army of the Republic, a premier Civil War veterans' organization, admitted Edmonds into their ranks.

Edmonds passed away when she was 58 years old on September 5, 1898. She was buried in Houston's Washington Cemetery with full military honors. In 1992, the city of Flint erected a statue outside its courthouse commending Edmonds for her wartime activities.


Fannie Beers, Florence Nightingale of the South

By Maggie MacLean

There is not much information available about the personal life of Fannie Beers, only that she was born in the North, and married A. P. Beers when she was very young. She wrote in her memoirs, Memories: A Record of Personal Experiences and Adventures During Four Years of War, that she met him while he was a student at Yale University and she was living with her mother in New Haven, Connecticut.

The couple moved to New Orleans at some point, and Fannie apparently grew to love the South and its people. Married bliss lasted only a few years before the Civil War began. Mr. Beers enlisted in the Confederate Army, and became a sergeant in Fenner’s Louisiana Light Artillery.

She wrote:
My husband, after preliminary service with the 'Minute Men' and the State troops, as a member of Company A, Crescent Rifles, was, with this company, regularly mustered into the Confederate service in April 1861 and left for Pensacola, Florida.
Fannie returned to the North to live with her mother. Fannie was apparently pregnant with her second child at that time, because she wrote that her mother gave her "unceasing care," and "during this troubled time a little babe was born to me, who only just opened its dark eyes upon the troubled face of its mother to chose them forever."

While living at her parents' home, Fannie received a letter from her husband, inside which he enclosed a tiny Confederate flag that she kept in her prayer book. Her neighbors demanded that she destroy the flag. Instead she pasted the flag on her "naked flesh just over my heart."

Fannie took her son, and with the help of her family and friends, made her way to Virginia where she was reunited with her husband. Throughout the remainder of the war, Fannie worked as a nurse in Virginia, Georgia and Alabama.

In Richmond, she wrote:
Scattered all over the city in many a shady nook were cozy, pleasant retreats, where wounded or sick soldiers were gladly welcomed—private hospitals presided over by ladies, sustained by their constant attention. One lady generally had direction of the affairs of one particular hospital, assisted by others whose duties lay just there, and who devoted each in turn on successive days their entire care and attention to this labor of love.
At first she assisted in a private hospital maintained by some Richmond ladies, who sent in all the food required. In a few weeks she was appointed matron-in-charge of the Second Alabama Hospital.

Soon after she began her regular duties, the sick and wounded began to pour in, and from this time forward she was constantly employed till within a few weeks of the battle of Shiloh.

After her husband's command was sent to Tennessee in 1862, she left Richmond, and for a few weeks visited her husband's relatives in Alabama.

A Confederate army surgeon, Dr. William McAllister, was establishing a field hospital at Gainesville, Alabama, to treat the wounded of the Battle of Shiloh. He put a notice in the newspaper asking for a women to serve as matron, and Fannie Beers volunteered immediately.

Dr. McAllister later wrote:
She said she desired to do something while her husband was at the front defending our Southern homes. I soon found what she lacked in age and experience was made up in patriotism, devotion to the Southern cause, constant vigilance and tenderness in nursing the Confederate sick and wounded.

She remained as hospital matron at Gainesville, Alabama; Ringgold, Georgia; Newnan, Georgia; and Port Valley, Georgia, embracing a period of nearly three years. She was at the time chief matron, sometimes supervising more than one thousand beds filled with sick and wounded. Through heat and cold, night and day, she was incessant in her attentions and watchfulness over the Confederate sick and wounded.
In July 1864, while at Newnan, Georgia, Fannie remained with the wounded while the surgeon and every other able-bodied man successfully defended the town from Union attack. Fannie cared for the wounded of both armies and 1000 Federal prisoners. Newnan was home to seven field hospitals.

While Atlanta was being shelled, she took boxes of provisions to her husband and his comrades in the trenches. While at Fort Valley, her courage and patriotism were put to the severest test in an epidemic of smallpox. When all who could left, she remained and nursed the Confederate soldiers.
IMAGE: Aftermath
By Martin Pate
This painting shows Civil War nurse Fannie Beers at Brown's Mill battlefield in Coweta County, Georgia during the Atlanta Campaign. The scene is described in Beers' journal, Memories.



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