Civil War Medicine – A Digital History Collection. As the Civil War began, the practice of medicine was emerging from the “heroic era”, with its theory of bringing a balance to the humors of the body.  Medical practitioners had no knowledge of germ theory or antiseptic practices. Both discoveries were still years away. Over 60 medical schools existed in America before the war, and apprenticeships with established physicians were also common. The usual course of study in a medical school consisted of two terms of six-month lectures, with the second term often being a repeat of the first. All new recruits were supposed to receive a physical exam. Occasionally the exam was very superficial, allowing recruits to enter the army with chronic diseases and physical defects that would affect their performance as a soldier. With the number of men willing to enlist dwindling, both the North and South resorted to instituting a draft to secure the large number of soldiers needed to fight. New recruits were sent to large camps to learn how to become soldiers. The first enemy they faced was disease. Healthy recruits became victims of illnesses that were easily spread due to the large number of people in the camps, the often unsanitary conditions, and the poor diet of the soldiers. Childhood diseases such as measles could devastate regiments and many men succumbed to diarrhea and dysentery. Of the nearly 620,000 soldiers who died during the Civil War, two-thirds died not of bullets and bayonets, but of disease.

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Book excerpts:

Flash Drive Cover Art

Photo Detail: Petersburg, Va. Three surgeons of 1st Division, 9th Corps

Photo Detail: Unknown location. Embalming surgeon at work on soldier's body

Artwork Detail: Field pannier open to show contents.

Artwork Detail: Manner in which the field panniers were carried.

Artwork Detail: Return of Fifty Seven Wounded Soldiers of the National Army at Bull Run.

Artwork Detail: A catalogue of surgical instruments- manufactured and sold by John Weiss and Son, 1863.

Photo Detail: General Hospital, Gettysburg, August, 1863.

Photo Detail: Hospital scene at Fortress Monroe, Va.

Artwork Detail: Collecting the wounded after the engagement - within our lines near Hatchers Run.

Artwork Detail: Citizens Volunteer Hospital corner of Broad St. & Washington Avenue, Philadelphia.

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Collection Details:

  • 260+ articles from journals, magazines.
  • 400+ books in PDF format, including The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, (1861-65)
  • 200+ medical journals covering the years of the war.
  • 50+ newspaper articles (full sheets, not clipped articles).
  • 100+ photos in 300 dpi resolution.

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