11519Re: [civilwarwest] Anyone read the new Civil War medicine book?
- Jun 2, 2002In a message dated 6/2/02 11:04:27 AM Central Daylight Time,
<< I have read somewhere (don't ask me where, can't remember) that despite
the stories of Southern inefficiency with medicine, 1) wound for wound, the
Confederate hospitals were better equipped because they were stuffed to the
gills with COTTON (which, having helped to start the war, finally made
itself useful for a change) to use as gauze, and 2) Southern doctors and
orderlies were generally better about sterilizing this gauze by heating it
in ovens before application (although it is said that they weren't aware of
what they were doing).
I would question "better equipped" as accurate, since the CSA was
persistently short of all supplies. According to my reading it is true that
lint scrapings were often used in the South in lieu of poorly washed
bandages. Since lint cannot be reused, the result was less infection.
Shortages (chronic in the South and sporadic up North) produced innovation
and experimental techniques that drove medicine forward in leaps and bounds.
To my mind not only is the topic of CW medicine interesting in and of itself,
but the care of the wounded consistently impacted logistics and tactics
around the field of battle. I think an effective General had to factor it in
when planning a campaign or preparing a battle plan.
For instance, hospital steamers clogged up the Mississippi transportation
system both on the river and in port during western movements. Or, when
Grant crossed the big muddy to go behind VB, he still had to figure out a way
to care for the wounded even though he determined to live off the land.
Surgeons and nursing staff had to be accommodated near the battlefield and in
the camp environment and supplies had to be earmarked for their care. In
other words, CW medicine was intricately woven into all aspects of the war.
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