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Anyone read the new Civil War medicine book?

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  • WmHiram
    On a Civil War chat the other night, the discussion fell to Civil War medicine, and I recommended Dr. Alfred Bollet s new book on the subject, Civil War
    Message 1 of 8 , Jun 1, 2002
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      On a Civil War chat the other night, the discussion fell to Civil War
      medicine, and I recommended Dr. Alfred Bollet's new book on the
      subject, "Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs." Someone
      asked me if somebody without a medical education could understand
      it. I'm not in a position to judge, since I'm in the medical field.
      Has anyone else read it? Can the layman understand it?

      Dr. Bollet certainly makes a good argument against the cherished
      myths about Civil War medicine.

      Billie
    • Aurelie1999@aol.com
      I found the book easily understood and my knowledge of medicine is confined to Flintstone band aids and the miracle of Excedrin. I will, however, confess that
      Message 2 of 8 , Jun 1, 2002
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        I found the book easily understood and my knowledge of medicine is confined
        to Flintstone band aids and the miracle of Excedrin. I will, however,
        confess that I did not sit down and read every word particularly the tables
        etc. It is, however, an excellent reference.

        I was also knocked over by the dismantling of myths. "In their desperation,
        they developed novel approaches to abdominal, chest, eye, plastic and
        orthopedic surgery, as well as surgery for head woods, later termed
        neurosurgery." So many of have been so mesmerized by contemporary anecdotal
        evidence that we are ready to consider Phoebe Pember Yates' diary as a
        definitive work on civil war medicine. While I have no doubt that the
        memoirs and diaries of those who were there are accurate, I also know these
        works do not tell the broader story that uses a wider lens for seeing the
        amazement rather than the horror of CW medical practice.

        My one comment or criticism is that the book is weak when presenting the
        Southern story of the medicine. I had the feeling that it was just easier to
        research the northern efforts and the south got short changed.
        Connie
      • WmHiram
        OK, thanks, Connie, I ll pass that information on. I thought that there was a lot that the book didn t say about the day- to-day running of the medical corps,
        Message 3 of 8 , Jun 2, 2002
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          OK, thanks, Connie, I'll pass that information on.

          I thought that there was a lot that the book didn't say about the day-
          to-day running of the medical corps, but that only leaves the field
          wide open for more books, eh, including the definitive volume on
          Confederate medicine.

          BTW, at the Society of Civil War Surgeons convention last year I met
          the gggranddaughter of J. J. Woodworth, the famous Confederate
          surgeon who wrote the book on wartime surgery. She did a nice
          presentation on his life, and we may expect a biograpy of him in the
          next year or two.

          Billie

          --- In civilwarwest@y..., Aurelie1999@a... wrote:
          > I found the book easily understood and my knowledge of medicine is
          confined
          > to Flintstone band aids and the miracle of Excedrin. I will,
          however,
          > confess that I did not sit down and read every word particularly
          the tables
          > etc. It is, however, an excellent reference.
          >
          > I was also knocked over by the dismantling of myths. "In their
          desperation,
          > they developed novel approaches to abdominal, chest, eye, plastic
          and
          > orthopedic surgery, as well as surgery for head woods, later termed
          > neurosurgery." So many of have been so mesmerized by contemporary
          anecdotal
          > evidence that we are ready to consider Phoebe Pember Yates' diary
          as a
          > definitive work on civil war medicine. While I have no doubt that
          the
          > memoirs and diaries of those who were there are accurate, I also
          know these
          > works do not tell the broader story that uses a wider lens for
          seeing the
          > amazement rather than the horror of CW medical practice.
          >
          > My one comment or criticism is that the book is weak when
          presenting the
          > Southern story of the medicine. I had the feeling that it was just
          easier to
          > research the northern efforts and the south got short changed.
          > Connie
        • David Kowalski
          Amen Connie. The results at the main Confederate hospital in Richmond were the best of the war. Aurelie1999@aol.com wrote: I found the book easily understood
          Message 4 of 8 , Jun 2, 2002
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            Amen Connie.  The results at the main Confederate hospital in Richmond were the best of the war. 

              Aurelie1999@... wrote:

            I found the book easily understood and my knowledge of medicine is confined
            to Flintstone band aids and the miracle of Excedrin.  I will, however,
            confess that I did not sit down and read every word particularly the tables
            etc.  It is, however, an excellent reference.

            I was also knocked over by the dismantling of myths. "In their desperation,
            they developed novel approaches to abdominal, chest, eye, plastic and
            orthopedic surgery, as well as surgery for head woods, later termed
            neurosurgery."  So many of have been so mesmerized by contemporary anecdotal
            evidence that we are ready to consider Phoebe Pember Yates' diary as a
            definitive work on civil war medicine.  While I have no doubt that the
            memoirs and diaries of those who were there are accurate, I also know these
            works do not tell the broader story that uses a wider lens for seeing the
            amazement rather than the horror of CW medical practice. 

            My one comment or criticism is that the book is weak when presenting the
            Southern story of the medicine.  I had the feeling that it was just easier to
            research the northern efforts and the south got short changed. 
            Connie


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          • Dan Cone
            ... I have read somewhere (don t ask me where, can t remember) that despite all the stories of Southern inefficiency with medicine, 1) wound for wound, the
            Message 5 of 8 , Jun 2, 2002
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              >My one comment or criticism is that the book is weak when presenting the
              >Southern story of the medicine. I had the feeling that it was just easier
              >to
              >research the northern efforts and the south got short changed.
              >Connie

              I have read somewhere (don't ask me where, can't remember) that despite all
              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).

              Dan

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            • Aurelie1999@aol.com
              In a message dated 6/2/02 11:02:41 AM Central Daylight Time, kywddavid@yahoo.com writes:
              Message 6 of 8 , Jun 2, 2002
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                In a message dated 6/2/02 11:02:41 AM Central Daylight Time,
                kywddavid@... writes:

                << Amen Connie. The results at the main Confederate hospital in Richmond
                were the best of the war. >>

                By the end of the war Chimborazo Hospital perched on a Richmond hill was the
                largest facility of its kind in the world. Seems Chimborazo merits a good
                book that would add much to our store of knowledge on the subject of CW
                medicine.

                For me, however, I would love to know more about the Union hospital ships
                that plied the Mississippi and were exceptionally successful in ferrying the
                wounded from the western battle scene. From what I have been able to pick
                up, the idea of outfitting river boats as floating hospitals was born in the
                West and expanded there under the under early Sanitary Commission efforts and
                through the encouragement of the army command. "Assistant Surgeon W.D.
                Turner served aboard the U.S. hospital steamer "Memphis" during the sieges of
                Fts Henry and Donelson and the battle of Shiloh. . ." According to Turner's
                report, of the 7,221 patients carried on the Memphis only 125 died on board.
                The whole effort seems remarkable particularly since it was an innovation
                unique to this war where the civilian population became deeply involved.
                "The Western Sanitary Association gave us, in cost of articles, $3,500. The
                ice box of the steamer holds 800 tons. She has bathrooms, laundry, elevator
                for the sick from the lower to the upper deck, amputating room, nine
                different water-closets, gauze blinds to the windows to keep the cinders and
                smoke from annoying the sick, two separate kitchens for sick and well, a
                regular corps of nurses, and two water-closets on every deck." George D.
                Wise, Captain Red Rover, 1862.

                Civil War Medicine is expertly annotated with chapter notes, offers valuable
                appendices, provides an extensive bibliography and its final chapters on
                reevaluation puts much of the negative comments into context and removes many
                of the myths.
                Connie
              • Aurelie1999@aol.com
                In a message dated 6/2/02 11:04:27 AM Central Daylight Time, dan_cone@hotmail.com writes:
                Message 7 of 8 , Jun 2, 2002
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                  In a message dated 6/2/02 11:04:27 AM Central Daylight Time,
                  dan_cone@... writes:

                  << I have read somewhere (don't ask me where, can't remember) that despite
                  all
                  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).

                  Dan >>

                  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.

                  Connie
                • WmHiram
                  ... despite all the stories of Southern inefficiency with medicine, 1) wound for wound, the Confederate hospitals were better equipped because they were
                  Message 8 of 8 , Jun 2, 2002
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                    > I have read somewhere (don't ask me where, can't remember) that
                    despite all > 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).
                    >
                    > Dan

                    It's a nice theory, but heating cotton in an oven won't sterilize it
                    any more than washing it in warm water will. I'm surprised that
                    nobody has trotted out the old horse tail chestnut as well! :) Even
                    if any type of dressing or instrument were "sterilized" by
                    boiling/baking/washing, it still would be picked up by nonsterile
                    hands, placed back in a nonsterile field, and stored in a nonsterile
                    manner.

                    Another point that Dr. Bollet made is that even today we have killer
                    germs which no antibiotics or antisepsis can fight. The "flesh-
                    eating bacterium" (a virulent Strep-B which causes necrotizing
                    fasciitis) is a prime example.

                    Huzzah, let's keep up the thread, finally something that I can talk
                    with authority about!

                    Billie
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