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Re: [civilwarwest] Anyone read the new Civil War medicine book?

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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 5 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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