Re: [civilwarwest] Anyone read the new Civil War medicine book?
- In a message dated 6/2/02 11:02:41 AM Central Daylight Time,
<< 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
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.
- In 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.
> I have read somewhere (don't ask me where, can't remember) thatdespite 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'taware of > what they were doing).
>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
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!