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Civil War Medicine

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Civil War Medicine

In the Civil War era medical advances were few and so were surgeons. This time period is known in medical history as the "Medical Middle-Ages". This was the beginning of the technology of today.

In this time doctors or physicians were known as surgeons. At the beginning of the war the United States Medical Corp. consisted of less than one hundred people on staff. This included the United States Surgeon General, thirty-six surgeons, and many assistant surgeons. Soon after the war started twelve of the thirty-six surgeons left for the Confederacy. Though the Confederacy had few surgeons they kept up the pace very well.

It was because the surgeons knew very little about diseases that two out of every three soldiers that died in the war died from disease. Most soldiers died from diseases such as measles, mumps, and whooping cough. There were also many deaths from the lack of cleanliness in the hospitals. In some cases they would reuse wound dressing and put some straw over used bedding and dirty floor. When the top layer got dirty they would put a new layer on.

Most of this changed when women were allowed to help in care for the men. It was Dorothea Dix and Clara Barton who were first to offer their help followed by many women's organizations. Most of the women who offered their help and support had to do so by voluntary acts. Dix was appointed Superintendent of Women Nurses. One of the standards that Dix established for her nurses was that they be plain looking and middle-aged. Recruits nicknamed her "Dragon Dix".

Contrary to popular belief surgeons did use anesthesia in most surgeries. It is stated by Geocities that "A patient only having a bullet to bite was basically a myth". It is reported by many sources that three out of every four surgeries was an amputation. The average amputation was performed using only



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