Civil War Medicine: Help! How Do I Find…?

This year I’ve been referencing The Medical & Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion rather frequently. However, it can get frustrating to use the volumes without a cheat-sheet guide. Like the Official Records of the battle reports, the Medical & Surgical volumes are set up in a very precise way which does make sense once decoded.

In an effort to help other researchers, here are the cheat-sheets I made for myself which is basically an extended table of contents for the set. You can read and reference the volumes online through the National Library of Medicine: https://collections.nlm.nih.gov/catalog/nlm:nlmuid-14121350R-mvset

There is a lot of really helpful content and context in these volumes, but if it’s your first time accessing them, be aware that there are some extremely graphic illustrations and photographs. Also, some will find the written content unsuitable for mealtime reading. (Myself included)

Also be aware that even with a good internet connection the files are huge and can take a long time to display on the screen or download. Be patient! This is one of the reasons I made the cheat-sheets. It just took too long to download and reference each volume each time I was looking for something that could be solved with a multi-volume table of contents.

If you’re thinking, but I’m not research Civil War medicine, why would I want to look at these books? Check out the keyword search function (Control + F on your keyboard once you’re in the PDF file) and type a battle name. There’s a high probability that there will be medical records related to soldiers at that fight, especially for Volume 2. I’ve been finding it helpful as a way to look at real accounts connected to those casualty numbers. I haven’t always used the accounts in presentations or tours, but sometimes they have been meaningful to reference or share.

If you’re researching for biography and “your guy” gets wounded and details in his letters or diary don’t really make sense, look up the medical terms. Or read the section about treatment of similar injuries in the bodily location. That might help piece together a common medical practice for specific types of injuries and present a clearer idea of what the individual might have been going through physically and medically.

The series is organized fairly logically, and most of the volumes have extensive indexes, lists of illustrations, and other helpful “guides” within the text.

Here’s the sticky-note size guide to the digital volumes:

  • 1:1 = Statistics
  • 1:2 = Bowel problems
  • 1:3 = Fevers/Other Sickness
  • 2:1 = Battle Summaries. Head, Neck, Chest Wounds
  • 2:2 = Torso, Arm Wounds
  • 2:3 = Legs Wounds, Miscellaneous, Medical Staff/Transportation

And here’s the longer version with more details.

This is a research tool, so I did not stop to define terms along the way. Instead, jot down questions, see my note just before the comment section, and then I’ll try to circle back with answers in a follow-up blog post.

Volume 1, Part 1

Preparatory Notes

Introduction

Part 1 – White Troops

(These are all statistical tables of information)

  1. Sickness and Mortality of White Troops Prior to July 1861
  2. Sickness and Mortality of White Troops During the First Fiscal Year of the War (July 1, 1861 to June 30, 1862)
  3. Sickness and Mortality of White Troops During the Second Fiscal Year of the War (July 1, 1862 to June 30, 1863)
  4. Sickness and Mortality of White Troops During the Third Fiscal Year of the War (July 1, 1863 to June 30, 1864)
  5. Supplement to the Tables of the Third Fiscal Year
  6. Sickness and Mortality of White Troops During the Fourth Fiscal Year of the War (July 1, 1864 to June 30, 1865)
  7. Sickness and Mortality of White Troops During the Fiscal Year Following the War (July 1, 1865 to June 30, 1866)
  8. Discharges (from military service) of White Troops with a Surgeon’s Certificate

Part 2 – Colored Troops

(These are all statistical tables of information)

  1. Sickness and Mortality of Colored Troops during the Year Ending June 30, 1864
  2. Sickness and Mortality of Colored Troops during the Year Ending June 30, 1865
  3. Sickness and Mortality of Colored Troops during the Fiscal Year Following the War (July 1, 1865 to June 30, 1866)
  4. Discharges (from military service) of Colored Troops with a Surgeon’s Certificate
  5. Index for statistical tables of the previous sections

Appendix – Part 1

Reports of Medical Directors and Other Documents

Volume 1, Part 2

  1. Diarrhea and Dysentery
    1. Statistical Remarks
    2. Reports related to diarrhea and dysentery
    3. Fatal cases of diarrhea and dysentery
    4. Remarks on pathology and treatment

Volume 1, Part 3

  1. The Medical Statistics of the War
    1. Sickness and mortality among U.S. forces
    2. Medical statistics of Confederate armies
    3. Prevalence and mortality of disease among U.S. troops in Confederate prisons
    4. Prevalence and mortality of disease among Confederate troops in U.S. prisons
  2. Introduction to Camp Fevers
  3. On the Paroxysmal Fevers
    1. Statistics
    2. Clinical records
    3. Symptoms
    4. Post-mortem records and pathology
    5. Causation
    6. Prevention
    7. Treatment
  4. On the Continued Fevers (included Typhoid)
    1. Statistics
    2. Clinical records
    3. Symptoms
    4. Post-mortem records
    5. Pathology and anatomical effects
    6. Etiology
    7. Treatment
  5. Diseases Associated with Paroxysmal or Continued Fevers
    1. Cerebro-spinal fever
    2. Pneumonia
    3. Diarrhea and dysentery
    4. Scurvy
  6. Eruptive Fevers
    1. Smallpox
    2. Measles
    3. Scarlet Fever
    4. Erysipelas
  7. Other Miasmatic Diseases
    1. Mumps
    2. Yellow Fever
  8. Scurvy
  9. Diseases Attributed to Non-Miasmatic Exposures
    1. Disease of respiratory organs (includes bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma)
    2. Consumption
    3. Rheumatic afflictions
    4. Other disease related to exposure (includes sunstroke,
  10. Local Diseases
    1. Cardiac
    2. Morbid conditions from weight of accoutrements (includes hernia, lumbar pain)
    3. Constipation, headache, neuralgia (this includes some mental health and undiagnosed PTSD)
    4. Jaundice
    5. Peritonitis
    6. Kidney Disease
  11. Diseases “Not Previously Discussed”
    1. Nostalgia (includes some mental health and possibly undiagnosed PTSD)
    2. Army itch
    3. Alcoholism
    4. Venereal diseases
  12. General Hospitals (mostly how they were set up, floorplans, etc. etc.)

Volume 2, Part 1

Introduction

Chronical Summary of Engagements and Battles (includes casualty statistics)

Index to Chronical Summary of Engagements and Battles

On Special Wounds and Injuries

  1. Wounds and Injuries of the Head
    1. Incised and puncture wounds
    2. Miscellaneous injuries (Head injuries – includes railroad accidents, falling trees, horse kicks, clubbing, and other non-typical causes)
    3. Gunshot wounds of the skull (includes treatments and complications)
  2. Wounds and Injuries of the Face
    1. Incised and puncture wounds
    2. Gunshot wounds
    3. Plastic operations
  3. Wounds and Injuries of the Neck
    1. Incised and puncture wounds and miscellaneous injuries
    2. Gunshot wounds
    3. Operations on neck after gunshot wounds
  4. Wounds and Injuries of the Spine
    1. Incised wounds and miscellaneous injuries
    2. Gunshot wounds
    3. Operations
  5. Wounds and Injuries of the Chest
    1. Incised wounds, contusions, and miscellaneous injuries (includes sabre and bayonet wounds)
    2. Gunshot wounds (includes penetrating and non-penetrating wounds; includes broken bones of the torso; includes lung wounds)
    3. Operations (includes complications)

Volume 2, Part 2

Injuries of the Abdomen

  1. Contusions and wounds of the abdomen (includes all types of wounds and complications)
  2. Injuries without external wounds (ruptured organs)
  3. Penetrating wounds, includes:
    1. Stomach
    2. Intestines (Lg. and Sm.)
    3. Liver
    4. Spleen
    5. Kidneys
    6. (Other organs; did not list all here)
    7. Complications
    8. Frequency of wounds to abdomen
    9. Mortality

Injuries of the Pelvis

  1. Shot fractures of pelvic bones
  2. Injuries of pelvic organs
  3. Injuries of male reproductive organs

Flesh Wounds of the Back

  1. Statistic tables
  2. Puncture and incised wounds
  3. Gunshot wounds
  4. Skin grafting

Wounds and Injuries of the Upper Extremities

  1. Flesh wounds
    1. Puncture and incised wounds (Arteries)
    2. Gunshot wounds (Arteries and nerves)
    3. General observations
  2. Fractures of Clavicle and Scapula
    1. Includes sabre, bayonet, and gunshot
  3. Wounds of the Shoulder Joint
    1. Treatment
    2. Excision
    3. Operations on the upper Humerous
    4. Amputation
  4. Injuries of the Humerous bone
    1. “Conservative measures”
    2. Excision
    3. Amputation of arm for gunshot injury
  5. Wounds and injuries of Elbow Joint
    1. Excision for gunshot
    2. Amputation
  6. Wounds and operations in the forearm
    1. Puncture and incised (includes sabre wounds)
    2. Shot and fracture wounds
    3. Excision
    4. Amputation
  7. Wounds and operations at the wrist
    1. Shot fractures
    2. Excision
    3. Wrist excisions performed by Confederate medical staff
    4. Amputation
  8. Wounds and operations in the hand

List of Reporters and Operators

Volume 2, Part 3

Wounds and Injuries of the Lower Extremities

  1. Flesh wounds of the lower extremities
    1. Punctured and incised wounds (includes sabre and bayonets)
    2. Shot flesh wounds
    3. Complications (includes infections)
    4. Amputation of lower limbs after gunshot wounds
  2. Wounds and injuries of the Hip Joint
    1. Shot fractures
  3. Injuries of the Femur
    1. Shot fractures
    2. Excision
    3. Amputation
  4. Wounds and injuries of the Knee Joint
    1. Punctured and incised wounds
    2. Shot injuries
    3. Excision
    4. Amputation
  5. Wounds and injuries of the leg
    1. Shot contusions
    2. Shot fractures
    3. Excisions
    4. Amputations
  6. Wounds and operations at the Ankle Joint
    1. Shot contusions
    2. Shot fractures
    3. Excisions
    4. Amputation
  7. Wounds and operations of the foot
    1. Bayonet wounds
    2. Shot wounds
    3. Excisions
    4. Amputations

Miscellaneous Injuries

  1. Statistic tables
    1. Burns
    2. Sprains
    3. Concussions
    4. Dislocations
    5. Simple and compound fractures
    6. Lacerations
    7. Other accidents
  2. Operations for miscellaneous injuries
    1. Excisions
    2. Amputations
    3. Ligations

Wounds and Complications

  1. Statistic table
  2. Sabre and bayonet wounds
  3. Shot wounds (includes definitions of types of injuries and various types of projectiles)
  4. Hemorrhages and ligations
  5. Gangrene
  6. Traumatic Erysipelas
  7. Pyemia
  8. Conservation, excision, amputation

Anesthetics

  1. Deaths from chloroform and ether
  2. Use of anesthetics

Medical Staff

  1. Duties of medical staff
    1. Medical directors
    2. Surgeon-in-chiefs
    3. Surgeons
    4. Ambulance officers
    5. (includes other medical positions; list not comprehensive here)

Transportation of the Wounded

  1. Litters (stretchers)
  2. Ambulance corps
  3. Railway
  4. Water transportation
  5. Steamer City of Memphis
  6. Steamer Louisiana and R.C. Wood
  7. Steamer D.A. January
  8.  Steamer Empress
  9. Steamer J.K. Barnes

IF YOU’VE MADE IT TO THE END OF THE LIST AND HAVE QUESTIONS, leave them in the comments. I’m planning to write a follow-up blog post to this piece for the medical series, so let me know what surgical or fever terms from this list would be helpful to define or what topics you’d like to have more information about. I’ll check the comment section before I write the follow up, bringing more information directly from these large volumes. 

About Sarah Kay Bierle

I’m Sarah Kay Bierle, author, speaker, and researcher. Past and present, everyone has a story. What will we discover and discuss?
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