View single post by Widow
 Posted: Sun Oct 5th, 2008 03:35 pm
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Widow
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Joined: Tue Sep 19th, 2006
Location: Oakton, Fairfax County, VA
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Dixie Girl, good for you, you've chosen an excellent but difficult topic.

You've already read other posts about the lack of medical knowledge, and the lack of medical supplies.  You've already learned that a minie ball, with its big slug and low muzzle velocity, shattered a bone.  To this day there is no way to put a shattered bone back together - hence the many amputations, and subsequent infections.

There was another limiting factor as well.  Call it attitude or philosophy of medical treatment.  Physicians and surgeons were two different occupations, often they didn't speak each other's language.

A book called "Cyclone in Calico: The Story of Mary Ann Bickerdyke," is the biography of a woman from Galesburg, Illinois, who had no academic training in medicine, but knew everything about how to take care of sick people.  She was a nurse during the Civil War, starting in the training camps in Cairo, Illinois, where the boys were sick with measles, typhoid, and other communicable diseases.  This is a quote from page 5.

"The Galesburg boys, and others from all over the state, were dying like flies in Cairo.  Dying, not on the field of battle, but in filthy, ill-equipped hospital tents, neglected and untended.  Dying of dysentery, of pneumonia, of typhoid, of all the civilian ills from which proper care might save them.  They had no proper care.  They lay on rotten straw, under rotten canvas that let in the rain or the broiling summer sun.  They ate, or did not eat, the salt pork, hardtack, beans and coffee that were the army ration.  The army did not distinguish between a sick soldier and a well one, except that a man too sick to stand was excused from drill.  Sick or well, he drew his eleven dollars a month and his ration of uncooked beans and bacon.  What he did with them was his own concern.  The army doctors were expressly classified as surgeons, not physicians.  Their business was the care of wounded men after battle.  Soldiers were not supposed to be sick.  Succumbing to civilian diease in camp carried a stong suspicion of malingering to the army mind.  The regular surgeons paid very little attention to such patients.  If they did bother to visit and prescribe, it was unlikely that the medical stores held the proper drugs to fill the prescription.  The only nurses were convalescent patients, often too weak themselves to turn a sick man on his straw pallet."

"Cycline in Calico" is by Nina Brown Baker and was oublished in 1952 by Little, Brown and Company, Boston.  I'm sure it's out of print, but your public library might be able to find it for you via Interlibrary Loan.  It's only 254 pages.

Good luck with your paper.

Patty aka Widow

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