View single post by cklarson
 Posted: Fri Jul 31st, 2009 05:36 am
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Joined: Sun Sep 23rd, 2007
Posts: 111

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Dear CoryB,

Ditto on the Museum of Civil War Medicine in Fredrick MD.

Also go to -- their noncirculating search field (CATNYP) and look for Joseph J. Woodward's Hospital Steward's Manual 1862 and Outlines of Chief Camp Diseases of the US Armies, 1862, reprint 1992. The latter may be on Amazon and you should be able to get the manual through inter-library loan.

My webpage "Springing to the Call" at should also be helpful --right sidebar, scroll down. In the first section I reprint excerpts from nurse memoirs and they give a pretty good picture of camp/hospital life.

Also my fiction book South Under a Prairie Sky: The Journal of Nell Churchill, US Army Nurse & Scout is pretty much all fact based and it might help for an overview (

From reading Woodward and others, it's clear that doctors knew the basics: keep things clean and ventilated and diet is important. Although surgeons would often just wipe off a knife and go on to the next patient. They could see germs in microscopes but were not sure what their impact was (Lister's germ theory was just gaining acceptance). But overall medical schools were not advanced and a lot of the medicines were quack pills and/or alcohol or opium based. My over all impression is that the nurses did the most good as, at least in the West, they were the home and frontier doctors (see my section on vinegar in Nell's book). They had home remedies used since medieval times and learned more from the Indians, such as dandelion is good for hepatitus. I think European  trained doctors were dangerous as their treatments were more invasive, and thus, germ-ridden. At the time, hospitals were thought of as places to die, since home visits and care was preferred. So the presence of experienced mothers who were nurses was important, if for no other reason than morale, especially when they cooked, too. One Confederate woman's hospital, as I remember, had a very high survival rate considering.


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