Assignment 5

Assignment 5

Topic: Surgical/Medical Kits

What I Learned:

After reading through several passages and articles on medical and surgical care during the civil war I was quite surprised as to what I found. It was emphasized that in the beginning battles and early moments of the Civil War both the Union and Confederates were very undeveloped and unprepared from a medical standpoint. Many of the contributing factors included: inexperienced surgeons, lack of coordination to remove injured off the battlefield quickly, wound infections and poor sterile techniques. Twice as many soldiers died of disease during the war than in combat itself. As the war unraveled, so did medical approaches to improve the quality of care. Yet medical care was heavily scrutinized by the press during the war, mainly amputations, claiming many were unnecessary and that no anesthesia was applied before surgery. These assertions were false for during the Civil War many medical advances and discoveries were made in the medical and surgical field. Surgical advances consisted of: Safe use of anesthetics, performance of rudimentary neurosurgery (relieving pressure from brain bleeds), development of techniques for arterial ligation (tourniquets, artery locations and artery clamps), and even performance of the first plastic surgeries.

Many soldiers shot, injured or stabbed during the war were at an elevated risk of infection due gross tissue damage and unsterile environments creating an excellent medium for infection. Due to massive trauma (shattered bones, tissue loss, etc.) or infection the quickest and best solution to lower mortality rates of injured soldiers was to perform amputations. Three of every four surgical procedures performed during the war were amputations, only performed by the senior and most experienced physicians and surgeons. Each amputation taking about 2 to 10 minutes to complete. The further from the torso where the amputation was carried out along with it being done within a 24-hour time period, the greater chance a soldier had of survival. To avoid death from shock and pain, amputations were done quickly with circular-cut sawing motion and surprisingly the loss of blood rarely caused death. Surgeons would sometimes cut skin flaps and sew them to form a rounded stump around the wound, but it was more often left to heal by granulation which is a natural process of forming new capillaries and thick tissues to protect the wound. The process of amputations was easier, faster and held a mortality rate of “only” 28%; safer and more effective than other treatment options offered during that time.

The amount of amputations performed brought about the birth of the U.S. prosthetics industries. For the soldiers who survived amputation and post-surgical infection it was natural to want and artificial or fake limb, both for looks and for function. Recognizing the large the U.S. government unveiled the “Great Civil War Benefaction,” to provide prosthetics to all veterans that were disabled and amputees post-Civil War. Most of these artificial arms and legs did not provide proper functionality of a regular limbs but gave amputees ways to be less noticeable in public and offered the chance of a more regular daily life. This civil war marked the end of the era of wooden peg legs and simple hooks, setting the prosthetics industry on a course that ultimately lead to today’s quasi-bionic lifelike limbs ad can often perform some tasks even better.


8 sources:


Gave a great oversight of early and post Civil War medical developments and discoveries that were made and performed along with statistical analysis. (Secondary)


Gave insight of African Americans involvement in the medical and surgical field during the Civil War. (Secondary)


Talked about amputations, why they were performed and the need for prosthetic limbs. (Secondary)


Focused on similar process and oversight of Civil War surgeries. (Secondary)


A broad overview in the development of the prosthetic industry post Civil War. (Secondary)


Stories and photos to portray Civil War surgical procedures along with amputees after the war. (Primary and Secondary)


Gave a detailed description of what was included in the surgical kits along with how they were used throughout the Civil War. (Secondary)


Provided detailed summaries on the medical breakthroughs during the civil war that were used during surgeries. (Secondary)


Thesis: The brutality and large amount of injuries during the American Civil War brought about a wide spread of new revolutionary techniques and technologies that helped bring advances and discoveries to future medical and surgical care.

2 Replies to “Assignment 5”

  1. Hi Jared,

    This is a very interesting topic! It definitely looks like you have a ton of research here and I doubt that you need more to write a full essay, but if you find yourself looking for content, it might be interesting to compare medical care on the front against medical care in prison camps. I am discussing prison camps in my essay and from the sources I have read, it sounds like illness ran rampant and medicine was unavailable to prisoners. It might be an interesting angle.

  2. This is somewhat similar to my topic, as has been noted. In my research I have noticed there is a difference in death rate and medical care when comparing diseased soldiers in general hospitals to field hospitals or stations. Is it similar in your case?

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