Wednesday, September 15, 2010


XXVII. Records of the Office of the Surgeon General of the United States (RG 112)

The National Archives in Washington, DC holds some records of Civil War medical personnel and support staff:

1. Station Books of Medical Officers, 1857-1902.
2. Registers of Military Service of Hospital Stewards, 1856-1887.
3. List of Volunteer Medical Officers Who Served with the Civil War Army Corps, 1861-1865.
4. Registers of Deaths of Civil War Voluntary Medical Officers, 1863-1896.
5. List of Female Nurses, Cooks, and Laundresses Employed in Army Hospitals During the Civil War.

XXVIII. Books on Civil War Medicine

Adams, George Worthington. Doctors in Blue; The Medical History of the Union Army in the Civil War. New York: H. Schuman, 1952.

Barnes, Joseph K. The Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War. Wilmington, N.C.: Broadfoot Pub. Co, 1990.

Bollet, Alfred J. Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs. Tucson, Ariz: Galen Press, 2002.

Cunningham, Horace Herndon. Doctors in Gray; The Confederate Medical Service. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1958.

Flannery, Michael A. Civil War Pharmacy: A History of Drugs, Drug Supply and Provision, and Therapeutics for the Union and Confederacy. Pharmaceutical heritage. New York: Pharmaceutical Products Press, 2004.

Freemon, Frank R. Microbes and Minie Balls: An Annotated Bibliography of Civil War Medicine. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1993.

Rutkow, Ira M. Bleeding Blue and Gray: Civil War Surgery and the Evolution of American Medicine. New York: Random House, 2005.

Smith, George Winston. Medicines for the Union Army; The United States Army Laboratories During the Civil War. Madison, Wis: Amer. Institute of the History of Pharmacy, 1962.

XXIX. Websites

Civil War Home- Civil War Medicine

Growing Research Into History of Drugs Used During Civil War

Library of Congress- American Memory -- NOTE: Under Search All Collections, type “Civil War medicine”.

National Museum of Civil War Medicine

Preparing and Dispensing Prescriptions During the Civil War

Society of Civil War Surgeons

Tom Pearson, Reference Librarian
Special Collections Department
St. Louis Public Library
1415 Olive Street
St. Louis, MO 63103

Thursday, September 9, 2010


XXII. Amputations

The most commonly employed surgical technique during the Civil War was the amputation. Union Army medical records list 29,980 amputations. When amputations performed early in the war that went unrecorded, and Confederate Army amputation estimates are added to the total, it is reasonable to assume that Union and Confederate Army surgeons performed somewhere between 50,000-55,000 amputations during the war.

XXIII. Amputations- Categories

Amputations were placed in one of three categories, depending on how soon after the injury the procedure was performed:

1. Primary- Within 48 hours of the injury (23.9% mortality rate)
2. Intermediary- Three to thirty days after the injury (34.8% mortality rate)
3. Secondary- Thirty-one or more days after the injury (28.8% mortality rate)

XXIV. Amputations- Bodily Area of Injury

Injuries in the Civil War requiring amputation involved these sites on the body:

1. Hand (26.4% of total)
2. Thigh (21.2%)
3. Lower leg (18.4%)
4. Upper arm (18.4%)
5. Forearm (5.9%)
6. Foot (5.1%)
7. Shoulder (2.9%)
8. Knee (0.7%)
9. Ankle (0.5%)
10. Hip (0.2%)
11. Wrist (0.2%)
12. Elbow (0.1%)

XXV. Amputations- Mortality Rates by Type of Procedure

The fatality rate of amputations increased the closer the procedure was performed to the trunk of the victim. The mortality rate of various procedures was as follows:

1. Hip (88% fatalities)
2. Knee (58%)
3. Mid-Thigh (54%)
4. Lower leg (38%)
5. Shoulder (28%)
6. Ankle (24%)
7. Upper arm (24%)
8. Forearm (14%)
9. Wrist (10%)
10. Elbow (7%)
11. Toes (6%)
12. Foot (5%)
13. Fingers (3%)
14. Hand (2%)

XXVI. Artificial Limbs Furnished to Maimed Soldiers

After the war, the federal government and most Confederate states had programs to pay for (or to reimburse maimed veterans for) the purchase of artificial limbs and eyes. These programs could be very expensive- Mississippi in 1866 spent more than 1/3 of its entire state budget for these items. Some state archives have retained records of these purchases (South Carolina, for example, has published a printed record of such purchases).

Tom Pearson, Reference Librarian
Special Collections Department
St. Louis Public Library
1301 Olive Street
St. Louis, MO 63103