The American medical care system in 1861 was simply incapable of handling the volume and severity of injuries soldiers sustained during the Civil War. More combatants died from infections and disease than were killed outright on the battlefield. Amputation was the surgery of first resort for injuries to arms and legs. At the same time, the sheer scale of the Civil War motivated doctors and nurses to revolutionize certain aspects of medical care. The use of anesthesia changed surgery forever. The surgical use of resection or excision was invented during the Civil War. Hospital design was changed because of the war, and the entirely new profession of nursing opened up opportunities for women outside the home.
What we would regard today as the butchery and novelty of Civil War medical care has rarely been told as well, or as succinctly, as in this book by Susan Provost Beller. In scarcely 100 amply illustrated pages, Ms. Beller paints a vivid picture of Civil War medicine. Her chapters cover medical knowledge of the 1860s; deaths from disease and wounds; doctors, nurses, and other medical staff; medical instruments; anesthesia; surgery; hospitals; recovery and death; and other aspects of the aftermath of combat.
Are you a Civil War buff? Did your ancestor take part in this the deadliest conflict in American history? Does the history of medicine interest you? If so, you will want to own a copy of this stellar volume.
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