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Civil War Medicine Essay

2446 words - 10 pages

Civil War Medicine Since I am a dental assistant and currently enrolled in the Dental Hygiene Program, the topic of Civil War Medicine seemed quite appropriate. Medicine and the advances being made have always intrigued me. Researching Civil War Medicine allowed me to find out about the early days of anesthesia, which continues to be used in the dental office today. In this term paper, I have tried to give an overview of what took place in the Civil War as it relates to medicine. A combination of many factors contributed to the number of war casualties other than that of immediately fatal wounds. The factors covered in this term paper include: the recruiting process and the physical state of the recruits, the sanitary conditions of the camps, the evacuation procedures of the injured, experience level of the doctors, and the medicine and known procedures available at the time. Great improvements were made in all aspects of medicine, including the prevention of disease. Therefore, I see Civil War Medicine as the turning point in the medical history of the United States. Civil War Medicine is a story of care, healing, courage, and devotion amidst the death and destruction of America's bloodiest war, in the four years from 1861 to 1865. The deadliest thing that faced the Civil War soldier was disease. For every soldier who died in battle, two died of disease. Both the Federal and Confederate governments did their best to provide proper medical care for their soldiers, but even the best was not very good. Civil War Medicine was in a time before the doctors even knew much about bacteriology and were ignorant of what caused disease. Most Civil War surgeons had never treated a gun shot wound, many had never even performed surgery. Major advances changed medicine forever and thousands of men and women risked everything to make a terrible situation better. Civil War Medicine is a story of hope, even in the worst of times. The traditional image of Civil War Medicine is all brutality and ignorance. In spite of the horror, the war provoked change that ended the medical middle ages and set medicine on a path toward the modern era. At the beginning of the Civil War, little was known about what caused disease, how to stop it from spreading, or how to cure it. Surgical techniques ranged from the barbaric to the barely competent. Along with advances in the use of anesthesia, evacuation of the wounded, hospitals, nursing, surgery, and sanitation, there was the example of tens of thousands of men and women who risked lives and fortunes to aid the sick and wounded. Their experience is an inspiration to all subsequent generations. "To Arms!" was the cry in the North and the South. Tens of thousands of young men were attracted to the armies seeking comradery and adventure. The recruiting process involved a medical examination. This exam required a new recruit to undress and be examined from head to foot. The eyes, ears, nose, and teeth were checked...

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