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Confederate Medicine In The Civil War

1985 words - 8 pages

When the southern states of the United States of America seceded from the Union to form the Confederate States, it led to the Civil War. This war was devastating to the nation, largely because so many men died from wounds received during battle and from disease. Charles Frazier's novel Cold Mountain is a fictional account of several people living in the Confederate States during the time of the Civil War. The book begins with the story of one of the main characters, a man named Inman. Inman is in a military hospital due to a gunshot wound he received in battle. During the book, he spends a short time in the hospital. Within the few passages about his stay in the hospital, it became obvious that the care of the sick and wounded soldiers was of poor quality along with the knowledge of medicine at that time. The Civil War took place in a time when doctors did not know about bacteriology, antiseptics, or sanitation. This ignorance resulted in the death of many sick and wounded soldiers from diseases and injuries (Goellnitz).The Confederate States especially had problems in dealing with their sick and wounded soldiers that resulted from this war. There were several causes for the medical problems in the south. Medical schools were substandard, hospitals were overcrowded and doctors overworked, the Union placed a blockade on the imports and exports of the Confederacy. The introduction of new gun technology, rifling and the Minie Ball, which changed the severity of gunshot wounds, this left doctors unsure of what to do to remedy the resulting injuries. A Confederate doctor estimated that 600,000 men fought for the Confederate states and each one of these men was wounded or diseased about six times during the war. Then in addition to their own troops, doctors had to tend to thousands of sick and wounded Union soldiers that were prisoners of the Confederacy (Cunningham 3).One of the significant problems that the Confederacy's soldiers had to deal with, when it came to medical care, was the fact that the doctors, then called surgeons, and nurses had little medical training; and what education they did have was mediocre (Cunningham 3). In the 1840s, Southern medical schools were superior to those in the North. They gave a four or five-month curriculum consisting of lectures to medical students and southern schools had larger faculties than the Northern schools. Along with the better medical schools came medical journals and medical societies (Cunningham 11, 13). However, in the 1850s the number of mediocre schools swelled. Most of these schools were private medical colleges whose owners were eager to make money. Therefore, students of these schools could easily go to lectures for a few weeks and then receive their diploma (Cunningham 15). These schools provided a very small amount of training for its students. Instead, they were "diploma factories" (Civil). Also, causing a decline in the quality of doctors coming out of medical school was the repeal of the...

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