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Wounded Casualties And Healthcare Treatment In The Civil War

1906 words - 8 pages

CW Research Paper
Since more people died from disease and infection than from injuries, the American Civil War’s new developments were important and helped change the face of the war for the better. The conditions and sanitation in the hospital tents were gruesome. There were people moaning in agony on the floor and blood everywhere. Poor sanitation led to diseases and sickness. Wounds wrapped in dirty bandages led to infections. Doctors didn’t understand germs and didn’t know how to treat them. Amputation was very popular. Surgeons would cut off limbs and hope that the patient didn’t die from blood loss or other infections. Doctors didn’t have antibiotics. They used anesthetics like ...view middle of the document...

They had been unknowingly sanitizing bandages ("Civil War Helped"). The ability to stay sterile and have clean water for drinking, laundry, bandages, and washing hands and tools was hard (“A Turning Point”).
Disease and infections were common throughout the war and were a big problem. For every one soldier killed outright, two died from disease and infection. Doctors knew about these things but they didn’t understand what caused them (“Civil War Helped”). There was ague, yellow fever, malaria, scurvy, tuberculosis, and the list goes on. A very common disease was pneumonia, a lung inflammation that is caused by bacterial or viral infection. The soldier ran a fever, had chills, and would cough. Their heart beated faster, they felt tired and weak, and may have vomited. One of the main killers was dysentery. It is an infection of the intestines and most cases are caused by bacterial infections. Some symptoms include abdominal pain, fever and chills, nausea and vomiting, constipation, watery diarrhea that may contain blood, mucus, or pus, and fatigue. Typhoid fever, another killer, is an infection and is caused by eating or drinking food, drink, or water that was contaminated by a certain bacteria. The victims had fevers, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and a rash on the abdomen and chest. They were also severely fatigued, slow and sluggish, and were delirious. Gangrene, a condition in which living tissue dies and decays, also happened. It can occur when blood flow to an area is blocked or when certain types of bacteria invade a wound. It most often infects legs, arms, and fingers but it can also affect internal organs like the intestine or gallbladder (“Gangrene”). The infected area is painful, swollen, and has discolored skin. Infection was the number one cause of death after surgery. Tetanus, erysipelas, and pyaemia are a few examples.
Amputation was a major part of a doctor’s role. In fact, three-fourth’s of a surgeon’s time was spent amputating (“Curriculum”). Limbs were amputated when there was a catastrophic wound that was beyond repair. Minie balls were a major cause of amputation. The soft lead bullet caused large, gaping holes, splintered bones, and destroyed muscles, arteries and tissues. Those shot with them through the body, or the head, would mostly likely not live. Almost all wounds were caused by the bullet, with cannonballs, shells, and edged weapons next. A patient’s chance of survival depended on both how far the wound was from the trunk of the body and how soon the amputation was performed. The sooner the procedure, the better. If amputation was delayed more than 48 hours, blood poisoning, bone infection, and gangrene would set in, and the death rate would double. It was a very painful way to die and so it was best to amputate within 24 hours. Sometimes surgeons performed the procedure on the battlefield and that was one of the reasons for field hospitals. William Blackford of the 1st Virginia Cavalry explained the process of...

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