Surgeon of the Civil War
The topic of Civil War medicine is one that there have been many, many books and museums dedicated to. This is just a brief look into the kit of a typical surgeon of the time.
The first thing you notice above and a preponderance of saws alongside the knives. While a grisly thing, such tools became a necessity . Without a doubt the number one most practiced procedure during the war was amputation. The Minie ball that was in use by both sides during the war was slow-moving and soft lead. When it impacted with the body it caused terrible wounds. If it connected with a bone it would often shatter it spread a grisly form of shrapnel inside the body.
During the fighting arms and legs took the majority of the hits. Most of the time due to the limited knowledge of the day amputation was the only way to save the soldier’s life. While a good surgeon could perform an amputation in ten minutes, bad ones would take much longer.
More Tools of the Surgeon
Among the knives and saws there are a number of probes and forceps. The surgeon used these to pull bullets out of the bodies when time permitted. In the back of the kit you will see a bottle of chloroform, the closest thing to a general anesthetic at the time.
Now that we have taken a look at the tools, in another post we will look at what it took to become an army surgeon. That will be almost more shocking than looking in your doctors kit and finding a half-dozen different saws…