Historians have been fascinated by medical practices during the Civil War. Dr. Ken Rettig discusses the methods used by army surgeons and how they have involved in later years. From bullet wounds and amputations to respiratory diseases they compare the emergency procedures in the field and in hospitals. This is a prelude to their further exploration of Civil War medicine in the coming weeks.
An excerpt from the medical report after Antietam:
Gross misrepresentations of the conduct of medical officers have been made and scattered broadcast over the country, causing deep and heart-rending anxiety to those who had friends or relatives in the army, who might at any moment require the services of a surgeon. It is not to be supposed that there were no incompetent surgeons in the army. It is certainly true that there were; but these sweeping denunciations against a class of men who will favorably compare with the military surgeons of any country, because of the incompetency and short-comings of a few, are wrong, and do injustice to a body of men who have labored faithfully and well. It is easy to magnify an existing evil until it is beyond the bounds of truth. It is equally easy to pass by the good that has been done on the other side. Some medical officers lost their lives in their devotion to duty in the battle of Antietam, and others sickened from excessive labor which they conscientiously and skillfully performed.
Dr. Jonathan Letterman, Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac