Civil War Surgeons - Underrated? [Part 2]

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

lelliott19

Captain
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
Messages
6,040
A few months ago, I posted a thread proposing that, in general, civil war surgeons are underrated.* Here is another example of a difficult operation, skillfully and successfully performed.
1560919677486.png

Skillful Surgical Operation - We were shown, yesterday, a tumor that had been extracted from the throat of Lieut. Wm. J. Underwood, late of Crawford's Cavalry, by Drs. Wingfield, Colzey and Baird. It was a fibrous tumor, as large as a guinea egg, that had grown in the throat, just anterior to the palate, almost preventing articulation and threatening to suffocate the patient. Its formation had been rapid, and it was of a firm and tough character. The operation was very skillfully performed, by an incision of the tumor through the mouth and its extraction by the roots, the patient being under the influence of chloroform and suffering but little. When we saw Mr. Underwood he was experiencing no pain and felt greatly relieved. The operation, we understand, is one of an uncommon character, necessarily dangerous and requiring much skill for its successful performance. ~ Enquirer.
[The Weekly Sun. (Columbus, Ga.), April 07, 1863, page 4.]

THE PATIENT
William J. Underwood, age 29, originally enlisted April 20, 1861 at Columbus, Georgia as a corporal into Company A 2nd Georgia Battalion Infantry for one year. He was discharged for disability on January 23, 1862 at Norfolk, Virginia. At that time, he was recorded as follows: born in Russell County, Alabama, 30 years of age, 6 feet high, fair complexion, dark eyes, dark hair, and by occupation when enlisted Lawyer. His disability was described as "repeated attacks of remittent fever which has so destroyed his health & injured his constitution as to unfit him for labor or exposure of any kind whatever."
1560922036340.png

1560921764643.png

Two and a half months later, Underwood reenlisted April 17, 1862 at Columbus, Georgia as 2nd Sergeant, into Captain Beverly A Thornton's Company, Crawford's Regiment Georgia Cavalry, which became Company B, 3rd Georgia Cavalry. He was captured at New Haven, MS (date not recorded) and sent to Cairo, Illinois. He was transferred to Vicksburg for exchange October 25, 1862. His surgery was reported April 7, 1863, and on Company Muster Roll dated June 30- Dec 31, 1863, soon after recovering from the surgery, he is recorded as with the Division wagon train at Cartersville, Ga. He resigned May 19, 1864 (reason not stated.)
1560921790373.png


THE DOCTORS
Dr. Eugene Francis Colzey (unknown - 25 December 1878) Surgeon 3rd Georgia Cavalry, appointed July 22, 1862. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/27307797/e_-f_-colzey
1560923047762.png

Dr. Alonzo Church Wingfield (1826 - 2 April 1865)
"About the first of April [1865] a difficulty occurred on the streets between Dr. A.C. Wingfield, a physician of established reputation and much respected citizen, and Dr. Rossey, in which pistol shots were exchanged, and Dr. Wingfield was killed. Dr. Rossey was acquitted on the ground of justifiable homicide. He was only a transient resident of Columbus." https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/179302740/alonzo-church-wingfield
1560922745597.png

Dr Baird is probably Wiley M Baird - records exist for a surgeon by that name, who served at Dalton, GA, but records do not exist placing him at Columbus at the time of the surgery.

*NOTE: https://civilwartalk.com/threads/civil-war-surgeons-underrated.154115/ I'm not claiming that there weren't problems with hospital systems, sanitation, ambulance corps, post-operative care, transportation systems, or supply logistics. Nor am I claiming that there were no incompetent surgeons appointed, lacking in proper medical training or experience - there certainly were some. I'm making my claim based on the surgical skill exhibited by qualified surgeons of the time. It is my hypothesis that the failure of many surgical procedures was not a result of skill and expertise of the surgeon, but rather resultant from lack of quality of post-operative care; inefficiency of anesthesia; poor sanitation; lack of understanding of aseptic technique; and difficulty in obtaining medical supplies and equipment.
1560918412615.png

[The Weekly Sun. (Columbus, Ga.), April 07, 1863, page 4.]
 

Deleted User CS

Retired User
Joined
Mar 18, 2015
Messages
2,725
I concur with your statement that Civil War Surgeons are underrated and underappreciated for their service during the war. As one studies the conditions under which these men operated and functioned and to perform at such a high level of skill is simply and truthfully remarkable. Lelliott19, you have skillfully proved my point with your beautiful examples. You are always providing such fantastic information that has truly educated me since my membership with this forum. Your friendship and scholarship as well as that of Miss Ellie has been highly appreciated by me. I wish to thank you both for the free education. David.
 

scone

Sergeant Major
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Messages
2,154
Location
Tennessee - From the "The City Between The Lakes"
Many called butchers other by the angels of god … Oh if they new know now then How many could be saved but that bullet and yes folks shot with todays replicas and gunpowder of those years … Lived in it was posted here some where … Boiling horse hair saved lives as coffee as they boiled it .. many things unknown at time
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Messages
18,999
Location
Central Pennsylvania
Yes, thank you! I'm not sure surgeons can be discussed enough.

"...resultant from lack of quality of post-operative care; inefficiency of anesthesia; poor sanitation; lack of understanding of aseptic technique; and difficulty in obtaining medical supplies and equipment. " That's what makes it amazing any of them could function at all. You know when you have some procedure done and it's all sanitized, pristine, surgeon's scrubbed, gowned and masked under conditions making any self respecting germ flee? They operated where there was hopefully a roof. Barns, sheds, tents, someone's kitchen. That anyone survived must be testimony to skill alone.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Scooter_B

I am jgoodguy
-:- A Mime -:-
is a terrible thing...
Don’t feed the Mime
Joined
Jun 8, 2019
Messages
207
A few months ago, I posted a thread proposing that, in general, civil war surgeons are underrated.* Here is another example of a difficult operation, skillfully and successfully performed.
View attachment 312356
Skillful Surgical Operation - We were shown, yesterday, a tumor that had been extracted from the throat of Lieut. Wm. J. Underwood, late of Crawford's Cavalry, by Drs. Wingfield, Colzey and Baird. It was a fibrous tumor, as large as a guinea egg, that had grown in the throat, just anterior to the palate, almost preventing articulation and threatening to suffocate the patient. Its formation had been rapid, and it was of a firm and tough character. The operation was very skillfully performed, by an incision of the tumor through the mouth and its extraction by the roots, the patient being under the influence of chloroform and suffering but little. When we saw Mr. Underwood he was experiencing no pain and felt greatly relieved. The operation, we understand, is one of an uncommon character, necessarily dangerous and requiring much skill for its successful performance. ~ Enquirer.
[The Weekly Sun. (Columbus, Ga.), April 07, 1863, page 4.]

THE PATIENT
William J. Underwood, age 29, originally enlisted April 20, 1861 at Columbus, Georgia as a corporal into Company A 2nd Georgia Battalion Infantry for one year. He was discharged for disability on January 23, 1862 at Norfolk, Virginia. At that time, he was recorded as follows: born in Russell County, Alabama, 30 years of age, 6 feet high, fair complexion, dark eyes, dark hair, and by occupation when enlisted Lawyer. His disability was described as "repeated attacks of remittent fever which has so destroyed his health & injured his constitution as to unfit him for labor or exposure of any kind whatever."
View attachment 312359

View attachment 312357
Two and a half months later, Underwood reenlisted April 17, 1862 at Columbus, Georgia as 2nd Sergeant, into Captain Beverly A Thornton's Company, Crawford's Regiment Georgia Cavalry, which became Company B, 3rd Georgia Cavalry. He was captured at New Haven, MS (date not recorded) and sent to Cairo, Illinois. He was transferred to Vicksburg for exchange October 25, 1862. His surgery was reported April 7, 1863, and on Company Muster Roll dated June 30- Dec 31, 1863, soon after recovering from the surgery, he is recorded as with the Division wagon train at Cartersville, Ga. He resigned May 19, 1864 (reason not stated.)
View attachment 312358

THE DOCTORS
Dr. Eugene Francis Colzey (unknown - 25 December 1878) Surgeon 3rd Georgia Cavalry, appointed July 22, 1862. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/27307797/e_-f_-colzey
View attachment 312361
Dr. Alonzo Church Wingfield (1826 - 2 April 1865)
"About the first of April [1865] a difficulty occurred on the streets between Dr. A.C. Wingfield, a physician of established reputation and much respected citizen, and Dr. Rossey, in which pistol shots were exchanged, and Dr. Wingfield was killed. Dr. Rossey was acquitted on the ground of justifiable homicide. He was only a transient resident of Columbus." https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/179302740/alonzo-church-wingfield
View attachment 312360
Dr Baird is probably Wiley M Baird - records exist for a surgeon by that name, who served at Dalton, GA, but records do not exist placing him at Columbus at the time of the surgery.

*NOTE: https://civilwartalk.com/threads/civil-war-surgeons-underrated.154115/ I'm not claiming that there weren't problems with hospital systems, sanitation, ambulance corps, post-operative care, transportation systems, or supply logistics. Nor am I claiming that there were no incompetent surgeons appointed, lacking in proper medical training or experience - there certainly were some. I'm making my claim based on the surgical skill exhibited by qualified surgeons of the time. It is my hypothesis that the failure of many surgical procedures was not a result of skill and expertise of the surgeon, but rather resultant from lack of quality of post-operative care; inefficiency of anesthesia; poor sanitation; lack of understanding of aseptic technique; and difficulty in obtaining medical supplies and equipment.
View attachment 312354
[The Weekly Sun. (Columbus, Ga.), April 07, 1863, page 4.]
Well documented, Thanks.
 

Mrs. V

First Sergeant
Joined
May 5, 2017
Messages
1,656
Very interesting. In researching my Living History persona, I happened to read a surgeons guide of the civil war era. It was very enlightening. Kind of gruesome, when you think of what was being done, but at the same time there was much skill being utilized. And as with many war time surgical experiences, techniques that might not have evolved so quickly did so, under the heat of treating the masses of wounded.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Okc_bob

Private
Joined
Jul 24, 2018
Messages
51
The Germ theory was not widely accepted until after the war. Unfortunately for the wounded, the Miasma theory was still the standard of care until around the 1880’s. Working in health care for the past 40 years, I’m surprised that so many people even survived. But that was the standard of care, & many survived from pure luck & skilled surgeons.
 

lelliott19

Captain
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
Messages
6,040
How long did the good lieutenant live after the surgery?
Good question gary. He lived at least long enough to return to the army and maybe 38 years longer.

The surgery was reported in the newspaper on April 7, 1863. On the Company Muster Roll for June 30 - Dec 31, 1863, soon afterwards, he is recorded as with the Division wagon train at Cartersville, Ga. If its the same man (year of birth is correct), then he reenlisted in Co K 57th Georgia and died 30 June 1901 at age 68. There are several kinds of tumors of the soft palate that are benign. If he had one of these kinds of tumors, it is entirely possible that he had no further problems after the successful surgery.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top