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GRAPHIC: Battlefield Surgery

Discussion in 'Medical Care of the Civil War' started by JohnW., Feb 14, 2017.

  1. JohnW.

    JohnW. Sergeant Major

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    I found this online looking for something else. Very Interesting.

    Credit: [​IMG]

    By Daily Mail Reporter
    Created: 11:16 EST, 1 August 2011


    When a soldier is injured on the battlefield today he can expect the most sophisticated first aid.

    But medical treatment for troops has not always been so advanced, as these incredible pictures from the American Civil War show, originally featured on cbsnews.com.

    The images take you back 150 years to show the kind of gruesome emergency surgery that wounded soldiers had come to expect.

    A blood-curdling range of saws, knives and sharp hooks were used to administer much-needed surgery to maimed fighters.


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    Gruesome: Private George W. Lemon, who was shot in the leg at the 1864 Battle of the Wilderness 1864. Captured by Confederates, treatment of his wounds was delayed and he suffered repeated infections. His leg was finally amputated

    But rather than being comfortably anaesthetised, the soldiers had to grit their teeth through the pain of having their limbs amputated.

    The images from the National Museum of Civil War Medicine show how fallen fighters often faced the kind of slipshod treatment more likely to be found in horror films.

    Their treatment is a far cry from the kind of high-tech care such as flying-helicopters and battlefield operating theatres that injured soldiers can receive in modern warfare.

    The museum's pictures show how fallen troops even underwent the gruelling procedures without antibiotics, which often led to more life-threatening infections.


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    Low tech: This large single-edged amputation knife was used to cut through skin and muscle in circular amputations


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    Heavy duty: After skin and muscle had been were severed, this amputation saw - made with a steel blade and an ebony wooden handle - cut through bones



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    A tenaculum was used in amputations for pulling the arteries out from the stump so that they could be tied off

    Pain control was limited to doses of opium while surgeons seemed more intent on hacking off limbs than actually trying to save them.

    One soldier, private George W. Lemon, was shot in the leg at the 1864 Battle of the Wilderness in 1864 but after the wound became infected he had to have his limb amputated.

    A primitive amputation saw similar to one used by carpenters would have been used to hack through Mr Lemon's flesh and bone.

    The agonising surgery would finally have been completed with a tenaculum hook which was used for pulling the arteries out from the stump so that they could be tied off.


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    In this sepia photo, a group of medical students and professors dissect a cadaver. In the civil war era, most advances in medical knowledge came through the examination of dead bodies, of which there were plenty


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    In this July 1863 photo, an amputation is being performed in front of a hospital tent in Gettysburg. About three quarters of all operations performed during the war - roughly 60,000 surgeries - were amputations

    Many of the 60,000 operations performed during the civil war were amputations. Surgeons would use different knives, saws and even forceps for the procedures.

    The patients would be knocked out with heavy doses of opium so that they did not feel the pain.


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    Left is a page from 'A Manual of Military Surgery' from the Surgeon General's Office, 1863. Right, chloroform in a medicine tin found in a hospital knapsack. It was used as an anesthetic during many surgeries


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    Surgeons carried around kits like this one, equipped with an amputation saw, knives, forceps and other surgical equipment


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    Invalid feeder: Porcelain cups like these were used in hospitals to feed liquids to helpless patients


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    Open wide: This instrument is called a tooth key and was used for pulling teeth

    The American Civil began in 1861 when 11 southern states declared their independence from the U.S. and called themselves the 'the Confederacy'.

    Bloody fighting with 21 northern states where slavery had been abolished continued for four years until the Confederacy finally surrounded in 1865.

    The war was the first industrial scale conflict and led to the deaths of over half a million men, with another half million wounded.


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    This prosthetic leg made of wood is a full left leg, articulated at the knee, with a leather shoe covering the foot. It still retains some of the original flesh-colored paint


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    This apothecary chest contains medicines in paper envelopes and glass medicine bottles


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    This canteen held quinine, which was essential in treating malaria




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    This instrument, a fleam, was used for bloodletting. The U-shaped blade is spring-loaded and activated by the trigger above it. The depth of the cut can be regulated by a screw at the base of the lever


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    Spiral tourniquets were used during amputations to stem bleeding. The cloth strap would be wrapped around the limb, and the metal screw tightened until the blood flow slowed


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    This bottle contains Dover's Powder, a mix of opium and ipecac used to relieve pain and induce sweating.




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    This carved wooden leg splint was used to stabilise a broken lower leg




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    This metacarpal saw was used for cutting through smaller bones like fingers, toes, hands, wrists, and ribs


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    This is a wooden stethoscope - the flat end was placed on the patient's back or chest and the cupped end is the ear-piece




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    This coffin was designed to keep dead bodies fresh. The lower portion was designed to hold ice. The small door at the head of the coffin could be lifted to identify the body inside





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    Calomel was used as a remedy for diarrhea and dysentary. Its only drawback was that it contained highly poisonous mercury



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    'Spiritus Frumenti' was medicinal alcohol. This tin was part of a hospital knapsack made by the U.S. Medical Dept. which was carried onto the battlefi




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    This photograph was made from an 1888 glass plate negative and shows a Civil War veteran's wound. The subject is Sergeant George Ekert, colour bearer, 74th Reg. Pa. Volunteers
     

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  3. Podad

    Podad First Sergeant

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    A great collection of information. Thanks for posting this!!
     
  4. Seduzal

    Seduzal 2nd Lieutenant

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    A very interesting story thanks for sharing.
     
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  5. Anna Elizabeth Henry

    Anna Elizabeth Henry 2nd Lieutenant Silver Patron

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    Thanks so much for posting the information. Great collection of photographs :thumbsup:
     
  6. FarawayFriend

    FarawayFriend Captain Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner

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    Very impressive.
    When in Richmond I did not have enough time to see the Museum of Civil War Medicine. Your thread here gives me a good impression of what I have missed.

    What I always find unbelievable (although I know it's true) is how quickly a leg or an arm was amputated. A few minutes (which of course must have seemed like eternity for the poor guy lying on the table) and a life was saved - but a living was maybe ruined, because hard physical labor on a farm or a small business was often enough no longer possible.
    And seemingly nobody cared about what it means to lose a limb. And I do not only refer to phantom pain, which can be excruciating. (Btw I have heard from someone who knows what he is talking about that phantom pain is bad, but phantom itching is even worse. Imagine an itching spot on the sole of a missing foot. Must be hell!)
     
  7. John Winn

    John Winn Captain

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    Thanks for the pictures.

    I do have to say, though, that the writer is wrong about a number of things such as there being no anesthetic and soldiers having to just grit their teeth. That's a myth (and he even shows a bottle of chloroform). Later he states that patients were knocked out with high doses of opium before amputations. That's not correct. He also implies that surgeons could have repaired limbs instead of cutting them off if they just cared about doing so. That's simply not true. They didn't have the ability to repair shattered limbs; amputation was the only option.

    The author also has the number of states incorrect and more than implies that there were no Union slave states. Maybe should have done a little more homework.

    Sorry if I sound like an ingrate. I just felt like those things needed to be pointed out.
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2017
  8. JOHN42768

    JOHN42768 2nd Lieutenant Trivia Game Winner

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    As terrible as it surely was, at least knowledge for future generation was obtained for humanity out of something as inhuman as war. Not that loosing a limb is ever going to be a plus for the survivor, but the key is to be a survivor.
     
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  9. 67th Tigers

    67th Tigers Sergeant Major

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    Ah, the Daily Mail. A newspaper so unreliable wikipedia have just banned its' use as a reference...
     
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  10. James N.

    James N. Captain Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    Somehow, I think we're on safe ground with this though.
     
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  11. Waterloo50

    Waterloo50 Major Silver Patron

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    I guess that all those poor soldiers could ever really hope for was that the surgeon was quick in his work, I suspect that the pain from the original wound was severe enough that the pain from amputation was almost bearable especially if the amputation was carried out by a skilled surgeon.
     
  12. Waterloo50

    Waterloo50 Major Silver Patron

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    Spot on, I read a statement in a military medical journal that echoes your point.
    The history of military trauma care must be understood in terms of the wounding power of weapons causing the injury and how the surgeon understood the healing process. Improvements in weapons technology forced surgeons to rethink their interventions in their effort to tip the odds of survival in favor of their patient. As you say 'at least knowledge for future generation was obtained for humanity out of something as inhuman as war'.:thumbsup:
     

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