A Surgeon’s Role in Enlisting Civil War Soldiers
To enlist, Civil War recruits had to pass a physical exam given by a military surgeon. Unlike today, those exams often included seemingly impractical activities, from hopping in a circle on one leg to flexing fingers. These lax recruiting practices led to the mustering of large numbers of recruits who were physically unfit for military service. This was extremely common during the early stages of the Civil War.
The United States Army made attempts to stop this stream of unqualified recruits from entering its ranks. The Surgeon General’s office ordered a book to be written in order to clarify and codify procedures for enlisting and discharging recruits. The resulting text, A Manual of Instructions for Enlisting and Discharging Soldiers, was published in 1863. The manual covered all possible disqualifications for service as well as all the proper procedures for mustering a recruit into the Union Army.
Previous manuals on the same subject existed in the United States, but they were not detailed enough for inspectors with no prior training. As the manual’s author, Roberts Bartholow, stated in the preface: “This work is not intended for professional experts, but for such examining surgeons, medical officers, and recruiting officers as have not had, heretofore, an opportunity to become informed on these subjects.”
You can find the full volume courtesy of archive.org below:Tags: Books, Civil War, Civil War Medicine, physical exam, recruitment Posted in: Uncategorized