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The National Museum of Civil War Medicine has a research center that is open to the public by appointment, Monday through Friday, 10 am until 3 pm. All of the material in the research center focuses on the many aspects of Civil War medicine, including surgeons, nurses, patients, medicines, diseases, and hospitals. Please contact Terry Reimer at 301-695-1864, ext. 1008, or info@civilwarmed.org to make an appointment.

Research Materials at our Civil War Museum

Research Help & Bibliographies

Contents:
Civil War Medicine: General Information
Surgeons
Nurses & Women
Soldiers
Diseases & Drugs
Hospitals & Prisons
Medical & Surgical Equipment

If you would like to request information regarding a more specific research topic you may do so on our Research Request page.

Civil War Medicine:

General Information

 Myth #1 – Anesthesia

 

Myth #2 – Biting of the Bullet

 

 

There are numerous books available on the subject of Civil War medicine.  The following books are general overviews of the subject; books on specific subjects are listed in subsequent sections.  Medical Practices in the Civil War is designed for all audiences, including younger students; Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs and Gangrene and Glory: Medical Care During the American Civil War are good general overviews of the subject; the three volumes of Pictorial Encyclopedia of Civil War Medical Instruments and Equipment contain numerous photographs of medical items; and the books Doctors in Blue and Doctors in Gray detail the surgeons and medical departments of the Union and the Confederacy. 

  • Bleeding Blue and Gray: Civil War Surgery and the Evolution of American Medicine; Ira M. Rutkow, 2005
  • Civil War Medicine: 1861-1865; C. Keith Wilbur, M.D., 1998
  • Civil War Medicine: An Illustrated History; Mark J. Schaadt, M.D., 1998  
  • Civil War Medicine: Challenges and Triumphs; Alfred Jay Bollet, 2002
  • Death is in the Breeze: Disease during the American Civil War; Bonnie Brice Dorwart, NMCWM Press, 2009
  • Divided by Conflict United by Compassion: The National Museum of Civil War Medicine; Terry Reimer, NMCWM Press, 2004
  • Doctors in Blue: The Medical History of the Union Army in the Civil War; George W. Adams, 1985 (first printing 1952)
  • Doctors in Gray: The Confederate Medical Service; H. H. Cunningham, 1993 (first printing 1958)
  • Every Kind of… Wound and Disease: Hospital Life in the Confederate Medical Department; The Museum of the Confederacy Journal, No. 75, Richmond, Virginia, 1997
  • Gangrene and Glory: Medical Care During the American Civil War; Frank R. Freemon, 1998
  • Images of Civil War Medicine: A Photographic History; Gordon Dammann and Alfred Jay Bollet, 2008
  • Medical Practices in the Civil War; Susan Beller, 1992
  • Orthopaedic Injuries of the Civil War; Bradley P. Bengtson, 1996
  • Pictorial Encyclopedia of Civil War Medical Instruments and Equipment, Volumes I, II, and III; Gordon E. Dammann, D.D.S., 1983, 1988, and 1998

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Surgeons

Thousands of men served as surgeons or assistant surgeons on both sides of the struggle.  All were officers; surgeons were equivalent to a major and assistant surgeons were equivalent to a captain.  In addition to the army surgeons, many civilian doctors served in the hospitals or with a regiment on a contract basis.  They were called contract surgeons and were listed as Acting Assistant Surgeons in the official records.  For general information on surgeons and the Medical Departments, the books Doctors in Blue and Doctors in Gray are the best introduction.

If you are searching for information on a specific surgeon, start with the records of the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC.  The National Archives has service and pension records for members of the Union Army, plus a special set of records called “Personal Papers of Medical Officers and Physicians” for Union surgeons and contract surgeons.  The “Personal Papers” file contains official papers and correspondence for individual medical officers, not personal letters.  Information on Confederate medical officers is contained in a set of records on microfilm called “Compiled Service Records of Confederate General and Staff Officers and Non-regimental Enlisted Men.”  For information on these records, call the National Archives at 1-866-272-6272 or go to www.nara.gov.

Two books are also helpful in researching individual surgeons.  The Roster of Regimental Surgeons was originally published in 1882 and lists all of the medical officers who served with regiments in the Union Army.  Please note that there were thousands of additional surgeons who were not specifically assigned to a regiment and who are not listed in this book.  The information in the Roster includes a notation of where the doctors lived after the war, since its original purpose was to help soldiers contact the surgeons who treated them so that they could apply for pensions.  The Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War is a multi-volume set originally published after the war detailing surgical cases and diseases.  The names of the surgeons who submitted these case studies are almost always included, so it can be useful in tracking where an individual surgeon was at various times.  The Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War is a very useful resource; check your local libraries for a copy.  The Museum Store also offers a variety of books containing the letters and personal memoirs of individual medical officers.

If you are interested in learning more about surgical procedures and the regulations of the medical departments, there are numerous reprints of Civil War-era manuals available.  A Manual of Military Surgery for the Use of Surgeons in the Confederate States Army and Handbook for the Military Surgeon (Union) are the most comprehensive.  A list of reprints of original manuals is included below.

  • A Surgeon’s Civil War: Letters and Diaries of Daniel M. Holt; edited by James M. Greiner, Janet L. Coryell, and James R. Smither, 1994
  • An Imperishable Fame: The Civil War Experience of George Fisher McFarland; Michael A. Dreese, 1997
  • Doctor to the Front: The Recollections of Confederate Surgeon Thomas Fanning Wood; Donald B. Koonce, 2000
  • Doctors in Blue, The Medical History of the Union Army in the Civil War; George W. Adams, 1985 (first printing 1952)
  • Doctors in Gray, The Confederate Medical Service; H. H. Cunningham, 1993 (first printing 1958)
  • In Hospital and Camp: The Civil War Through the Eyes of its Doctors and Nurses; Harold Elk Straubing, ed., 1993
  • List of Battles and Roster of Regimental Surgeons, 1990; originally published as Roster of Regimental Surgeons and Assistant Surgeons in the U.S. Army Medical Department During the Civil War, 1882
  • Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War; prepared by Surgeon General Joseph K. Barnes, 1870 (originally titled Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion 1861-1865)
  • Medical Department of the United States Army During the Civil War; Capt. Louis C. Duncan, Medical Corps, U.S. Army, c.1900
  • Personal Memoirs of John H. Brinton, Civil War Surgeon, 1861-1865; Foreword by John Y. Simon, 1996, originally published 1914
  • Prologue to Change: African Americans in Medicine in the Civil War Era; Robert G. Slawson, The NMCWM Press, 2006
  • Simon Baruch: Rebel in the Ranks of Medicine, 1840-1921; Patricia Spain Ward, 1994
  • Tarnished Scalpels: The Court-Martials of Fifty Union Surgeons; Thomas P. Lowry, M.D., and Jack D. Welsh, M.D., 2000
  • Veterinary Service During the American Civil War; Walter R. Heiss, 2005
  • Wounded River: the Civil War Letters of John Vance Lauderdale; edited by Peter Joseph, 1993
  • Original Manuals
    A Manual of Military Surgery for the use of Surgeons in the Confederate States Army, with Explanatory Plates of all Useful Operations
    ; J. Julian Chisolm, M.D., 1864; reprinted 1983
  • A Manual of Minor Surgery; John Hooker Packard, 1863; reprinted 1990
  • An Epitome of Practical Surgery; Edward Warren, 1863; reprinted 1989
  • A Practical Treatise on Military Surgery; Frank Hastings Hamilton, 1861; reprinted 1989
  • Gunshot Wounds and Other Injuries of Nerves; Silas Weir Mitchell, George Read Morehouse, and William Williams Keen, 1864; reprinted 1989 with an introduction by Ira M. Rutkow
  • Handbook for the Military Surgeon; Charles S. Tripler and George Custis Blackman, 1861; reprinted 1989
  • Notes and Observations on Army Surgery; F. Formento; bound with A Treatise on Gun-Shot Wounds; Moritz Schuppert, 1863 (Confederate); reprinted 1990
 
A video clip about Prologue to Change by Robert Slawson which aired on CBN.
 
 

To have Dr. Slawson speak for your group – please email reservations@civilwarmed.org

 

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Nurses & Women

Many women served as paid and volunteer nurses during the Civil War, and many others contributed their service through civilian organizations.  There are a large number of books pertaining to the roles of women during the war.  Some are listed below, more can be found online in the Museum Store.  The Museum Store also offers a variety of books containing the letters and personal memoirs of individual women.

If you are searching for information on a specific nurse, start with the records of the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC.  The National Archives has pension records for many Union nurses, starting after 1898.  Other groups of records also contain information on individual nurses.  For information on these records, call the National Archives at 1-866-272-6272 or go to www.nara.gov.

 

  • Angels of Mercy: An Eyewitness Account of the Civil War and Yellow Fever; A Primary Source by Sister Ignatius Sumner, R.S.M.; author/ editor Sister Mary Paulinus Oakes, R.S.M., 1998
  • A Woman of Honor: Dr. Mary E. Walker and the Civil War; Mercedes Graf, 2001
  • A Woman of Valor: Clara Barton and the Civil War; Stephen B. Oates, 1994
  • Heart’s Work: Civil War Heroine and Champion of the Mentally Ill, Dorothea Lynde Dix; Charles Schlaifer and Lucy Freeman, 1991
  • Hospital Days: Reminiscence of a Civil War Nurse; Jane Staurt Woolsey, reprinted 1996
  • Hospital Sketches; Louisa May Alcott, 1988 (first printing 1863)
  • Journal of Women’s Civil War History, Volume I; edited by Eileen Conklin, 2001
  • Our Army Nurses: Stories from Women in the Civil War; Mary Gardner Holland, originally published 1895, reprinted 1998
  • The Other Side of War: On the Hospital Transports with the Army of the Potomac; Katharine Prescott Wormeley, 1899; reprinted 1998
  • Trials and Triumphs: the Women of the American Civil War; Marilyn Mayer Culpepper, 1991
  • Valor and Lace: The Roles of Confederate Women 1861-1865; Edited by Mauriel Phillips Joslyn, Journal of Confederate History Series, Volume XV, 1996
  • White Roses; Rebecca D. Larson, 1997
  • Women at the Front: Hospital Workers in Civil War America; Jane E. Schultz, 2004

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Soldiers

If you are searching for information on a specific soldier, start with the records of the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC.  The National Archives has service records for Union and Confederate soldiers, and pension records for Union soldiers only.  These records can be requested by mail using specific forms supplied by the Archives.  There is also a set of records for Union soldiers called “Carded Medical Records” which can be requested by mail.  More information on these records can be found at  www.nara.gov.

A few books can also be helpful in finding information on the wounds and diseases suffered by individual soldiers.  The Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War is a multi-volume set originally published after the war detailing surgical cases and diseases.  Thousands of soldiers, both Union and Confederate, are listed in this set.  The Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War is a very useful resource; check your local libraries for a copy.  The Photographic Atlas of Civil War Injuries contains photographs of surgical cases and specimens from the Otis Historical Archives.  The Museum Store also offers a variety of books containing the letters and personal memoirs of individual soldiers.

  • A Seneca in the Union Army: The Civil War Letters of Sergeant Isaac Newton Parker, 1861-1865; Laurence M. Hauptman, 1995
  • Bivouacs of the Dead: the Story of those who Died at South Mountain and Antietam; Steven R. Stotelmyer, 1992
  • Black Union Soldiers in the Civil War; Hondon B. Hargrove, 1988
  • Civil War Soldier: A Photographic Journey; Ray M. Carson, 2000
  • Confederate Cherokees: John Drew’s Regiment of Mounted Rifles; W. Craig Gaines, 1989
  • Dear Eagle: The Civil War Correspondence of Stephen H. Bogardus, Jr.; ed. Joel Craig; The Scuppernong Press, Wake Forest, NC, 2004
  • Faces of the Civil War: An Album of Union Soldiers and Their Stories; Ronald S. Coddington, 2004
  • From a True Soldier and Son: The Civil War Letters of William C.H. Reeder; Jack Reeder, Ed., The Brandy Station Foundation, 2008
  • Hardtack and Coffee: the Unwritten Story of Army Life 1861-1865; John D. Billings, 10th Massachusetts Battery, 1996
  •  Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War; prepared by Surgeon General Joseph K. Barnes, 1870 (reprinted 1991; originally titled Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion 1861-1865)
  • No Soap, No Pay, Diarrhea, Dysentery & Desertion: A Composite Diary of the Last 16 Months of the Confederacy; Jeff Toalson, ed., iUniverse, Inc., 2006
  • Photographic Atlas of Civil War Injuries; edited by Bradley P. Bengtson, M.D., and Julian E. Kuz, M.D., 1996
  • Too Young to Die: Boy Soldiers of the Union Army 1861-1865; Dennis M. Keesee, 2001
  • Writing and Fighting the Civil War: Soldiers Correspondence to the New York Sunday Mercury; ed. William B. Styple, 2000

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Diseases & Drugs

For information on the diseases and drugs of the Civil War, the best sources are the books Outlines of the Chief Camp Diseases of the United States Armies and A Primer of Civil War Medicine: Non Surgical Medical Practices During the Civil War.  Outlines of the Chief Camp Diseases is a Civil War-era manual which details the most common diseases encountered by the surgeons.  It is especially helpful in gaining insight into how the diseases were understood at the time of the war.   A Primer of Civil War Medicine explains the types of disease and the drugs used to treat each one.  Other books, including the ones listed below, explain the production and supply of army medicines, the use of herbal medicines, and specific diseases.  The Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War contains case studies for many diseases plus statistical analysis for many of the common diseases.  The Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War is a very useful resource; check your local libraries for a copy. 

  • A Primer of Civil War Medicine: Non Surgical Medical Practices During the Civil War; Bruce A. Evans, M.D., 1996
  • Carson’s Materia Medica of 1851: An Annotation; Bonnie Brice Dorwart, M.D., 2003
  • Civil War Pharmacy; Michael A. Flannery, 2004
  • Death is in the Breeze: Disease during the American Civil War; Bonnie Brice Dorwart, NMCWM Press, 2009
  • Disease in the Civil War: Natural Biological Warfare in 1861-1865; Paul E. Steiner, Ph.D., M.D., 1968
  • Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War; prepared by Surgeon General Joseph K. Barnes, 1870 (reprinted 1991; originally titled Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion 1861-1865)
  • Medicines for the Union Army: The United States Army Laboratories During the Civil War; George Winston Smith, 2001
  • Outlines of the Chief Camp Diseases of the United States Armies; Joseph Janvier Woodward, M.D., U.S. Army Medical Department 1863; reprinted 1992
  • Phantom Pain: North Carolina’s Artificial-Limbs Program for Confederate Veterans; Ansley Herring Wegner, 2004
  • Pocket Manual of Homeopathic Materia Medica; William Boericke, M.D., 1927
  • The Story the Soldiers Wouldn’t Tell: Sex in the Civil War; Thomas P. Lowry, M.D., 1994

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Hospitals & Prisons

During the Civil War, hundreds of hospitals were established in cities and towns in both the North and the South.  Some were specifically designed and built for that purpose, but some were in existing buildings taken over for hospital use. One Vast Hospital, published by the NMCWM Press, covers the hospital sites in Frederick, Maryland, after the battles of South Mountain and Antietam.  This book includes a patient list for these hospitals.  The most comprehensive descriptions of individual hospitals is in The Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War, a multi-volume set originally published after the war detailing surgical cases and diseases.  Volume VI includes detailed descriptions of many of the larger Union hospitals.  The three volumes of the Pictorial Encyclopedia of Civil War Medical Instruments and Equipment contain a few photographs and drawings of hospitals, mainly in Washington, DC.  Portals to Hell: Military Prisons of the Civil War offers a wealth of information on prisons.

The National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC, has some additional information on hospitals, mainly in the form of patient lists for each hospital.   For information on these records, call the National Archives at 1-866-272-6272 or go to www.nara.gov.

  • Andersonville: The Southern Perspective; ed. J. H. Segars, 2001
  • Antietam Hospitals; John W. Schildt, 1987, 1996
  • Cahaba Prison and the Sultana Disaster; William O. Bryant, 1990
  • Camp Letterman: the Lost Legacy of Gettysburg’s Hospital Woods July-November 1863; 1993
  • Chimborazo: The Confederacy’s Largest Hospital; Carol C. Green, 2004
  • Civil War Hospitals: Cumberland – Clarysville, Maryland; Harold L. Scott, Sr., 1995
  • Confederate Hospitals on the Move: Samuel H. Stout and the Army of Tennessee; Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein, 1994
  • Elmira: Death Camp of the North; Michael Horigan, 2002
  • Grappling With Death: The Union Second Corps Hospital at Gettysburg; Roland R. Maust, 2001
  • The Hospital on Seminary Ridge at the Battle of Gettysburg; Michael A. Dreese, 2002
  • Hospital Transports: A Memoir of Embarkation of the Sick and Wounded; Laura L. Behling, ed., 2006
  • Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War; prepared by Surgeon General Joseph K. Barnes, 1870 (reprinted 1991; originally titled Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion 1861-1865)
  • One Vast Hospital: The Civil War Hospital Sites in Frederick, Maryland after Antietam; Terry Reimer,  NMCWM Press, 2001
  • Pictorial Encyclopedia of Civil War Medical Instruments and Equipment, Volumes I, II, and III; Gordon E. Dammann, D.D.S.,1983, 1988, and 1998
  • Portals to Hell: Military Prisons of the Civil War; Lonnie R. Speer, 1997
  • A Prototype of a Confederate Hospital Center in Lynchburg, Virginia; Peter W. Houck, M.D., 1986
  • Richmond’s Wartime Hospitals; Rebecca Barbour Calcutt, 2005
  • So Far from Dixie: Confederates in Yankee Prisons; Philip Burnham, Taylor Trade Publishing, 2003
  • To Die in Chicago: Confederate Prisoners at Camp Douglas 1862-1865; George Levy, 1999
  • Two Confederate Hospitals and Their Patients: Atlanta to Opelika; Jack D. Welsh, 2005
  • Unlikely Allies: Fort Delaware’s Prison Community in the Civil War; Dale Fetzer and Bruce Mowday, Stackpole Books, 2000
  • U.S.S. Red Rover: Civil War Hospital Ship; William L. Dike, 2004
  • A Vast Sea Of Misery: A History and Guide to the Union and Confederate Field Hospitals at Gettysburg; Gregory A. Coco, Gettysburg, PA, 1988

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Medical & Surgical Equipment

The following books can help in the identification of medical and surgical equipment.  The three volumes of the Pictorial Encyclopedia of Civil War Medical Instruments and Equipment contain many photographs and descriptions of Civil War medical equipment, including surgical instruments, stretchers, drug kits, prosthetic limbs, medical officers’ uniforms and equipment, and many other items.  American Surgical Instruments covers the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and contains a list of American manufacturers of surgical instruments.

  • The Ambulance; Katherine Traver Barkley, 1978, reprinted 1990
  • American Surgical Instruments: An Illustrated History of Their Manufacture and Directory of Instrument Makers to 1900; James M. Edmonson, 1997
  • Farmcarts to Fords: A History of the Military Ambulance 1790-1925; John S. Haller, Jr., 1992
  • Horse-Drawn Military Civilian Veterinary Ambulances; Carriage Museum of America, 2004
  • Pictorial Encyclopedia of Civil War Medical Instruments and Equipment, Volumes I, II, and III; Gordon E. Dammann, D.D.S.,1983, 1988, and 1998

Compiled by Terry Reimer, Director of Research, NMCWM, 2010