22 May 2014
Amputation during the Civil War When people picture the Civil War amputations, they often picture piles of limps stacked around a battlefield and a surgeon as a butcher. However, this picture is not true to the real nature of battlefield medicine. Amputation was the most common surgery throughout the Civil War. The Civil War leads to advancement in amputation and quality of life for those who had amputation. Artificial limbs also came into the picture helping former soldiers lead a better quality life.
New technologies lead to amputations being needed. New developments also lead to the possibility of survival for soldiers. New weapons developed during this time such as the minie ball
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Any wound to the stomach was a death sentence. Few survived the experience. Any soldier wounded to the stomach, head, or chest were placed to the side, because they were most likely to die. Some of the soldier’s bodies would be used to experiment and test. Doctors used the division, so the doctors could save valuable time and operate on those who were more likely to survive the experience. Many hospitals were nothing more then tents. Hospitals atmosphere were described as “Men screaming in delirium, calling for loved ones, while others laid pale and quiet with the effect of shock”(ehistory). “I notice a heap of amputated feet, legs, arms, hands, &c., a full load for a one-horse cart. Several dead bodies lie near, each covered with its brown woolen blanket” (Whitman). Doctors were not prepared for the conditions. Many doctors got introduced to surgery on the battlefield. “The surgery of these battle-fields has been pronounced butchery. 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” wrote Dr. Letterman about his experiences in the Battle of Antietam (Letterman). Doctors only spent about 2 years in medical school and learned most of what they knew from experimenting on the soldiers. Doctors didn’t have sanitation in battlefield hospitals.