Nursing and Medicine of the Civil War

2505 words 11 pages
Nursing and Medicine
Of the American Civil War

Kristy Michelle Pickard-4756
History 2111 – Fall 2009
On April 12, 1861 in Fort Sumter, SC Confederate troops fired the first shots of the Four Year American Civil War. After the first few battles were fought, both sides faced the realization of how they desperately needed doctors and nurses to care for the injured soldiers. (1) The first nurses were recuperating soldiers (rebel) however; their own illnesses prevented them from providing proper care or returning to full military duties. These soldiers resented being appointed hospital duty. (2)
Within thirty days after the call of 75,000 men by President Abraham Lincoln, the Women’s Central Association of New York chose 100 women to
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Others welcomed the women and acknowledged their skill as moral boosters. (13)
Nursing for the sick and wounded was one way for women to prove themselves during the war. They volunteered not expecting pay, some were sent by local agencies and others followed their husbands, fathers or sons. There was a belief they would be a nuisance and get in the way. Others worried these women would lose their moral statue and become vulgar beings. (14)
Poor sanitation, poorly cooked food and the open nature of the hospital caused soldiers to have severe illnesses throughout the war. Some classifications of their illnesses were 1- Gastrointestinal, which was most common, 2- dietary deficiencies, 3- fevers, 4- pulmonary disorder, and 5- skin irritations. Small pox was a large problem. Several life threatening infections threatened wounded soldiers. Physicians, nurses and patients learned to fear early characteristics of four most feared infections: 1- Gangrene – greatest threat, 2- Erysipelas, 3- Pyemia, and 4- Tetanus. (15)

The feminine touch revolutionized the care of the sick and maimed. (e) Three distinct purposes for these nurses were first, to regulate, prepare and serve meals, second, manage physical needs of patients and distribute linens, clothing, and supplies and third, care for emotional and spiritual needs of patients such as helping them write letters home and read them letters received from home. (q) These ladies bandaged


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