A Nation Divided

Our former president, Jimmy Carter said in a news interview today that “This country has become so polarized that its almost astonishing….  Not only with the red and blue states…  President Obama suffers from the most polarized situation in Washington that we have ever seen – even maybe than the time of Abraham Lincoln and the initiation of the war between the states.”  If President Carter had done some research he would have seen that this is totally off base. At no time in our history has the political balance been so off. I will compare for you Washington today and the way it was during the Civil War.

First of all, during the Civil War, the country was completely divided into to seperate nations. Nothing that has happened yet in Obama’s term as president has come even close to the magnitude of that, a few tea parties here and there don’t compare.

Secondly, even the states that did not secede fought just as long, and as hard as the states at war to fulfill their personal agendas. Their battles resulted in beatings on the Senate floor. Senator Charles Sumner (MA) was given a brutal beating by Senator Preston Brooks (SC)  because of a speech he gave. At no time have the “disagreements” in the Senate, Congress, or House led to violence of any sort.

Thirdly, men were being exiled from the country due to their radical beliefs during the Civil War. Clement Vallandigham was exiled for expressing sympathy for the enemy. He was given a military trial, sentanced to two years in military prison, and then President Lincoln commuted his sentance to banishment to the Confederacy. Only during times of war or when a nation is truely divided do they resort to such drastic measures as the previously mentioned things. Carter and Obama have another thing coming to them if they think the state of things is as bad as they say.

Published in: on September 25, 2010 at 1:33 am  Comments Off on A Nation Divided  

Serving the Surgeons

Surgeons have been branded as butchers since the day the war ended. Some surgeons granted, were imcompetent but the majority saved many lives. Their methods, as out-dated as they are  for today’s doctors, saved the lives of those men who would have died a slow, painful death from their wounds.

The surgeons can be credited with a better use of anesthetics than is shown by the modern media and Hollywood. In just about every movie ever, you see men screaming, writhing on the table, and fighting the doctors. There is also the common misconception that some soldiers only had a bullet to bite during operations.  I can’t speak for every case but this is wrong. Anesthesia was used by doctors in both armies.  Doctors used sponges in the Federal Army to administer Chloroform or Ether to their patients. In the Southern Army surgeons quickly ran out of sponges but  still administered Chloroform (which was used more often then Ether) to the patients who chose to be anesthetized.

How the surgeons anesthetized their patients had its draw backs though. The sponges used were never clean. One surgeon recalled this ” We operated in old blood-stained and often pus-stained coats, we used undisinfected instruments from undisinfected plush lined cases. If a sponge (if they had sponges) or instrument fell on the floor it was washed and squeezed in a basin of water and used as if it was clean”.

Now that we have the pre-operational things out of the way we can get to the actual amputation of the injured limb. The surgeon who would have actually done the sugery would be the division’s best surgeon, usually called the operators,  not just any doctor preformed amputations.

The first thing done was to make an incision. According to each case the operator had the option of either making a circular incision in the appendage or to cut a flap of skin.  The next thing to be

A surgeons tools for amputation used during the civil war

 done is cut through the muscle until you reach the bone. The surgeon would use his bonesaw to do this (thus giving surgeons the nickname sawbones). The surgeon would file the bone so as to make it smooth and to assure that the bone would not poke through the stump later on. Next in the process the surgeon would tie the artery which was severed during the cutting of bone and muscle.  Cotton, silk, or horsehair were used to tie off the artery. Finally, the surgeon would (if the flap method was used) sew the two flaps of skin created earlier in the operation together, leaving a drainage hole for fluids. The stump was sometimes covered with plaster and a bandage to aide the healing process and prevent infection, other times it was just bandaged. The soldier was then sent off to recooperate, usually waking up thirsty, and in pain.

Many soldiers survived the operation. The primary amputation mortality rate was: 28%. That is a great number of men. The secondary amputation rate (those who died from diseases related to the amputation) was : 52%. This seems more like a life saving operation rather than butchery.

A soldier who survived an amputation

Published in: on September 21, 2010 at 12:31 am  Comments Off on Serving the Surgeons  

Gettysburg Then and Now

Most if not all of you have see the now famous pictures of the carnage from the battle of Gettysburg. If you are like me, you wonder what the battlefield looks like today compared to what it looked like during the war. Well, I have the solution, pictures from both the Civil War and today!

Cemetary Ridge from midway up the hill

Cemetary Rige from the base of the hill


Th entrance to the cemetary at the crest of Cemetary Ridge

The gate house at the entrance to the Evergreen Cemetary on Cemetary Ridge

The Lutheran Seminary on Seminary Ridge

The Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg in the 1860's



Published in: on September 15, 2010 at 1:52 am  Comments Off on Gettysburg Then and Now  

A Civil War First

Now as you all know the Civil War was a time of great innovation. Much progress was made in the medical and military fields.  One of the more interesting stories of progress came during the battle of Fredericksburg. The thing I am talking about is the first amphibious landing of troops under fire. The Federal troops were ordered to board one of the pontoon bridges, cross the Rappahannock and snuff out the fire from William Barksdales Mississippi sharpshooters. It took much effort and the loss of many men, but the Federals made it over, landed on the river bank. Once their feet hit the ground they had made history. Not only had they taken part in a significant battle in the Civil War they had also made military history by being the first troops to make an amphibious landing under enemy fire.

Pontoons over the Rappahannock

Published in: on September 1, 2010 at 1:38 am  Comments Off on A Civil War First