Twice as many men died of disease than of gunshot wounds in the Civil War. Doctors did not understand infection and there was a dreadful lack of hygiene in camp, which led to a breeding ground for dysentery, measles, small pox, pneumonia and malaria.
Of course soldiers faced great peril in battle. As we all know, The War was a very bloody affair. In my March 16 blog I talked about the damage inflicted by the modern weapons used. The book Gettysburg, A Novel of the Civil War, by Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen, tells graphically about the carnage inflicted by both sides.
Those who were shot in the torso would die, but for those who were shot in an extremity, the option was amputation. Civil War Surgeons quickly became proficient at this work and in many cases an amputation could be performed in ten minutes. Surgeons, along with their assistants, would work round the clock, ending up with stacks of amputated limbs up to five feet high. I read that at Gettysburg, they were tossed out the window and the stack was as high as the window sill.
Amazingly, it has been estimated that as many as 75% of the amputees did recover. Many Civil War Surgeons learned the art of amputation from the book “The Practice of Surgery” by Samuel Cooper. Practice might be the optimum word here as there were plenty of wounded to “practice” on!