More Americans died in the Civil War (1861 - 1865) than the combined total of the nation's dead in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Indian Wars, the Spanish American War, WW 1 & 11, and the Korean War. Casualties added by the Vietnam War finally exceeded the grand total of casualties suffered in the Civil War. Of the estimated 970,000 military casualties on both sides, 560,000 died as a result of combat while 410,000 survived. Of those who did not survive, about 67% died from disease while the other 33% died in combat or from wounds received in combat.
SOME MEDICAL FACTS:
1. The theory of germs and disease were unknown during that period. Most soldiers died from post-operative complications as a result of infection caused by poor sanitary conditions. Instruments were simply wiped off on dirty surgeons aprons and used over and over again.
2. Battlefield first aid was often left to musicians or special litter corps. Combat troops were ordered to leave their wounded comrades behind where they remained at the risk of being shot.
3. Gunshot wounds exceeded sabre and bayonet wounds by a ratio of 250/1.
4. Medicines sometimes did more harm than good. Opium was the preferred painkiller and its addictive properties were not understood until after the Civil War. Addiction to opium was known as the "Soldier's Disease".
5. Bleeding and cauterization were common practices that invariably led to the high death rate.
6. The first surgical procedure done under anaesthesia was performed in 1846 at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. During the Civil War, ether and chloroform were used routinely in performing surgical procedures, provided supplies were available.
7. The Catholic Sisters of Charity were the only organized and trained female nurses when the war began. They and other female volunteers delivered some of the most effective treatment that soldiers received in the rear-area hospitals.
The 2nd LOUISIANA BRIGADE MEDICAL UNIT demonstrates the medical and dental practices of the period by recreating field hospital scenarios complete with walking wounded, treatment of gunshot wounds and diseases as well as the gruesome amputation of various limbs. Members study pharmacology, herbal medicine, surgical techniques, dressing of wounds, treatment of diseases, and day-to-day medical practices taken from period textbooks. Our objective is to communicate to the public in a convincing and accurate manner the basic medical practices of the period.
We are re-enactors and living historians devoted to researching, creating and demonstrating an accurate impression of a Confederate Field Hospital on a Field of Battle during the Civil War. All members will be trained as Surgeons, Medical Stewards, Nurses or members of the Ambulance Corps. We are a Reenactment Unit open to all who have an interest in Medicine in the Civil War Era.
Although we strive for historical accuracy, we also want to enjoy ourselves and make new friends as we teach others about what it was like for wounded soldiers in a Field Hospital. Even if you do not have a perfect set of period clothing, please do not let that stop you from launching your historical impression. The purpose is to learn and grow with tolerance, guidance and understanding. We create our impressions using commercial Sutlers, Flea Markets and our own devices. Should you desire to fall in with our Medical Brigade, we will guide you along in creating your impression. Since we are a Medical Unit, we do not carry arms. No permit is required nor is a musket needed. This cuts the cost at least 50%. All we need from you is a serious interest and a sense of humour.
For more information on the 2nd Louisiana Brigade Medical Unit,