Amputation during the civil war

But a prosthetic another word used for an artificial limb helps an amputee be less noticeable in public and offers the chance of a more regular daily life. These amputations were done by cutting off the limb quickly —in a circular-cut sawing motion—to keep the patient from dying of shock and pain.

Surgeons operated with dirty hands, going from one patient to the next without proper washing or cleaning instruments and dressings. It also required less dressing and discharges were less. Also the ambulances that were used often ran into bumpy roads and men would often fall off onto the roadside.

While North Carolina operated its artificial limbs program, 1, Confederate veterans contacted the government for help. This method forced the neglect of other men and required the prolonged use of anesthesia, increasing the danger of death from the chloroform.

According to family members, he saved that leg for special occasions, having made other artificial limbs to help him do his farmwork. As a result of the war, America gained hundreds of competent surgeons who would lay the foundations of modern surgical specialties.

With so many patients, doctors did not have time to do tedious surgical repairs, and many wounds that could be treated easily today became very infected. It is a remarkable artifact—the only state-issued artificial leg on display today in North Carolina.

Joyner Library, East Carolina University. Saws, Catlin knives, tourniquets, tenacula, Nelaton probes and other instruments of the period are utilized.

Amputations During the Civil War

Chest operations and plastic surgical repair of the face were successfully pioneered. Under these conditions flap amputations often broke open, increasing infection.

This type of amputation is considered the best option and decreases the likely hood of death or infection. Bontecou, MD at the more than bed Harewood U.

Amputees were no different—they needed to be able to work on their farms, too. Although their records are incomplete, Confederates most likely performed around the same number of amputations.

Behind the Lens: A History in Pictures

Of the approximately 30, amputations performed in the Civil War there was a Surgeons often left amputations to heal by granulation.

When Hanna died in at about eighty-five years old, he had had the artificial leg for fifty years. In the winter ofgeneral anesthesia using ether was developed, soon followed by the discovery of chloroform in It was soon recognized that primary amputation saved lives.

Artificial foot that enables Limp-free walking. NC Office of Archives and History. Jewett by the U. Anesthesia use in the war totaled approximately 80, cases for the Union and 54, for the Confederates.

Amputations in the Civil War

Many lives were saved by these operations even though there was public criticism for performing too many amputations. Of the surgeons in the U. After the war ended, it was important for men to return to their farms and increase production of food and money-making crops.

By there were just three experienced brigade-level competent surgeons operating at field hospitals, and only after consultation with each other.

They did not recognize the need for cleanliness and sanitation. Learning why and when to perform an amputation was paramount to treating the massive numbers of casualties.

Please submit permission requests for other uses directly to the museum editorial staff. This type of amputation was preferred to not have to occur.

For example, bandages were used over and over, and on different people, without being cleaned. Waiting to operate often resulted in a horribly infected wound. Agriculture had declined with so many soldiers away from home.

In an amputation, a person has an arm or leg or sometimes just a hand or foot removed from their body because of a terrible injury or infection. It reports overshot wounds of the extremities, 4, were treated by surgical excision and 29, by amputation.

Data showed that wounded soldiers treated by Union or Confederate surgeons had lower mortality in all situations including amputations than the British and French in the Crimean War. This method was the simplest and fastest. He suffered for about a month, with the wound oozing pus, before an amputation was done.

This method was a more elegant procedure.Amputations in military surgery during the Civil War were frequent and a procedure that those interested in Civil War medicine are used to hearing about. There are gruesome factual stories and pictures from the era that depict the procedure.

"The Civil War Surgeon at Work in the Field," Winslow Homer's heroic image of medical care in the chaos of the battlefield, 12 July Courtesy National Library of Medicine. George A. Otis, Drawings, Photographs and Lithographs Illustrating the Histories of Seven Survivors of the Operation of Amputation at the Hipjoint, During the War.

Of the wounds recorded in the Civil War, 70%+ were to the extremities. And so, the amputation was the common operation of the Civil War surgeon.


Many wounded soldiers during the Civil War (–), including those from North Carolina, had an operation called an amputation. In an amputation, a person has an arm or leg (or sometimes just a hand or foot) removed from their body because of a terrible injury or infection.

Stanley B. Burns, MD, the Mercy Street on-set Medical, Historical and Technical Advisor, shares photos from The Burns Archive and an essay about surgery during the Civil War. Jake Wynn of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine explains the protocol of Amputations during the Civil War, and how the procedure saved more lives than it cost.

Amputation during the civil war
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