View Full Version : Confederate Surgeon

David Meister
09-29-2007, 01:43 PM
Greetings all

I Started reenacting portraying a South Carolina artillery private. One day by chance I was offered an opportunity to portray a Federal Assitant surgeeon
this offer was made the Surgeon of a unit my wife had belonged to before we were married. I did not know what to think at first but once I was on the field and my wife had my clothes made I found I really liked it.

I have southern sympathies and won't shoot a confederate soldier. Medical is the only way I will wear blue.

But to get to my point I was strongly considering doing both A Federal and Confederate Assistant Surgeon portrayal. I was needing the official 1862 regulations for A Confederate Assitant Surgeons Uniform. ( I Know many did not follow the regs but I want the regs anyway) Also I was wondering if there is be anyone who in the future would let me take the field with them as a Confederate Assitant Surgeon.

09-29-2007, 04:41 PM
Dunno about the Confederate Regs, but if there is ever a scenario where Federal and Confederate surgeons work together (ie, 2nd Bull Run) I would be happy to invite you to play with me.

David Meister
09-29-2007, 05:49 PM

I tryed to pm you but you must have shut that feature off. However To let you know I dont have a confederate surgeons kit together yet Im still scraping funds together for appropriate tools.

09-29-2007, 07:56 PM
Yes, I turned the feature off.

Even though you may not necessarily have "the tools" you can still play by hanging out with someone who does. In effect you get twice the experience - what to get, what not to get, and how to use it. In other words, you can share a kit with someone who does have it. Hence my standing invite to anyone who is willing to put in the skull sweat to come out with me into the field. Lord knows I need capable and accurate hands to run a hospital. And it takes a lot of brains to make it look good and accurate.

The following is lifted directly from the post of Michael "Pvt. Schnapps" Schaffner, from the Scriveners' Mess yahoogroups.

If this is stuff you already know, just ignore me, but I was thinking about it walking to the subway this morning. It occurred to me this is probably another one of those areas where you want to make your first investment in the reading rather than the gear. Googlebooks has the US Army's Surgeon's Manual, and you can get an (expensive) copy of Woodward's Steward's Manual. Both of these are northern sources, but they both compile a lot of information that would have been relevant to southern medical personnel as well. Plus Noah can provide a zillion-page list of medical definitions. Then there are the entries in Scott's Military Dictionary (available online through the Drill Network) on medicine, cooking, and sanitation, and there's the US Sanitary Commission checklist for camp inspections that I uploaded to the Mess a few weeks ago, courtesy of Kim Perlotto.

All of this information would help someone develop a good surgeon's impression without any of those shiny things we like to scare spectators with. Surgeons hold sick calls, inspect the camps, and oversee the cooking arrangements and sinks. They also handle all the medical paperwork, which brings to mind another reference -- "Tarnished Scalpels" -- which discusses the court martials of a sample of 50 US Army surgeons, many of whom got in trouble for matters as seemingly trivial as messing with their enlisted staff and not separately accounting for hospital food and their own personal stash.

So probably 99% of a surgeon's impression can be done without surgical instruments. In fact, close to a 100% of a medical impression can be handled without the high priced stuff if you decide to be a steward instead of a surgeon. And sometimes even the impression of a practicing surgeon on the battlefield can be carried out without instruments. Last year I sent Noah a copy of the letters of a German surgeon whose field hospital had been overrun at Chancellorsville: he worked for a couple of weeks without instruments or medicines -- all of his stores had either run off with his horse or otherwise been lost or stolen during the battle. He was still able to triage patients, and provide what comforts were available for the lightly wounded. He may have had one of those good Solingen pocket knives too...

I remember my father's stories of serving as a corpsman in Korea -- I don't think he took anything more than a first aid kit on patrol. He left the morphine behind because shock usually took care of the initial pain. He made sure everyone in the unit had a battle dressing in their trouser's left bellows pocket. His focus was on stopping the bleeding and getting the casualties back to the MASH as quickly as possible. Usually they were marines, but one lucky night they picked up a PLA officer walking home from the movies with his pockets full of company paperwork.

One final thought: if you haven't already, you might consider taking some courses and getting certified as an EMT. People doing medical impressions are often assumed to have this experience anyway, and it might give him some help with firper. Dirk Armstrong, who served as our "Chief Surgeon" at "September Storm" and has a professional background as a trauma nurse, carried a small satchel with contemporary medicines. He was able to provide at least initial assistance to heat casualties and other patients. I don't think I saw any period medical equipment on him, but that didn't detract from his impression in the least.

David Meister
09-29-2007, 08:54 PM

My Surgeon that I work with has the tools. He lets me use them while in the field hospital and I assist Him with surgeries. I would like to obtain a pocket kit however funds are low at this time. My Surgeon has offered to sell me some tools of his that he has purchased from ed archer and some other places. my surgeon used to use original tools however he has a dandy field amputation kit he recently purchased from ed archer that he uses now.

I originally offered to be a steward to my surgeon but all of his steward positions were filled however he had room for one more and that was an assistant surgeon.

when on the field the surgeon and I carry nothing more than scissors and bandages and little bit of "fake Blood"

Do you know where I can see a picture of a medical haversack?

09-29-2007, 10:47 PM
I have never heard of a "Confederatre medical haversack". Can you be more specific? Is it different from a "Federal medical haversack"? I thought a haversack was rather universal.

David Meister
09-29-2007, 11:10 PM
I meant a federal one

09-29-2007, 11:18 PM
So far as I know hospital personnel carried their immediate "first-aid" supplies in a hospital pack. Typically it was lugged by a private/orderly who was detailed for that particular duty, either temporarily or permanently. Haversacks were used to carry one's issued rations.

David Meister
09-29-2007, 11:23 PM
allrightythen thats what I thought but I heard someone saying something about one.

10-01-2007, 02:26 PM
allrightythen thats what I thought but I heard someone saying something about one.


You might have seen this posting by me on another thread:

From "Todd's American Military Equipage, 1851-1872" 1974, 77, 78, Charles Scribner's Sons, NY, etc.

On pp 470:

"Infirmary Detachments" operating in the field under Confederate medical officers were unarmed, except for NCO;s who were armed to protect the detachment against "stragglers and marauders." There was a litter for every two men, equipped with two leather shoulder straps for easier carrying. Each member of the detachment was given a canteen, a tin cup and a haversack. In the last item were 1/8 pound of lint, four bandages, two long and two short wooden splints, sponges and tourniquets, and a pint bottle of "alcoholic stimulant." This, at least, was the prescribed equipment in the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, in early 1863, and probably did not differ greatly from the field medical equipment used elsewhere in the Confederacy.

That each member of the detail is given a haversack with dressing and splint items is telling. That would only be done when training in the use of those items was included, otherwise the risk of mis-application or loss through carelessness, etc, would preclude its issuance.

David Meister
10-01-2007, 08:02 PM
So would an orderly carry the bandages and supplies I would use? Usually
when I do not have an orderly I carry the supplies myself What should I carry them in?

fred franze
10-04-2007, 10:18 AM

Usually just lurk here and learn but had to ring in on this one. Years ago I started to do amedical impresion, (Federal Hospital Steward), so I didn't have any instruments but did a lot of study on 19th century medicine. At an event, (Grant vs Lee, Culpepper Va.) I met a surgeon who does only medicine and no surgery. Very interesting fellow, very knowledgeable about medicine. More recently I did a surgeon impression (Confederate) and on the field carried only bandage material and scissors.

Presently I do a surgeon impression at Fort Delaware (Pea Patch Island in the Delaware river off Delaware City DE.) I rarely show any instruments rather demonstrate and talk about 19th century medicines and compounds. I find that this fits the bill for the fort and that if presented properly generates much interest from the public. I put out an instrument kit on occasion and it generates a lot of interest in a morbid sort of way.

In short, I feel that you can do a very nice surgeon impression without a surgical kit, at least for the time being.

Also, I have gained a wealth of information from this web site especially from Noah and some of the others. Keep up the good work.
Fred Franze

"Doc" Nelson
10-04-2007, 06:43 PM
In short, I feel that you can do a very nice surgeon impression without a surgical kit, at least for the time being.
Quite true. Most medical reenactors would be more than willing to let others "play" (for lack of a better term), that don't have their own gear/equipment. As with other impressions . . just come out. We'll do everything in our power to get you "fitted out" with the needed items.

As for "what to carry" . . well, that would depend upon allot of what you intend to do. If you are going to portray a Field Dressing Station (as an Assistant Surgeon), then you'll need certain items such as a Pocket Kit, some bandages (as many as you can carry), a few bottles of medicine (I usually carry simulated Opium Pills, etc. as a pain reliever), a stethoscope, field paperwork (i.e. casualty card, Patient Register, Prescription/Diet Book, Surgeon's Morning Report). Your Orderly would carry the medical knapsack (with additional bandaging supplies and medicines, etc.). But again, it also depends on what the scenario calls for. And unfortunately, most events won't have enough time to portray a Field Dressing Station correctly. If you ever get a chance to go, Noah puts on some very good impressions out East. I would highly recommend you contacting him and, see what he has going in the future. Or, if Noah sees this message, he may reply to it ;).

David Meister
10-04-2007, 07:08 PM
I am not a confederate assistant surgeon... yet.

I am planning on trying it out when I have money for the uniforms and manuals. However I do portray a federal assistant surgeon. I am slowly getting tools for the job although I wish that there were more than one GOOD source for repro surgical tools. if that were the case they may be lees expensive due to competition

Thus far I only "play" Assistant surgeon while with the Major surgeon and I have a good time.

"Doc" Nelson
10-04-2007, 09:26 PM
I too, am working on my Confederate Assistant Surgeon Kit. As of now, I portray a Federal Assistant Surgeon with a couple of groups. It took me over a year to get a Surgeon's Pocket Kit (Ed Archer's kit) and, I love it. I agree with you, about having more than one source. Ed Archer's kits are pricy. But, are worth it. As Noah has stated on several occassions, there are several attempted repros out there. But, lack accuracy and such. Ed Archer has an option to piece together something. Now, it will cost allot more than, buying one of his kits right off. But, at least you'll have a start. You're more than welcome to shoot me an email @ jimmy_nelson@insightbb.com and, I'll help you in any way I can.

10-05-2007, 05:55 AM
If you want an idea of a Confederate surgeon, look up Nicky Hughes. That's right, the editor of Civil War Historian, and the curator of several Kentucky historic CW sites, including the infamous Peaks Mill to which you hear me refer from time to time.

Nicky is a fastidious researcher, and I have seen his impression in August of last year when we set up a hospital dog-and pony show (or is that a saw-and-scalpel show?) at the Stone House as part of the Columbia Rifles' 2nd Manassas battlefield crawl. His uniform is: dark blue trowsers, red vest with white window-pane checks on it, white shirt (no frills), cravat, a Confederate Army enlisted single-breasted frock coat, and one of the ubiquitous beehive hats popular with the Johnny crowd. And that's it. No "chicken gut" squiggle braid on the coat, no gold lines marching up the leg, no Gordian French knot designs on a cap parked jauntily on one side of the head. No insignia at all, if I recal. correctly.

His kit, likewise, is straightforward - satchel and saddlebags with mismatched original and Archer instruments, and equally mismatched original bottles loaded with reproduction allopathic medicines. This is a man who has ground several hundred miles of leather off the boots and is not shy to walk amongst the privates without the need to be flashy. The uniform is generic that he can blend with whatever event he attends - and I respect him all the more for it.

You'd have to contact him in order to find out his research.

10-07-2007, 03:35 PM
I am preparing to take to the field as an assistant surgeon in the spring.

In the 1864 3rd Edition of Chisolm's manual he mentions the following on pg 136. He described the shape, size, construction and contents of the hospital knapsack and then says that:

"in a haversack, made of water-proof enamelled cloth, is carried bandages, 6 rolls; sperm candle, 1; lint, 1/2 lb;medicine cup, 1; pins, 1 paper; and 2 pieces of sponge. Assistant surgeons should carry a small leather haversack, with a flap cover, to button for security. This will contain his pocket instruments, torsion forceps, light dressings, pins, sponges, etc."

I am focusing on battle field triage and in camp disease preventiond and mitigation. I do not have a steward. So for now I have a Richmond depot oil-cloth haversack form a recommended hardcore merchant (several merchants offer this style). It will contain my pocket kit in a leather roll case, dressings and a few basic drugs. Next year I expect to replace it with a Richmond depot oil-cloth officers haversack from the same merchant and keep the current haversack for my steward when I get one. My rations of course will be carried in another plain cloth haversack.