View Full Version : More Books on SURGEONS to Read

02-10-2008, 01:41 PM
Here are some more books to read on medical officers from my collection:

For the doctors in gray I recommend three books for your use.

Letters to Laura, a confederate surgeon’s impressions of four years of war (edited by Sadye Wilson, Nancy Fitzgerald, and Richard Warwick) is published by Tunsteade Press in Nashville, TN. (ISBN 0-9616526-3-2). This book led me to visit Dr. Owen’s gravesite last time I was in Tennessee. I also portray him since his letters to his wife are so descriptive and typical of the time period. They change tone and content as the war drags on over the four years of his enlistment. I have found that his insights enable me to understand the trials and frustrations of the confederate surgeon coping with problems at home and shortages on field.

Glenn McMullen’s book The Civil War Letters of Dr. Harvey Black is published by Butternut and Blue Press in Baltimore, Md. (ISBN 0-935523-45-6) Dr. Black’s letters are from 1862 to 1864. He has interesting comments about Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and other commanders of the Army of Northern Virginia that he encounters. He was one of the two other surgeons that assisted Dr. Hunter McGuire with Generals Jackson’s arm amputation at Chancellorsville. This book gives more of a flavor of a field hospital.

For a western (trans-Mississippi) flavor, turn to I Acted From Principal: The Civil War Diary of Dr. William M. McPheeters edited by Cynthia Pitcock and Bill Gurley. Published by The University of Arkansas Press in Fayetteville, Ak. (ISBN 1-55728-725-2). Dr. McPheeters was a doctor in St Louis that was eventually driven from Missouri since he would not sign a loyalty oath, the doctor kept a daily diary, which gives new insights into the trans-Mississippi area of medical treatment during the war. A great book for surgeons from Missouri and Arkansas to use, but applicable to surgeons on both sides of the Mississippi valley south of St. Louis.

Surgeon on Horseback: The Missouri and Arkansas Journal and Letters of Dr. Charles Bracket of Rochester, Indiana appeared on the book shelves. The book is compiled by James W. Wheaton and published by Guild Press of Indiana, Inc. in Carmel, IN.(ISBN 1-57860-065-0). Dr. Bracket was the first medical officer I found who referenced carrying a gun. He writes his wife to send him his Colt pistol. He also describes the contents of his field knapsack in detail. His lists of wounded will help the reenactors have more accurate wounded “appear” at the field hospital. I highly recommend the book for his detail in the western theatre.

Echoes From the Letters of a Civil War Surgeon edited by Lydia Hecht (ISBN 09643441-0-6). The book was published by Bayou Publishing in 1996. Dr. Benjamin A. Fordyce was with the 160th New York. While being an eastern unit, he spent from July 1863 to July 1864 in Louisiana participating in the Red River campaign. There he was taken prisoner for 10 weeks, serving as a surgeon to the union prisoners. He was at first reported missing or killed. Later his wife learned that he was captured with the wounded and was exchanged. His letters include some replies from his wife and children, which is unusual, since most reply letters from the family did not survive the war.

“Autobiography of Silas Thompson Trowbridge, MD." introduction by John S. Haller Jr. ISBN# 0-8093-2591-8 published by Southern Illinois University Press – Carbondale in 2004. A typical certificated doctor, Dr. Trowbridge studied with another doctor in central Illinois for 14 months and then set up shop. He later went to Rush Medical College in Chicago for a four month course. He was a three month surgeon with the 8th Illinois Infantry and latter part of the reorganized three year unit. He was at Ft. Donelson and treated Gen. Logan for a gunshot wound. Later at Corinth, he treated future Illinois Governor Gen. Oglesby. Trowbridge seems to be everywhere important in the Western Theatre including Vicksburg. In August 1864 his army term of service was over but later in life he served as a US Consul at Vera Cruz, Mexico from 1869 to 1882.

FEDERAL Eastern Theatre, the following books are my recommendations for working on your eastern medical impression:

Letters From A Civil War Surgeon: Dr William Child of the Fifth New Hampshire Volunteers by Merrill Sawyer, Betty Sawyer, and Timothy Sawyer is published by Polar Bear & Company Solon, ME. (ISBN 1-882-190-63-7). Dr. Child is interesting since he was at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Cold Harbor, and was an eyewitness to President Lincoln’s assassination in Ford’s Theatre. He wrote over 150 letters to his wife during the war. A doctor who graduated from Dartmouth, he describes to his wife Carrie that, “…war is grand – though terrible.” Starting the war as a regimental assistant surgeon, he ends the war as a divisional surgeon. These experiences give the reader a variety of perspectives as a surgeon who had many positions and roles during the war.

A Surgeon’s Civil War, The Letters & Diary of Daniel M. Holt, M.D. is edited by James Greiner, Janet Coryell and James Smither. It is published by Kent State University, Kent, OH.(ISBN 0-87338-538-1). Medical incompetency in the ranks, the new Dr. Letterman system of supplies, and regaining his horse and saddle after personally appealing to Gen. Robert E. Lee are just a few of the incidents in this book. As a country doctor, he encountered the shock of military medicine immediately in his career. His time with the 121st New York, at the age of 43, resulted in his contracting TB and dying in 1868. Fortunately for us, he put his war papers in order prior to his death.

J. Franklin Dyer: The Journal of a Civil War Surgeon edited by Michael B. Chesson is published by University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE. (ISBN 0-8032-6637-5). This 2003 book is the diary of an eastern theatre surgeon. Dr. Dyer was with the 19th Massachusetts Volunteers, surgeon in chief of the Second Division, and acting medical director of the II Corps of the Army of the Potomac. This book provides insights into the disease ridden troops of the Army of the Potomac. His descriptions of the scurvy outbreak during Peninsula campaign adds new details to the implications of disease in defeating armies during the war. Dr. Dyer also died of TB in 1875.

I'll post some more soon from my collection.!

Jas. Cox
02-10-2008, 05:59 PM
Thank you for all the recommendations.

I discovered within the last few days that one of our private libraries, Willard http://www.willard.lib.in.us/, has a large (for its size) civil war collection with a lot of medical related books. Oddly they have seeming a larger Confederate section than a Federal one (Southern Indiana was still North). Today I just browsed through what they had (and was scolded for re-shelving a book I just pulled off the shelf to see the contents). They have the Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War. A multi-volumed set that I couldn't figure out how the indexes worked once I found things of interest. As I wasn't specifically researching anything it didn't matter, but it was an overload to the senses.

Jas. Cox
04-09-2009, 09:49 PM
I just finished reading Surgeon on Horseback: The Missouri and Arkansas Journal and Letters of Dr. Charles Bracket. Very interesting in learning about some of the day to day life through letters and journal entries. Not really much about actual medicine practiced, but good for the feeling of isolation, the knowing that either he or any member of his family could die any day and not just from the war, the politics involved (both actual and more specifically the interpersonal dealings), and even the misinformation he thought to be true. Again, an eye witness isn't necessarily the best source of information.

Best of all, he was a Hoosier. ;)

Regular DOC
05-06-2009, 08:46 PM
I would also add the following book

Yellow Flag

"In March, 1864, C. Marion Dodson left his comfortable home on Maryland's Eastern Shore to join the U.S. Navy as a pharmacist. Barely weeks after joining a Union fleet on blockade in the Gulf of Mexico, another ship in the squadron raised the "Yellow Flag" -- the signal that the dreaded yellow fever had stricken its crew. They desperately needed medical help, his captain told Dodson. Someone had to go aboard and wager his life against the deadly unknown. Encounters with a comely Rebel belle in New Orleans and the explosive pursuit of the formidable C.S.S. William H. Webb make this lively diary a memorable voyage for readers of Civil War literature.

09-05-2011, 12:07 AM
I just purchased one of the vol. from "The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion" and WOW if you like information overload and great documation and numbers and case studies I would recommond you going over to google books and look at the digital copys. I have Part 3 and Vol. 2 the surgical history, it deals with all lower extermities wounds and it has some awsome pictures. I used it during a re enactment and it got alot of attention from the public.

If anyone know or finds any of the other 5 books for sale, please let me know where i can get them. I would like to complete the set and pass them down to my kids and so on.

Kevin Kuhn
PA-EMT-B/ARC-AHA Instructor/Assit. Surgeon 14th Louisiana Inf.

09-05-2011, 12:23 AM
First I would like to thank all of you so far for the GREAT Information provided on this forum.

I have purchased a 1 of 6 book from "The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion" set. I got the last book Part III, Vol. II it contains "Wounds and Injuries of the Lower Extremities," "Miscellaneous Injuries," "Wounds and Complications," "Anesthetics," "The Medical Staff and Materia Chirurgica," and "Transportation of the Wounded".

Its a really great read if you wanna learn about how the wounded. The Pictures are awsome. I used this book durning a re enactment a few weeks ago and it got great attention from the public. I would recommand going to google books and looking at the books on there.

Also if anyone knows where any more volumes are for sale, PLEASE contact me and let me know where at and how much.

Thank you very one.

Kevin Kuhn
PA-EMT-B/ARC-AHA Instructor

09-10-2011, 08:16 AM
Keep an eye out on E-bay for the books. You can also look for CD's of these which are available from a number of book sellers on line.

Dr. Walker
09-15-2011, 07:54 PM
Where can I get a copy?
Dr. Walker

12-06-2011, 07:58 PM
I started downloading the Medical and Surgical History of the War from online for free. They are huge pdf files, but if you are patient, you should be able to snag all of them with out dropping oodles of money.

I should also mention that Google Books can and should be your new best friend, especially primary sources. I think I have up to $25,000 worth of original medical manuals, military and otherwise, loaded into my personal Cybrary, and all for free. Yeah, often the authors are long-winded, but hey, gems are waiting to be mined. After all, I finally found the specific treatment for the clap using silver nitrate. I had discussed it for many years, but could never explain how it was actually administered. Until now. Short story, ow.

Another good secondary source for us Confeds is Repairing the "March of Mars": the Civil War diaries of John Samuel Apperson, hospital steward in the Stonewall Brigade, 1861-1865

12-06-2011, 09:34 PM
Try the following:

Google Scholar not Google Books http://scholar.google.com/

Internet archive: http://www.archive.org/details/florencenighting01rich

Digital Collections from the National Library of Medicine:

Open Library: http://openlibrary.org/

Making of America Books: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/moa/

All of these are good sites!