Review: Years of Change and Suffering: Modern Perspectives on Civil War Medicine

by James Durney on November 16, 2009 · 1 comment

Years of Change and Suffering: Modern Perspectives on Civil War Medicine
by Guy R. Hasegawa & James M. Schmidt

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Edinborough Press (October 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1889020354
  • ISBN-13: 978-1889020358

Challenges our assumptions

YearsOfChangeAndSufferingModernPerspectivesOnCivilWarMedicineSchmidtWe tend to look at 19th Century medical care as almost nonexistent.  Drugs, treatments & equipment we take for granted are unavailable.  Our most enduring image is an amputation on a screaming man being held down as the surgeon cuts away.  A number of Civil War movies have used this image and burned it into our remembrance of the war.  The problem is that people did not see medical care that way.  These people live in a modern age with improved medical care that gave them a better chance of survival than their grandfathers had.  The authors of these essays fully understand this and often challenge our assumptions while providing an entertaining learning experience.

The eight essays range across the medical landscape of the Civil War.  This variety of subjects provides an engrossing peek into the personalities, problems, procedures and developments during this time.  The approximately 20-page essay gives a solid introduction without bogging the reader down in unwanted details.

“Amputations in the Civil War” attacks our enduring image and changes it.  The author shows how amputations were handled, why they were needed and looks a triage.  This is a very well written essay, logical and informative that changed my views on battlefield medical care.

“The Privates Were Shot” is a difficult read but a very well written interesting essay.  This is the most graphic essay and discusses the damage and care of wounds to the groin.  Again, an essay challenges the idea the doctors were unable to do little more than stand by and hope.  We see a series of active and inactivate procedures used in these cases.

“Southern Resources, Southern Medicines”, “Medical School for a Nation” and “J.J. Chislom, M.D.” give us a picture of the Confederacy response to the realities of war.  Taken together, they give us a picture of the training of doctors, finding alternate medicines and one doctor responding to the challenges of war.

“A Multiplicity of Ingenious Articles” looks at Scientific American magazine, patent laws and views on the correct “marketing” of medical inventions.  Many inventors chose donation or patent.

“The Firm” looks at the problems associated with nerve damage and the growing understanding of “ghost pain” in missing limbs.  This essay shows how 19th Century medicine was growing and developing into what we know today.

Combat soldiers in “good wars” do not suffer PTSD, CSR of ASD.  These problems are associated with those who served in the not “good wars”.  As a Viet Nam veteran, I was very interested in the essay “Haunted Minds.  We have very little about the problems of veterans of the Civil War, World War I and World War II had.  This essay tells the story of one veteran and the problems he had after the war.  It is an important introduction and badly needed look into this subject.

This can be an unpleasant read.  We are dealing with blood, pus, bone splinters and suffering.  The authors do not dwell on this and avoid sensationalism by staying factual with the minimum of medicinal terminology necessary.  This is an excellent book for anyone interested in medicine during the war or those needed an introduction.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jim Schmidt November 17, 2009 at 9:29 am

James – On behalf of all the contributors, thank you so much for the kind and insightful review of YOC&S. I would just like to add a friendly reminder that all of the royalties from the book are being donated to Civil War medical heritage preservation causes! Keep up the great work! Jim Schmidt

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