Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Gangrene and Glory: Medical Care during the American Civil War

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Gangrene and Glory: Medical Care during the American Civil War

Article excerpt

Gangrene and Glory: Medical Care During the American Civil War. By Frank R. Freemon. (Madison and Teaneck: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press; London: Associated University Presses, c. 1998. Pp. 254. $52.50, ISBN 0-8386-3753-1.)

For every soldier who died in battle during the Civil War, two men died behind the lines from sickness and disease. The conflict of the 1860s was a medical hell that demands historical analysis. Yet historians have shown as much reluctance to venture into the field of medicine as physicians have to venture into the field of history.

Until a decade ago, Horace H. Cunningham's Doctors in Gray (Baton Rouge, 1958) and George W. Adams's Doctors in Blue (New York, 1952) were the best-known studies of the subject because they were the only general but authoritative works. That situation no longer exists. Monographs and specialized treatments of Civil War medical topics have been appearing in a steady stream. Now Frank R. Freemon's latest work takes its place at the top alongside the pioneering works of Cunningham and Adams.

Freemon holds doctorates in both medicine and history. His earlier work, Microbes and Minie Balls (Madison, N.J., 1993), is by far the best bibliography available on medical care in the war. In short, his qualifications for a book like this are unimpeachable.

The study does not follow the normal narrative tradition. Rather, twenty-four short chapters treat such varied topics as "American Medicine in the 1850s," "The Introduction of Women Nurses," "Medicine at Sea," "`Stonewall' Jackson Struck by Friendly Fire," "The Tribulations of Surgeon General William A. Hammond," and "The American Civil War as a Biological Phenomenon" (p. 5). The text is fully annotated; illustrations--most rarely seen before--plus statistical tables are abundant. …

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