Gangrene and Glory: Medical Care during the American Civil War

By Frank R. Freemon | Go to book overview

Glossary

ALLOPATH. A regular practitioner of traditional medicine, as differentiated from a homeopath, hydropath, or other practitioner of sectarian medicine.

AMBULANCE. A four-wheeled wagon (or, briefly at the beginning of the War, a two-wheeled buggy) for the removal of the sick and wounded.

AMPUTATION. The removal of a limb or a portion of a limb, such as a finger.

ANESTHESIA. Chloroform or ether was poured onto cotton or onto a cloth, and held over the patient's nose. After a few breaths, he became unconscious and went limp. The rapid surgery of the era was accomplished before he awoke. Anesthesia was the great blessing of the War.

APOPLEXY. Stroke.

BLUE MASS. A mercury compound given to induce a bowel movement.

BOIL. A pus-filled nodule in the skin. Also called furuncle. Now known to be produced by staphylococci bacteria.

BOTANIC PHYSICIAN. A type of irregular practitioner who emphasized the healthfulness of plant preparations.

BRIGADE. A military formation made up of a few, generally four, regiments and commanded by a brigadier general.

BRIGADE SURGEON. A high-ranking surgeon operating with field forces but not assigned to a particular regiment.

CALOMEL. Mercurous chloride given to induce a bowel movement. Too much, over a long period, produced severe side effects. such as tooth loss.

CATARRH. The common cold.

CATHARTIC. A medication that produces an emptying of the bowels, a purging.

CAUSALGIA. A clinical condition first described in Civil War soldiers who had experienced a gunshot wound of an arm or leg; the disorder is characterized by very severe, burning pain. Not related to neuralgia.

CHLOROFORM. A drug given to induce anesthesia, preferred by Confederate surgeons.

CHOLERA. A disorder caused by bacteria and characterized by massive watery diarrhea. Sometimes any disorder with diarrhea was loosely called cholera; the term Asiatic cholera was used to specify the epidemic disorder that began in India and spread all over the world, with major epidemics hitting the United States in 1832, 1849, and 1866.

CLIMATE. Certain diseases, such as malaria and yellow fever, occurred more frequently during particular seasons. The word climate therefore signified health conditions as well as weather. “We must conclude this campaign because of the climate” meant that the troops were too sick to continue.

CONGESTIVE INTERMITTEM FEVER. A type of malaria. When malaria became quite severe and the patient remained bedridden for several days, he might develop pulmonary congestion. This was called congestive intermittent fever and was more frequently fatal than other forms of malaria.

CONSUMPTION. A form of tuberculosis, referring to weight loss and debilitation.

CONTRACT SURGEON. A civilian who worked temporarily at a military hospital; also called an acting assistant surgeon.

CORRUPTION. A common term to signify inflammation

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