Compared to the advanced medical sciences of today, treatment of the wounded during the Civil War was actually quite primitive. Since they did'nt have the knowledge that we have today, they had to rely on inferior techniques and somewhat untrustworthy procedures.The most common Civil War surgery was the amputation, because of this, many Civil War surgeons were called butchers or something alike. Due to the enormous amount of wounded flooding the field hospitals in the Civil War, the surgeons had to spend very few minutes on each patient. The surgeons and the assistants where completely overworked and usually had to perform medical care around the clock. When possible, chloroform was used to numb the torture and pain of the procedure, but in most cases, the patient had to rely on whiskey while being operated on.
Because of the tendency of the minie ball (the common amunition used for the rifles that where the common armament for the soldiers) to crush bones on impact, the army needed a very large amount of volunteer nurses and medical officers to help keep the wounded alive, but there was a problem, very few doctors that joined the army had actual experience outside the war.Almost no confederate medics had done surgery before they enlisted. of 3000 doctors in the confederacy, only 27 had experience before the war. In the union, of 11,000 doctors, only 500 had performed surgery before. Many of the doctors performed their first surgery on the battlefield. Approximately 2,000 women,North and South, served as volunteer nurses during the war. These "Angels of the Battlefield" saw firsthand the horrors of the war-amputated limbs, mutilated limbs, disease and death-and provided very valuable aid to the soldiers. Of all the nurses, the most memorable women where Dorothea Dix and Clara Barton. They worked to organize a corp of reliable nurses who where well trained and knew what they where doing. Dix was already a well recognized figure because of her work in improving the treating the insane when she began to recruit women to serve in the Army Medical Bureau.
Dr. Cyrus Bacon, Jr. (1837-1868), Assistant Surgeon, U.S. Army, was a physician from Edwardsburg, Cass County, Michigan. He kept a diary about his experiences caring for the wounded and the sick. Here is an exert from his diary that I have found relevant:
"Feb. 16th Quite pleasant today. Instruct the Doctor in his duty. Man stabbed in neck in the 3rd Regt. Go to see him.
In the afternoon [an] orderly came riding in speed from the right of the picket, saying Dr. Grant was about and I was wanted at his station without delay. Mounted his horse and rode off. Found a man accidentally shot. Balls had passed through his face sweeping one half the teeth from the lower jaw and the inferior maxillary broken twice in two. Bullet had also removed the fore part of the tongue. Lieut. Penrose had washed away the blood. It took long to sew [up] the arteries of the tongue, wire up bone . . . . Nearly 2 hours or more before completing. Drs. Grant & Hale came up. Could not use chloroform. So gave him