Sunday, January 13, 2013

Quinine, Morphine and Whiskey

From the Hartford (CT) Courant "Quinine, Morphine, and Whiskey: Tools of the Civil War Battlefield Doctor" by David Drury.

Dr. Nathan Mayer, surgeon of the 16th Connecticut Infantry, saw waves of Union soldiers fall assaulting Marye's Heights at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, in 1862.  He went on to say that that December night "we surgeons labored in a large freight depot till morning.  The carnage had been terrible."

He and the other doctors performed nearly 500 amputations.  According to the poet Walt Whitman, who was serving as a nurse at the battle, severed limbs were tossed "into a heap of feet, arms, legs, etc. under a tree in front of the hospital."

Nathan Mayer, a German, spent three years treating typhoid, malaria and small pox.  He was even taken prisoner once and held in Richmond's Libby Prison where he survived a bout with yellow fever.

Doctors used the newly developed anesthesia for surgeries, opiates to relieve pain, quinine, the liquified bark of the Peruvian chinchona tree, to treat tropical fevers.  In addition, "In one pocket I carried quinine, in the other morphine and whiskey in my canteen."

I Don't Think I Would Want to Get Wounded Back Then.  --Old Secesh

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