Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Gettysburg Offers Lessons On Battlefield Medicine-- Part 1

From the June 23, 2013, Northwest (Illinois) Herald by Kevin Begos, AP.

Cannon and rifles caused thousands of casualties at the Battle of Gettysburg (as we commemorate the 150th anniversary of it these next two days).  Military doctors had plenty of work to do and they used a method of treatment still in use for combat medicine today.

Union Army Major Dr. Jonathan Letterman is remembered as the Father of Battlefield Medicine for his Civil War innovations.  Organizing the medical corps was the key to the whole effort.

Before the war, medical supplies were handled by regulat quartermaster wagons.  According to retired Lt. General Ronald Ray Blanck, the Army's former surgeon general, that meant it had tocompete with "beans and bullets."

The huge losses occurring in the early battles completely swamped the initial treatment procedures.  Wounded were left untreated on the field for days and faced treatment by untrained troops and civilians.  In addition, the killing capacity of the weapons being used had never been seen before.

In 1862, Letterman began creating an ambulance corps and three tiers of field hospitals: at the battlefield for simple wound dressing, nearby for emergency surgery and behind the lines for long-term care and recovery.

Something Definitely Had to be Done.  --Old Secesh

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