The Influence Of Field Hospitals During The Civil War

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A soldier dreaded being on the battlefield more than being in the field hospital, right…?

Field hospitals were usually very, very crowded. There were never enough beds for everybody and people that couldn’t get a bed were laid outside of the hospital on the ground. Doctors were always overworked and went to the soldiers who needed the most help first. So, if you had a broken bone, chances are you would be stuck waiting for hours and maybe even days. Open latrines, decomposing food, and unclean water were often present in the field hospitals since doctors and surgeons didn’t understand the concept of germs, yet.

These are minié balls. Most patients in field hospitals were shot with one of these. These were soft lead bullets used during battles in the civil war that caused catastrophic damage. These bullets pierced the skin, ripped the tissue, and shattered the bone, while a smooth bore bullet just broke bones and tore through tissue. These bullets were much more dangerous and fierce than others. Upon impact the bullet cut through the skin, flattened and/or splintered as they hit the target. Some soldiers even notched their bullets to ensure they would spread when they hit a person. Often when a soldier was hit by one of these bullets, the limb had to be amputated.
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Infections, like trench foot, were common during the civil war because there were no antibiotics, surgical instruments were never washed, and hospitals were very unhygienic. Doctors, surgeons, and nurses had very little knowledge of how disease and infection spread. Since there were no antibiotics, the most common solution for infections were amputations. If you did not have the limb amputated, normally you would die. So, it was either death or absence of a limb, which one would you
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