Life was difficult for a Civil War soldier, says Dr. Jerry Michael Foster MD, but challenging as well for the field surgeon. Dr. Foster says that many physicians were well trained but not in surgical procedures for battlefield injuries. Dr. Jerry Michael Foster MD points out that field surgeons had to cope with a lack of sanitation, antibiotics or basic antiseptics other than alcohol (whiskey) although a full medicine chest when full was impressive.
Dr. Jerry Michael Foster MD points out that all Civil War physicians were surgeons and that bone shattering extremity injuries often required amputation. According to Dr. Jerry Michael Foster MD, soldiers from both North and South underwent amputation surgery. Limb amputation as a primary procedure carried a low mortality but soared if gangrene had set in. Dr. Jerry Michael Foster MD reports that about 75% of the soldiers who had limbs amputated actually survived. Considering the contaminated environment in which most of these soldiers lived, notes Dr. Foster, those statistics are astonishing.
Field surgeons were overwhelmed by the numbers of wounded during a battle, says Dr. Jerry Michael Foster MD, and often operated with his personal instruments. A Civil War field surgeon’s medical kit would contain a tourniquet, various scalpels, saws, probes, clamps, forceps and sewing needles and if available, ether or chloroform. According to Dr. Jerry Michael Foster MD, a surgeon’s greatest asset in obtaining successful surgical results was to perform quick, clean amputations and employ a very strong assistant. Dr. Jerry Michael Foster MD says most amputations had to be quick due to volume and the fine-tuning of gas anesthetics. Dr. Foster has also discovered that at times just the sight of the physician would send soldiers into hysterical fits. Dr. Jerry Michael Foster MD says that after a horrific battle like Antietam, doctors would literally be surrounded by a wall of amputated limbs stacked as tall as 5 feet.
About Dr. Jerry Michael Foster, MD
Dr. Jerry Michael Foster, MD is a Tennessee Board Certified physician in Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology. In 1971, North Carolina State University conferred a degree for undergraduate work to Dr. Foster. The completion of Dr. Jerry Michael Foster MD’s doctoral program was at Duke University Medical School and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dr. Jerry Michael Foster, MD is married to wife Patty and is a long time enthusiast of United States History and collecting Civil War memorabilia.