Introduction to Soldier Life

Savage Station, Va. Field Hospital after the Battle of June 27

 Field hospital during the beginning of the Civil War (1862). Soldiers had little room to recover from serious injuries, like loss of limb.[1]

[1] James F. Gipson. Savage Station, Va. Field Hospital after the Battle of June 27. 1862. Photograph. Library of Congress, Savage Station, Virginia. (Library of Congress) Web. 1 December, 2015.

Around 3 million individuals served between the Union and Confederate armies. At the conclusion of the American Civil War, the amount of casualties of the Confederate and Union armies combined totaled about 620,000. A closer approximation is not confirmed, as it is still up for debate, but even this estimation eclipses the amount of casualties suffered from World War 1 and 2 combined. For those who were able to survive, however, life was extremely difficult.[1] Before we address life after the war, however, it is necessary that we delve into the traumatizing events that occurred during the war itself, and more specifically, what the soldiers had to go through during battle. With this, we will be able to better understand the struggles of their lives after the war. It was very common for soldiers to come stumbling into hospitals with arms and legs blown off, and sometimes even carrying their own insides. Some of the most common injuries suffered from the war, however, were injuries to the right side of the upper body, and more specifically, the right arm. This was due to the fact that the soldier’s cover was often times about head high, and when they went to raise their right arm to reload their muskets, enemy soldiers had a good target to shoot at.[2]

[1] James McPherson. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988) 845.

[2] “Spirit of the Men” in, Harper’s Weekly: A Journal of Civilization. Vol. VIII, No. 389. (New York: Harper and Brothers, 11 June, 1864).

Washington, D.C. Patients in Ward K of Armory Square Hospital

Field hospital near the end of the Civil War (1865). Hospitals made a huge change in order to become more efficient as well as prevent further diseases from being spread.[1]

[1] Washington D.C Patients in Ward K of Armory Square Hospital. 1865. Photograph. Library of Congress, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. (Washington D.C., Library of Congress) Web. 2 December, 2015).

The image shown above is one of a hospital where a soldier would go to receive treatment. This photograph shows that soldiers did get the luxury of being in separate rooms, or even rooms for that manner, nor were there enough doctors to help everyone in need. It is also important to note that tools used for surgery on soldiers were not advanced, nor were they adequately sanitized. Towards the end of the war, hospitals began to improve to look like the picture below, and were in fact kick started by the numerous deaths that resulted from disease. In part, the advancement of medicine was propelled forward by the Civil War.[1]

[1] Ina Dixon. “Civil War Medicine: Modern Medicine’s Civil War Legacy” in, Civil War Trust. (Civil War Trust, 29 October, 2013) Web. 2 December, 2015.