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January 26, 1994

Microbes and Minie Balls: An Annotated Bibliography of Civil War Medicine

Author Affiliations

Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center Memphis, Tenn

JAMA. 1994;271(4):323-324. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03510280091048

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The Civil War was a time of medical as well as political crisis for the young American republic. Armies of both North and South faced as much peril from measles, malaria, and dysentery as from bullet or bayonet. New warfare technology—typified by the Springfield rifle and its bone-shattering, conical bullet, the minie ball, used with obsolete Napoleonic tactics—produced carnage on a scale previously unseen. Physicians, often poorly schooled and less respected than practitioners in competing sects like homeopathy, confronted the challenges of "microbes and minie balls" without the scientific underpinnings that we take for granted. What scientific theory was accepted—such as the belief in heroic doses of toxic medicines—often was detrimental to patients.

"The Civil War gave new impetus to public health... "

Recognizing the growing interest in Civil War history and the need for further research on its medical aspects, Dr Freemon, a practicing academic neurologist and Civil War historian,

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