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It is appropriate that during the centennial years of the Civil War we take a look at medical practice. The Civil War had the unique and ghastly characteristic of being the largest war fought anywhere during the tragic medical interregnum between the discovery of anesthesia and the recognition of asepsis. Anesthesia banished a world of suffering and opened up what now amounts to the whole human body, and then some, to the skill and prowess of the surgeon. For a while this turned out to be Pandora's box because operating at will the surgeon cut his way forward without ever looking back. He could not face it. The knowledge of antisepsis and asepsis was still to come. The upshot was that operations could be done mercifully. From every technical point of view they were initially great successes. But usually they led to disaster through the intercurrence of sepsis, isolated or
Bean WB. Doctors in Blue: The Medical History of the Union Army in the Civil War.. Arch Intern Med. 1965;115(5):615-617. doi:10.1001/archinte.1960.03860170097024