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Moments in Surgical History
July 1998

The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865

Arch Surg. 1998;133(7):783. doi:10-1001/pubs.Arch Surg.-ISSN-0004-0010-133-7-ssh0798

Of the numerous contributions to American health care that developed out of the horrors of the Civil War, one of the most significant, but least appreciated, was the accumulation of untold clinical records and detailed medical and surgical reports. For the first time in the history of the world, a complete profile of wartime medical activities was available for professional purview. The largest assemblage of these chronicles were published during a 2-decade period (1870-1888) as the 6-volume Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865. Considered among the most remarkable works ever composed on military medicine and surgery, the text itself has been described accurately as the country's earliest comprehensive medical monograph. Containing thousands of pages of densely printed type, the 3 medical and 3 surgical volumes present a detailed overview of the health care conditions encountered by the Civil War physician/surgeon and his patients. As a statistical reservoir it is unmatched while its extensive discussions of clinical minutiae highlight the viewpoint of the technical medical mind of the mid 19th century.

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