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September 1988

Medical Advances During the Civil WarPresidential Address

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, University of California, Davis, Sacramento.

Arch Surg. 1988;123(9):1045-1050. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1988.01400330021001

The Civil War was the first modern war and resulted in the highest number of US casualties per capita of any of our wars as 620000 men perished, including 360000 in the North and 260 000 in the South; 25% of those involved died.1-4 In the Union Army 6000 were killed outright, 43 000 died of their wounds, and another 134 000 survived their wounds. These casualties exceeded the total of all our preceding or subsequent wars and affected, directly or indirectly, nearly every family in the North and South (Table 1).

While the impact on the US population was obvious, what is not appreciated even now is the rapid advances made by American medicine that were stimulated by this conflict. The present article is an attempt to document those advances and their impact on the subsequent development of American medicine.

The first major battle fought in the Civil

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