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July 1997


Arch Surg. 1997;132(7):795. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1997.01430310109028

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Unlike the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, the 5-year Civil War (1861–1865) was a "cut and carve" drama. It was hundreds of amputated arms and legs lying outside makeshift field hospitals. The very size of the rebellion, with casualty counts not infrequently in the tens of thousands for a single day, dictated its surgical significance. Physicians, regardless of whether they considered themselves surgically trained or not, had no choice but to become familiar with the surgical principles of caring for the war wounded as well as developing an appreciation for surgical anesthesia. In the final analysis, the semantic liberty of titling all physicians in Civil War army service with the sobriquet of "surgeon" would greatly complicate future efforts to define and regulate the role of surgery within American medicine and overall society. Because performing surgical operations was a new experience for many of the tens of thousands

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