Candid photos of Civil War battlefield injuries


On April 1, 1865, Alfred Lane was shot in the hip during the Civil War Battle of Hatcher's Run, Virginia. He died about a month and a half later, after the wound became gangrenous.This photo, and the description of the patient, come from a series of images posted to Flickr by Mike Rhode, archivist at the National Museum of Health and Medicine—which began its existence during the Civil War as the Army Medical Museum. The photos get a lot more graphic than this—both in terms of wounds, and general nudity—but it's an amazing collection that's mostly never been seen by the general public before, and which offers a rare, un-edited peek into the casualties of both war and early medicine. Both contributed to the death of people like Alfred Lane. From the University of Toledo Libraries

Amputation of a wounded arm or leg was the most common operation, due largely to the .58 calibre Minie ball ammunition used during the war. This heavy conical-shaped bullet of soft lead distorted on impact causing large, gaping wounds filled with dirt and pieces of clothing. Its heavy weight shattered any bone it contacted. Because of the severity of the wounds and the overwhelming case load, surgeons usually elected for fast and easy amputation over trying to remove the bullet and save the limb.

Early in the war it became obvious that disease would be the greatest killer. Two soldiers died of disease (dysentery, diarrhea, typhoid, and malaria) for every one killed in battle. Soldiers from small rural areas suffered from childhood diseases such as measles and mumps because they lacked immunity. Outbreaks of these "camp and campaign" diseases were caused by overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in the field.

The gangrene, ironically, probably came from an infection Lane picked up in the Hospital, itself.

The full photo set on Flickr

How bullets were removed during the Civil War.

Thanks to merrileeiam for Submitterating the photos!

Image: Some rights reserved by otisarchives1