American Civil War for Kids - Medical Care, Field and Ship Hospitals, Clara Barton Illustration

American Civil War for Kids - Medical Care, Clara Barton

Doctors: Not much was known about medicine before the Civil War. A medical degree was not needed to practice medicine. Those who declared themselves doctors were for the most part poorly trained and unprepared for the enormous number of wounded soldiers they were asked to treat. Some doctors, through ignorance, harmed their patients rather than helped them.

Illness: Almost two-thirds of the soldiers who died in the war did not die from enemy fire but from illness. One of the most common and killing diseases was diarrhea. Measles was another killer as was typhoid. As the war progressed, soldiers learned to reduce disease by cleaning up the camp and cleaning their hands before they ate. Home remedies were shared and some worked very well.

Ambulance Corps: A system was needed to transport injured men from the battlefield to a field hospital. A system was finally established of stretcher-bearers, who carried the injured to a wagon ambulance, which transported the wounded to a field hospital. The Ambulance Crops became a regular army unit. They began to receive training, which saved many lives. 

Hospital Ships and Railcars: In the North, a new system of hospital ships and hospital railroad cars was set up to transport injured Union soldiers to hospitals in the North, while injuries were tended in transport. Conditions were mostly very rough. Some men refused to be transported. They preferred to attempt to recover from wounds in camp.

Women Nurses: During the Civil War, women nurses were finally accepted, and then actively recruited. In 1862, a woman named Clara Barton received permission to travel with the Union army to care for the sick. She did this for 3 years. She was known as the "Angel of the Battlefield".  Her commitment encouraged other women to volunteer to nurse the injured. After the war, Clara Barton worked to establish the American Red Cross.  (In 1881, she was successful. She served as President of the American Red Cross for 23 years.)

Clara Barton and the Red Cross, Angel of the Battlefield

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