Sunday, February 21, 2016

National Museum of Civil War Medicine

Surgeons, Nurses, Soldiers & Hospital Research
As genealogists we are always looking for more information on our ancestors and our veterans in order to ferret out our family history - our story! So when we are introduced to one more repository, especially one that has an online presence of information and photos, we, at a3Genealogy, want to share. Have you perused the National Museum of Civil War Medicine website?

The National Museum of Civil War Medicine “focuses on the many aspects of Civil War medicine, including surgeons, nurses, patients, medicines, diseases, and hospitals.” We know Union surgeons treated more than 400,000 wounded men; about 245,000 of them for gunshot or artillery wounds, and performed at least 40,000 operations.  At the beginning of the war there were 113 surgeons in the US Army, but by the war’s end, there were more than twelve thousand surgeons in the Union and 3200 in the Confederate.

1-2-3 Where To Begin Research
Preview of document
Confederate VA Soldier, Arm Amputated Noted 
In each of the content areas mentioned - Surgeons, Nurses and Women, Soldiers - research begins with the National Archives of Records Administration, D. C. (NARA - Archives I) collections. Be sure to check the online digitized resources of, and other free and subscription databases.

Step 1 Veteran Pension Files and NARA Records
For Surgeons 

For Nurses and Women
At the beginning of the war there were approximately 600 women serving as nurses in 12 hospitals. By the end of the war, over 2000 nurses had served. The actual number is not known. 
  • Review the pension records for Union nurses. 
More information may be obtained from the following books:
For Soldiers

This name-based search may yield photos or other artifacts of an ancestor.

Step 3 The Bettie Delaplaine Research Center Library
This Research Center Library associated with the National Museum of Civil War Medicine is open to the public. Of genealogical interest is the possibility of uncovering more information on the following “contents” as listed on the National Museum of Civil War Medicine website:
This Research Center has an impressive collection of books, and artifacts.. These books may assist the researcher in understanding the referenced wounds and disease mentioned in medical / pension files.

Noted African American Contributors
It is well known (see video) that there were at least 12 African American surgeons or assistant surgeons serving in the Union Army. Most were educated overseas or in Canada.  These records are best found in service and pension records. Using the key word “colored” four “Person Records” accompanied with photos popped up. 
  • Joel Morse, born in OH in 1823, his spouse Lucy Maria Sprague and children were named. Joel, a surgeon for the 117th Regiment of the USTC was murdered in Texas in 1866.
  • Martha Canfield established the Colored Orphan Asylum in Memphis after the Civil War
  • Nelly Chase, born in 1838 in New Hampshire, the wife of Capt. George W. Ernest, of the 13th USCT
These are the common names known to most researchers.  However, few can name the African American doctors who served soldiers in the Civil War.  Be sure to read Prologue to Change: African Americans in Medicine  in the Civil War Era.

Other Places to Research
Be sure to also review U. S. Army Heritage and Education Center, at Carlisle Barracks. The Civil War Photographs Database is populated with just shy of 27,000 photographs. 

U. S. National Library of Medicine offers Maimed Men as an informative resource.

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers

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