I’m being a doofus and I need your help

My daughter is trying to compare medical treatments and outcomes during the Civil War and during the current wars.  Broadly speaking, that’s quite easy, ’cause all you really need to know are antibiotics and sterile techniques.  Everything else is a subset (and yes, I know I’m grossly over-simplifying).

The problem for her is the level of detail she needs.  For example, she needs to know the number of amputations performed.  I can’t seem to communicate to her that, in the old days, they cut things off because they couldn’t fix them; nowadays, medical amputations usually finish the job that an IED started.

More generally, she needs statistics on medical treatments and outcomes during the current wars — the numbers of wounded and the numbers of surgical procedures performed.  Also, are any troops dying of infectious diseases?  (I know that, during the Civil War, dysentery was a great killer, just as malaria decimated troops in the Pacific.)  My daughter also insists that she wants data on the number of troops nowadays dying of infected wounds.

Do you guys have any suggested websites?  My searches have been ineffectual.  Comparing the state of medicine during the Civil War to the state of medicine now isn’t just comparing apples to oranges, it’s comparing shoes to caterpillars.

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  • Tonestaple

    I have no real clue, but the first place I’d start is the Library of Congress.  And have you been to the library for a chat with the reference librarian?  If not, it’s time your daughter learned about what is available at the library.  I’d be very much surprised if an affluent area like Marin County didn’t have endless amounts of information available via online databases, in addition to whatever might be lurking in the stacks.


    National Museum of Civil War Medicine



    MHS  Military Health Service (part of DoD)

  • http://photoncourier.blogspot.com David Foster

    One of my co-bloggers at Chicago Boyz, Michael Kennedy, is a physician who has written a book on the history of medicine. I bet he’d have some ideas. There’s a link to his own blog at CB.

  • JKB

    You might try GAO reports although a quick search didn’t find anything recent on point.  I did find a 1989 report that said they got their casualty data from a report issued by the Office of the Sec. of Defense so you might try the SECDEF’s website for a link to more recent reports.

    I remember thumbing through a trade paper that I thought was called Military Medicine that had a lot of good articles targeted at discussing issues of concern and might have an article with info your looking for.  I didn’t find it but google did return this


    site, which appears to be a joint clearinghouse at the AF Air University.

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    Thank you all so much for your suggestions.  I sent my daughter off today with all the information, and she and her “team” are going to put together the key note.

    It was ridiculous how little time they had for this project, as it was only assigned on Tuesday and is due Today.  More time would have meant more research, including a trip to the old fashioned library (where we’re such familiar visitors all the librarians know my kids by name).

  • Aus_Autarch

    Hi Bookworm,
    There is a bit of a gorey game available that gives a vivid simulation of civil war injuries; it states “not for children under the age of 17”, but I think that under the appropriate circumstances (i.e. school research) it might be useful/ provide a useful insight. Check it out and see whether you think it might be useful:
    As I said, it is a game, and not particularly about the statistics, but it is a visceral impact and may communicate some of the hideousness of the injuries – and the medical techniques applied.
    ps. Your book was a great trip down memory lane of the posts I’ve read over the years.