tv American Artifacts Civil War Surgery Embalming CSPAN April 6, 2020 1:34pm-2:04pm EDT
weeknights this month we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on cspan 3. tonight, the national history center which hosts events on capitol hill for congressional members and staff to learn the history behind contemporary issues. we begin with scholars from rice and georgetown universities and the u.s. naval war college on the role of middle east oil in american foreign policy since the end of world war two, american history tv this weekend and every weekend on cspan 3. each july for the past 25
years, the gettysburg anniversary committee hosts a civil war battle reenactment and living history village depicting camp life. next, we visit a union army soldier, an enbalmer and talk to medical students about practices during the war. >> every july for the past 25 years, the gettysburg anniversary committee has hosted a living history village depicting calf life. next we visit a union army surgeon and enbalmer and talk to reenactors about medical practices during the war. >> during the very beginning of the war, like i say, maybe around 1860, there were a lot of quack surgeons in the union army. well, dr. letterman took over the medical corps. when he took over the medical core, he devised the whole thing around. now he created an ambulance core where we could get the men off the battle field quicker and
faster. he also had to test the surgeons to be army qualified surgeons. that's where it got better and better 3 million fought in it, 600,000 died in it. 700,000 carry wounds off of that battlefield. so what happens there is -- what i was dealing with at that time was really, boy, the musket went in like a finger and came out like a fist. it shattered that bone so bad, there was no way i could repair it whatsoever. even if you got shot with one of them in modern medicine, they couldn't put it back, they had to amputate because they blue it apart totally. 75% survived the amputations off the table and then decreased down to about 60% due to the disease that set in. the soldier came on my table in the morning, first one, nothing wrong with him, his survival rate was great about 70%.
then if the next soldier came in, he had blood poisoning, bone infection or any kind of disease in him, i'm going to transmit to the next soldier. one soldier to the next. if i'm here operating, we had holes drilled in the table, blood is coming in here, body parts are coming all over. if i drop my amputating knife, drop it on the ground, wipe it off with my bloody apron and continue doing what i'm doing. that's it. sterilization didn't come in. instruments, you see how dirty they are, that's how i would use them from one soldier to the next. and sterilization didn't come in until around 1865 when abollic acid was invented. then all of a sudden, it was altogether different. if i would have had it during the civil war, a lot more soldier's lives would have been saved. but due to the fact of that, sterilization. we had painkillers, opium, morphine, and laud numenum. we also put them to sleep. we had chloroform or ether.
ten drops of that would put him out in 15 minutes. i can amputate an arm or leg in five minutes. the faster we did it, the better his survival rate was, we figured. all of those things happened around 1862. a lot of the soldiers were laying out on the battle field for 48 hours or longer. we had -- a soldier came, blue mask. a soldier came to me in the morning. my sign on the other side says, the surgeon is not in, take two blue masks, we had it in two form. take two blue masks and see it in the morning. a soldier comes to me, i haven't gone to the bathroom in a while. let him drink. it's going to make him go, definitely. but the only problem is, you know what's in here? blue chalk and mercury. if i keep giving him that, you know what's going to happen? he's going to go crazy.
so i had to go watch exactly what i was doing with that, okay? too much of that can really do harm. we bled them. i had leaches over here, too. we did bleeding and a bleeder pan, okay, we did that, too. >> did you realize the danger of that blue mass at the time? >> no, we didn't. the whole situation was, mercury content was almost like our wonder drug. we thought it was a miracle drug, you know, a lot of my medicines over here were laced with it. we had painkillers, like i said, opium, morphine, and laudenum. do you want to take a wif hiff it? >> sure. >> you won't feel no pain the rest of the day. >> do it. >> all right. >> hmm. >> you? >> okay, you know what the contents is? >> yeah? >> alcohol, 45%, grain opium, 45.6 grams, okay?
that's what's in here, okay? the reason why we put whiskey with it is because opium raw was very bitter, so you wanted to take the bitterness away from it. so we added the alcohol to it. actually, the surgeon drank more of the alcohol. another thing we use, you know what this is? it has creosote, real creosote, the same stuff that you use on a telephone pole. come to the general hospital, the surgeon would come and open up the stump and he saw them blue spots, the dark spots around the tumstump. all of a sudden he realized that's gangrene setting in. he takes this and paints it, paints the stump with the creosote. it sure as hell stopped the spread of the gangrene, but it burned like hell too, when you put it on. we had a lot of whiskey, too.
we had topath whiskey. lincoln sent it to me by the barrel, because we used a lot of it for shock. but i said, the majority of the time, the surgeons drank it. a lot of it is because of the pressure during the day. we had pure alcohol, too. if i would come to the -- if i would come to the general hospital, i would come to the general hospital, and you would open up the stump and stuff like this, and all of a sudden i said, the stump needed to be bled, because it was that tainted blood that was in there. so we put his stump in a bleeder pan like this, take our bleeder, like this, give him a little cut and let him bleed until it stopped. and bandage him back up again and a couple days later and check him again. if he still needed to be bled, we could hang a couple of leaches on there and let the leaches suck out the tainted blood.
i'll ask you a question while i got you here. after i amputated arms and legs, okay, and i would suture them. you know what suturing them is. i would sew them shut. all of a sudden, i find out i'm running out -- i'm runs out of suture thread. i got to use something else. what could i have used at that time? >> other than suture thread? >> yeah, i don't have no silk thread. this is -- this is in my other case, silk thread is what i used. i didn't use cotton thread, because it would tear too easily. but i ran out of it. now i've got a soldier here on the table and i've got to suture his stump but i don't have no silk thread anymore. >> could you have use horse's hair? >> you've got it. the tail of a horse. this is it, right here, from the tail of a horse. it's pliable, it works good, strong.
we used a lot of that. and there were a lot of horses around for me to get it from the tail of a horse. the confederacy used a lot of this, because of the blockade lincoln had along the coast, they couldn't get it unless they overran some of our supply wagons. but they didn't like it too much, because it was so coarse. so what they were doing now, they were boiling it and they would suture some of the confederate troops shut. what they didn't realize that it was healing quicker and faster, they didn't realize they were sterilizing the horse hair. and the union army picked it up later in the war and they started sterilizing the horse hair when they started suturing. i'll ask you another question, young man. i dealt with chicken pox and measles and mumps. who got the most -- when they enlisted into the army, who got the measles and the mumps, the country boys or the city boys that got them? >> probably the country boys? >> country boys. >> why? >> country boys. >> country boys?
you absolutely agree? >> city boys! >> everybody agrees on country boys! one guy said city boys. well, young man back there, you're wrong. it was the country boys that got them! the reason for that -- >> isolation. >> right. the reason for that is the city boys were raised in the city. they built up an immunity against the disease, because they were close to like you are today, right here. but the country boys lived on a farm like down here. they didn't get out off the farm very often to build an immunity up. and when they got into the army, here they are with the city boys that are carrying the measles and mumps and chicken pox. and they contracted them. this is what we had to deal with. it was the country boys that got them, okay? you were close. >> we did three types of amputations. we did the circular amputation called the guillotine or we did the double flap amputation or the single flap amputation. the single flap amputation was used to take your foot and your hand off.
now, i preferred, myself, to use the circular amputation, because it worked faster and quicker and it made a nice stump for an artificial stump -- an artificial leg when you got one. the double-flap amputation, well, you had the guillotine knife here, you sharpened both sides. we get ahold of the the issue here, pull it up off the femur, go in here like this right above the femur, cut upward, and pull the flap back, and my assistant would hold the leg up, and go underneath it and make another flap and pull both flaps back to expose the femur. and then after i exposed the femur like that, i would take my saw and i would start sawing through it, okay? and it had a tendency, sometimes, when you did that, it would snap, like you take a 2 x 4. so you would have a flange on
the end of the femur. we didn't want that. so what we would do then, we would take the bone nipper here, and we would nip all the way around here to make it clean. and then we had a bone file, which is this. and we would file this completely around, make it nice and smooth. because we don't want anything else. and after we did that, we had a bone brush, and take the bone brush and brush it clean all the way around to make it smooth. and then we would take the artery forcep and pull out the femoral artery. we tied them off. we didn't cauterize like they did back in the revolutionary war. in the revolutionary war, they would have a fire going over here and it would get hot, and they would take the cast iron thing and cauterize it against the stump. we don't do that anymore in the civil war. we've advanced a little more. we would pull it out and take silk thread, which is in my
other case. we would take silk thread and thread it, you know, and tie it off and stuff like this. and then we take the stump and the two flaps together and we would make it thick like this. it would suture it around. that's why it had the tendency to hemorrhage a lot. i necessarily did not like to use that. i loved the circular amputation. circular amputation or guillotine, we called it, you would just cut a complete circle. take your knife, cut all the way around, then pull the skin off on both sides, and when we did that, we would cut through tissue and pull the tissue off the bone, and due the same principle, pull off the femoral artery, tie it off, and everything else like that. and then we would tie off the artery, pull it down, then what we would do, we would pack it with olive. because what would happen that would seal up all the small little veins that were in.
and we would take it like this and we would pull the skin over, over the top of the stump. then what we would do is take four not suture tie. so we would suture, tie a not, sutu suture, tie a knot. we would four knots across there. and plaster adhesives that were soaked in here, and take the plaster adhesives and put them in between each of them. and we would seal that up. the femoral artery, we would tie that, but we would let it hang out of the stump in the bandages and stuff. so what would happen then after that was, when you went to the general hospital, if the surgeon came around too soon and too fast and it didn't heal and he tugged on that suture thread, he could open that up, that femoral artery and the soldier could start hemorrhages and bleeding. so he had to watch what he was
doing when he was in there. >> wow. thank you. >> you're% zp welcome. >> that was explained beautifully. >> thank you. next time, lay on the table and i'll demonstrate for real. >> well, that's already. >> this is a giggly saw. you see that? the reason for that is in 1863, we started saving arms and legs instead of cutting them off. so what we would do now, we would cut down -- we'll pretend this is the leg, this is the femur. we would cut down -- so the damaged part is in here. we would cut down through the tissue, through the thing, and we would clean this all out and pull it off, pull it off. we wouldn't kocut through now. we just went down to the bone, the damaged part over here, cut down. now we take our giggly saw and unhook it and then what we would do is we would put a suture thread on here and a needle and we would duothrough here,
underneath. and we would come up and then we would saw this way, and go over here and saw up this way. and it would make a smooth cut like this. and we would take that damaged part out of there, out and stuf it through, and then we would take it and push this together. bring it together. then we take an awl, drill holes on it both sides, then take silver wire, which was, this and we would wire it together. maybe by coincidence, maybe by coincidence. i had no knowledge of how to put nerves together, veins together but he still had blood circulation because this was connected down here. this tissue was still connected down here. maybe by a chance when we pushed it together the veins come together and connected. and then he had more feeling. we got better and better and better at it as years went by and quicker at it that we saved
a lot more arms and legs. when you put it together yeah, he had like a bolt down here. you know. but at least he had use of it. you know, to use it. okay? a soldier laying on the table when you see a movie, he gets up and he's yelling and screaming and everything else. it didn't happen. it didn't happen. this is what i believe. we had aid stations set up out near the battlefield. there was assistant surgesons out there. they were administering opium, morphine and ladam. nt to ease the pain. by the time he came into my operating table he could be laying over there and the stewards are already giving him some painkillers again. by the time he gets on my table he don't even know where the hell he's at. and now i'm going o'feed him some more. i'm going to put him to sleep. snok i'm going to cult his legs off, cut his arms off. now i believe this. when i took my moammonia water,
place it under his nose, he starts waking up. he with sit him up to get fresh air, pat his back, get air into his luchkz, he looks down and there's two legs missing. he's going to yell and scream and carry on like you wouldn't believe. why? these are country boys. these are boys that need their arms and legs to work the form. what are you going to do now? i think that's the biggest shock you can have. there's no way -- 90% of all the amputations done on the table were used with chloroform. we happen adequate supply of it the union army. the confederate had a hard time getting the color o'form and ether because of the blockade lincoln had on the coast. the only way they could get it the possibility would be if they would overour wagons and get them that way. this i believe. they did put a stick in their mouth. they were half drugged too. but they could feel it. that's why i believe some of them were groaning and moaning and suffering on the table.
here's another disbelief. there's no way that i researched or even my assistant surgeon over there researched anything that came up about biting a bullet. i put this bullet in his mouth and all of a sudden he's going to go -- and what's going to happen? he's going to swallow this and choke to death because of the bullet going down. we didn't find any documentations where there was in the civil war biting on the bullet. everybody says oh, yeah, i was out in the field the other day i found this bullet that was near a hospital and there was teeth marks on it. this is what i believe. i believe they were near that hospital and later on there were farmlands, pigs are running around, everything. and the pigs pick them up and bite on them. and they drop them. 20 years from now you come around and you find this bullet, oh, my god, there's a bullet some soldier bit on. that's my belief.
because we don't have no documentations that said that, that they were biting on the bullet. >> the reason i have a flag here, it's remembrance of the first officer to die in the civil war. colonel elmer alzworth, may 21st, 1861. alesworth led a troop of soldiers from washington, d.c. over to alexandria to get the ground war started. the union army thought the war would last two months, maybe three at the very most. when you get into alexandria, all he could find was a confederate flag flying over miller's tavern. everybody thinks this here is the confederate flag. this is not what colonel
alsworth had taken down from the tavern. that is the first official confederate flag. seven states, seven stars. that's what colonel alsworth had taken down from the tavern. as he was coming down the tavern army became irate about the skich, reached out, pulled a shotgun out, shot the colonel if the chest. he did is that in front of the colonel's men sew got stabbed five times and shot seven. took the colonel back to washington, d.c. and put him at the shipyard. the word of his death spread fairly quickly through washington, d.c. and went to the president to ask permission to embalm the body. the president said i can't grant permission because i'm not a family member. three hours of talking finally persuaded the president he was the father of everybody in the military because of his commander in chief. the president said okay, go ahead, embalm the body. the doctor proceeded to embalm the body, then sent word to the
white house he was done. he lied. he was not done. but when the president heard they were done embalming the body the president and mrs. lincoln stopped doing what they were doing, immediately went to the firehouse. it turned out the colonel was a close friend of the president and mrs. lincoln, had spent many hours entertaining the president's children. he was also a member of president lincoln's law staff. that's why they immediately went ought firehouse. doc had just got down and laid there naked. there's the president getting out of the car. what are you going to do, tell him to stay in for 20 minutes? i dent think so. luckily for the doctor there had been a bunch of flags at the firehouse zme draped the flag up to the colonel's shoulder. the president and mrs. lincoln viewed the body and mrs. lincoln is quoted as saying it looks like he's asleep. we know that's because newspaper reporters there at the time. he lay for a week in washington, d.c., ship shipped to albany, new york we are laid for another week. albany newspaper reported this man has been dead for 2 1/2 weeks, there is no signs of
dating, no swelling, no smell. it looks like he's still asleep. that's how the average person found out about embalming. dr. holmes did alsworth free of charge and proceeded to charge $100 a person thereafter, as much as $300 for a general. these are tools of the embalming trade of 1861. this is a gravity baller. every foot abod the body is a pound of pressure. it takes less than five pounds of pressure to preserve a person. the gravity system was used in 1701 by dr. raymond rahush, t recorded arterial embalmer. the gravity system is still being used in some funeral homes in 2019. these tools are being used at
all funeral homes in 1819. the only thing that changed in 300 years are the chemicals used. there was no chemical company selling embalming fluid until 1888 when dodge started selling formaldehyde. formaldehyde went under patent until two years after the civil war. embalming's a very simple procedure. on the neck or thumb on the leg. i like use the carotid artery in the neck. make an incision in that, pull the artery up, and take a flow tube, hook on your nose from the gravity ball, stick that in the carotid artery. now, besides the carotid artery's the vein. when i get the embalming fluid to come off when i cut the jugular vein off i'm done. now, during the civil war if the doctor had four or five to do,
he'd hook them up at one time and -- no, they could not do that. morticians in 2019 still could not do that. we could only still do one person at a time. when you start embalming you have to stay with the person and give them a massage. the reason being we had to help move fluid to the body. the tissue becomes rigid. the upper art becomes rigid but the lower part hasn't. we know we have a blood clot to get rid of. stick that in the jugular vein, work it back and forth, you get blood to come on out. work the pump, continue doing, that eventually get the fluid to come out. good. then you're doing arterial embalming. but there is one part of the body that does not use blood. and that's where decomposition starts first. so we have to take care of that area separately. a place that doesn't use any
blood is your stomach. take a trochar insert it into the stomach. when you force everything out the rectum, you plug the rectum. then you inject into the kidneys, into the lungs to make sure they have enough fluid. now the person is completely preserved. less than 20 soldiers received embalming in the civil war out of 600,000 because of cost. the second biggest reason for death was the battlefield. but nobody, absolutely nobody talks about the third biggest reason for death in the civil war. men on both sides. they called him the cook. that's@field hospital has a woman cooking for us.
fred, the cook did not get him, battlefield got him. you take some horse hair or silk and tie off the artery at that hole, take a directory probe, on the other side of that bullet hole, hook it on your hose, slide it right in, then continue to do the embalming. pull it out, and tie it off. sxl easy. you do not need to be embaumd or buried in america if you're buried within 48 hours. any questions? >> thank you very much. >> thank you very much. >> you're welcome. >> you can watch this and other american artifacts programs by visiting our website,
c-span.org/history. >> we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span 3. well, coming up on our "american artifacts" series, living history enthufrts gather to row across the delaware river at the spot where general george washington and the continental army crossed from pennsylvania to new jersey on christmas night in 1776. and then world war ii re-enaccountor jared frederick described the 4th infantry's role in the d-day invasion at the u.s. army's heritage days. also we'll take to you carlisle, pennsylvania to see an exhibit about world war ii soviet soldiers. every saturday night american history tv takes you to college classrooms around the country for lectures in history. >> why do you all know who lizzie borden is? and raise your hand if you had ever heard of this murder. the gene harris murder trial. before this class.
>> the deepest cause where we'll find the true meaning of the revolution was in this transformation that took place in the minds of the american people. >> we're going to talk about both of these sides of the story here, right? the tools, the techniques of slave owner power, and we'll also talk about the tools and techniques of power that were practiced by enslaved people. >> watch history professors lead discussions with their students on topics ranging from the american revolution to september 11th. lectures in history on c-span 3, every saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv. and lectures in history is available as a podcast. find it where you listen to podcasts. >> my name is kim mccarty.
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