Primary Sources: Alcott, Louisa May



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Primary Sources:  
Alcott, Louisa May. Hospital Sketches. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1960.

Hospital Sketches is a diary by Louisa May Alcott of her life and her personal experiences. Her diary tells about how she became a Union nurse and what it was like as a nurse. She tells of how little food and water the soldiers received and how hungry they were. She also talks about the little amount of medical technology. In addition, she describes how they washed and gave medicine to the patients. There was little treatment options and the only real surgery was amputation. Amputation was risky nearly 8 out of every 10 men died. This diary is reliable because it is a published and edited copy of Louisa May Alcott diary. Also Louisa May Alcott is trusted for good information in her diary.


Bacot, Ada W. A Confederate Nurse. Columbia, South Carolina: The University of South Carolina Press, 1994.

A Confederate Nurse is the diary of Ada W. Bacot kept during the Civil War. Through reading her diary, we understand what it was like to be a Confederate nurse during the time of the Civil War. Ada W. Bacot tells of events such as the poor conditions, lack of sleep, and the diseases as well as deaths of her patients. Many of the nurses became ill while helping the wounded, for there was little sanitation. Also, it was hard work being a nurse because you worked all day and most of the night, hardly having any time to sleep. This diary is reliable because you are more honest in a diary because it is meant for only you, the writer, to see and read. So, Ada W. Bacot was most likely telling the truth in her diary.

Ellen Orbison Harrison, pamphlet encouraging women to help soldiers in the war, taken from: Seidman, Rachel Filene. The Civil War: A History in Documents. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

This source is helpful at understanding women’s roles during this time period along with understanding medical options. We learned that women could open their homes to soldiers and treat them as best as they could. Also in communities women should organize themselves into groups that will help soldiers in need. Women who do this may become part of the government’s organization. We also learned that the army was in need of donations of any kind. The money was used to pay for medical supplies and other serviceable goods. This source was reliable because it was found inside a larger book. It was published by a trusted source.

Gen. Carl Schurz, description of the battle of Gettysburg, from: Seidman, Rachel Filene. The Civil War: A History in Documents. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.


This excerpt talks about what happened with the thousands of wounded after the battle of Gettysburg. They were taken to nearby houses and barns, where many lay in the pouring rain, waiting for help. The places had little sanitation; the surgeons held the tools between their teeth, wiping them on their dirty aprons, too. Blood was everywhere, and amputated arms and legs were thrown into piles nearby. Antiseptic methods were not known at this time. There were many cries of pain and suffering, and many died while waiting for treatment, or from diseases caught after the amputation. Also, sanitation, germs, and diseases were not understood or known at this time. This excerpt shows us what it was like when the medical field was just starting to be established.

Instructions for inspecting army camps, sent out by the USSC in 1862, from:


Seidman, Rachel Filene. The Civil War: A History in Documents. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

This set of instructions is for checking the medical field established at different camps, during the war. Tents need to be examined, and kept as clean as possible. One of the main instructions was checking the sanitation of the camps. Other instructions include: cooking food with cleaned utensils, tasting the cooked food before serving it, making sure the medical staff is prepared for an emergency (this includes making sure the ambulances are working). In addition, manure and litter of all horses and cattle had to be removed from the camp, and either buried or burned. This excerpt shows us that people had figured out sanitation was important for preventing diseases. Once people had figured that out, conditions started to improve in the medical field.

Rachel Filene. The Civil War: A History in Documents. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Rachel Filene Seidman tells of the conflicts and solutions to the many problems that occurred during the Civil War. Some of these problems include the safety and health of the soldiers, as well as the strategies and feelings felt by the soldiers during the war. Throughout her telling of the events are letters, diary entries, and memoirs written by people during the war. Also, there are political debates, military developments, and testimonies found in this book. This book is helpful for understanding events that occurred during the Civil War, and provides us many primary sources. This is a reliable source because it contains a bibliography, and the author teaches history at Carleton College. 



Secondary Sources:

Blumberg, John. "Only female Medal of Honor recipient." American History 34.4 (1999): 20. General OneFile. Web. 8 May 2010.
Document URL:
http://find.galegroup.com/gps/infomark.do?&contentSet=IAC- Documents&type=retrieve&tabID=T002&prodId=IPS&docId=A55576529&so urce=gale&srcprod=ITOF&userGroupName=bed&version=1.0  

In the article “Only female Medal of Honor recipient” we learned a lot about how doctor’s especially female doctors were treated during the war. Surgeons were in high demand during the war. Not many people had medical training which created a greater problem in finding help. Women were not considered in the search for medical professionals. Some women with training were even turned away. We learned about a woman named Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, who graduated from Syracuse medical college and was still turned away from the union’s medical staff. She kept trying and eventually was able to treat soldiers and civilians but was not classified as a doctor. This article taught us that there was a lot of medical reform but not all of the problems were solved. This is a reliable source because it is by John Blumberg and was published by American History.

Channing, Steven A. The Civil War: Confederate Ordeal: The Southern Home Front. Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books Inc., 1984.

Steven A. Channing clearly describes the impact of the war on the South, and the hardships people faced in this book. Also, he shows us how the South dealt with the wounded during the war. In this book, we are given detail about the surgical instruments that were used, and what jobs and tasks the women took on while working in the hospitals. In addition, the book gives us a description of the trains that were used to transport soldiers to and from hospitals, and to carry medical supplies. This is a reliable, secondary source because the book contains a bibliography, and the author has written many history series. Also, Steven A. Channing wrote this book as part of a series with other historians.   


Collier, Christopher and Collier, James Lincoln. The Civil War. Tarrytown, New York: Benchmark Books, Marshal Cavendish Corporation, 2000.

The Collier Brothers describe the conflicts presented during the Civil War, as well as tell about the events that occurred. In one chapter, they talk about how women came to be a major part of the Civil War. With such a shortage of labor, women’s help was needed. This chapter tells about what the women did during the war, and how they helped the soldiers. Many women helped treat the ill or wounded soldiers, and the facts this book presented are very helpful for our topic of Civil War medicine. The bibliography in the back of this book, and the fact that both authors have graduated from college, and Christopher Collier is now a history professor at the University of Connecticut and Connecticut State Historian, tells us that this is a reliable, secondary source.


Jackson, Donald Dale. The Civil War; Twenty Million Yankees, The Northern Home Front. Alexandria, Virginia. Time-Life Books Inc., 1985.  

Twenty Million Yankees was a great book because it provided a lot of information about reform. I learned that sanitation conditions in camps were very poor which caused many soldiers to get sick. This problem was taken to congress where they ruled that the medical corps would be enlarged, eight new doctors would be inspecting camps for proper sanitation, and that the Surgeon General would be replaced with a younger man. These were all great solutions to the sanitation problem. Also medical transport from the battle field to the hospitals was improved. A man named Dr. Elisha Harris invented a system that made a soldiers ride more comfortable. The invention was to have a bed suspended by rubber cords which would allow the bed to bounce with the car and not cause as much impact on a soldier's body. I know this source is a reliable, secondary source because it contains a bibliography, is part of a series of books written by many historians, and the author spent a year at Harvard University as a Nieman Fellow.

Nevin, David. Civil War: Sherman's March, Atlanta to the Sea. Alexandria Virginia; Time Life Books. 1986. 

Sherman’s march has a lot of great information about actual medicine and tools used during the civil war. I learned from the book that in the civil war doctors and chemists created a few medicines that actually treated diseases and other medical ailments. They also did not know about anti-biotic or bacteria yet.  Some of the useful drugs were quinine, opium, anesthetic chloroform, and herbs. Quinine was administered for coughs, headaches and tooth aches. Opium was a highly addictive pain killer. Also the medicine they used to treat malaria is the same medicine that is used today. This is a reliable, secondary source because it contains a bibliography, and the author wrote this book as part of a series, with other historians. 

Nevin, David. The Civil War: The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West. Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books Inc., 1983. 

In this book, David Nevin describes what happened during the early battles in the West, during the Civil War. We were able to find information about the wounded, the treatment of the dead, the Confederate hospitals, and infections in this book, which contributes to our topic of Civil War medicine. This book is one within a series of books by David Nevin, containing a bibliography, and is a reliable, secondary source.

Nuland, Sherwin B. Doctors: The Illustrated History of Medical Pioneers. New York, New York: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers Inc., 2008.

This book has some information about the reforms to the medical field, after the Civil War. One chapter tells of this man who was greatly inspired and impressed by what American physicians did during the Civil War. He used their methods to improve the medical field. For example, he used some of the methods of design, in the building of military hospitals after the war. This book is a reliable, secondary source because the author is a clinical professor of surgery at Yale University, where he also teaches bioethics and medical history. Also, he has written nine previous books, which have won the National Book Award, and were on the New York Times bestseller list.

Robertson Jr., James I. Civil War: America Becomes One Nation. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1992.

While scanning through this book, we found two chapters relating to the theme. One chapter talked about causes of the diseases that soldiers caught during the war. It also explained why the death rate was so high among the wounded. (One out of every four soldiers ultimately died.) The other chapter explained how women came to be a part of the medical field, and their reactions to the horrible events they saw. Also, it talks about how women helped out in the medical field during the war. This is a reliable, secondary source because the author is a Professor of History at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. 

Robertson Jr., James I. The Civil War: Tenting Tonight: The Soldier’s Life. Alexandria,Virginia: Time-Life Books Inc., 1984.

 In this book, James I. Robertson Jr. gives a detailed idea about what it was like for a soldier in the Civil War. He includes quotes from men in the war, and provides information about the medical field during that time, including diseases, surgery, amputations, and the wounded. This is a reliable, secondary source because the author is a history professor at Virginia Tech., and the book contains a bibliography.
 
Rosner, David. "Healing Body, Mind, and Spirit: The History of the St. Francis Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania." Journal of Social History 29.4 (1996): 1028+. General OneFile. Web. 6 May 2010.
Document URL
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gale&srcprod=ITOF&version=1.0&userGroupName=mlin_m_bedhigh&finalAuth=true

In this source, David Rosner gives us information about reform made to hospitals, after the Civil War. Different departments were founded, each having a specific location in a hospital. One of these departments was the psychiatric department. Also, hospitals were becoming more equal in gender, with both men and women running them. David Rosner works at Baruch College and CUNY Graduate Center, making this a reliable, secondary source.

Rutkow, Ira M. Bleeding Blue and Gray: Civil War Surgery and the Evolution of American Medicine. New York: Random House, Inc., 2005.

In his book, Ira M. Rutkow gives detailed accounts of the medical events that occurred during the Civil War. He tells of the suffering and conflicts of the war, and how it ultimately led to healing. In addition, he shows us how the medical field changed during the war, and the people that greatly influenced the medical field during that time. The bibliography in the back of this book, and the fact that Ira M. Rutkow is a clinical professor of surgery at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and that he is an editor of two Civil War volume series, proves that this is a reliable, secondary source. 


Schroeder – Lein, Glenna R. The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine. New York: M.E. Sharpe,Inc., 2008. 

The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine is an encyclopedia in which Glenna R. Schroeder – Lein gives a great deal of information about the medical field during the Civil War. The information includes facts about people, hospitals, medicines used, battles, transportation, and sanitation. She gives general and detailed facts on each topic; for people, she describes their life as well as how they contributed to the medical field during the war. For things such as hospitals, battles, medications, and transportations, she explains how they improved, using causes and effects. This is a reliable, secondary source because it contains a bibliography, and the author graduated from the University of Georgia with a PhD in history.  

Street, James Jr. The Civil War; The Struggle For Tennessee, Tupelo To Stones River. Alexandria, Virginia. Time-Life Books Inc., 1985.



The struggle for Tennessee had a little bit of information about the medical field. The useful information I found was very helpful. I learned that people thought that army hospitals were horrible and they feared going to one. Also at the famous Brickhouse hospital there were three tables in constant use for amputations. The severed limbs and flesh from the amputations were tossed through the windows into waiting carts. The floors were slick with gore. This source is a reliable, secondary source because it contains a bibliography, the author has a Ph. D. in history at the University of North Carolina, and the author wrote this book as a series of books, with other historians.


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