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<p>Life and Limb: The Toll of the American Civil War November 16th-December 28th, 2018 Ruth Lilly Medical Library Indiana University School of Medicine “To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War and the more than three million soldiers who fought in the war, the exhibition  Life and Limb: The Toll of the American [&hellip;]</p>

Check out the Life and Limb NLM Traveling Exhibit and display here at the library

Life and Limb Display

Life and Limb: The Toll of the American Civil War

November 16th-December 28th, 2018

Ruth Lilly Medical Library

Indiana University School of Medicine

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War and the more than three million soldiers who fought in the war,

the exhibition  Life and Limb: The Toll of the American Civil War

explores the experiences of disabled veterans and their role as symbols of

the fractured nation.”

This exhibition was developed and produced by the National Library of Medicine,

National Institutes of Health.

The accompanying exhibit on the third floor and library blog was prepared by

Sue London, MLS and Colleen Method


The American Civil War (aka: War Between the States, etc.) lasted from

April 12, 1861-May 9, 1865.


Over three million soldiers fought on both sides of the conflict. More than 500,000 of those soldiers died, although many more were victims of diseases such as smallpox, yellow fever, diarrhea and malaria than died from battlefield wounds.


A number of soldiers nearly equal to the number of deaths were wounded. Many suffered severe lasting effects or ended up with permanent disabilities from war wounds or lifesaving surgery, including amputations, yet managed to beat the odds and survived.


Civil War medicine is often thought of as backward and even brutal. One common myth is that wounded soldiers, especially those undergoing amputations, were held down and operated on without anesthesia. The National Museum of Civil War Medicine refutes that image, reporting that in the estimated 80,000 Union surgeries, anesthesia (chloroform or, less often, ether due to its flammability) was used approximately 95% of the time ,with only 254 reported cases where none was used. The museum further explains that this perception probably arose from a misunderstanding, by non-medical witnesses to battlefield surgery, of why the wounded were thrashing around and moaning. The anesthesia itself, used lightly for these quick surgeries, caused the movements. This meant the patients sometimes had to be held down, but not because of a reaction to pain or lack of anesthetic.


Warning: Some photographs included in the display and the resources in the bibliography are graphic and may be disturbing to some viewers.


Items from our History of Medicine Collection in the 3rd Floor Display Case

(not all linked items are available for viewing by the general public):


Civil War Surgeon’s Tool Kit

Field hospital sketch

Example of personal journals, diaries and letters

William H. Wishard – Some Personal Army Experiences. Indiana Medical Journal. 1905-6:338-342. History of Medicine Serials (Bloomington may have online access

Photographic Atlas of Civil War Injuries

Pictorial Encyclopedia of Civil War Medical Instruments and Equipment

Indiana In the Civil War: Doctors, Hospitals and Medical Care


Bibliography of Sources at Indiana University

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Related Online Resources

American Battlefield Trust

American Battlefield Trust Article on Civil War Medicine

American Civil War Museum

Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum

Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, p443.

Indiana Medical History Museum

Life and Limb: the Toll of the American Civil War exhibition

National Museum of Civil War Medicine

National Museum of Health and Medicine: To Bind Up the Nation’s Wounds

National Park Service Article Search on Medical History

PBS The Civil War -A Film by Ken Burns

PBS Mercy Street

Soldiers & Sailors Monument (Indianapolis)

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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Jason Lilly