A Glance at Civil War Medical History with Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy

Looking back at history shows us how far we’ve come. And we as preppers know looking back shows us how far we might fall. I put a medical slant on that in this week’s DestinySurvival Radio by taking a glance at Civil War medical history with Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy.

Joe and Amy Alton, also known as Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy, have been on DestinySurvival Radio a few times before, and it’s always a privilege and pleasure when they can come back. Chances are you’ve heard of them or perhaps even seen them somewhere.

Dr. Bones is an M.D. and Nurse Amy is an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner and a certified nurse midwife. They are medical preparedness professionals who bring you traditional and alternative medical strategies to stay healthy in any disaster situation. You can see their full credentials at DoomAndBloom.net.

Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy are the co-authors of The Survival Medicine Handbook. It’s a guide for the non-medical professional to staying healthy in situations where help is not on the way. You should have it in your survival library if you’re serious about staying healthy in the uncertain times to come.

Dr. Bones collects 19th century medical books to gain insight on off-grid medical strategies. And that’s a key reason he and Amy were on with me.

Looking forward to look back? On an episode of the original Star Trek, Dr. McCoy has a chance to see what medical practices are like in a time nearer to ours. He described it as barbaric. All that cutting!

What if we were to take a look back 150 years or so. The art of medicine was much different then. We would think it was barbaric compared to today. Yet it was during the 1800’s that much progress took place. And, sadly, it took wars to prompt innovation.

Our focus was mostly on the Civil War. Here are a few highlights of what we talked about.

  • Herbal or natural medicine was commonly practiced before the twentieth century. Much of that knowledge isn’t being used or passed along today.
  • Infant mortality was much higher in the past.
  • Childbirth is an area of significant advancement in recent decades. Pregnancy itself was cause for concern. We’re much better off with the knowledge we have about such things now.
  • Doctors didn’t have the training and skill level of practicioners today.
  • Sanitation and hygiene are areas in which we’ve made a world of progress since the 1860’s. This in itself saves lives.
  • anesthesia and pain remediation are far better today. Yet surprisingly 95% of operations during the Civil War were performed under anesthesia.
  • The number of Civil War deaths is staggering–624,000 compared to 4,000 in the Revolutionary War. More soldiers died from injuries and diseases than those killed in combat.

In addition to the ideas mentioned above, Nurse Amy read a couple of items from a book from 1874.

And for a few minutes they both shared thoughts–at my prompting–on whether people in the 1800’s lived under more or less stress than we do today. One’s mental outlook has a bearing on physical health.

Hear my conversation with Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy by listening to DestinySurvival Radio for February 13, 2014. (Right click to download.) We had a fascinating and wide ranging discussion. Joe and Amy are passionate about equipping preppers with knowledge to deal with medical situations when help is not on the way and when today’s medical technology isn’t readily available. Their book is an excellent tool toward that end.

Find hundreds of articles at www.doomandbloom.net. They do a weekly podcast, which you can access from their site. They’re also on YouTube and are active on Facebook and Twitter. As if that weren’t enough, they participate in a number of prepper related conferences around the country as well. You might get to see them in person sometime.

If history of medicine interests you, check out a review I wrote here about a book on frontier medicine in the U.S.


Author: John Wesley Smith

John Wesley Smith writes and podcasts from his home in Central Missouri. His goal is to help preppers as he continues along his own preparedness journey.

2 thoughts on “A Glance at Civil War Medical History with Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy”

  1. I remember reading a historical excerpt from JAMA noting a 300% mortality rate resulting from an amputation of a lower extremity during the civil war. How, do you ask? As most amputations were performed within 3 minutes (considered the norm for a competent surgeon of the time) to help prevent exsanguination of the patient and minimize anguish to the patient if anesthesia was not available, speed was of the essence. Unfortunately, the surgeon, in his haste, cut his assistant, who promptly bled to death, and he also nicked the attending nurse, she subsequently died of infection, and lastly, the patient died as well, not recalling whether due to infection or loss of blood. The good ol’ days, yeah, right.

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