How the Civil War Changed Our Lives – AARP

Though one would not think of the AARP website as having much to do with the war, they posted an interesting reflective piece on how the Civil War changed the lives of Americans.

Echoes of the nation’s greatest fight — the Civil War — still reverberate from coast to coast.

Some ring strong: of course the end of slavery, perhaps the worst disgrace in the nation’s history. And the 620,000 ancestors lost. Other vestiges have weakened with the passage of time but are no less legacies of the four horrific, heroic years that shaped us as one nation.Here are eight ways the Civil War indelibly changed us and how we live:

1. We have ambulances and hospitals.

The Civil War began during medieval medicine’s last gasp and ended at the dawn of modern medicine. Each side entered the war with puny squads of physicians trained by textbook, if at all. Four years later, legions of field-tested doctors, well-versed in anatomy, anesthesia and surgical practice, were poised to make great medical leaps.

The nation’s first ambulance corps, organized to rush wounded soldiers to battlefront hospitals and using wagons developed and deployed for that purpose, was created during the Civil War. The idea was to collect wounded soldiers from the field, take them to a dressing station and then transport them to the field hospital.

Doctors laid out the hospitals as camps divided into well-defined wards for specific activities such as surgery and convalescence. Women flocked to serve these hospitals as nurses.

Before the war, most people received health care at home. After the war, hospitals adapted from the battlefront model cropped up all over the country. The ambulance and nurses’ corps became fixtures, with the Civil War’s most famous nurse, Clara Barton, going on to establish the American Red Cross. Today’s modern hospital is a direct descendant of these first medical centers.

How the Civil War Changed Our Lives – AARP.

IC Time Capsule-a blog from my alma mater

Though a bit outside the focus of this blog’s chronology, I want to share with you all about a blog that one of the newer faculty at my alma mater, Illinois College, is working on. Dr. Jenny Barker-Devine, who joined the History Department after I graduated is doing some cool things with students on the Hilltop.

Recently, several students under her guidance began working with the Iver F. Yeager Special Collections and College Archives, including creating an awesome exhibit on how World War II affected the campus and students. These projects are near and dear to my heart, as they are what I am doing with work in the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections, including processing the collection on the 164th Infantry Regiment and creation of an exhibit on that unit with items from the collection (other stories are here and here).

So, if you have a few moments, go and check out IC Time Capsule and see what the students and faculty of Illinois College are doing.

This Week in the Civil War: Apr 29-May 5, 1863

Wednesday, April 29.  In Virginia, a major part of General Joseph Hooker’s Federal Army of the Potomac crossed the Rappahannock River at Kelly’s and U.S. fords and moved into the Wilderness. This was part of Hooker’s plan to force General Robert E. Lee’s Confederates out of their impregnable positions in Fredericksburg and give battle. To further prod Lee, Hooker sent Federal cavalry under General George Stoneman between Lee and Richmond to catch the Confederates in a pincers movement.

On the Mississippi River, Admiral David D. Porter’s Federal naval fleet began shuttling General Ulysses S. Grant’s troops across the river. This was part of Grant’s plan to march southward past Vicksburg on the river’s west bank, then recross the river and attack the city from behind.

A Federal diversionary force under Colonel Benjamin Grierson continued raiding Mississippi, skirmishing at Brookhaven. In Missouri, General John S. Marmaduke’s Confederates skirmished at Castor River.

Thursday, April 30.  In Virginia, Joseph Hooker established headquarters at Chancellorsville, a small village in the Wilderness. Hooker did not order an attack; rather, he waited for Robert E. Lee’s Confederates to move into the open. Confident that Lee would be destroyed, Hooker proclaimed to his troops that “the operations of the last three days have determined that our enemy must ingloriously fly, or come out from behind their defenses and give us battle on our ground, where certain destruction awaits him.” However, Lee had a plan of his own.

On the Mississippi, the vanguard of Ulysses S. Grant’s army under General John A. McClernand assembled on the river’s east bank, south of Vicksburg and ready to advance inland unopposed. Grant later wrote, “All the campaigns, labors, hardships, and exposures, from the month of December previous to this time, that had been made and endured, were for the accomplishments of this one object.” Grant was aided by Benjamin Grierson’s cavalry diversion, as well as Federal demonstrations north of Vicksburg led by General William T. Sherman.

Skirmishing occurred in Alabama, western Virginia, and the Indian Territory.

Friday, May 1.  In Virginia, the Battle of Chancellorsville began. As Joseph Hooker’s Army of the Potomac tried outflanking Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, Lee hurried to block the Federals’ exit from the Wilderness, a region of tangled underbrush that would offset the superior Federal numbers. Lee left about 10,000 men to face the Federal corps threatening Fredericksburg. After holding his ground in a series of skirmishes, Hooker ordered a withdrawal to stronger defensive positions around Chancellorsville. This stunned his subordinates, and although Hooker explained that he thought Lee was heavily reinforced, he later admitted, “For once, I lost confidence in Joe Hooker.”

The Federal withdrawal allowed Lee to seize the initiative. That evening, he discussed strategy with General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, who proposed to split the army by sending Jackson’s corps to attack the vulnerable right flank. This was a bold plan because Lee’s army was already split between Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. However, Lee approved.

In his effort to capture Vicksburg, General Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals continued crossing the Mississippi River south of the town at Bruinsburg. The lead Federal corps under General John A. McClernand moved inland toward Port Gibson, about 30 miles south of Vicksburg. A small Confederate force outflanked at Grand Gulf hurried to Port Gibson to intercept McClernand. After a day-long fight, the outnumbered Confederates withdrew. Securing Port Gibson allowed the main Federal force to establish strong positions at Grand Gulf.

Before adjourning, the Confederate Congress approved several measures, including creating a Provisional Navy to complement the Regular Navy; allowing the president to approve contracts for building naval vessels in Europe; allowing congressional delegates from various Indian nations; creating a commission on taxes; tightening provisions on the conscription law; and adopting a national flag known as the “Stainless Banner.”

Skirmishing occurred in Alabama, Louisiana, and Tennessee. In Missouri, John Marmaduke’s Confederates skirmished at Chalk Bluff on the St. Francis River as they returned to Arkansas.

Saturday, May 2.  In Virginia, “Stonewall” Jackson’s 28,000 Confederates moved around the Federal right flank. Federal scouts observed them and concluded they were retreating. However, Jackson attacked the unsuspecting Federal Eleventh Corps at 6 p.m. On the Federal left, Robert E. Lee’s remaining Confederates attacked to divert attention from Jackson, even though they were outnumbered by nearly four-to-one. The fight ended at nightfall with the Federals in disarray. During the night, “Stonewall” Jackson was accidentally shot by Confederate pickets while scouting positions.

In Louisiana, Benjamin Grierson’s Federals arrived in Baton Rouge after conducting one of the most successful cavalry operations of the war. Diverting Confederate attention from Ulysses S. Grant, Grierson’s men raided western Tennessee, killing 100 Confederates, taking 500 prisoners, destroying up to 60 miles of railroad and telegraph lines, capturing or destroying 3,000 arms, and seizing 1,000 horses and mules. Grierson’s men had traveled 600 miles and fought four engagements, evading thousands of Confederates along the way.

Skirmishing occurred in Alabama, Tennessee, and western Virginia.

Sunday, May 3.  In Virginia, “Stonewall” Jackson’s wounds from the previous night were so serious that he relinquished command to General Jeb Stuart. By morning, the Federals had established a V-shaped defensive line. When the Confederates attacked, the Federals slowly moved back. Joseph Hooker had tens of thousands of reserves that were yet to be deployed, but he ordered no counterattack. He was knocked unconscious when he was hit in the head by wood scattered from a Confederate shell. When he regained consciousness, Hooker ordered a general withdrawal.

In Alabama, Colonel A.D. Streight’s Federals surrendered to Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest after heavy raiding and skirmishing. The Roman Catholic bishop of Iowa threatened church members with excommunication if they refused to renounce the pro-Confederate Knights of the Golden Circle.

Monday, May 4.  In Virginia, the Federal corps at Fredericksburg broke through the Confederate defenses and joined Joseph Hooker’s main force. However, Hooker was already withdrawing his army across the Rappahannock River. Confederate President Jefferson Davis wired Lee his thanks on behalf of the people “reverently united with you in giving praise to God for the success with which He has crowned your arms.”

In Mississippi, Grant’s Federals continued moving south of Vicksburg, skirmishing at various places. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Missouri.

Tuesday, May 5.  In Virginia, Robert E. Lee’s Confederate prepared to attack Joseph Hooker’s Federals again. However, Hooker’s army fell back across the Rappahannock, ending the Battle of Chancellorsville in Federal defeat. Hooker was defeated by a force less than half his size that had been divided three times. This humiliated the North and has since been considered one of the greatest military victories in history. However, it was a pyrrhic victory for Lee because he suffered a much greater casualty percentage than Hooker.

Former Congressman Clement Vallandigham was arrested by Federal troops in Dayton, Ohio for violating General Order No. 38. The order, issued by Department of the Ohio commander Ambrose Burnside, had prohibited disloyalty in his jurisdiction. Vallandigham was one of the most outspoken “Copperheads,” or Peace Democrats who opposed the war. His specific offense had been delivering a speech calling the war “wicked and cruel,” where the object was not to preserve the Union but to subjugate the South and establish a Republican dictatorship.

Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Virginia. Federals conducted operations against the Indians in the Utah and Idaho territories.

Primary source: The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

This Week in the Civil War: Apr 22-28, 1863

Wednesday, April 22.  On the Mississippi River, a Federal naval flotilla of six transports and 13 barges passed the Confederate batteries at Vicksburg and landed downriver. One transport and seven barges were sunk, but the rest carried the necessary supplies for General Ulysses S. Grant to execute his plan to capture Vicksburg. Confederate President Jefferson Davis advised General John C. Pemberton, commanding the Confederates at Vicksburg, to block Federal ships on the river with flaming rafts.

Skirmishing occurred in western Virginia, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Missouri.

Thursday, April 23.  Newspapers reported that a seance was conducted by a medium at the White House. It was alleged that after President Abraham Lincoln left the session, “spirits” pinched the nose of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and pulled the beard of Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles.

In North Carolina, four Confederate ships ran the Federal blockade at Wilmington and delivered valuable supplies. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Missouri.

Friday, April 24.  The Confederate Congress passed a law imposing a “tax in kind” on 10 percent of all produce for the current year. The tax disproportionately harmed small farmers who could not afford to surrender 10 percent of their harvest, unlike plantation farmers.

In Alabama, General Grenville Dodge’s Federals captured Tuscumbia. In Mississippi, Federal Colonel Benjamin Grierson continued his cavalry raid to divert attention from Ulysses S. Grant at Vicksburg; Grierson’s men skirmished at Garlandville and Birmingham. In the Gulf of Mexico, U.S.S. De Soto captured four Confederate blockade runners.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Missouri, and Louisiana.

Saturday, April 25.  Confederate General Dabney H. Maury assumed command of the largely pro-Union Department of East Tennessee. In Great Britain, debate took place in Parliament over what should be done about British vessels seized by U.S. blockade ships. Skirmishing occurred in western Virginia, the Indian Territory, and the Arizona Territory.

Sunday, April 26.  In Missouri, General John S. Marmaduke’s Confederates were repulsed while attacking Cape Girardeau. In Mississippi, Benjamin Grierson’s Federals threatened the state capital at Jackson. In Alabama, a Federal raid began from Tuscumbia, headed for Rome, Georgia.

Skirmishing occurred in Maryland, Virginia, western Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, and Louisiana.

Monday, April 27.  In Virginia, General Joseph Hooker’s Federal Army of the Potomac began moving out of winter quarters at Falmouth up the Rappahannock River toward the fords over the river. This began another effort to destroy General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Spring weather had dried the roads, and Washington was pressuring Hooker to act.

The Confederate Congress passed a law authorizing the issuance of eight percent bonds or stock to redeem bonds sold prior to December 1, 1862. Dabney H. Maury was replaced as commander of the Confederate Department of East Tennessee by General Simon Bolivar Buckner. Maury was reassigned to command the District of the Gulf.

In Missouri, Marmaduke’s Confederates continued skirmishing near Jackson and White Water Bridge. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, western Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Tuesday, April 28.  In Virginia, the Army of the Potomac began crossing the Rappahannock, moving through the Wilderness area west of Robert E. Lee’s Confederates at Fredericksburg. Hooker left a Federal corps to oppose Fredericksburg while the rest of his army moved to outflank Lee’s left. The Episcopal church in Fredericksburg rang the alarm.

President Lincoln commuted the death sentence of Sergeant John A. Chase, who had been convicted of striking and threatening an officer. Lincoln instead ordered Chase imprisoned at hard labor “with ball and chain attached to his leg” for the remainder of the war.

In Mississippi, Grierson’s Federals skirmished at Union Church. Skirmishing occurred in Kentucky and Alabama.

Primary source: The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

This Week in the Civil War: Apr 15-21, 1863

Wednesday, April 15.  On the Mississippi River, General Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals continued moving from Milliken’s Bend to below the Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg, skirmishing with Confederates along the way. In North Carolina, Confederates abandoned a siege of Washington when Federal reinforcements approached.

Off Brazil, the Confederate commerce raider C.S.S. Alabama captured two U.S. whalers. President Abraham Lincoln wrote to General Joseph Hooker, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac, that he was concerned about the Federal cavalry’s slowness along the Rappahannock River in northern Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, and Louisiana.

Thursday, April 16.  On the Mississippi River, a Federal naval flotilla of 12 ships under Admiral David D. Porter passed the Confederate batteries at Vicksburg and landed downriver near New Carthage. All but one of the vessels made it through, despite taking several hits from the Confederate cannon. This was part of Ulysses S. Grant’s bold plan to capture Vicksburg by crossing his 44,000 troops to the west bank of the Mississippi, marching them southward past the town, then recrossing the river to take Vicksburg from behind.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis signed a bill into law authorizing army commissions for minors. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Louisiana.

Friday, April 17.  Ulysses S. Grant dispatched Federal cavalry under Colonel Benjamin H. Grierson to raid northern Mississippi and southern Tennessee. This sought to divert Confederates from Grant’s plan to capture Vicksburg. Grierson and 1,700 cavalrymen left La Grange, Tennessee and moved into northern Mississippi.

Confederates under General John S. Marmaduke invaded Missouri from Arkansas. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, and Missouri.

Saturday, April 18.  President Davis approved a law creating a volunteer navy in which individuals could purchase and fit out private vessels that would operate against Federal ships for prize money. The volunteer navy measure was not implemented.

In Mississippi, Benjamin Grierson’s Federals skirmished at New Albany. In Louisiana, Federals destroyed a Confederate salt works near New Iberia. Skirmishing occurred in Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas.

Sunday, April 19.  President Lincoln, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, and General-in-Chief Henry Halleck traveled to Aquia Creek in northern Virginia on a one-day trip to discuss military issues. In Mississippi, Benjamin Grierson’s Federals skirmished at Pontotoc. Other skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama, and Missouri.

Monday, April 20.  President Lincoln issued a proclamation stating that West Virginia, having been granted statehood by Congress the previous December, would officially join the Union on June 20, the two-year anniversary of when western Virginia voters chose to secede from the rest of the state.

In Louisiana, Federals captured Opelousas, Washington, and Butte-a-la-Rose. In Missouri, John Marmaduke’s Confederates skirmished at Patterson. Other skirmishing occurred in Virginia, North Carolina, western Virginia, and Tennessee.

Tuesday, April 21.  In western Virginia, General William E. Jones’s Confederates raided the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Skirmishing occurred in Missouri, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Primary Source: The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

Civil War Medicine – Advances and the Rise of the Amputee

The Civil War saw a great number of casualties and as doctors struggled to keep up with the number of wounded soldiers they slowly learned better ways to deal with injuries from experience and need.  The Civil War saw the beginnings of reconstructive and plastic surgery as well as advances in the treatment of chest wounds which became standard medical practice.  Battlefield surgeons learned the hard way and many advances came out of the horrors of war.

According to Chip Rowe in an article entitled 5 Medical Innovations of the Civil War, it was the shortage of supplies for the Confederates that led to the invention of an anaesthetic inhaler that allowed surgeons to use much less chloroform per patient.

Battlefield wounds were often very complex with canons and Minnie balls fragmenting bones and leaving irregular wounds in flesh that were subject to infection.  And lying unattended, sometimes for hours, on a dirty battlefield was not conducive to keeping wounds clean.  This is where amputations came in.

A soldier with a leg mangled by a canon shot had a much better chance of surviving if his leg was amputated right away before infection set in.  Battlefield surgeons did not have time to deal with complex injuries in mangled limbs and even if they performed what was termed a resection the risk of infection for this sort of injury was very high.  If infection set in and they were forced to amputate later the risk of the infection spreading was much higher.  According to Terry L. Jones in his article on Civil War medicine, Under the Knife, amputations performed right away, or primary amputations, had a mortality rate of only 25% whereas amputating later when a limb became infected had mortality rates twice as high.

So, amputation became a life-saving procedure on Civil War battlefields with experienced surgeons learning the best way to perform an amputation.  They made the cut as far from the heart as possible. The lower on a limb the amputation was made the more likely the patient was to survive.  Surgeons then tried to remove the nerves as high up as possible to avoid pain in the remaining portion of the limb.  This meant that transportation of the wounded patient was less torturous and the amputee had a better chance of feeling less pain wearing a prosthetic.

Due to the large increase in amputees during and after the war, better prosthetics became a huge concern.  From generals to poor foot soldiers nobody was safe from wounds or amputations.  Major General Richard S. Ewell lost his leg at the Battle of Groveton and after his recovery he returned to command with a wooden leg.  For others the loss of a leg changed their lives.

Major General Daniel E. Sickles lost his leg to a canon at Gettysburg in a fierce assault by the Confederates on his line.  Although there is some controversy over the strategy of Sickles who disobeyed orders in his placement of troops at Gettysburg, many Union generals with worse track records were kept around.  Civil War Historian, Craig Wilson, expressed in an interview his belief that the loss of Sickles’ leg, and the other injuries sustained, helped him avoid a court martial for his controversial tactics.  It is impossible to tell what the outcome of such a court martial would have been, whether he would have been branded insubordinate or exonerated for his actions.  What is certain is that Grant would not allow Sickles to return to command and some combination of the controversial tactics and serious injuries saw the end of his military career.  Sickles entered the world of politics and among a number of fascinating exploits he decided to donate his leg to a museum.  For several years after the donation he would return to visit his leg there on the anniversary of the amputation.

Less well-known than Sickles, yet equally important is the first amputee of the Civil War, James E. Hanger.  It would seem that James was simply not destined to fight.  He was too young to join the Confederate Army when the war started so he joined an ambulance group to follow a unit and try to join later.  He enlisted at Phillipi on June 2, 1861 and according to an article by Martha M. Boltz in the Washington Times, he was injured the very next day in his first skirmish.  He lost his leg on June 3 becoming the first amputee of the Civil War.  That in itself is interesting but James is even more remarkable because of his response to the amputation.

James was given a wooden leg but since his amputation had been above the knee he had very limited mobility with the wooden prosthetic.  After a stint as a prisoner he was exchanged and allowed to return home.  There he locked himself in his room and refused to come out.  His patient and worried mother brought him food and the materials he occasionally asked for and he left empty plates and wood shavings outside of his door.  As the weeks passed James’ family worried that he was falling into a deep depression.  However, James was not depressed; he was single-mindedly fashioning a more workable prosthetic.  He shaved barrel staves and willow wood to form a double jointed prosthetic.  It took about three months but when he was finished he opened the door to his room, walked down the stairs and amazed his family with a workable leg that restored both his balance and movement.

James filed for a number of patents for his first prosthetic leg as well as his subsequently improved models.  The boy who was not destined to fight in the Civil War spent the rest of the war dedicated to creating better and better prosthetics.  Thanks to James E. Hanger and many other talented and dedicated inventors the Civil War saw great advancements towards the first truly functioning prosthetics.

Now with technology continuing to advance in leaps and bounds there are some amazing possibilities for prosthetics for modern wounded soldiers.  As soldiers continue to return home from recent wars with missing limbs the need for advanced prosthetics is only growing.  With recent technology it is now possible to have a prosthetic leg 3-d printed for you.  Bespoke Innovations is a company that custom prints legs for amputees out of any material they wish and in a variety of custom designs.  You can take a look at their amazing gallery here.

Technology seems to be moving us closer and closer to having truly bionic body parts.  Computer technology has allowed us to create The Michelangelo Microprocessor Hand.  It uses a microprocessor chip that picks up the electrical impulses from your muscles and translates it into motion working very similarly to a real hand.  It allows people missing a hand to use a knife and fork, turn pages, and pick up small objects again.  Recently bionics have been all over the news with Rex, the bionic man, who is made entirely of bionic organ systems and parts.  The hope is that Rex will be the model for creating such systems to help people with failing organs.

Modern scientists and inventors are following in James E. Hanger’s footsteps and trying to restore as much movement and ability to amputees as possible.  While learning to adjust to a missing limb is always going to be difficult hopefully the modern advances in prosthetics will help.  There was nothing nice about losing a limb during the Civil War but modern technology has made some of the bionic parts and prosthetic replacements exciting in their own right.  Hopefully these and further advancements will restore a dignity and pride to amputees that previous prosthetics could not.

Civil War ring comes full circle

Civil War ring comes full circle.

A soldier’s ring, lost 148 years ago in Virginia during the Civil War, came home to Reading on Tuesday with a touching ceremony in Charles Evans Cemetery.

Worn by Levi Schlegel, a Rockland Township native who served under Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in the Battle of Appomattox Court House, the ring is believed to have been lost at an encampment near Fredericksburg. Victorious Union troops made camp there as they returned to Washington for the Grand Review of the Armies at the war’s end.

John Blue, a hunter of Civil War relics, found the ring in 2005, and through a series of circumstances, he was able to return it to Ernie Schlegel of Reading, a distant cousin of Levi.

Read the full article here.