In the early Republic, American medicine was rough, just look at George Washington’s teeth. However, the decades of medicine developing in private are destroyed by the Civil War. With 750,000 dead (around 8,250,000 in today’s population), hundreds of thousands more dead in the immediate aftermath from a smallpox epidemic followed by Asiatic cholera sweeping the freedmen communities, nearly 400,000 amputations, and untold cases of mental illness (often just listed as ‘nostalgia’), the war is devastating. As millions got sick, some medicine improves, but even though most Americans know the Civil War was the bloodiest conflict in American history, this is a story they do not know, including improvised medicines, epidemic disease, incompetence, tragedy, and the strange case of Stonewall Jackson’s body. However, out of it comes a story of hope. Because of the War, doctors and nurses professionalize. Modern hospitals and techniques develop. Hygiene is improved. Lives are saved.
Session 1: Just call me ‘Doc’: Medical professionals were not always so professional. We will talk about the death of George Washington, what it took to be a doctor in the 19th century, why nurses were rejected for being too pretty, and see if you can pass a doctor's exam to earn the rank of Surgeon.
Session 2: How the War was fought: From malaria turning the tide at Vicksburg, to Night Blindness costing the Confederacy the Chancellorsville Campaign, we will talk about how nutrition, medicine, and treatments affected the war and what 19th century surgery was like.
Session 3: How did the War Change Medicine?: After hundreds of thousands of sick, wounded and dead, we look at the affects. We talk epidemics, the assassination of Lincoln, the assassination of Garfield, the disinterment of the dead, and the creation of breakfast cereal.
This is Mr. Hoffmann’s first year teaching at his alma mater, but his 11th year teaching at both the high school and college level. He is currently completing a dissertation on Civil War medicine at Georgia State University. He has spoken on this topic as a feature on the Professor Buzzkill Show.