Instructor: Dr. Nicolas Hoffmann ’03
We all know the Civil War as southerners, sepia-tone pictures and the lilting tones of the Ashokan Farewell or Dixie playing in the background. However, the history that most people know is major movements of people led by the powerful men of the era, Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, ‘Stonewall’ Jackson, William Sherman, Abraham Lincoln, etc. The war on the ground was different. Disease, starvation, and exhaustion were rampant. In general, we think of the battle as between two equal forces of varying numbers with superior or inferior strategy, but this was rarely the case. Bullets tore through people, shattering bones and leaving infections, illnesses ravaged, and battles were lost. After a picture of American health, we will traipse through the trenches and see how medicine and disease affected the war.
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: Off the Bloodied Ground: 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, how to die a “good death,” and what 19th century surgery was like.
Session 3: 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 Dr. Hoffmann’s second year teaching at his alma mater, but his thirteenth year teaching at both the high school and college level. His doctorate is in 19th century American History with a focus on medicine. He has spoken on this topic as a feature on the Professor Buzzkill Show and on his defunct podcast Doomed to Repeat.