tv American Artifacts Civil War Surgery Embalming CSPAN January 26, 2020 6:00pm-6:31pm EST
[applause] >> you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. >> every july for 25 years, the gettysburg anniversary committee has hosted a civil war reenactment and living history village depicting camp life. we visit a union army surgeon and and ballmer and talk to -- and embalmer. >> during the very beginning of the store, -- the war, there was a lot of quack surgeons in the union army. general took over the medical corps, he devised the
whole thing around. he created an ambulance corps so we could get men off the battle quicker. he had the surgeons do tests to be army qualified. that's where it got better. , 600,000 died.t wounds on that battlefield. what i was dealing with at that time was the musket. it went in like a finger and came out like a fist. it shattered the bone so bad, there was no way i could repair it. even today, they would have to amputate because you blew that bonaparte completely. -- that bone apart completely. survival rate was great. 78% survived amputations, but it decreased to 60% due to disease.
it there was nothing wrong with one of them, had no disease in his system, survival rate was 70%. if the next soldier had blood poisoning, bone infection, or any disease, i am going to transmit it to the next soldier. , blood isre operating coming in, body parts all over. if i drop my amputating knife on the ground, i pick it up, white my -- wipe it off, and continue doing what i am doing. civilization did not come in. you see how dirty they are? that's the way i would use them from one soldier to the next. sterilization did not come in until 1895 and then it was different. if i would have had it during the civil war, more lives would have been saved. we had painkillers, opium, morphine, and laudanum.
we also put them to sleep. a lot of people did not realize that. we had chloroform and ether. 10 drops of that would put him out for 15 minutes. i could amputate an arm or leg in five minutes. the faster, the better his survival rate was. aroundf things happened 1862. soldiers were laying on the battlefield for 48 hours and longer. a soldier came to me in the morning. others says the surgeon is not in. take two blue -- and see him in the morning. the soldier came to me says, i have not gone to the bathroom in a while. i am going to give you some blue mash. i take one part to two parts of water and make him drink it. it is going to make him go, but
you know what is in here? blue char and mercury. if i keep giving him that, he's going to go crazy. i had to watch exactly what i was doing. too much of that could really do harm. we bled him. i had leeches. and a bleederg pan. >> did you realize the danger of blue mash at the time? pete:. we did not. we thought mercury was a miracle drug. a lot of my medicines were laced with it. we had opium, morphine, and laudanum. this is the laudanum. you want to take a whiff? you won't feel no pain the rest of the day. >> come on, do it. contents know what the
is? call, 45%. grain opium, 45.6 grams. that's what's in here. the reason why we put whiskey with it is because opium raw was very bitter, so we added the alcohol to it. actually the surgeon drank more of the alcohol. [laughter] pete: another thing we used, you know what this is? same real creosote, the stuff you use on a telephone pole. come to the general hospital. the surgeon would open this up -- open up the tongue and he sees the blue spots, the dark spots. he realizes that's gangrene setting in. he paints this, the creosote. the gangrene, but it
burned like hell when you put it on. we had a lot of whiskey, too. towpath whiskey. lincoln sent it to me by the barrel. we use a lot of it for shock. like i said, the surgeons drank it because of the pressure during the day. we had pure alcohol, too. here is another thing we would do. if i would come to the general , we would open up the stump and stuff like this. i said the stump needed to be bled because tainted blood was in there. we put the stop in a bleeder pan, give him a cut, and let him bleed until it stopped. then we abandon jim back up and a couple days later, check him again. if he still needed to be bled,
we could hang a couple leeches on it and let the leeches suck out the tainted blood. you, young man. legs,i amputated arms and i would suture them, so them shut -- sew them shut. all of a sudden, i am running out of suture thread. i have to use something else. what could i have used at that time? >> [inaudible] pete: i don't have no silk thread. it is in my other case. silk thread is what i use. not cotton because it would tear too easily. but i ran out of it. now i have a soldier on the table, i have to suture his stump. what could i have used? >> horse's hair.
pete: you got it. this is it, from the tale of a horse. it is pliable, works good, strong. we used a lot of that and there were a lot of horses around for me to get it. the confederacy used a lot of this because of the blockade lincoln had along the coast. they could not get it unless they overran our supply wagons. they did not like it because it was so course. they were boiling it and would suture some of the confederate troops shot. what they did not realize was it was healing quicker and faster. they did not realize they were sterilizing the horsehair. the union army picked it up later in the war and started sterilizing the horsehair when they started suturing. another question. i dealt with chickenpox, measles, mumps. when they enlisted into the army, who got the measles and mops, the country boys or the city boys?
boys. country >> city boys. >> country boys. pete: you agree? >> city boys? pete: everybody agree on country boys? one guy said city boys. you are wrong, it was the country boys. the reason for that is the city boys were raised in the city. they built up an immunity against the disease because they were close, like you are today, but the country boys lived on a farm. they did not get off the farm to build up immunity. when they got into the army, here they are with the city boys carrying the measles and mumps and chickenpox. this is what we had to deal with. it was the country boys that got them. we did three types of amputations, the circular application -- circular
amputation called the guillotine , the double flap, where the singles lab. the single flap amputation was used to take your foot and hand off. i preferred the circular amputation because it worked faster and made a nice artificial stump. amputation --p this is what we did. we get a hold of the tissue, pull it up off the femur, and we go in here like this right above the femur and cut upward. then we pull the flap back. my assistant would hold the leg up and i would go underneath it and make another flap. i would pull two flaps back to expose the femur. after i expose the femur, i would take my capital soft and -- capital saw an start sawing through it.
sometimes when you did that, it would snap. like you take a two by four and saw it and have a flame john the end. we would have a flame john the end of the femur and we don't want that. we would take the bone never and never all the way around here to make it clean. and we have the bone file would file this completely around, make it nice and smooth. after that, we had a bone brush. we would brush it clean all the way around and make it move -- smooth. then we take the artery for andn and -- artery forcep pull the artery out of the stump. we did not cauterize it like the revolutionary war. they would have a fire going with a frying pan on top, cast-iron. they would slap it against the
stump. we don't do that anymore. we would pull it out, then take silk thread, which is in my other case, then we would thread it, tie it off. and thetake the stump two flaps together. we would suture it around. i did not like to use that. i love the circular amputation. or guillotine, we call it. you would just cut a complete circle, like this all the way around. then we would pull the skin off on both sides. as we did that, we would cut through the tissue and go down and around, then pull the tissue off the bone. same principle, paul off the femoral artery, tie it off. tie offt we would do is
the artery, pull it down, then pack it with allum. that would seal up the small veins. overwe would pull it skin the top of the stump. then we would take four not suture ties. suture, tie a knot, suture, tie a knot. we had four knots across. andould take the plaster put them in between each of them. then what we would do is seal that up. tiefemoral artery, we would that, but we let it hang out of the stump. what would happen then after that was when you went to the general hospital, if the surgeon came around too soon and it didn't heal and he tugged on the suture thread, he could open up the femoral artery and the soldier started leaving.
there is no way he could get the sutures out and get back in to read tie it. the soldier would bleed to death. so you had to watch what you are doing. >> wow, thank you. that was explained beautifully. pete: next time lay on the table and i will demonstrate for real. giggly saw. see that? 1863eason for that is in we started saving arms and legs instead of cutting them off. we would cut down -- pretend this is the leg, this is the femur. we would cut down -- the damaged part is here -- we would cut down to the tissue and clean this all out and pull it off. we would not cut through. we did not go down to the bottom, just down to the damaged part. saw andake our giggly
unhook it and put a suture thread on here and a needle and go through here, underneath, and sawe up and we would a this and go up here and saw this way and it would make a smooth cut. clean it out. take it and push this together, bring it together. then we drilled holes in both sides. then we would take silver wire and wire it together. -- i had noncidence knowledge of how to put nerves blooder, but he still had circulation because this was connected down here. connectede was still down here, maybe by chance when we pushed it together, the veins
come together and connected and he had more feeling. we got better at it as years went by, and quicker, that we save more arms and legs. when you put it together, he had a bolt down here, but at least he had use of it. on the table,g when you see a movie, he gets up and he is yelling and screaming at everything else. didn't happen. this is what i believe. we had eight stations near the battlefield. there was assistant surgeons. they were administering opium, morphine, and lot number to ease the pain -- and laudanum to ease the pain. by the time he came onto my operating table, you don't even know where the hell he is at. now i am going to feed him some more, put him to sleep. i am going to cut his legs off,
his arms off. i believe this. ien i took my amodio water, -- my ammonia water, i place it under his nose, he starts waking up. he looks down and there is two legs missing. he is going to yell and scream and carry-on like you wouldn't believe. these are country boys, boys that need their arms and legs to work the farm. what are they going to do? i think that is the biggest shock you can have. amputations done on the table in the union army were done with chloroform. we had an adequate supply. the confederacy had a hard time getting chloroform and either because of the blockade along the coast. the only way they could get it would be if they could over run our wagons. this, i believe, they did.
mouthut a stick in their and they were drug, but they would file. -- they would feel it. no way that i or my assistant surgeon released any -- researched anything that came up about biting the bullet. i put this bullet in his mouth. all of a sudden, he is feeling andhe is going to go oh swallow it and choke to death. we didn't find any documentation where there was, in the civil war, biting on the bullet. people say, i found this bullet near a hospital and there was tease marks on it. this is what i believe. i believe near that hospital, later on there was farmland. the pigs pick them up and bite on them and drop them.
20 years from now, you find this bullet some soldier bit on. that's my belief because we don't have no documentation that said they were biting the bullet. heree reason i have a flag , it is from the first officer to die in the civil war, may 21, 1861. he led a troop of soldiers from washington, d.c. to alexandria to get the ground were started. the union army thought the war would last two months, maybe three. in alexandria, all he could find was the confederate flag. this here isnks
the confederate flag. this is not what colonel ellsworth took down from the tavern. that is the first official confederate flag. ellsworthat colonel had taken down from the tavern. confederate army became irate about the situation, shot the colonel in the chest. they did that in front of the colonel's men, left him lying on the floor, took the colonel back to washington, d.c. the word of his death spread quickly through washington, d.c. the president asked permission to involve -- embalm the body. the president said he could not because he was not a family member. finally the president was persuaded he is the father of
everyone in the military because he is the commander-in-chief. the president said go ahead. the body and sent word to the white house he was done. he lied. the president and misses lincoln stop doing what they were doing, immediately went to the firehouse. the colonel had spent many hours entertaining the president's children. he was also a member of president lincoln's law staff. , the bodye fair house laid there naked. there is the president getting out of the carriage. are you going to tell him to stay in for 20 minutes? i don't think so. they dragged the flag up to the colonel's shoulder. the president and misses lincoln viewed the body and she said, it looks like he is asleep. he lay for a week in washington, d.c., schip to albany, new york
for another week. newspaper reporters said, this man has been dead for two and a half weeks. there is no sign of death. it looks like he is still asleep. the average person found out about involving -- about embalming. the embalmings of trade of 1861. it takes less than five tons of pressure to preserve a dead person. in gravity system was used 1701 by the first recorded embalmer.n
in someill being used funeral homes in 2019. the only thing that changed in last 300 yearse are the chemicals used. there was no company selling em until 1908,d formaldehyde. is a verymbalming simple procedure. carotid arterye in the neck. notch inncision, put a the carotid artery. stick this in the carotid artery. beside that is the jugular vein. cut that off completely. reason being i want to push all the blood out of the body. i'm done.
very easy to know when you are done. during the civil war, if the doctors had four or five to do, they could do them all at one time and take a pile of money. no, they could not. morticians still cannot do that. we still can only take one person at a time. when you start embalming, you have to stay with the person and give them a massage. we have to move the fluid through the body. rigid, when it becomes we have a blood clot we have to get rid of. vein,that in the jugular work it back and forth, you get blood to come out. spot, work it to get the fluid to come out. then you are done arterial embalming. but there is one part of the body that does not use blood and that is where decomposition
starts first, so we had to take care of that area separately. the place that does not use blood is your stomach. we have food and acid in your stomach. insert in the stomach. that is the messy part of the job. you plug the throat. when you push everything out of the rectum, you plug the rectum. then inject into the kidneys, the lungs. now the person is completely preserved. there was no less than 20,000 soldiers received embalming in the civil war because of cost. the number one reason for death in the civil war. the second-biggest was the battlefield. nobody talks about the third-biggest reason. it happened to men on both sides. you got to protect your job. they called him the cook. the cook was always a woman's job back home.
the generals always had women cooking for them. if the cook did not get him, the battlefield got him. you take some horsehair or silk and tie off the artery at the hole. on the others of the bullet hole -- other side of the bullet hole -- then continued to do the embalm ing. tie it off, simple and easy. edu do not need to be embalm to be buried in america if you are buried within 48 hours. any questions? >> thank you very much. >> thank you.
watch this and other american artifacts programs by visiting our website, c-span.org/history. american history tv is on c-span3 every weekend, featuring museum tours, archival films, and programs on the presidency, the civil war, and mark. here is a clip on a recent program. >> for much of the world, europeans in particular, this political cartoon really captures it. here is uncle sam selling stuff. europe has a very long shopping list and basically they are asking, how is my credit? how much can i borrow from you in order to keep fighting? if you were to ask a german, a british person, what are the americans doing in 1914? they would say, fattening their pockets.
do not ever forget that the fattening of those pockets comes at the cost of european lives. and theircan greed willingness in particular to sell to anyone could ultimately result in the collapse of european empires, more so than europeans killing themselves. to come back to the question that tom asked many weeks ago, how is it that the germans are always pinned as the bad guys? 1914, wee as early as are starting to vilify the roles of even some neutrals, in this case the u.s. cartoon, wetical see there is an image of food, apples in that barrel. it is important to remember that 1914 was a real boom time for the american economy.
like most countries, when the war first began there is a contraction -- a retraction. people are more concerned, they spend less. you don't have access to all the sources you would normally want to purchase. the stock exchange was closed in new york, like vienna, london, paris, and berlin. by december, people start coming out of their caves. the americans realize that is ans more -- this war amazing boon for their economy. while the europeans are fighting each other, they can't produce things. the country that produced the best and most, germany, is especially unable to do so because it is fighting on two, soon to be three, france. and other watch this programs on our website, c-span.org/history.
on american history tv, we hear from panelists about june 6, 19 44, d-day. they talk about the lesser recognized contributions of women, allied governments, and military forces in ensuring the success of the landing on normandy's beaches. this event was part of the national world war ii museum national conference in new orleans. of june, 1944.th >> welcome back, everyone. it is hard to believe you get started on the very first session, and here we are coming to our final session of the daytime programming. although it was our intent to make this conference, june, 1944, as global as possible, we knew that we, for our loyal audience, had to finish with d-day itself.