tv American Artifacts Civil War Surgery Embalming CSPAN January 26, 2020 10:00pm-10:31pm EST
chatter] [roaring] every july for the past 25 years, the gettysburg anniversary committee has hosted a civil war reenactment and living history village depicting camp life. next we visit a union army surgeon and embalmer. aboutlk to reenactors medical practices during the war. theuring the beginning of war, like i said there was a lot , of quack surgeons in the union army. dr. lederman took over the medical corps. when he took over the medical
corps, he turned the whole thing around. he created an ambulance corps so we could get the men in off the battle quicker. he also went and had to do tests for sergeants -- surgeons to be army qualified surgeons. that is where he got better and better as far as service was concerned. 3 million fought, 600,000 died. 700,000 wounds on that battlefield. but what i was dealing with at that time was really musket. it went in like a finger and came out like a fist. it shattered the bone so bad, was no way that i could repair it. even if you get shot with one of them today, they would have to amputate because you blew that bone apart completely. so but the survival rate was great off my table, off the amputations. 78% survived amputations, but it decreased down to 60% due to the fact of disease that set in. that soldier came in that
morning, there was nothing wrong with him, no blood disease or poisoning, survival rate was 70%. but then if the next soldier came on my table and he had blood poisoning, bone infection, or any kind of disease to him i , am going to transmit it to the next soldier. from one soldier to the next. if i am here operating, blood is coming in here, body arts are laying all over. if i drop my amputating knife on the ground, i pick it up, wipe it off on my bloody knife over there and continue doing what i , am doing. that is it. sterilization did not come in. these instruments 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 around 1865 when a bolick asset was invented. if i would have had it during the civil war, more lives would have been saved. but due to the fact of that sterilization. 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 put into a funnel and placed over the face 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, we figured. a lot of things happened around 1862. a lot of the soldiers were laying out on the battlefield for 48 hours and longer. we had -- a soldier came blue masked. a soldier came to me in the morning. my sign on the other side says the surgeon is not in. take two blue mash and see him in the morning. soldier came to me and says i , have not gone to the bathroom in a while. i got something for you. i am going to give you some blue mash. i take one art of blue mash two , parts of water and make him drink it. it is going to make him go, but the only problem is you know
, what is in here? blue char and mercury. if i keep giving him that, he's going to go crazy. yeah. so i had to go watch exactly what i was doing. too much of that could really do harm. we bled them. i had leeches. we did leeching and a bleeder pan. >> did you realize the danger of that blue mash at the time? pete: no we did not. ,the whole situation was, mercury content was almost like a wonder drug. we thought it was a miracle drug. a lot of my medicines were laced with it. we had painkillers like i said we had opium, morphine, and , laudanum. this is the laudanum. whiff of it?ake a you won't feel no pain the rest of the day. >> out like a light. >> come on, do it. pete: you know what the contents is? >> yeah?
pete: alcohol, 45%. grain opium, 45.6 grams. ok. that's what's in here. the reason why we put whiskey with it is because opium raw was very bitter, so we wanted to take the bitterness away from it. 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? it is real creosote, the same stuff you use on a telephone pole. ok? come to the general hospital. the surgeon would come and open up the stump, and he sees the blue spots, the dark spots. all of a sudden he realized that's gangrene setting in. it takes this and paints this, the creosote. it sure as hell stopped the gangrene, but it burned like hell when you put it on.
we had a lot of whiskey, too. we had towpath whiskey. lincoln sent it to me by the barrel. in fact because we used a lot of it for shock. but like i said before 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 hospital, i would come to the general hospital, we would open up the stump and stuff like this. i said the stump needed to be led because there was that tainted blood was in there. we put the stop in a bleeder pan, give him a little cut, and let him bleed until it stopped. then we bandage him back up and maybe 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. i will ask you a question while i got you here. you, young man. after i amputated arms and legs, ok? and i would suture them, you know what suturing is? i sew them shut. all of a sudden i find out i am running out of suture thread. i got to use something else. what could i have used at that time? >> other than suture thread? pete: i don't have no silk thread. it is in my other case. silk thread is what i use. i did not use cotton thread because it would tear too easily. but i ran out of it. now i got a soldier here on the table, i have to suture his stump. i don't have no silk thread anymore. what could i have used? >> horse's hair. pete: you got it.
the tale of a horse. this is it right here the tail , 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 tale of a horse. the confederacy used a lot of it because of the blockade lincoln had along the coast. they could not get it unless they overran some of our supply wagons. they did not like it because it was so course. what they were doing now they , were boiling it, and would suture some of the confederate troops shut. what they didn't realize it was it was healing quicker and faster. they did not realize they were sterilizing the horsehair. and the union army picked it up later in the war and started sterilizing the horsehair when they started suturing. i will ask you another question, gunman. >> ok. pete: i dealt with chickenpox, measles, mumps. who got the most -- when they enlisted into the army, who got the measles and the mumps? was it the country boys or the city boys?
>> probably the country boys. >> country boys. >> country boys. pete: country boys? you absolutely agree? >> city boys? pete: everybody agree on country boys? one guy said city boys. well young man back there you , are wrong, it was the country boys that got them. right. 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, right here. but the country boys lived on a farm right down here. they did not get off the farm to build an immunity up. when they got into the army, here they are with the city boys that are carrying the measles and mumps and chickenpox. and they contact them. this is what we had to deal with. it was the country boys that got them. ok? you work close. -- you were close. we did three types of amputations, the circular amputation called the
guillotine, or we did the double flap amputation, or we did the single flap amputation. the single flap amputation was used to take your foot and hand off. i preferred myself to use the circular amputation because it worked faster and quicker and made a nice artificial stump. artificial leg when you got the one. double flap amputation -- this is the guillotine knife right here. you have to sharpen both sides. we get a hold of the tissue, poll this up off the femur, and we go in here like this right above the femur, and we would cut upward. then we pull the flap back. and my assistant would hold the leg up, and i would go underneath it, and i would make another flap. i would pull two flaps back to expose the femur. and after i exposed the femur, i would take my capital saw and i will take this take my capital one, saw and i would start sawing through it. and it had a tendency sometimes
when you did that, it would snap. like you take a two by four and saw it, and have a flange on the end. what would happen, you would a flange on the end of the femur, and we don't want that. what we would do then, we would take the bone knipper and we would knip all the way around here to make it clean. then we have the bone file and we would file this completely around, make it nice and smooth. because we don't want anything else. after that, we had a bone brush. we would take the bone brush and clean all the way around and make it smooth. then we take the artery forcep and we pull the artery out of the stump. now we tied them off. we did not cauterize it like the revolutionary war. the revolutionary war, what they did, they would have a fire going over here with a frying pan on top, cast-iron. it would get hot, they would take the cast iron thing and slept it against the stump.
-- slap it against the stump. we don't do that anymore. we advanced a little longer. we would pull it out, then take silk thread, which is in my silk case, then we take thread and thread it, tie it off. then we take the stump and the two flaps together. and it made sick like this -- thick like this because we would suture it around. the pressure pushing on it. i certainly did not like to use that. i loved the circular amputation. circular amputation or guillotine we would call it you , would just cut a complete circle, like this all the way around. then we would pull the skin off -- pull the skin off on both sides. as we did that, we would cut through the tissue and go all the way down and around, then pull the tissue off the bone. then we would do the same principle, pull off the femoral artery, tie it off. anything else like that. and then what we would do is tie off the artery, pull it down,
than what we would do, we would pack it with allum. what would happen that would littleup all the small, veins. then we would pull it skin over the top of the stump. then what we would do is take four not suture ties. what i mean by that, we would suture, tie a knot, suture, tie a knot. we had four knots across. then we had plaster adhesives that were soaking in here, and take the plaster adhesives and put them in between each of them. then what we would do is seal that up. the femoral artery, we would tie that like i said before, but we let it hang out of the stump. the stump and the bandages and stuff. what would happen then after that was when you went to the general hospital, if the surgeon came around to soon and it was too fast and it didn't heal, and he tugged on the suture thread, he could open up the femoral artery and the soldier started hemorrhaging and bleeding.
there is no way he could get the out,hers out, -- sutures untie it and get back in to re-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: thank you. next time lay on the table and i will demonstrate for real. >> all right. maybe another time. pete: now this is a giggly saw. see that? the reason for that is in 1863 we started saving arms and legs instead of cutting them off. we would not cut through. we did not go down to the bottom, just down to the damaged part. over here and cut down, spread it. now we take our giggly saw and
we would unhook it and then what we would do is put a suture thread on here and a needle and then we would go through here, underneath. and we would come up and we would saw this way and go up here and saw this way and it would make a smooth cut. like this. then we take all that damaged part out of there clean it out. ,and then we would take it and push this together, bring it together. then we take a drill and drill holes in both sides. then we would take silver wire which is this, and we would wire it together. maybe by coincidence maybe by , coincidence -- i had no knowledge of how to put nerves together, how to put veins together, but he still had blood circulation because this was connected down here. see this tissue was still connected down here, maybe by a chance when we pushed it together, the veins come
together and connected, and he had more feeling through his legs. we got better and better and 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. you know, could use it. ok. soldier laying on the table, when you see a movie with a surgeon he gets up and he is , yelling and screaming and everything else. didn't happen. didn't, didn't 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 loud number out anum out there 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. i am going to put him to sleep. i am going to cut his legs off, i am going to cut his arms off.
now i believe this. when i took my ammonia water, i place it under his nose, he starts waking up. he starts setting up. had his back into his -- he looks down and there is two legs missing. he is going to yell and scream and carry-on like you wouldn't believe. why? are country boys. these are boys that need their arms and legs to work the farm. what are you going to do? i think that is the biggest shock you can have. are country. these are boys that need their there is no way -- 90% of all the amputations done on the table in the union army were used with chloroform beneath it. we had an adequate supply. the confederacy had a hard time getting the chloroform and either because of the blockade lincoln had along the coast. the only way they could get it would be if they could over run our wagons. and then they would get them that way. this i believe they did. ,they did put a stick in their
mouth and they were drugged, but they would feel it. there is no way that i or my i researched or even my assistant surgeon over there, who searched anything that came up about fighting the bullet. i put this bullet in his mouth. and all of a sudden, he is feeling it, he is going to go "oh" and swallow it and choke to death. because there is a bullet going down. i -- we didn't find any documentation where there was, in the civil war, biting on the bullet. people set out in the field i found this bullet near a hospital and there was teeth marks on it. this is what i believe. i believe near that hospital, and later on, there was farmland. pigs were running around and everything, and the pigs pick them up and bite on them and drop them.
20 years from now you come around and find this bullet some soldier bit on. that's my belief because we don't have no documentation that said that, you know, they were biting on the bullet. ralph: the reason i have a flag here is a remembrance of the first officer to die in the civil war, colonel elmer ellsworth, may 21, 1861. hesworth had a letter and led a troop of soldiers from washington, d.c. to alexandria to get the ground war started. the union army thought the war would last two months, maybe three at the very most. when you get into alexandria, all he could find was the confederate flag flying over. everybody thinks this here is
the confederate flag. this is not what colonel ellsworth took down from the tavern. that is the first official confederate flag. seven states, seven stars. that is what colonel ellsworth had taken down from the tavern. down the steps, the 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, they took the colonel back to washington, d.c. put him at the firehouse shipyard. the word of his death spread quickly through washington, d.c. the announcement of his death went to the president to ask for permission to embalm the body. the president said he could not ask for permission because he was not a family member. after three hours of talking, they finally persuaded the president he is the father of
everyone in the military because he is the commander-in-chief. the president said go ahead. embalm the body. he embalmed the body and sent word to the white house he was done. he lied. he was not done. but when the president -- the president and mrs. lincoln stop doing what they were doing, immediately went to the firehouse. it turned out the colonel had been a close friend of the president and mrs. lincoln, had spent many hours entertaining the president's children. he was also a member of president lincoln's law staff. that is why they immediately went to the firehouse. the carriage outside the firehouse, the body laid there naked. there is the president getting out of the carriage. what are you going to do, tell him to stay in for 20 minutes? i don't think so. there have been a bunch of fights dragged the flag up to , the colonel's shoulder. the president and mrs. lincoln viewed the body and mrs. lincoln is quoted as saying it looks , like he is asleep. we know that because of newspaper reporters there at the time. he lay for a week in washington, d.c., shipped to albany, new
york where he laid for another week. newspaper reporters said, this man has been dead for two and a half weeks. there is no signs of death. no color change, no smell. it looks like he is still asleep. that's how the average person found out about embalming. dr. holmes did him free of charge and then charged $100 a person thereafter but $300 for generals. ok. these are tools of the embalming trade of 1861. this is -- about a pound of pressure. it takes less than five tons of pressure to preserve a dead person. the gravity system was used in 1701 by dr. raymond, the recorded arterial embalmer. firstthe system is still being
used in some funeral homes in 2019. these tools have been used in all funeral homes in 2019. the only thing that changed in the last 300 years are the chemicals they use. it is done exactly the same way. there was no company selling embalming fluid until 1888, until dodge started selling formaldehyde. arterial embalming is a very simple procedure. you use the carotid artery in the neck or the one in the leg. i like using the carotid artery in the neck. make an incision in the neck, bring that artery up, then put a notch in the carotid artery. floater to. tube.ateutter 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. when i get the embalming fluid, i cut the jugular vein i'm done.
, very easy to know when you are done. during the civil war, if the doctors had four or five to do, sounded like he would hook them all up at one time and take a pile of money. no, they could not. morticians in 2019 still cannot do that. we can only still do one person at a time. when you start embalming, you have to stay with the person and give them a massage. the reason being, we want to help move the fluid through the body. how do we know where it is at? rigid.becomes the lower part is not. we know we have to -- we have a blood clot we have to get rid of. stick that in the jugular vein, work it back and forth, you get blood to come out. back massage and then another spot, work it to get the fluid to come out. continuing doing that, eventually your done. 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 our stomach. take this and insert in the stomach. that is the messy part of the job. there are two openings. one is up here. you plug the throat. when you push everything out of the rectum, you plug the rectum. then you inject into the kidneys, turn around and inject into the lungs. now the person is completely preserved. there was no less than 20,000 soldiers received embalming in the civil war out of 640,000 because of cost. someone who died from disease, that was the number one reason for death in the civil war. of course the second-biggest was the battlefield. nobody talks about the third biggest reason for death in the civil war. it happened to men on both sides. they had a particular job. they called him the cook. men didn't know how to cook. it was always the woman's job back home.
that is why the generals always had women cooking for them. if the cook did not get him, the battlefield got him. just like any -- when the bottom comes out, you take some horsehair or silk and tie off the artery at the hole. take a director probe, stick the artery -- on the other side of that, come on, other side of that bullet hole -- slide it right in. then continue doing the embalming. get around the bullet holes. tie it off, simple and easy. you do not need to be embalmed to be buried in america if you are buried within 48 hours. >> 48 hours. ralph: any questions? >> thank you very much. >> thank you. ralph: you are welcome.
announcer 2: you can watch this and other american artifacts programs by visiting our website, c-span.org/history. announcer 1: "american history tv" is on c-span3 every weekend, featuring museum tours, archival films, and programs on the presidency, the civil war, and more. here is a clip on a recent program. >> so if we were to roam the halls of capitol hill in the 1830's or 1840's, and some members of the house and senate, all men, where did they drink and who was the most prominent in terms of drinking in congress? >> that is an excellent question, steve, because in a congress that was smaller than ours and a building that was physically more contained than the modern chambers, we first have to reimagine what it was like to be in the house chamber
and senate chamber which are parts of the tour today so you get a sense of how small these spaces were and how intimate. at the same time that historic capitol building had lots of crannies to god in and out of. so in the case of the congressmen at this time, there was three different places one could get a drink right on the capitol grounds. a room called the: the wall outside the senate chamber and house chamber and then in the basement a larger refectory where one got both the and spirits. how does that compare to the use of tobacco? >> it is good to connect the two topics. the world of vice in 19th-century america, tobacco and alcohol are related.
holistic inhol was the sense that one could not have open container on the floor of the house or senate, one could consume it in the hall although it will eventually be inhibited by a joint vote. tobacco was commonly consumed and you might say promoted. when a congressman walked onto the floor of the house or senate on either side of the door would be a snuff box. snuff is a finally polarized version of tobacco that can be consumed snorted. also one could openly smoke tobacco, whether through a pipe or later on cigars and cigarettes and chewing tobacco was the third form consumed in congress and speeches were commonly put out nearby on the floor of both house and senate. alcohol and tobacco are sort of twin vices in the eyes of reformers but in the users they
were hand-in-hand even though they were regulated differently. announcer 1: you can watch this and other programs on our website where all of our video is archived. that is c-span.org/history. on "american history tv" we hear from panelists about june 6, 1944, d-day. they talk about the lesser recognized contributions of women and allied governments and military forces ensuring the success of the landing on normandy's beaches. this was part of the national national ii museum conference in new orleans. this is the month of june, 1944. >> well welcome back, everyone. , it is hard to believe you get started on the very first session, and then here we are coming to our final session of the daytime programming. although it was our intent to make thi