The Role of Medical Care in the Civil War:
The Hospital and the Battlefield

Thursday, February 2, 2012
7:00–8:30 p.m. (EST) Enter Classroom Enter Forum


Margaret Humphreys
Josiah Charles Trent Associate Professor of Medical Humanities
Duke University
National Humanities Center Fellow

About the Seminar

During the Civil War, in Northern hospitals men shot rats for target practice; in Southern hospitals they roasted them for lunch. The differences that lay behind that comparison offer insights into why the North won and why the South lost.

This seminar will explore the best and worst of Civil War medicine to assess what role it played in the outcome of the War. To what extent can we say that disparities in such things as food, medicine, staffing, and cleanliness tipped the balance in favor of the North? How did treatment in the hospital affect combat on the battlefield?

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Assigned Readings

  1. Letters of a Civil War Nurse, (excerpt), Cornelia Hancock
  2. Hospital Sketches, Chapter III: A Day, Louisa May Alcott
  3. A Southern Woman’s Story, Chapter 9, Phoebe Pember

Seminar Recording