Tag Archives: Civil War

Civil War Cannons Retrieved From The Great Pee Dee River, South Carolina

Oct 23, 2016 George Winston

William Lockridge is part of a team that raised three Civil War cannons from the Great Pee Dee River.

“I had three children, and it’s kind of like having a child I guess, they show up and you’re happy and sooner or later when the crowd thins out I’ll go over and they’ll dry my babies out and I’m gonna kiss them,” he said.

The archaeologist was part of a team from the University of South Carolina.

 Each of the cannons weighs between 10,000 and 15,000 pounds. Two of them are Confederate Brooke Rifle cannons that are 11.8 and 12.25 feet each. The third is a captured Union Dahlgren cannon that is 8.9 feet long.

The cannons were artillery on the CSS Pee Dee. The gunboat was tasked with protecting the coast at the Mars Bluff Navy Yard. When it seemed the ship would be captured by the enemy, commanders ordered the cannons dumped into the river, and the ship set alight.

“Over the years ever since the guns were thrown overboard, people have always wondered about what happened to these guns, and so a number of individuals in the past, as well as present, were sort of looking for these guns,” underwater archaeologist James Spirek said.

It took twenty years for researchers to locate the first two cannons in 2009. The third one was located in 2012.

World War II veteran Catesby Jones was in the crowd watching the cannons get pulled out of the river. His great-grandfather made the Brooke Rifle Cannons in Selma, Alabama in 1863, WPDE reported.

 “I’ve been all over the country seeing these other tubes that were made in Selma, now that I’ve seen these two I’ve seen all of them,” Jones said.

“To the history of the shipyard, the history of the Confederacy, the Confederate navy, it’s a huge addition, and it can’t be measured. I don’t know that I have the words to properly express it,” Lockridge said.

Next up for the cannons is two years of soaking in preservation tubs at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston. Eventually, they will be displayed outside of the new Veterans Administration building in Florence County.

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Mystery photo unseen for 30 years may show Civil War gunship


FILE 2015: Divers prepare to descend onto the wreck site of the CSS Georgia near the channel of the Savannah River, Savannah, Ga. The recovery of the Confederate ironclad ship marks the beginning of the construction phase of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. (AP Photo/Georgia Port Authority, Stephen Morton)

John Potter says he was browsing for antiques at a yard sale in south Georgia when he came across an old picture frame containing an enigmatic image — the dark silhouette of a person in a hat and coat standing to one side and a long, boxy structure looming in the background.

Potter says he didn’t have the $175 the owner in Waycross wanted for the photograph, a hazy image further blurred by stains from water or chemicals. He also recalls finding a written clue to decoding the image on back of the frame. The inscription read: “CSS Georgia.”

“I knew exactly what it was,” said Potter, a Savannah native now living in North Carolina. “I thought, `This belongs in a museum.”‘

That was roughly 30 years ago. The only evidence of the mystery image are photographs snapped of the original to share with historian friends back in Savannah. Civil War experts say the image, if authenticated, would be the only known photograph of the CSS Georgia, an armored Confederate warship that was scuttled by its own crew 150 years ago as Gen. William T. Sherman’s Union troops captured Savannah.

“Believe me, if I had thought that the image was the CSS Georgia, I would have moved mountains to make sure we got it.”- Paul Blatner, museum curator

Experts still have many questions about the sunken ironclad, and they think the original photo could help them find answers.

“The photo is just as much a mystery as the CSS Georgia, because nobody has seen it in years,” said Julie Morgan, an archaeologist for the Army Corps of Engineers.

The federal agency is spending $14 million to raise the Confederate ship’s wreckage from the bottom of the Savannah River. Divers have been in the water since January and work is expected to wrap up this fall.

In a military sense, the CSS Georgia was an ironclad flop that never fired a shot in battle. The Civil War ushered in the era of armored warships. In Savannah, a Ladies Gunboat Association raised $115,000 to build such a ship to protect the city. But the 120-foot-long CSS Georgia’s engines proved too weak to propel its 1,200-ton frame against river currents. It stayed anchored off Fort Jackson as a floating gun battery before it was scuttled in December 1864.

No photographs of the ironclad have been confirmed. Neither have blueprints or construction plans. Several artists drew renderings of the CSS Georgia, but they differ in their details.

If the image Potter found the 1980s could be authenticated, would it necessarily be the CSS Georgia?

Robert Holcombe, former curator of the National Civil War Naval Museum in Columbus, dug up archival information on the CSS Georgia for a report to the Army Corps in 2003. Holcombe said the shape in the photo conforms with known aspects of the CSS Georga’s design that made it unique among ironclads — namely an armored casemate that covered the ship’s entire deck with sides sloped at 45-degree angles.

“If it’s an original, it’s certainly the Georgia, just by process of elimination,” Holcombe said. If the photo isn’t authentic, he said, “it’s an awfully good fake.”

The Army Corps is spreading word that it’s seeking the original photograph through its website and by using social media. Morgan said she hopes the owner may have other relics related to the ironclad.

Potter said he tried unsuccessfully to reconnect with the photo’s owner, who soon moved away from Waycross. He donated a photo of the original image to the Georgia Historical Society, which confirmed it received Potter’s gift in March 1986.

A couple of years later, Potter said, he got a letter from a family member of the original image’s owner. He said the letter, which he no longer has, claimed the original photograph had been donated to the Savannah History Museum.

Paul Blatner, the museum’s curator and director from 1984 to 1990, said he never saw a photograph of any Confederate ironclad during his tenure.

“Believe me,” Blatner said, “if I had thought that the image was the CSS Georgia, I would have moved mountains to make sure we got it.”

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American Cities at the Turn of the 19th Century

Photos of American cities from Civil War era to 1912…

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1863: Stokes Illustrated Almanac of Fashion (Middle of Civil War, includes Military and Civilian Wear)

SOURCE: US National Archives

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Image found of Confederate White House housekeeper

Confederate Housekeeper660.jpg

Mary OMelia is seen in an undated photo provided by the American Civil War Museum. OMelia served at the White House of the Confederacy in Richmond, Va.,as housekeeper for Jefferson Davis and his first lady, Varina Davis, and was a confidante of the first lady.The American Civil War Museum

Mary O’Melia left Ireland for America as a young widow with three children before she was hired as housekeeper at the White House of the Confederacy. An intimate witness to history, she also has been much of a mystery.

That was until this year, when a woman with a distinctive Irish lilt to her voice called The American Civil War Museum. The housekeeper, the woman said, was related to her late husband, and she had in her possession a necklace that Confederate first lady Varina Davis gave O’Melia.

But there was more.

“What really took my breath away is she said she had a photograph of Mary,” said Cathy Wright, curator at the Civil War Museum, formerly the Museum of the Confederacy.

“Considering that it’s been almost 150 years since she left the White House that anyone has been able to look at her face is just remarkable,” Wright said in an interview.

The tintype adds a human dimension to what is a tantalizing but frustrating portrait of a woman who left her children in Baltimore to oversee the White House in the capital of the Confederacy during the duration of the Civil War but publicly revealed little of the experience.

O’Melia was among a staff of 20, was a confidante to the first lady, and may have been in the mansion in April 1865 when President Abraham Lincoln visited after Confederate defenders left the city smoldering. Historical records are unclear on that point.

The discovery is important nonetheless because the museum, which is next door to the White House, has strived to piece together the often untold lives of the African-American slaves, free people of color and European immigrants who worked as domestics for the Davis family.

“One of the more elusive figures was Mary O’Melia,” Wright said.

O’Melia was a central character in this Southern version of “Downton Abbey” and she remains a bit of an enigma. Even her name is a mystery. It’s been spelled various ways through the years — O’Melia, O’Malley and O’Malla.

This much is known: she was born Mary Larkin on April 7, 1822, in Galway, in western Ireland. She was educated in a convent, and apparently the fine needlework the religious order of nuns taught her may have influenced her hiring by Varina Davis.

She married a ship captain, Matthias O’Melia, but was widowed at age 25 when he was lost at sea.

While the circumstances of her journey to America are not known, Mary O’Melia settled in Baltimore in about 1850. In 1861, she left her children with relatives and headed to visit friends in Richmond, where she was marooned when Virginia left the Union.

Told by friends Varina Davis could help her return north, she appealed to the Roman Catholic bishop to intercede on her behalf.

Ultimately, Davis prevailed upon O’Melia to take the position as housekeeper and companion to the first lady despite O’Melia’s separation from her children.

O’Melia would eventually remain at the Confederate White House until Richmond’s fall in 1865.

Despite her perch within the Confederate seat of power, O’Melia left little written accounts of her years in Richmond. She left it to others to speculate on her employment, including a reporter who wrote after her death of all the “exciting conferences” she would have witnessed.

When the first family left Richmond in April 1865, O’Melia remained to oversee the mansion.

Writing from Danville days after his departure, President Jefferson Davis wrote to his wife: “Mrs. Omelia behaved just as you described her, but seemed anxious to serve and promised to take care of everything which may mean some things.”

Perhaps a more telling gesture of O’Melia’s connection to the first family of the Confederacy was her correspondence with the Davis family after they parted and a wedding she and Varina Davis attended in 1867. They were the only white people in attendance at the wedding of Ellen Barnes, who had served in the White House.

When Jefferson Davis died in 1889, O’Melia attended a memorial in Baltimore. A reporter said she “attracted considerable attention” and was described as “a well-preserved old lady.”

Wright said O’Melia’s story resonates particularly with her because she calls herself the “modern housekeeper of the White House of the Confederacy.

“I’m supposed to be over there keeping it clean and maintaining it so I’ve always felt a personal affinity for her,” she said.

After her service at the White House, O’Melia returned to Baltimore where she operated boarding houses until her death in 1907.

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American Holocaust

In World War 2 some 50-80 million people died.  The Holocaust, the actual planned extermination of people by the Nazis resulted in 12-14 million deaths, about half Jewish, the others slavs, political opponents, communists, performers and anyone else considered an enemy of Aryan rule.

In the United States at the height of slavery, Slave owners held captive around 4,000,000 black people as slaves.  During the Civil War, 620,000 men died in battle, or roughly the same amount as every other American war combined, including WW1, WW2 and Viet Nam.  A full 2% of the American population, or 1 in 50 died in the conflict.

I am sure you know about World War 2, the Holocaust and the Civil War fought to free 4 million slaves.  But what about the ongoing American Holocaust?  Since Roe vs. Wade in 1973, over 56 million abortions have occurred in the United States.  Black children are aborted at four to five times the rate of other children.  Though only 17% of the population, they represent half the abortions.

In the United States, roughly 9,000 murder victims are identified each year.  Half of them are black victims.  93% of the perpetrators are also black.  Why are these numbers not a clarion call for change?

We have lost around 28 million potential black American citizens in the last 50 years to abortion.  Seven times the number of slaves prior to emancipation, and twice the total number of dead in the holocaust, four times the numbers of Jews slain in the holocaust.

In murders, we lost another 250,000 young black people, many at the hands of their own fellows.

It’s time we stop race baiting over comments made on blogs or by politicians or by sports figures and look at the horror of our own American Holocaust.  Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, I plead with you to consider the socio-economic impacts of a country that eliminates the same number of its citizens as the entire world lost in WW2.  And, like WW2, the victims are the poor and the minorities.

Something has to be done.  We have lost two generations of young black Americans that could have done so much for this country.  Help support adoption, birth control, strong families, counseling, domestic abuse prevention and our churches in needy communities.  If we have to, start small.  Adopt one child.  Pay for one family to choose life and adoption over abortion.  Help one family have housing and food.

Will history sweep under the rug one of the greatest atrocities in cost of life?  Is this magnitude of impact what any pro-choice advocate wants?  Let’s work together to stand up.  We need the next generation.  ALL of the next generation, not just the wealthy, not just the white, but everyone.

How many black leaders and heroes like the following have we missed out on their lives due to our holocaust?


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We Used to Be Tougher

We used to be tougher people.  I like looking at old movies, books and pictures to get a feel for how things were.  It is hard to get rid of our own lifestyles in our head and put ourselves in earlier times.  In 1893 the Industrial Revolution was well under way, America was connected by railroads across the continent, the Civil War had ended 28 years earlier, so it was the last generation’s war.  Oil, steel, and the Industrial barons were on the scene and big cities sprung up with hazardous conditions.

Still, you wore proper outfits.  Princeton, an Ivy league school of prestige, even then, was where gentlemen went to become the leaders and even Presidents of tomorrow.  But we were not a people who settled our quarrels through attorneys or played video games.  A man was expected to fight and take his licks.  The following is a picture of college students following a Freshman vs. Sophomore snowball fight.  It is remarkable to me because if you saw this picture today on TV with the caption – Princeton students after snowball fight – imagine the lawsuits, the TV coverage, the outrage, etc.  Back then, it was a picture they probably kept and showed their families with a chuckle.

Princeton students after a Freshman / Sophomore snowball fight. Princeton, NJ, 1893.

snowball fight

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A Five Year War Starts at Your House and Finishes At Your House

A Five Year War Starts at Your House and Finishes At Your House

How could this be?  Ask poor Wilmer McLean.  When federal troops headed south to enforce the union and bring secessionists states back into the fold, they were met by Confederate forces under General PGT Beauregard at the First Battle of Bull Run, called Manassas in the South.  During the battle, Wilmer McLean’s house was used as the Headquarters for General PGT Beauregard.  During supper, a cannon ball hit the house and fell through the kitchen roof rolling around the table where they were eating.  So, the Civil War started, fought on McClean’s front porch and in his kitchen.


Wilmer McLean around 1860

Wilmer McClean felt a change of location would be good for his health, so he packed up and moved.  In the Spring of 1863, he moved to a quiet place in Virginia where he could live in peace.  Later, near the end of the war, the Confederates were beaten and surrounded.  They decided to surrender at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.  They looked around for a suitable home for the ceremony and chose – the home of Wilmer McClean.  General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General US Grant in the parlor of McClean’s home.

After the ceremony, officers started taking away McClean’s furniture as souvenirs of the event, throwing money at him as payment.  General Ord payed $40 for the table they signed the surrender on, General Sheridan paid $20 for the table it was drafted on.  Chairs, furnishings, anything not bolted down was removed, most not being paid for.  Poor Wilmer McLean who had tried to avoid combat was in the wrong place at the wrong time again.

I believe he was the only man in history who can honestly say that a major war (the American Civil War in this case) started in his front yard, and ended in his parlor.  It was his claim to fame for the remainder of his life.

Appomattox Court House

Appomattox Court House

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Sailors from USS Monitor buried in Arlington – 150 years later…

150 years later, Union sailors from USS Monitor to be buried at Arlington


Published March 04, 2013


  • monitor.jpg

    The bodies were found when the USS Monitor’s rusty gun turret was raised from the ocean floor. ( National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Two Navy sailors slated for heroes’ burials at Arlington National Cemetery have waited a century and a half for the honor.

The men were among the crew members who perished aboard the legendary Union battleship the USS Monitor, which fought an epic Civil War battle with Confederate vessel The Merrimack in the first battle between two ironclad ships in the Battle of Hampton Roads, on March 9, 1862.

Nine months later, the Monitor sank in rough seas off of Cape Hatteras, where it was discovered in 1973. Two skeletons and the tattered remains of their uniforms were discovered in the rusted hulk of the Union ironclad in 2002, when its 150-ton turret was brought to the surface. The Navy spent most of a decade trying to determine the identity of the remains through DNA testing.

“It’s been interesting to be connected to something so momentous, and we’re looking forward to the ceremony.”

– Diana Rambo, possible descendant of USS Monitor sailor 

“These may very well be the last Navy personnel from the Civil War to be buried at Arlington,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said. “It’s important we honor these brave men and all they represent as we reflect upon the significant role Monitor and her crew had in setting the course of our modern Navy.”

Although testing has narrowed the identities of the men down to six, descendants of all 16 soldiers who died when the ship sank are expected at the ceremony. Diana Rambo, of Fresno, Calif., said DNA testing showed a 50 percent chance that one man was Jacob Nicklis, her grandfather’s uncle. A ring on his right finger matched one in an old photograph, adding to the likelihood he was her relative. She plans to be at the cemetery when he is buried.

“It’s been interesting to be connected to something so momentous, and we’re looking forward to the ceremony,” Rambo told FoxNews.com.

She said the development has brought several branches of the family together as they sift through old letters and photos and piece together their shared genealogy. One letter in particular made her long-lost relative seem real.

“I’ve started doing the research, and even read letters he wrote to his father saying he really didn’t want to go,” said Rambo, who was able to tell her 90-year-old mother of the Navy’s revelation a week before her death. “And you think about how many of these kids today are in that situation.”

David Alberg, superintendent of the Monitor sanctuary, pressed for the pair to have Arlington burial honors, as did the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Maritime Heritage Program and descendants of the surviving Monitor crewmembers.

Although most schoolkids learn that the Monitor fought the Merrimack to a draw in 1862, the ship that the Monitor took on was actually dubbed the Virginia, and built on the hull of the U.S. Navy frigate USS Merrimack. Some 16 sailors died when the Monitor sank, while about 50 more crewmembers were plucked from the sea by the crew of the Rhode Island.

Although the Monitor sank soon after the battle, it still outlasted the Virginia, which the Confederates were forced to scuttle in early May. The Monitor sailed up the James River to support the Army during the Peninsula Campaign, taking part in the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff before sinking while being towed during a storm off the Carolina coast. The ship’s gun turret, engine and other relics are on display at the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/03/04/150-years-later-union-sailors-from-uss-monitor-to-be-buried-at-arlington/#ixzz2NCYc6twQ

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Civil War Medical Innovations

5 Medical Innovations of the Civil War


by Chip Rowe

As it turns out, the bloodiest war in American history was also one of the most influential in battlefield medicine. Civil War surgeons learned fast, and many of their MacGyver-like solutions have had a lasting impact. Here are some of the advances and the people behind them.

1. Life-Saving Amputation

The General Who Visited His Leg

The old battlefield technique of trying to save limbs with doses of TLC (aided by wound-cleaning rats and maggots) quickly fell out of favor during the Civil War, even for top officers. The sheer number of injured was too high, and war surgeons quickly discovered that the best way to stave deadly infections was simply to lop off the area—quickly.

Among those saved by the saw was Daniel E. Sickles, the eccentric commander of the 3rd Army Corps. In 1863, at the Battle of Gettysburg, the major general’s right leg was shattered by a Confederate shell. Within the hour, the leg was amputated just above the knee. His procedure, publicized in the military press, paved the way for many more. Since the new Army Medical Museum in Washington, D.C., had requested battle-field donations, Sickles sent the limb to them in a box labeled “With the compliments of Major General D.E.S.” Sickles visited his leg yearly on the anniversary of its emancipation.

Amputation saved more lives than any other wartime medical procedure by instantly turning complex injuries into simple ones. Battlefield surgeons eventually took no more than six minutes to get each moaning man on the table, apply a handkerchief soaked in chloroform or ether, and make the deep cut. Union surgeons became the most skilled limb hackers in history. Even in deplorable conditions, they lost only about 25 percent of their patients—compared to a 75 percent mortality rate among similarly injured civilians at the time. The techniques invented by wartime surgeons—including cutting as far from the heart as possible and never slicing through joints—became the standard.

As for the nutty-sounding behavior of the leg-visiting commander, Sickles can be justifiably accused. In 1859, while serving in Congress, he shot and killed U.S. Attorney Philip Barton Key, the son of Francis Scott Key, for sleeping with Sickles’s wife. Charged with murder, Sickles became the first person in the United States to be found not guilty by reason of temporary insanity.

2. The Anesthesia Inhaler

A Knockout Breakthrough

In 1863, Stonewall Jackson’s surgeon recommended the removal of his left arm, which had been badly damaged by friendly fire. When a chloroform-soaked cloth was placed over his nose, the Confederate general, in great pain, muttered, “What an infinite blessing,” before going limp.

But such blessings were in short supply. The Confederate Army had a tough time securing enough anesthesia because of the Northern blockade. The standard method of soaking a handkerchief with chloroform wasted the liquid as it evaporated. Dr. Julian John Chisolm solved the dilemma by inventing a 2.5-inch inhaler, the first of its type. Chloroform was dripped through a perforated circle on the side onto a sponge in the interior; as the patient inhaled through tubes, the vapors mixed with air. This new method required only one-eighth of an ounce of chloroform, compared to the old 2-ounce dose. So while Union surgeons knocked out their patients 80,000 times during the war, rebels treated nearly as many with a fraction of the supplies.

3. Closing Chest Wounds

The Cub Doctor Who Kept Lungs From Collapsing

In the early part of the war, Benjamin Howard, a lowly young assistant surgeon, was shuttled to the sidelines with medical grunt work: changing bandages, suturing wounds, and grabbing grub for the docs. But when the other surgeons decided there was no point in treating chest wounds, Howard experimented with a new life-saving procedure.

At the onset of the war, a sucking chest wound was almost certainly a death sentence. Among French soldiers shot in the chest during the Crimean War (1853–1856), only 8 percent survived. The problem, as Howard came to realize, wasn’t the wound itself, but the sucking. The negative pressure in the thorax was created by the opening in the chest cavity. The effect often caused the lungs to collapse, leading to suffocation.

The cub doctor found that if he closed the wound with metal sutures, followed by alternating layers of lint or linen bandages and a few drops of collodion (a syrupy solution that forms an adhesive film when it dries), he could create an airtight seal. Survival rates quadrupled, and Howard’s innovation soon became standard treatment.

4. Facial Reconstruction

The Plastic Surgery Revolution

Carleton Burgan of Maryland was in terrible shape. The 20-year-old private had survived pneumonia, but the mercury pills he took as a treatment led to gangrene, which quickly spread from his mouth to his eye and led to the removal of his right cheekbone. He was willing to try anything. In a pioneering series of operations in 1862, a surgeon from City Hospital in New York used dental and facial fixtures to fill in the missing bone until Burgan’s face regained its shape.

The doctor was Gurdon Buck, now considered the father of modern plastic surgery. During the war, he and other Union surgeons completed 32 revolutionary “plastic operations” on disfigured soldiers. Buck was the first to photograph the progress of his repairs and the first to make gradual changes over several operations. He also pioneered the use of tiny sutures to minimize scarring.

To some, it seemed pretty wacky, like sci-fi for the 19th century. An Illinois newspaper enthusiastically and erroneously described the new treatments: “Such is the progress of the medical department in these parts that half of a man’s face demolished by a ball or piece of shell is replaced by a cork face!”

5. The Ambulance-to-ER System

The End of Drunks and Cowards

President Abraham Lincoln and General George B. McClellan at Antietam

The Union went into the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861, expecting a mere skirmish. The rebels brought a war. Although 1,011 Union soldiers were wounded, empty ambulances led the retreat to Washington, D.C. Most of the civilian drivers at the time were untrained and “of the lowest character,” according to Dr. Henry Ingersoll Bowditch, an activist whose son died after lying wounded for hours following a charge. Many were cowards or drunkards, he added.

It took Jonathan Letterman, the medical director of the Army of the Potomac, just six weeks to implement a brilliant system to evacuate and care for the wounded, becoming the model for the ambulance-to-ER system we know today. On September 17, 1862, the Battle of Antietam left 2,108 Union soldiers dead and nearly 10,000 wounded. Letterman established caravans of 50 ambulances, each with a driver and two stretcher bearers, to ferry the injured to field hospitals. He hired private wagons to carry medical supplies to circumvent enemy damage to railroad lines. He even introduced spring suspensions to ambulances and added a lock box under the driver’s seat to make it harder for soldiers to steal protein, bedsacks, and morphine reserved for the wounded. The rest is history.

This article originally appeared in the November-December 2011 issue of mental_floss magazine.

– See more at: http://mentalfloss.com/article/31326/5-medical-innovations-civil-war#sthash.Ci4q2j4D.dpuf

Read the full text here: http://mentalfloss.com/article/31326/5-medical-innovations-civil-war#ixzz2MRf2WhmO
–brought to you by mental_floss!

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