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Civil War Medicine Symposium – Saturday, October 15th

Civil War Medicine Symposium

Co-sponsored and Presented by the Blue & Gray Hospital Association and the Gettysburg Foundation
Kinsley Leadership Center at the George Spangler Farm & Field Hospital
Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022 | 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

On Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, the Blue & Gray Hospital Association and the Gettysburg Foundation are partnering to co-sponsor and present the inaugural “Civil War Medicine Symposium” in the Kinsley Leadership Center at the historic George Spangler Farm & Field Hospital, 488 Blacksmith Shop Road, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The Symposium event will begin with registration, followed by an 8:15 a.m. introduction with topics presented from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m.

The symposium will cover various topics on Civil War medicine and its importance in the overall study of the American Civil War. When learning about battles like the Battle of Gettysburg, the focus of attention has been on the generals and the soldiers who took part. The fight that took place behind the lines–the struggle to save lives–is often overlooked. Some of the topics to be covered in this inaugural event and future symposiums are related to the people who served as caregivers on both sides (medical staff, nurses, chaplains, surgeons and others). Other topics include the battlefield medicine system utilized on both sides, equipment used by both sides to treat the sick and wounded, disease and its impact on the health of soldiers, and field relief organizations for both North and South and their roles in Civil War medicine.

Symposium Schedule & Presenters:

 7:45-8:15 a.m. | Registration & Check In

8:15-8:30 a.m. | Welcome & Introduction

8:30-9:30 a.m. | “Between the Battlefield and the Bullet: The United States Army Medical Department in the Civil War” with Director and Co-Founder of the Blue & Gray Hospital Association, Vice President of the First Defenders Civil War Roundtable of Berks County, Pennsylvania, historian, lecturer, researcher, collector and author Mark Quattrock

 Quattrock will discuss the United States Army Medical Department and its importance during the Civil War. At the start of the Civil War, the Medical Department had less than 200 people and encountered severe problems early on, with a shortage of personnel and supplies, poor quality ambulances run by the Quartermaster Department, a flawed Field Hospital System, insufficient general hospitals and poor leadership at the top. All this began to change when in April 1862, Dr. William Hammond was appointed Surgeon General of the Medical Department. During his tenure as Surgeon General, Hammond implemented changes that helped improve the Medical Department and instill professionalism and accountability within the organization. In addition to the accomplishments made, Hammond appointed Dr. Jonathan Letterman as Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac. Letterman created his famous Letterman System, the cornerstone of Battlefield Medicine today. We will examine the parts of the Letterman System and how it evolved over the course of the war.

Quattrock will discuss the equipment used and the operations the Medical Department performed in the field. The Civil War was the first war where anesthesia was widely used. In the field and at the general hospitals, the Medical Department received additional help from volunteer nurses and field relief organizations, including the Ladies Aid Societies and the U.S. Sanitary and Christian Commissions. When the war ended, the Department was an organization of 12,000. Despite the horrific battles that occurred and the tremendous number of casualties, the Medical Department made major advancements that still impact us today with how we treat people both in the Civilian Emergency Medical Services and Military Medicine.

9:30-10:30 a.m. | “Clara Barton and the Missing Soldiers Office” with retired high school administrator, educator, author and independent historian Carolyn Ivanoff

Miss Clara Barton was known as the “Angel of the Battlefield” for her service as a nurse and relief worker during the Civil War. In March of 1865, with written permission from President Lincoln, Barton established the Missing Soldiers Office in her boarding house on 7th Street in Washington, D.C. As the Civil War was ending, over 40 percent of the dead remained unidentified. Tens of thousands of grieving families did not know the fate of their loved ones. From the time Barton first went onto the battlefield, she was acutely aware and deeply concerned about the future of the men for whom she cared and their families. Her wartime diaries are filled with the jotting of names, rank, regiments and wounds these men suffered. After their deaths, she noted their burials, comrades and family members whenever she could.

 With the opening of the Missing Soldiers Office, Barton dedicated herself to searching for the missing and the identification of the dead. She financed this work from 1865 until 1868 by living frugally, lecturing about her wartime experiences and eventually receiving $15,000 from Congress. By the time the office closed in 1868, Barton had worked herself into exhaustion. Before the advent of typewriters or computers, the office had published five separate rolls containing over 6,500 names. Her office had processed over 60,000 inquiries. More than 23,000 unknown dead were identified, 13,000 at Andersonville alone. In 1868, Barton left for Europe to recover her health. Upon her return to the United States, Barton dedicated herself to founding the American Red Cross. By the end of her life in 1912, her work had touched millions of lives around the world and continues to do so today.

10:30-10:45 a.m. | Break

10:45-11:45 a.m. | “Treatment of African American Soldiers” with former United States Marine Corps  captain, retired leadership development director, leadership workshop presenter and author Doug Shupinski

 By the end of the American Civil War, over 180,000 Black troops were serving as members of the Union army. These men were invaluable to the Union war effort, serving as combat soldiers in numerous campaigns and battles, as well as serving as garrison and support troops in a variety of theaters. However, despite their contributions and sacrifices, Union medical records clearly indicate that these Black soldiers died from both disease and wounds at a higher rate than their white counterparts. In addition, the rates of contracting disease and illness were higher among the members of the USCT than in other units within the Union army. A variety of hypotheses have been suggested to account for these disparities. These hypotheses include limited previous exposure to certain diseases, various environmental issues and racial bias.

Shupinski will explore the nature of the contrasts between the illnesses and deaths of Black and white troops, the nature of medical care each group received and a discussion of why these disparities may have occurred.

11:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m. | Lunch & Explore the George Spangler Farm & Field Hospital

1:15-2:15 p.m. | “Civil War Nurses” with Salisbury University Professor of Nursing, Delaware Technical & Community College instructor, Registered Nurse, Doctor of Education, National Museum of Civil War Medicine Board member, docent and presenter, Blue & Gray Hospital Association Board member and living historian William Campbell

As the Civil War began in 1861, there were thousands of soldiers with contagious diseases followed by thousands more with wounds that created great demands for medical care, nursing care and healthcare. There were limited resources to meet these demands with few surgeons, minimal basic medical care, no trained nurses, little nursing care and disorganization. A call went out for nurses. The military attempted to answer it with detailed soldiers, but with no training or experience, they were of little help.

The religious orders, Dorothea Dix, the USSC and countless female volunteers answered the call. Females with family-related nursing experience came forward to deliver nursing care to strangers. Limited training started. Florence Nightingale would even be indirectly involved from far-away London. Organization was created out of chaos. By 1865, thousands of veterans sang the praises for these nurses and called for their presence in healthcare. A new profession of trained and experienced nurses evolved with the Civil War as the catalyst for this new female profession.

2:15-2:30 p.m. | Break

2:30-3:30 p.m. | “Medical Care in the Battle of Gettysburg” with retired infectious disease specialist, reenactor, Blue & Gray Hospital Association member, lecturer and researcher in the field of Civil War medicine, docent and living historian Dr. Jon Willen

On July 1-3, 1863, some 180,000 Union and Confederate troops clashed in the Battle of Gettysburg, resulting in some 57,000 casualties and approximately 8,000 deaths. In the aftermath of the battle, some 21,000 casualties remained on the field, requiring the fortitude and skill of both Union and Confederate medical personnel.

Willen will discuss the events involved in caring for the wounded and sick in the days, weeks and months during and after the battle.

3:30-4 p.m. | Q & A Session & Wrap Up

Symposium attendees will have the opportunity to interact with the panel of presenters in a question-and-answer session at the end of the day.

Both in-person and virtual attendance options are available to participate in the Civil War Medicine Symposium. In-person attendance is limited to 25 attendees and includes lunch for a cost of $85 per person. Virtual attendance is offered at a cost of $70. Members of the Blue & Gray Hospital Association and the Friends of Gettysburg receive a $10 discount. Reservations are required in advance. In-person registration closes Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022.

Here is the link to register for the Symposium:

Interested people can also call the Foundation to register at 877-874-2478


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