Reference Blog Entries

Medicine in the Civil War Era

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Sketch of bottles and equipment to administer ether

PBS television has begun airing a new series called Mercy Street. The setting is Alexandria, Virginia during the Civil War. Most of the scenes take place in a hotel that has been converted into a hospital to treat the casualties of nearby battles. The wounded are from both the Union and Confederate Armies.  The action centers around the hospital staff, especially two young and inexperienced female nurses.

As you watch, if you are like me, you can’t help but be curious about the practice of medicine at that time.  According to the producer, PBS has been careful to portray medical procedures just as they would have been carried out. They have employed a medical history expert (Stanley B. Burns, MD) to be on the set to advise them while they were filming the episodes. 

If the television series has piqued your curiosity and you would like to learn more about the history of surgery, physicians, anesthetics, hospitals, infectious diseases and more, you can log onto these library databases. You will need to enter your library card number and PIN to access the information.   

If you would like to learn more about medicine of that time in Ohio go to these websites:

As always, if you have any difficulty accessing the information that you need, call us at (614) 486-3342 or send us an email at We will be happy to assist you.


Logo for the American Civil War databaseLogo for Daily Life through HistoryLogo for Dictionary of American History database