Civil War Surgery

Civil War Medicine Podcast

This week on my History with Mark Bielski podcast, Dr. Kenneth Rettig joins me in a continuation of our discussion on medicine during the Civil War. We look into a comparison of medical techniques, remedies and emergency treatments then and now in the modern military. Check out an earlier episode, “Civil War Medicine: Practices Then and Now,” for a deeper dive into a subject that has fascinated historians for decades. LISTEN NOW>> Excerpt From a Medical Report After Antietam Gross misrepresentations of the conduct of medical officers have been made and scattered broadcast over the country, causing deep and heart-rending anxiety to those who had friends or relatives in the army, who might at any moment require the services of a surgeon. It is not to be supposed that there were no incompetent surgeons in the army. It is certainly true that there were; but these sweeping denunciations against a class of men who will favorably compare with the military surgeons of any country, because of the incompetency and short-comings of a few, are wrong, and do injustice to a body of men who have labored faithfully and well. It is easy to magnify an existing evil until it is…

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Finnish soliders in the snow WWII

History Happenings Winter: Civil War, WWII, Russian Revolution

This month, I cover events that have happened in history during winter, from the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century to 1940, when all of Europe was in a deep freeze, to rival the recent polar vortex. The Civil War was brewing as the states of the Deep South seceded to form the Confederacy in 1861, and the last battle of the War of 1812 took place right downriver from the city of New Orleans. We see Finland stand up to the Bolsheviks after the Russian Revolution and we even share a few notes about how quisling has become synonymous with “collaborator” or “treachery” or just plain Treason. 17th Century At the end of January in 1695, Mustafa II became the Ottoman sultan in Istanbul on the death of Amhed II. His main goal was to restore the territories that the Turks had lost on the European continent in the previous two decades or so. Really it started in September 1683 when Polish King Jan Sobieski smashed the Ottomans at the Battle of Vienna. He and his allies, the Holy League, comprised of the Holy Roman Empire and smaller surrounding states, began to push the Turks back after that. While Mustafa…

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coming June 28 – Leadership Part II

Prof. Harry Laver returns to continue the discussion on the essential qualities of Leadership, leaders who embody them—and some leaders who do not—and his book edited with Jeffrey J. Matthews, The Art of Command: Military Leadership from George Washington to Colin Powell. from Goodreads.com   What essential leadership lessons do we learn by distilling the actions and ideas of great military commanders such as George Washington, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Colin Powell? That is the fundamental question underlying The Art of Command: Military Leadership from George Washington to Colin Powell. The book illustrates that great leaders become great through conscious effort — a commitment not only to develop vital skills but also to surmount personal shortcomings. Harry S. Laver, Jeffrey J. Matthews, and the other contributing authors identify nine core characteristics of highly effective leadership, such as integrity, determination, vision, and charisma, and nine significant figures in American military history whose careers embody those qualities. The Art of Command examines each figure’s strengths and weaknesses and how those attributes affected their leadership abilities, offering a unique perspective of military leadership in American history. Laver and Matthews have assembled a list of contributors from military, academic, and professional circles, which allows the book…

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D-Day Deception

On this week’s episode of History with Mark Bielski, ”Operation Overlord/Deception Plans,” in honor of D-Day, I discuss Operation Overlord, the planning of the D-Day invasion, and the deception operations. This podcast includes excerpts from Dr. Stephen Ambrose’s lectures on WWII. You will also want to listen to my two-part interview with D-Day veteran, Mort Sheffloe (July 12 and 26, 2017 episodes). Last year, Mort traveled with me on a tour and we discussed his WWII experiences in Normandy and Brittany in 1944. Some of the interviews took place while walking the sands of Utah and Omaha Beaches and at nearby cafes. Podcasts

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May Historical Events: Civil War

1856 Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, an outspoken abolitionist, gave an oration attacking not only the institution of slavery, but two Senators personally, Stephen Douglas of Illinois and Andrew Butler of South Carolina for supporting it in his “Crime Against Kansas” speech. Three days later, South Carolina Rep. Preston Brooks, Butler’s cousin, entered the chamber and severely beat Sumner with a cane.  The bleeding and unconscious Sumner had to be carried from the floor, while Brooks walked away unscathed.  The “Caning” incident made Sumner a martyr in the North, while many Southerners proclaimed Brooks a champion for defending the honor of his relative. 1863 On 2 May in the Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia, General Stonewall Jackson executed a brilliant flanking attack on the Union right.  In a surprise attack, his Confederates smashed into and routed the Union XI Corps under General Oliver O. Howard.  That night, while leading a group of officers on a night reconnaissance ride, Jackson was mistakenly wounded by friendly fire. After the wounding, the ambulance wagon took him some twenty miles away to a home at Guinea Station.  The surgeons amputated his left arm, but the bed-ridden Jackson subsequently contracted pneumonia and died on 10 May.

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Civil War Medicine

An excerpt from the medical report after Antietam: Gross misrepresentations of the conduct of medical officers have been made and scattered broadcast over the country, causing deep and heart-rending anxiety to those who had friends or relatives in the army, who might at any moment require the services of a surgeon. It is not to be supposed that there were no incompetent surgeons in the army. It is certainly true that there were; but these sweeping denunciations against a class of men who will favorably compare with the military surgeons of any country, because of the incompetency and short-comings of a few, are wrong, and do injustice to a body of men who have labored faithfully and well. It is easy to magnify an existing evil until it is beyond the bounds of truth. It is equally easy to pass by the good that has been done on the other side. Some medical officers lost their lives in their devotion to duty in the battle of Antietam, and others sickened from excessive labor which they conscientiously and skillfully performed. Dr. Jonathan Letterman, Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac

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The Civil War: April 1861

11-14 April – Charleston, SC -Thursday to Sunday. A South Carolina delegation of three men delivered a demand for surrender to Major Robert Anderson at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. The message was from Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard and stated that they intended to take “possession of a fortification commanding the entrance of one of their harbors . . . necessary to its defense and security.” They let Anderson know that they would not fire upon his position if he advised them of the time of the evacuation of the Union troops stationed there. Anderson replied that he also would not fire except in response., but that he would evacuate on 15 April if he did not receive supplies coming from the Federal government. The Confederates were aware that a supply ship was en route and deemed the answer unsatisfactory. At 0430 on Friday a signal shot opened a barrage from the other batteries in rotation. Anderson had a garrison of 85 officers and men as well as over forty laborers who worked in the fort. They began to return fire at 0700. On Saturday, after thirty-four hours of bombardment, a rash of fires and destruction, and some minor injuries,…

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Predicting Pearl Harbor: Ron Drez Discusses His Latest Book

From Commodore Matthew Perry’s 1853 voyage into Japanese waters to the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States and Japan were on a collision course. Gen. Billy Mitchell recognized the signs and foresaw the eventual showdown between the two nations―eighteen years before the tragedy of Pearl Harbor. Yet his predictions were dismissed out of hand. Mitchell’s attempts to have his theories taken seriously led to scorn and a subsequent court martialing. Primary-source documents, memoirs, and firsthand testimonies deliver an exhaustive background to Mitchell’s prescient reports. Now, historian Ronald J. Drez finally gives credence to the man called the “Cassandra General.”

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April Historical Events: Civil War and WWII

“April is the cruelest month” according to T.S. Eliot, but was he also thinking historically? You decide if these events qualify. Civil War 1861 11-14 April – Charleston, SC -Thursday to Sunday. A South Carolina delegation of three men delivered a demand for surrender to Major Robert Anderson at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.  The message was from Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard and stated that they intended to take “possession of a fortification commanding the entrance of one of their harbors . . . necessary to its defense and security.” They let Anderson know that they would not fire upon his position if he advised them of the time of the evacuation of the Union troops stationed there. Anderson replied that he also would not fire except in response, but that he would evacuate on 15 April if he did not receive supplies coming from the Federal government.The Confederates were aware that a supply ship was en route and deemed the answer unsatisfactory. At 0430 on Friday a signal shot opened a barrage from the other batteries in rotation. Anderson had a garrison of 85 officers and men as well as over forty laborers who worked in the fort. They began…

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CSS Manassas rams USS Brooklyn

Union Threat Looms Before New Orleans

In the fall of 1861 morale was good in New Orleans and it spirits remained good into the start of 1862. The Confederates had won a decisive victory near Manassas, Virginia at the end of July where Louisiana’s native son, P.G.T. Beauregard had been the victorious commander and Louisiana boys had done well in the battle.  At the end of that September, the citizens were treated to the spectacle of a trainload of captured Yankee prisoners marching under guard through the streets en route to the Orleans Parish prison. The local newspapers played it up to The New Orleans Crescent described the unfortunate captured, ushered through the streets under the curious stares of the local citizens who “behaved with their accustomed order and good breeding.”  The Yankees were “a hard looking set.” And they made reference to the notion that the prisoners might be foreign mercenaries, the Daily Crescent warned citizens and military guard alike to be aware of the arrival of “Hessian prisoners” that were on their way to the city by train. As so often in the South, there was a fear of being overrun by foreigners. There also was a revival of community service in the area. There…

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