Shortly after the Civil War, the Union Army Surgeon General stated that mid 1800s medicine was “at the end of the medical Middle Ages.”  This statement acknowledges that during the Civil War era, the medical profession was ill-prepared to handle diseases, infections, and war wounds.  Their lack of knowledge on what caused disease, how to avoid infections, and how to treat wounds contributed to the death and suffering.  This was a time when more soldiers died from disease than battle wounds, and checking into a field hospital was often a death sentence.  

The following excerpt from the journal of Carl Schurz, a Union commander at the Battle of Gettysburg, describes the horrors of Civil War surgical procedures.  After 5000 years of human history, this was the best surgical approach that humanity had to offer.  

To look after the wounded of my command, I visited the places where the surgeons were at work. . . . At Gettysburg the wounded-many thousands of them-were carried to the farmsteads behind our lines. The houses, the barns, the sheds, and the open barnyards were crowded with the moaning and waiting human beings, and still an unceasing procession of stretchers and ambulances was coming in from all sides to augment the number of the sufferers.   A heavy rain set in during the day - the usual rain after a battle and large numbers had to remain unprotected in the open, there being no room left under roof. I saw long rows of men lying under the eaves of the buildings, the water pouring down upon their bodies in streams

Most of the operating tables were placed in the open where the light was best, some of them partially protected against the rain by tarpaulins or blankets stretched upon poles.  There stood the surgeons, their sleeves rolled up to the elbows, their bare arms as well as their linen aprons smeared with blood, their knives held between their teeth, while they were helping a patient on or off the table, or had their hands otherwise occupied; around them pools of blood and amputated arms or legs in heaps, sometimes more than man-high.  Antiseptic methods were still unknown at that time. 

As a wounded man was lifted on the table, often shrieking with pain as the attendants handled him, the surgeon quickly examined the wound and resolved upon cutting off the injured limb. Some ether was administered and the body put in position in a moment. The surgeon snatched his knife from between his teeth, where it had been while his hands were busy, wiped it rapidly once or twice across his blood-stained apron, and the cutting began. The operation accomplished, the surgeon would look around with a deep sigh, and then - "Next!"  And so it went on, hour after hour, while the number of expectant patients seemed hardly to diminish. 

Now and then one of the wounded men would call attention to the fact that his neighbor lying on the ground had given up the ghost while waiting for his turn, and the dead body was then quietly removed. Or a surgeon, having been long at work, would put down his knife, exclaiming that his hand had grown unsteady, and that this was too much for human endurance - not seldom hysterical tears streaming down his face. 

Many of the wounded men suffered with silent fortitude, fierce determination in the knitting of their brows and the steady gaze of their bloodshot eyes. Some would even force themselves to a grim jest about their situation or about the "skedaddling of the rebels." But there were, too, heart-rending groans and shrill cries of pain piercing the air, and despairing exclamations, "Oh, Lord! Oh, Lord!" or "Let me die!" or softer murmurings in which the words "mother" or "father" or "home" were often heard.”

Look how far medical knowledge has come in just 150 years!  We are light years ahead of where we used to be during the Civil War, and yet it did not take light years to get where we are; it has taken less than two centuries.  Why has incredible progress taken place during the last 100 years and not during the previous 5000 years?  Answer: The Restoration and the concomitant outpouring of the Light of Christ.  We are living in a wondrous time foretold by the prophets of old.  The blessings of the fullness of the gospel extend far beyond religious domains.

Continue reading at the original source →