The American Civil War: the gruesome suffering of soldiers exposed

The likelihood of death or disfigurement on the battlefield was remote from the minds of the men of 1861 as they marched away. It became an all too urgent reality once the first shots were exchanged. The first battle of Bull Run left 1,000 wounded on the field. By 1862, Union regiments were becoming accustomed to casualties of 30 per cent in any engagement.

As quickly as Civil War soldiers learnt of the probabilities of death and wounding in action, however, they learnt to avoid, as far as possible, treatment by regimental doctors, who acquired a reputation early on for incompetence and laziness.

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