Surgeon in Blue: Jonathan Letterman, the Civil War Doctor Who Pioneered Battlefield Care


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The Battle of Antietam remains the bloodiest single day of fighting in American military history. On this day in , nearly 23, of the , Union and Confederate soldiers assembled in Sharpsburg, Maryland, were killed or wounded. A dirt road along the center of the battlefield, where a quarter of those soldiers were slain, reportedly soaked up so much blood that the dirt turned to mud, earning it the name Bloody Lane. But the death toll could have been even higher. At the start of the war, the Union Army had fewer than doctors and no ambulance corps; medical care was far from coordinated.

Even if injured soldiers made it off the battlefield alive, there was often nowhere for them to go. Letterman vowed to raise the bar. This doctor most definitely deserves to have a biography on the shelves. His logic, perseverance, and administrative abilities were outstanding. His contribution to field medicine was shocking, insofar as how much he accomplished, how it was unbelievable that there was so much resistance to it, and that no one had done it before. We take much of modern medicine for granted, that's for sure. Despite it's dryness, I think civil war buffs, or perhaps those interested in war in general, would find this to be something to add to their collection, if for no other reason than to give the man credit for his contributions and accomplishments on the field.

[PDF] Surgeon in Blue: Jonathan Letterman, the Civil War Doctor Who Pioneered Battlefield Care

Expect to gain some knowledge and appreciation for Letterman, but go in knowing it's focused on research and not entertainment. Oct 26, Rea Redd rated it it was amazing. It is not a detailed account of military campaigns nor is it a densely written example of medical history. Jonathan Letterman did not leave a trove of personal letters. A current edition of his Medical Recollections of the Army of the Potomac is pages in a slim trade paperback edition. McGough gives other medical reformers credit where credit is due.


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Fredericksburg validated the Letterman System. Grant earlier in It puts Letterman and his work in the context of the midth century U. Surgeon in Blue offers a clear depiction of the personalities and political vendettas of the Army of the Potomac, the presidential cabinet, the U. Congress and the U. Sanitary Commission. McGough has researched the appropriate archival material and enhanced his efforts by consulting historians of the National Park Service and the U. New appreciation for role of medical doctors during Civil War Many books are written about Civil War battles, leaders, and strategy.

I have never truly took the time to consider medical needs before, during, and after battles. McGaugh does an outstanding job explaining the dire medical situation of the northern army leading up to and at the start of the war. He tells the story through Jonathan Letterman's perspective. His contributions to war medicine are still considered today. Although I belie New appreciation for role of medical doctors during Civil War Many books are written about Civil War battles, leaders, and strategy.

Although I believe the book falls short in actual anecdotes of Gettysburg and other battles, McGaugh gets to the point and helps the reader see the weaknesses in field injuries and presenting healthy soldiers for battle in the first place. McGaugh also delves into the politics of war and Letterman's need to adapt to changes in leaders and their particular styles. He also tells of Letterman's life following his resignation from army medicine and the many trials and success that followed him to California. I highly recommend this book to those who want a clearer insight into how medicine and leadership played roles in the outcome of the Civil War.

Aug 06, Sharyn L. I heard the author speak about Dr.

Medicine in the American Civil War - Wikipedia

Letterman on Doctor Radio Sirius Network. I was fascinated and wanted to know more about Letterman. The book does tell about him but it also tells, in excruciating detail, about many Civil War battles. I'm not a Civil War buff. That's why I didn't finish the book. The author had definitely done his research. I think it's a good book, just not the book for me. Jul 07, Heather Williams rated it it was ok. This was very interesting. My only complaint is that it was somewhat repetative.

Medicine in the American Civil War

It probably could have been pages shorter. Oct 03, John Findlay rated it liked it. This book was full of information on how Jonathan Letterman revamped both preventive care and battlefield treatment of the wounded during his time as Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac during two years of the Civil War. His heroic efforts during the battles of Antietam and Gettysburg were marvelous, and revised how wartime medicine was practiced.

He was a master of organization and planning, and managed to place field hospitals near the battle lines so that wounded soldiers could be qui This book was full of information on how Jonathan Letterman revamped both preventive care and battlefield treatment of the wounded during his time as Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac during two years of the Civil War.

He was a master of organization and planning, and managed to place field hospitals near the battle lines so that wounded soldiers could be quickly extracted, administered to, and then sent to more complete hospitals in larger cities. My major gripe with this book was that most of the rest of his life was unremarkable, and yet it comprised about two-thirds of the book.

I greatly admire Letterman for his role in the Civil War, and learned a ton about how his organizational skills led to rethinking of how the wounded should be treated. But I would have been happy if the rest of the book were more condensed. Jul 10, Patricia Tennant rated it liked it. Not my normal genre but I enjoyed this book along with a family trip to Gettysburg. The fact that he went for the oil industry was not something expected and fascinating.

Oct 03, Kevin McGrath rated it liked it. I had difficulty choking through this to be honest but the content is very interesting. Very specific topic for Civil War enthusiasts.

Letterman made important advances in combat medicine and is somewhat unknown relative to his accomplishments. May 05, Casey rated it liked it. Interesting, but it was a little long winded. And I admit I cheated and read the epilog when I got close to the end. Jul 23, J.

This is a difficult book to rate. On the one hand, it is extensively researched, to the point of almost repetition and dryness. On the other hand, this is a biography, and the author suffered extensively from the fact that his subject was a private man who apparently left no correspondence behind--nor, apparently, did much of his family.

This means most of the biography is drawn from published sources; we learn little about Letterman the human being. This is unfortunate, as Letterman is a fascina This is a difficult book to rate.

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This is unfortunate, as Letterman is a fascinating figure and someone fully deserving of a biography. But without letters or diaries to draw from, the author was severely hampered. I'd recommend this to people with a particular interest in Civil War medicine, or those looking for an overview of what a Civil War army-level medical director did. Jul 02, Joe Oaster rated it it was amazing.

Outstanding history of real advancements of battlefield medicine. The military has always been on the forefront of medicine and Dr.

By John Prevas

Letterman was a real pioneer. Jun 13, Kathleen Sherman rated it liked it. Too much strategy and not enough about the characters. Recently, there has been a show on Public Television about a hospital during the Civil War. It's been interesting, because it demonstrates where military medicine was at that point. In Freedom, PA we have a beautiful home from that time period, the Vicary House, and oftentimes they have a demonstration there of Civil War materials including medical bags with all the saws and the few medicines they had available to them.

You get a sense of how fearful it must have been to undergo medical care in Recently, there has been a show on Public Television about a hospital during the Civil War. You get a sense of how fearful it must have been to undergo medical care in this most horrific of wars. This book about Jonathan Letterman really emphasized the importance of having a determined doctor whose organizational skills changed the face of military medicine. Even before the time when germ theory recognized that unseen bacteria and viruses were causing conditions such as septicemia and dysentery, Letterman was smart enough to recognize that well-fed men who were in cleaner environments did a lot better then men who were starving who were in filthy environments.

This book covers Letterman's entire life. We forget how short the length of life was for people at that time period, even when there wasn't a war. The Civil War took a huge toll on those men who survived the war itself, with many dying of exposure to disease later in life. Letterman had a short life, but at least during his life he was recognized for his great service to the Union.

This book was unnecessarily long. There was a lot of repetition. I got the feeling that McGaugh, the author, really wanted to emphasize what a great man Letterman was. He could have done this with better proofreading by the publishers, and a slightly shorter book. Otherwise it was a good book, and necessary addition to Civil War history.

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Jul 12, Elana rated it really liked it. An historical overview of how battlefield and emergency medicine were developed in the US as a result of catastrophically rudimentary military hospital at the beginning of the Civil war. Union heads definitely didn't consider medical care of wounded soldiers as an important task. Financial investment into the field ambulance and med equipment was thought to be a capricious luxury as much as selecting skilled doctors for the task. The book is full of detailed and grotesque descriptions of how wou An historical overview of how battlefield and emergency medicine were developed in the US as a result of catastrophically rudimentary military hospital at the beginning of the Civil war.

The book is full of detailed and grotesque descriptions of how wounded were treated that will make you cringe. Although repetitive at times and including unnecessary to the topic battlefield descriptions, it stills delivers the message of innovation during the wartime as one of the major driving forces of the modern society.

How lucky we are to be born now and not then when it comes to trauma treatment and med field in general. Oct 28, Nick rated it really liked it Shelves: biography-autobiography , history-civil-war. McGaugh has created an interesting biography of a man whose contributions to wartime medicine are too much overlooked. During the difficult times faced by the Union Army during the Civil War, Jonathan Letterman reinvented and structured medicine. Combining his experience in frontier forts with a keen eye for organization, his work saved thousands of lives, and his principles were studied by generations of army physicians, leading to everything from improved ambulance corps to the MASH units of t McGaugh has created an interesting biography of a man whose contributions to wartime medicine are too much overlooked.

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Combining his experience in frontier forts with a keen eye for organization, his work saved thousands of lives, and his principles were studied by generations of army physicians, leading to everything from improved ambulance corps to the MASH units of the Korean War. If you're not interested in the Civil War or in medical history, some of the story will be a bit dry, but overall it's well told. Aug 07, Deborah rated it really liked it. Great story about someone I had never heard about before.. J Letterman. What a talented doctor who really changed the way medical services were given to soldiers in the Civil War.


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  7. Surgeon in Blue: Jonathan Letterman, the Civil War Doctor Who Pioneered Battlefield Care Surgeon in Blue: Jonathan Letterman, the Civil War Doctor Who Pioneered Battlefield Care
    Surgeon in Blue: Jonathan Letterman, the Civil War Doctor Who Pioneered Battlefield Care Surgeon in Blue: Jonathan Letterman, the Civil War Doctor Who Pioneered Battlefield Care
    Surgeon in Blue: Jonathan Letterman, the Civil War Doctor Who Pioneered Battlefield Care Surgeon in Blue: Jonathan Letterman, the Civil War Doctor Who Pioneered Battlefield Care
    Surgeon in Blue: Jonathan Letterman, the Civil War Doctor Who Pioneered Battlefield Care Surgeon in Blue: Jonathan Letterman, the Civil War Doctor Who Pioneered Battlefield Care
    Surgeon in Blue: Jonathan Letterman, the Civil War Doctor Who Pioneered Battlefield Care Surgeon in Blue: Jonathan Letterman, the Civil War Doctor Who Pioneered Battlefield Care

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