Stepping back in time

Waite started to prepare for a mock amputation with Swalgin administering the anesthesia, which wasn't alcohol as some might have thought, because alcohol would actually thin the blood. The anesthetics commonly used during the Civil War were chloroform and ether. Administering chloroform would allow surgeons about 15 minutes to perform the amputation. Bone, flesh and muscle damage were all factors leading to an amputation.

After cutting some "flaps" of skin, Waite had his stewards pull the skin back about 3 inches with a tool. Then Waite grabbed his bone saw and cut through the patient's bone.

"The limbs were thrown out windows and they were thrown out doors, because they are no use to me or anybody else," said Waite tossing the hand aside into the pile of limbs.

After the bone is filed down, Waite applied a painkiller containing opium to the wound and tied up the arties. Four days later, Waite would check for laudable pus on the wound because surgeons were taught this pus was a sign of proper healing. The pus was actually infection starting. It has also been documented, said Swalgin, that some surgeons would scrape some pus off one patient and apply it to a patient without any pus.

Out from the field in the large tent setup was Dan Celik, but he focused less on the gory aspects of surgery and more on a vast collection of tools used in a field hospital.

"To be a surgeon, you only needed two years of schooling," said Celik. "Typically, before you went to a university, you needed a voucher from two practicing physicians that you would apprentice with, and you had to have those two vouchers first before you could apply to university."

He said a good surgeon could do a good amputation in less than 12 minutes. A company or regiment would typically be made up of a town, so the surgeon would be sent off with a medical kit from the town.

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