Confederate Medical Department, Civil Practice to Civil War: The Medical College of the State of South Carolina 1861-1865

Confederate Medical Department

Officially, 257 South Carolinians served in the Confederate Medical Department though most of these doctors were general practitioners with no real experience performing surgery, treating large numbers of wounded at a time, or providing for field sanitation. Combat was less often a cause of death than disease. By some accounts soldiers were incapacitated from illness an average of six times during the course of their military service. Many enlisted men came from rural areas where they had not been exposed to or developed immunities to communicable diseases like measles, tuberculosis, malaria or yellow fever. Additionally, sanitation in most military camps and hospitals was less than ideal and led to debilitating outbreaks of cholera, typhoid, diarrhea, gangrene, and dysentery. Infections and disease were made worse by lack of drugs due to the Union blockade of southern ports and a scarcity of southern pharmaceutical laboratories. In response to these conditions President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, appointed Medical College of the State of South Carolina alumnus Samuel Preston Moore surgeon general.