Tuesday, June 30, 2009
OHP BOOK REVIEW ON TWO CONFEDERATE HOSPITALS AND THEIR PATIENTS, ATLANTA TO OPELIKA BY JACK D WELSH, MD
Non-fiction, foot notes, maps, glossary, assignments, disk, bibliography, index, 183 pp., 2006. Mercer University Press, Macon GA.
Two Confederate Hospitals and Their Patients, Atlanta to Opelika appears to be like any other book; however, like the old adage states, “Never judge a book by its cover.” Once the reader begins reading, he/she realizes that this publication is different in many ways. Taking the time to explore the author’s extensive research revealed within the pages is exciting and worth the effort.
The information about the Confederate hospitals in the Army of Tennessee contained within this book is any researcher’s dream. The table of contents reveals the extent of knowledge within the pages. A few of the different chapters are Admissions and Discharges, Patient Admissions and Distributions, Medical Conditions and Wounds, and Comparison with Other Medical Data. As stated on the cover, “This work provides in-depth information and analysis of Confederate medicine in the Army of Tennessee using primary sources and individual patient reports in a form not previously available.”
This book appeals to readers who are interested in the daily operations at Southern hospitals of this era. The complex system of general hospitals is a fascinating area many historians over-look. The main reason for this is due to the lack of information on the subject. Much of the paperwork was burned in Richmond, Virginia during the War Between the States, or scattered throughout the South. However, medical documents by Dr. Samuel A. Stout, Medical Director of the Army of Tennessee, were preserved. Dr. Stout kept over 1,500 pounds of medical records after the end of the war. “Stout had wanted to record the history of the medical service of the Army of Tennessee before he ‘shuffle(d) off his mortal coils,’” is stated in the introduction of this book. Jack D. Welsh, MD made Dr. Stout’s dream a reality by publishing Two Confederate Hospitals and Their Patients, Atlanta to Opelika.
Many terms were used to diagnosis illnesses and injuries that are not familiar to our culture today. A glossary helps define the words so the reader can better understand the medical data of that period. The ability to cross reference the diseases and illnesses of each hospital helps to grasp the conditions faced by the patients and doctors. The reader is able to explore why it is difficult to compare medical records, especially those of the Union to the few remaining Confederate records.
The true diamond in the rough for this publication is the CD-ROM, which contains the complete patient listing of more then 18,000 patients in alphabetical order. The CD lists the names and units of soldiers in one folder, and the roster of men from Fairground Hospital No. 1 & 2 in another. This is truly a jewel for historians, genealogists and those who are interested in the medical history of the War Between the States.
The vast amount of data within Two Confederate Hospitals and Their Patients, Atlanta to Opelika is ideal for genealogy libraries, research centers, and War Between the States historians looking for a fresh approach to this period of time. Though this book is not one to sit a read from front to back, the reader will find a desire to continue to absorb the knowledge found within the pages.
Written by Cassie A. Barrow