Death is in the Breeze: Disease During the American Civil War
By Bonnie Brice Dorwart, M.D.
(August 2010 Civil War News)
Illustrated, notes, appendices, bibliography, index, 170 pp. 2009, National Museum of Civil War Medicine Inc., www.civilwarmed.org, $24.95, softcover.
After 32 years of practice, Dr. Dorwart retired from treating patients with rheumatic ailments. That experience, coupled with a strong interest in Civil War medicine, helped produce this wonderful reference work.
Stimulated by her great-grandfather’s service as a Confederate regimental surgeon, she understands the medical aspects of numerous medical conditions and describes them in easily understood text. Her research is sound and is complemented with pertinent illustrations as well as case studies that compare Civil War medical treatments to those of World Wars I and II and the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Everyday medical maladies, such as bronchitis, diarrhea, abscesses, boils and carbuncles, are explained in great detail from their causes to their cures. Other topics include the use of mercury as a medical treatment for venereal and other diseases. Dr. Dowart explains why each disease caused soldiers to be unfit for combat.
The appendices offer a great deal of analytical information regarding demographic studies relative to certain conditions and diseases. The chapters dedicated to the education of Civil War-era medical students and how the U.S. and Confederate governments organized and employed their medical staffs are extremely interesting.
The small chapters mixed with illustrations make this book easy to read in its entirety or piecemeal. The case studies and analytical data make this a valuable reference and research tool. The book is reasonably priced in a softcover edition.
This reviewer gives it high marks and a strong recommendation for those in the medical profession or those having an interest in Civil War medicine.
Reviewer: Richard J. Blumberg
Richard J. Blumberg has a master’s degree with honors in Civil War studies. He is past president of the Houston Civil War Round Table and is a speaker for that group and the Society of Women in the Civil War. He also reviews books for the Blue and Gray Education Society.