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2023 News

2nd Annual Civil War Medicine Symposium

March 28, 2023

On Saturday, May 6, 2023, the Blue & Gray Hospital Association and the Gettysburg Foundation will co-sponsor and present the 2nd Annual Civil War Medicine Symposium in the Ford Education Center at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum & Visitor Center, 1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The symposium will begin with check-in registration, followed by an 8:15 a.m. introduction and topics presented from 8:30 a.m. until 4:15 p.m.

The symposium will cover various topics on Civil War medicine and its importance in the overall study of the American Civil War. When learning about battles like the Battle of Gettysburg, many times the focus of attention is on the generals and the soldiers. The fight that took place behind the lines—the struggle to save lives—is often overlooked. Some of the topics covered in this second annual event and future symposiums are related to the people who served as caregivers on both sides—medical staff, nurses, chaplains, surgeons and others. Other topics include the battlefield medicine system utilized on both sides, equipment used by both sides to treat the sick and wounded, disease and its impact on the health of soldiers, and field relief organizations for both North and South and their roles in Civil War medicine.

Symposium Schedule of Topics & Presenters:

7:45-8:15 a.m. | Registration and Check In

8:15-8:30 a.m. | Welcome and Introduction

8:30-9:30 a.m. | Matchless Organization: The Confederate Army Medical Department with Dr. Guy Hasegawa

The Confederate Army Medical Department was established in Feb. 1861 as one of the original four components of the army’s general staff. It was initially to be composed of one surgeon general, four surgeons and six assistant surgeons. In May 1861, the number of positions was expanded to a total of ten surgeons and twenty assistant surgeons. These openings were filled by medical officers who had resigned from the U.S. Army. Additional positions—one surgeon and one assistant surgeon per regiment—were allowed in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States, which ceased to exist once the war was over. Thousands of physicians eventually served as Confederate army medical officers.

The position of surgeon general was filled by the most senior—in terms of service in the U.S. Army—medical officer available. The first acting surgeon general was David Camden DeLeon (appointed May 1861), who was followed by Acting Surgeon General Charles H. Smith (appointed July 12, 1861) and then by Acting Surgeon General Samuel Preston Moore (appointed July 30, 1861). Moore was appointed surgeon general in Nov. 1861 and received congressional confirmation in Dec. 1861. He served until the end of the war, assisted by five medical officers and thirty to thirty-five clerks.

Various types of medical officers served at levels between Moore and the surgeons assigned to regiments or general hospitals. These roles evolved throughout the war and tended to become divided into two classes: those responsible to local commands and those who reported directly to Moore. Medical directors were on the general staffs of military commands and oversaw regimental surgeons and field hospitals, whereas medical directors of hospitals were responsible for general hospitals in military commands or geographic regions and reported to the surgeon general. Similarly, medical inspectors assigned to military commands examined the associated camps and field hospitals, while other medical inspectors were separate from military commands, examined general hospitals and other facilities, and reported to the surgeon general. Medical purveyors with military commands, known as field purveyors, requisitioned drugs and medical stores for their units, while depot purveyors were independent of local commanders and purchased and issued supplies at the direction of the chief purveyor or surgeon general. Surgeon General Moore did not have absolute control over establishing or filling the positions as influence was exerted by local commanders and officials within the War Department.

9:30-10:30 a.m. | A Feeling of Honorable Pride: A Surgeon’s Experience of the Civil War with Robert D. Hicks, Ph.D.

During the summer of 1862, James Fulton, M.D., a 29-year-old Chester County man, left his pregnant wife for military service. From that summer through the spring of 1864, Fulton kept a diary to chronicle his service as an assistant surgeon,

9:30-10:30 a.m. | A Feeling of Honorable Pride: A Surgeon’s Experience of the Civil War with Robert D. Hicks, Ph.D.

During the summer of 1862, James Fulton, M.D., a 29-year-old Chester County man, left his pregnant wife for military service. From that summer through the spring of 1864, Fulton kept a diary to chronicle his service as an assistant surgeon, first assigned to the 150th Pennsylvania, later to the 143rd Pennsylvania. The diary evocatively describes a spectrum of experiences from the pursuit of General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army following Antietam to campaigns throughout Virginia, north to Gettysburg and back into Virginia. Fulton’s most frightful and challenging experience was Gettysburg, where he ran makeshift hospitals as a Confederate prisoner and negotiated with Confederate generals. This illustrated presentation brings us into the world of the Civil War physician, to see the battles as physicians experienced them and explore doctors’ relationships with soldiers, their commanders, civilians, volunteer aid organizations and the enemy, as well as understand their view of human health, disease, wounds and recovery.

10:30-10:45 a.m. | Break

10:45-11:45 a.m. | We Fought at Gettysburg: Comrades, Combat and Casualties – Stories of the Wounded, Caregivers, the Honorary Dead of the 17th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry with Carolyn Ivanoff

The Battle of Gettysburg became a medical tragedy before it even began on July 1, 1863. Yet Gettysburg would also become a great proving ground for new procedures in triage and evacuation of casualties that would save so many. Carolyn Ivanoff will introduce the audience to the personal accounts and experiences of twelve men from the 17th Connecticut at Gettysburg. These men were comrades in the midst of battle. Some became casualties, some care givers and others became the honored dead. All of them suffered on this great battlefield. Ivanoff will explore their experiences in combat, in the hospitals and in the aftermath. Modern medicine learned from these men and their great ordeal, and we today are the beneficiaries of their sacrifices. These are their stories.

11:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m. | Lunch (on your own) Convenient on-site dining options are available.

1:15-2:15 p.m. | Florence Nightingale’s Influence on Nursing and the Pavilion Hospital of the American Civil War with William T. Campbell, EdD, RN

Florence Nightingale is often called the “Mother of Nursing,” but she never came to the United States. So, how could she influence nursing, healthcare and even hospital designs from across the Atlantic. How did she make such an impact that she is labeled “Mother?” In what ways did she influence nursing care? How did she change healthcare? How is it possible that she was involved with hospital design during the Civil War and beyond? Was her advice used by both the Union and the Confederacy? Dr. Campbell will attempt to answer these questions about one lady who never came to the U.S. during the Civil War, or ever, but probably had more influence on Civil War medicine than Dorothea Dix.

2:15-2:30 p.m. | Break

2:30-3:30 p.m. | Nurses/Women of Gettysburg at the Spangler Farm with Ron Kirkwood

Some women worked as nurses at the XI Corps field hospital. They listened to the dying men talk of their families, gave them water, treated their wounds, wrote letters home for them, held their hands and sang to them as they took their final breath. Others cooked and baked bread and washed filthy and bloody clothes and hospital linens. Most of these women helped save lives, and every single one made a difference.

3:30-4:15 p.m. | Panel Discussion and Wrap Up

Symposium attendees can interact with the panel of presenters in a question-and-answer session at the end of the day.

Both in-person and virtual attendance options are available to participate in the Civil War Medicine Symposium. In-person attendance is limited to 60 attendees and registration is $85 per person. Virtual attendance is offered at a cost of $70 per person. Members of the Blue & Gray Hospital Association and the Friends of Gettysburg receive a $10 discount. Registration is required in advance and closes April 28, 2023. To make reservations, call the Gettysburg Foundation, 877-874-2478 or 717-334-2436, or visit