Book Reviews



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The Civil War Journal of Private Heyward Emmell, Ambulance and Infantry Corps:A Very Disagreeable War

Edited by Jim Malcolm. Madison, NJ:Fairleigh Dickinson University Press 2011. Illus., epilogue,index, 132 pp. ISBN:978-1-61147-040-6 (cloth) ISBN:978-1-61147-0413 (electronic)

MSRP: $75.00

Frontier Medicine: From the Atlantic to the Pacific

by David Dary. New York, NY:Vintage Books, 2009.Contents, illus., notes, bibliography, index, glossary, appendix, 381pp. ISBN: 978-0-307-45542-0, paperback

MSRP $17.00 (This reviewer obtained a copy through for $6.95 + $3.99 S&H)

Perryville Under Fire. The Aftermath of Kentucky's Largest Civil War Battle

by Stuart W. Sanders. Charleston, SC The History Press, 2012. Contents, notes, illus., index. 160 pp.ISBN:978-1-60949-5671

MSRP: $19.99

Lincoln and Medicine

by Glenna Schroeder-Lein, Ph.D.

Southern Illinois University Press, October, 2012. 136 pp. Contents, note, bibliography, illus. ISBN: 978-8093-3194-2

MSRP: $19.95

Mending Broken Soldiers. The Union and Confederate Programs to Supply Artificial Limbs

by Guy R. Hasegawa

Southern Illinois University Press,2012. 160 pp. Contents, appendixes, illus., notes,bibliography, index. ISBN: 978-0-8093-3130-7; Ebook: 978-0-8093-3131-4

MSRP: $24.95






 The Civil War Journal of Private Heyward Emmell, Ambulance and Infantry Corps:
A Very Disagreeable War



Private Heyward Emmell, at age 19, enlisted in the 7th New Jersey Volunteers in the Fall of 1861. He served twenty-two months with the regiment and, then, as stretcher bearer in the Ambulance Corps for fourteen months. Emmell was engaged in almost all the major battles of the Army of the Potomac from the Peninsula Campaign to Gettysburg to the Siege of Petersburg. His journal tells his day to day life in camp, on the march, and in battle. Emmell’s diary is rich in detail and, as one reviewer stated, “often noting aspects that are not reported in other Civil War diaries.” His journal contains valuable information regarding how he felt about his unit, comrades, family, friends, and the situation he was in.

This book is a wonderful insight into the daily life of the common soldier. However, the title is quite misleading, at least for this reviewer. Of the total of 132 pages only ten are devoted to the “Ambulance Corps,” and there is virtually no description of what he did as a stretcher bearer. In addition there are numerous editing problems and there are numerous instances where even minor editing would have made a sentence much clearer without changing the meaning of the entry.

With a price tag of $75 for a thin 132 page book and with virtually no description of his duties in the Ambulance Corps, I believe this will place it out of reach for the vast majority of the membership. This inconsistency of dates and editing problems seriously detract from its use as a reference tool and cause me to give this volume a poor recommendation.




Reviewed by Peter J. D'Onofrio, Ph. D.




 Frontier Medicine: From the Atlantic to the Pacific



As the title suggest, this volume covers American medicine from the time of Columbus up to just before the start of World War II. The topic covered include, but not limited to, "Indian Medicine," Early American Medicine," "Among the Soldiers," "Midwives and Women Doctors," "Patent Medicines," and "Quacks."
It is a well written, easy to read book that is highly enlightening. The chapter "Among the Soldiers" covers, in part, the Civil War era. However, the author makes some serious mistakes, including, "Hundreds if not thousands of major operations, including untold numbers of amputations of arms and legs, were performed with no anesthetic. In many cases, patients received only whiskey for pain relief while being operated on." (This reviewer has written to the author in an effort to straighten out his misconceptions. So far no reply).
Despite the above, this volume is well worth acquiring to obtain a perspective on American medicine that we normally do not think about.
Frontier Medicine From the Atlantic to the Pacific will give the reader an insight into American medicine and is recommended for your library.




Reviewed by Peter J. D'Onofrio, Ph. D.




Perryville Under Fire. The Aftermath of Kentucky's Largest Civil War Battle



The Battle of Perryville laid waste to more than just soldiers and their supplies. The commonwealth'slargest combat engagement also too an immense toll on Perryville and citizens in the surrounding towns. After the Confederates achieved a tactical victory, they were still forced to retreat. With more than 7,500 casualties, the Union Armywas unprepared for the enormous tasks of burying the dead, caring for the wounded, and rebuilding the infrastructure. Instead, the local citizens took on this arduous duty.
This volume presents the first in-depth look at how these brave and battered civilians dealt with the chaos of this bloody battle and how they rebuilt theirtowns from the rubble left over.
Written by the former executive director of the Perryville Battlefield Preservation Association, this volume gives great insight into the struggles the local population endured in caring for the dead, the sick and the wounded for up to eight months after the battle.
Perryville Under Fire is well written, with extensive notes, and is easy to read. For those seeking to find out what takes place after the armies move on, this is an excellent volume and is highly recommended.




Reviewed by Peter J. D'Onofrio, Ph. D.




 Lincoln and Medicine



Society member Glenna Schroeder-Lein has scored another bull’s-eye with her latest work. This is the first volume on the medical history of the Lincoln family in eighty years. The author explores many of the myths and controversies surrounding Lincoln, his wife, and his children.

Set within the medical knowledge of Lincoln’s time, this volume is an interesting and informative look into a much mythologized but under investigated aspect of one of our greatest leaders.

Lincoln and Medicineis well written and easy to read. For anyone interested in Lincoln’s medical history, this is a must volume for your library and is highly recommended.



Reviewed by Peter J. D'Onofrio, Ph. D.




 Mending Broken Soldiers. The Union and Confederate Programs to Supply Artificial Limbs



When we think about the Civil War we look at the battles, the leaders, both civilian and military, the "glorious" charges. But what about the common soldier and the aftermath of battle. How did the soldier who, due to a gunshot injury, had his leg, his arm, his hand or foot amputated go on with his life. How did he return to the occupation he had before the war. Mending Broken Bones is an answer to that question. Guy Hasagawa, co-editor of Years of Change and Suffering: Modern Perspectives on Civil War Medicine has answered that question with this volume.

This book is about the attempts by both the Union and Confederacy to fix the "broken soldiers" of the Civil War. It details the improvements in the mechanics, materials, and manufacture of prosthetics during the Civil War from the simple, but serviceable, peg leg to the more intricate articulated artificial legs and arms that were nearly natural in motion and appearance.

As with anything else, politics played a part in providing prosthetics to the army's veterans at government expense. This volume delves into those considerations. It also looks at the ethics of providing artificial limbs to prisoners of war; the board of examiners who decided what manufacturers would secure a government contract; and the efforts by the South to provide Confederate veterans when it had no prosthetic industry.

The appendixes provide a list of the makers and inventors associated with both the Union and Confederate artificial limbs programs and the number of artificial limbs provided to U.S. soldiers and sailors. In addition, Southern Illinois University Press has a link on its web site with a list of the 6,000 Union and 700 Confederate soldiers who received prosthetic devices.

Mending Broken Bones is a must have volume for those seeking information on a little studied aspect of the terrible conflict that griped this nation for four bloody years.

Well-written, easy to read, with extensive notes and bibliography section, Mending Broken Bones is highly recommended.




Reviewed by Peter J. D'Onofrio, Ph. D.




 Sick From Freedom. African-American Ilness and Suffering
During the
Civil War and Reconstruction



The emancipation of the Southern slaves meant freedom, but at what cost. No one anticipated the sickness, disease, suffering, and death that they encountered on their flight to freedom. Author Jim Downs, in this extensively researched volume, details how emancipation lead to a biological crisis that had deadly results for hundreds of thousands of freed slaves.

Sick From Freedom chronicles one of the bitterest ironies in our country’s history. Once freed, the African Americans had an opportunity to move and migrate as never before. Unfortunately, they also encountered yellow fever, cholera, smallpox, dysentery, malnutrition, exposure, and death. Using new research into the records of the medical division of the Freedmen’s Bureau, Downs reveals how the breakdown of the plantation system resulted in a plethora of lethal diseases. President Johnson was not in favor of the Freedmen’s Bureau and it’s medical division fearing that the freedmen would become dependent on the federal government for this survival. As a result, he and Congress continually cut the budget of the Bureau and its divisions. Even with the Bureau’s physicians reporting increases in disease, malnutrition, exposure, and deaths, the federal government moved at a snail’s pace, when it moved at all. The result was the deaths of thousands upon thousands of freed men, women, and children before they could taste the long awaited Land of Jubilee.

Freedom meant that the African American man, woman, and child now had to provide for themselves what had been provided to and for them by the plantation owners, i.e. food, clothing, shelter, and medical care.

When the first smallpox epidemic appeared among the emancipated slaves in 1862, many in both the North and the South viewed the high mortality rates among the former slaves as a sign of the extinction of the black race. With this view in mind, the federal government was not anxious to spend the money to provide hospitals, doctors, food, medicine, clothing, or shelter to a “dying race.”

The author concludes this volume by presenting how the Reconstruction policy of the federal government was implemented in the American West with the same disastrous results among Native Americans.

To quote the book’s dust jacket, “The widespread medical calamity sparked by emancipation is an overlooked episode of the Civil War and its aftermath...” While at times the reading can be ponderous, Jim Downs, Assistant Professor of History and American Studies at Connecticut College and author of two previous books, provides a much needed new prospective on a little known aspect of the Civil War and its aftermath.

Sick from Freedom, African-American Illness and Suffering During the Civil War and Reconstruction is well recommended for those wishing to learn of the plight of the emancipated slaves both during and after the war.




Reviewed by Peter J. D'Onofrio, Ph. D.




 Battlefield Angels. The Daughters of Charity Work as Civil War Nurses



“The country had only 600 trained nurses at the start of the Civil War. All were Catholic nuns. This is one of the best-kept secrets in our nation’s history” Father William B. Faherty. So starts the description on the back cover of Battlefield Angels. As any student of the Civil War knows, both the North and South were prepared to fight. However, both were woefully inadequate when it came to taking care of the sick and wounded that their fighting produced. Although many eagerly volunteered to tend to the sick and wounded, only the Catholic nuns had the experience to do so. The most experienced of the Catholic orders were the Daughters of Charity, located in Emmitsburg, Maryland. They had been caring for the sick for a multitude of years when the Civil War broke out. Soldiers and civilians alike knew that when the Sisters arrived at a hospital, be it in the field or a general hospital, on the various troop transports, or in the ambulance, there would be someone who cared for them

So well regarded and trusted by government officials were the Daughters, that they were freely allowed to cross the lines between the two warring factions. The Daughters served Union and Confederate soldiers and officers alike showing no distinction as to the color of their uniform.

Not only did the Daughters of Charity serve in the field hospitals of both armies, but also at some of the major battles such as 1st and 2nd Bull Run (Manassas), the 7 Days Battles, Antietam, and Gettysburg. It is estimated that some 300 Daughters of Charity served during the Civil War. Additionally, another roughly 393 Sisters of some 21 other religious orders also tended to the sick and wounded of both sides. Because of their devotion to the medical care of the Civil War, a monument was erected in 1924 to the various orders who served.

The author, James Rada, is a multi-award-winning journalist and the author of seven novels and non-fiction collection of his history articles. He lives in Gettysburg, PA with his wife and sons.
Battlefield Angels. The Daughters of Charity Work as Civil War Nurses is a well-researched, easy to read volume that deserves to be in the library of any Civil War scholar. This volume is highly recommended.




Reviewed by Peter J. D'Onofrio, Ph. D.




 Rhode Island Civil War Hospital: Life and Death at Portsmouth Grove



The Lovell Army General Hospital in Portsmouth Grove, Rhode Island serviced thousands of wounded soldiers, both Union and Confederate, over the course of the Civil War. Rhode Island’s Civil War Hospital is the story of the medical staff, patients, and guards and the interaction between the army and society during the turbulent years of 1861 to 1865.

The author gives us an in-depth look at the daily routine of a general hospital, the cruelty of the era’s medicine, and the aid provided by the citizenry.

The Appendix A provide us with a listing of the Hospital Guards, Rhode Island Volunteers by name, rank, residence, date of muster, and other information. Appendix B lists those soldiers who died at the general hospital, later reinterred in Brooklyn, NY. It lists there name, rank, company and regiment, state, date of death and the plot number in Brooklyn’s Cypress Hills National Cemetery. Finally, Appendix C provides the reader with a map of Cypress Hills National Cemetery.

The notes section is arranged by chapter and the bibliography is quite lengthy for those wishing additional information.

Because of it’s location at the edge of any military action, Rhode Island’s Civil War hospital has received little attention until Frank Grzyb took up its story.

Frank L. Grzyb is the author of two books on the Vietnam War and is a member of the Rhode Island Civil War Roundtable. Retired from government service, he resides with his family in Rhode Island.

This volume is easy to read, full of details about an army general hospital, with plenty of pictures and illustrations to add to the text. For those wishing to know about this aspect of the Civil War, this volume is highly recommended.

This volume may be ordered on-line at or by calling 1-800-253-2187.




Reviewed by Peter J. D'Onofrio, Ph. D.




 Worth a Dozen Men: Women and Nursing in the Civil War South



What Dr. Jane Schultz did for Northern nurses in her book, Women at the Front: Hospital Workers in Civil War America, Ms. Hilde does for Southern nurses. Worth a Dozen Men tells of the Southern wartime nursing experience from the beginning of the conflict to the shock of losing the war for Southern Independence. Using newspapers and official records, as well as the letters, diaries, and other writings of those truly remarkable women, as well as the doctors they served, the patients they care for and the patient's families, we get a remarkable picture of what nursing was like in the South during the most turbulent time in America's history.

The author proves that female nurses in the South played a critical part in both raising soldier and civilian morale as well as helping to reduce the mortality rate. These dedicated women embodied all that was noble in Southern womanhood and can easily be seen as the female equivalent to the soldiers they care for. Nursing for these women also provided a basis for the Lost Cause political activity after the war and start of dramatic gender role changes.

This volume looks at such topics as the state and private hospitals, the work of the Matron, how one became a nurse, the hospital labor problems, and the aftermath and social change to name a few of the subject areas.

Worth a Dozen Men provides the reader with an extensive notes section and a diversified bibliography. The author is an Assistant Professor of History at San Jose State University. This volume is highly recommended for anyone seeking information on the Southern nursing story.




Reviewed by Peter J. D'Onofrio, Ph. D.




 Remember Me
Civil War Letters Home from a Hospital Steward 1862-1962 Daniel McKinley Martin



Daniel Martin was working as a druggist’s clerk in Pittsburgh at the outbreak of the Civil War. In the Spring of 1862 he traveled to Wheeling, WV to join a regiment with friends and neighbors from the Pittsburgh area. Leaving behind his young family, Daniel spent much of the war engaged in actions throughout West Virginia. Two hundred thirty letters and his 1863 diary survive.

Daniel’s voice provides original and important material on 19th Century diseases, injuries and death, medicine, and the fight to control the rugged and independently-minded western Virginia.

There have been numerous collections of letters published about the Civil War, but few from hospital stewards. Accompanied by well-researched descriptions of diseases, medical theories, the roles of hospital stewards, and the political and social venue of SW Pennsylvania, the reader is able to view these letters in the context within which they were written. Daniel never achieved fame or fortune during his lifetime; however, his letters are rich with the day-to-day fears, tribulations and triumphs of a hospital steward during the Civil War, a time when medicine was in its infancy, germ theory was unknown, but efforts to save lives were heroic. Daniel speaks of financial hardships, secessionist, medicine, diseases, generals, patriotism, the deaths of his two brothers in battle, his fellow soldiers and medical officers, battles, politics, slavery, religion, and family squabbles.

The author has provided much background context to the letters and the numerous illustrations, both black and white and color - period and modern, are interspersed throughout the book.

This well-written, easy to read volume is recommended to the readership.




Reviewed by Peter J. D'Onofrio, Ph. D.