American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques

Surgical Set collection from 1860 to 1865 - Civilian and Military

Civil War:  Medicine, Surgeon Education & Medical Textbooks

 Dr. Michael Echols  &  Dr. Doug Arbittier


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American Civil War Surgical Antiques

Research and Identification

Civil War Era Surgical Sets, Surgeon's Images

Civil War Surgeon Education & Medical Textbooks

Established 1995    .     Dr. Michael Echols Collection


As seen in:  Warman's Civil War Collectibles, Antique Week, Northeast Antiques, and various TV programs, Antiques & Collecting publications

Collidge Field Case or Surgeon's Companion

In the early part of 1863 Medical Inspector R. H. Coolidge, U. S. A.. arranged a field case or companion  (FIG. 1) to take the place of the knapsack. It was based on the plan of the one used in the British service, and was intended to be carried by the Surgeon himself, if necessary.   The Surgeon's Field Companion is one variation used during the Civil War.

Source for this article:  "The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion. (1861-65.)  Part III, Volume II, Chapter XIV.--The Medical Staff and Materia Chirugica"

(The following are the personal edited research notes of Michael Echols, the source of which may or may not be completely documented)

Fig 1  Surgeon's Field Companion with corked bottles

The "companion" is a leather case 13 inches long, 6 inches wide, and 7 inches deep; it is supported by a strap passing over the shoulder, and is provided with a waist strap to steady it when carried.


The hospital medicine chest, mess-chest, and bulky hospital supplies were transported in wagons of the supply train and were often inaccessible when required.

To obviate this, the contents of the knapsack were:

One piece of white wax, 8 oz. simple cerate, 12 oz. chloroform, 5 yds. adhesive plaster, 2 yds. isinglass plaster, 1 oz. persulphate of iron, 100 compound cathartic pills, 150 blue mass pills, 150 opium pills, 100 opium and camphor pills, 150 quinine pills, 8 oz. aromatic spirit of ammonia, 16 oz. brandy, 4 oz. laudanum, 10 bandages, 10 binder's boards, 4 oz. charpie, 2 medicine glasses, 1 (spirit) lamp, 12 oz. lint, 1 box matches, 1 paper of pins, 1 spool of surgeons' silk, 4 pieces of sponge, 4 (Dunton's) field tourniquets. 2 spiral tourniquets, 1 piece of tape, 1 spool of lead wire, 1 spool of silver wire, and 1 spatula.

The contents of the Surgeon's Companion were;

6 oz. chloroform, 2 oz. fluid extract of ipecacuanha. 2 oz. fluid extract of ginger. 2 oz. solution of persulphate of iron, 24 oz. of whiskey, 2 oz. tincture of opium, 144 compound cathartic pills, 144 colocynth and ipecacuanha pills, 144 sulphate of quinine pills, 144 opium pills, 1 yard isinglass plaster, a medicine cup, scissors, teaspoon, pins, thread, 4 oz. lint, a towel, 2 doz. bandages, muslin, and corks.

(Note: in the drawings, all tins and bottles are shown with corks and not metal screw tops.)

At the beginning of the war each regimental Surgeon was furnished with suitable equipment for his regiment for field service, consisting of medicines, stores, instruments, and dressings, in quantities regulated by the Standard Supply Table.

(See Standard Supply Table for Field Service, in Revised Regulations for the Army of the United States, 1861, p. 304.)

In action he was accompanied by a hospital orderly, who carried a knapsack containing a limited supply of anaesthetics, styptics, stimulants, and anodynes, and material for primary dressings. This hospital knapsack had been recommended for adoption by an army board in 1859; it was made of light wood, 18 inches in height, 15 inches wide, and 7 inches deep, but subsequently wicker-work, covered with canvas or enamelled cloth, was substituted for the wood; its weight when filled was 18 pounds. This knapsack (FIG. 425) was in general use in the first year of the way and served an excellent purpose. In 1862 it was changed for what was known as the new regulation knapsack, in which the arrangement and character of the supplies were modified. The new pattern was 16 inches high, 12 inches wide, and 6 inches deep; the contents were packed in drawers, which were more accessible than in the old style and less liable to become disarranged or broken.(1) The weight when packed was nearly 20 pounds. (FIG. 2). Not withstanding its convenience and general adaptability it was too heavy and cumbrous to be carried by the Surgeon himself, and, when entrusted to other hands, was liable, in the vicissitudes of battle, to be lost.

Left: Fig. 2  Hospital Knapsack of Wicker-Work, Covered With Enamelled Cloth.  Right: Fig. 3 Regulation Hospital Knapsack of 1862

Apparently  there were four military field medicine carrying cases used by the Union army during the Civil War.  In 1861, a large wicker and tarred-cloth knapsack was the regulation case (Fig. 2).   This was superseded by a heavy wood-framed and leather-covered backpack (Fig. 2) 1862.   In 1863, the Coolidge Field, or Surgeon’s Companion, which was worn on the hip became the regulation case.  There was a final version, also worn on the hip, but it is not shown in the illustrations of the Medical and Surgical History data.

Reference:  The Medical Staff and Materia Chirugica" from the Med. & Surgical History

Medical Antiques Index

American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques Index

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Civil War Medical Collections 


Direct links to all medical & Civil War collections on this site                         

American Surgical Sets:

Pre-Civil War:  1 | 2  -   Post-Civil War:  3  -  Civil War 1861-1865:  4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8   INDEX

Medical Text-Books:

1 | 1a | 2 | 2a | 3 | 3a | 4 | 4a | 5 | 5a | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 9a | 10 | 11 | 12    INDEX

Surgeon General's Office Library printed catalogues: 1840 | 1864 | 1865
Medical Lecture Cards: 1 | 2 | 34 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21    INDEX

Medical Faculty and Authors:


Navy Surgeon Exams:

1863 Navy Surgeon Applicant Exams with Biographies   INDEX ONE | INDEX TWO

Surgeon CDVs, Images:

Army: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8    INDEX

Navy: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8   

Hosp Dep't Bottles, Tins, 

U.S. Army Pannier:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques

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Last update: Monday, December 12, 2016