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, Antiques & Collecting publications, and various TV programs

Civil War Army Post-Mortem Examinations

Notes of  Dr. Michael Echols

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

By 1862, Surgeons were solicited by Surgeon General Hammond and staff to forward to the Army Medical Museum interesting morbid specimens of amputated limbs, images of the same, projectiles which caused the injuries, etc..  The Medical and Surgical History (M&SH) is replete with citations regarding the various post-mortem examinations done by the Union medical staff surgeons.  This information was reported back to the Medical Department and was the beginning of the Armed Forces Institute Of Pathology. 

Union Army Medical Department

The Union Army's Medical Department put out special order No. 2 by Dr. Hammond directing surgeons to collect post-mortem specimens:

CIRCULAR NO.2  Surgeon General's Office Washington DC May 21 1862

Important cases of every kind should be reported in fall Where post mortem examinations have been made accounts of the pathological results should be carefully prepared As it is proposed to establish in Washington an Army Medical Museum medical officers are directed diligently to collect and to forward to the office of the Surgeon General all specimens of morbid anatomy surgical of medical which may be regarded as valuable together with projectiles and foreign bodies removed and such other matters as may prove of interest in the study of military medicine or surgery These objects should be accompanied by short explanatory notes Each specimen in the collection will have appended the name of the medical officer by whom it was prepared WILLIAM A HAMMOND, Surgeon-Genera US Army (From The Army Surgeon's Manual by Wm. Grace)

Form for post-mortem examination as provided by the U. S. Army during the Civil War

U.S. Army Post-mortem exam form

Confederate Army Medical Bureau

The Confederate Army Medical Bureau was also requesting post-mortem evaluations during the War.  This citation is from the M&SH:

Richmond, Va., August 6, 1864.
Surg. ISAIAH H. WHITE, In Charge of Hospital for Federal Prisoners, Andersonville, Ga.:

SIR: The field for pathological investigations afforded by the large collection of Federal prisoners in Georgia is of great extent and importance, and it is believed that results of value to the profession may be obtained by a careful investigation of the effects of disease upon this large body of men subjected to a decided change of climate and to the circumstances peculiar to prison life. The surgeon in charge of the hospital for Federal prisoners, together with his assistants, will afford every facility to Surg. Joseph Jones in the prosecution of the labors ordered by the Surgeon-General. Efficient assistance must be rendered Surgeon Jones by the medical officers, not only in his examinations into the causes and symptoms of the various diseases, but especially in the arduous labors of post-mortem examinations.

The medical officers will assist in the performance of such post-mortems as Surgeon Jones may indicate, in order that this great field for pathological investigation may be explored for the benefit of the medical department of the Confederate Army.

Surgeon-General CSA

The post-mortem, autopsy, and anatomical dissection sets below are from the Civil War period,   This type of set may have been required when serving as a regimental surgeon since post-mortem examinations were standard and required.

Below: Contents of the sets of instruments referred to in the 'standard supply table'

1862-1865 Civil War military embalming pump by Geo. Tiemann, N.Y.

See additional details and EXPANDED photos of this set


1863 Civil War military post-mortem set by Hernstein & Son, N.Y.

See additional details and EXPANDED photos of this set


c.1860 Military issue post-mortem set, marked:  U. S. Army Medical Dept., by Snowden, Philadelphia., Pa.

See additional details and EXPANDED photos of this set

c. 1861 Military issue dissection set by Hernstein & Son, N.Y.

See additional details and EXPANDED photos of this set

Typical Dissecting Post-Mortem Case Contents:      

1 Catlin knife

3 scalpels


1 dissection forceps  

1 chain and hooks 

2 needles and thread                      


1 scissors                                        

1 blowpipe                                        

1 chisel                                        

mahogany box

The Army Surgeon's Manual", 1864  'standard supply table'  shows the number of dissecting instruments - cases: 

1 per 100 bed hospital

1 per 200 bed hospital

1 per 300 bed hospital

1 per 400 bed hospital

2 per 500 bed hospital

2 per 1000 per hospital

1 per regiment 1000 troops

Scans from Tiemann's catalog c. 1880's.

  Click to enlarge


Warning: The actual instruments sold by Tiemann during the Civil War were similar to those on these pages, but may not be exactly the same.  Many are exactly the same, but you have to make allowances for sterilization considerations after 1870.

Click on image to enlarge

Additional instrument drawings from Tiemann's 1870's catalog of Post-Mortem instruments


List of various dissecting and post-mortem sets from the 1870's Tiemann catalogue

In the US Army the following post mortem instruments are furnished in a mahogany box:

Blowpipe No I Chains and hooks No I Chisel No I Costotome chisel No I Enterotome No I Forceps dissecting No I Hammer steel No I Knife amputating large No I Knife amputating small No I Knife cartilage No I Needles and thread No 2 Saw No I Scalpels assorted No 3 Scissors straight No I Tenaculum No I

Post-mortem pathology: a manual of post-mortem examinations,  POST MORTEM INSTRUMENTS AND THEIR USE    By Henry Ware Cattell

The results of the post-mortem examinations performed during the Civil War were published in the Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion after the War.  See an example of this six volume work in this collection.

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


Medical Antiques Index

American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques Index

Contact Dr. Arbittier or Dr. Echols



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

Please request permission before commercial use or publication of any content or photos on this site and credit any use with:  "American Civil War Surgical Antiques"   All content and all original photography on this Web Site is copyrighted 1995 - 2015 and may not be used on any other web site or in commercial print without the expressed e-mail permission from Dr. Arbittier:  Contact   All rights reserved. 


Students doing reports or projects are welcome to use the content of this site without permission, but credits would be appreciated.


Please note: information on this site may not be normally referenced as this is an active and long-term educational research project.  Personal notes may not be properly cited for publication.  Various articles are digitally reproduced under the 'fair-use act' of the copyright laws and are intended for educational purposes only.  Many citations are from Google digital 'books' and can be traced backwards via a search of a unique string in the citation.


 Arbittier Museum of Medical History Tour:   1 | 2 | 3


Last update: Monday, December 12, 2016