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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Frances P. Porcher, M.D.

Porcher, Francis Peyre (1825-1895)

View the book by Dr. Porcher in this collection

Name: F. P. Porcher
Death date: Nov 19, 1895
Place of death: Charleston, SC
Type of practice: Allopath
Journal of the American Medical Association Citation: 25:1108

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

Francis Porcher

Resources of the Southern Fields and Forests: This is the original Confederate published edition, dated 1863.  Prepared and published by order of the Surgeon-General, Richmond, Virginia, Original marbled boards, and marked spine.  Click here to see the original book in the collection.


Resources of the southern fields and forests… being also a medical botany of the Confederate States… Charleston: Evans & Cogswell, 1863.

Francis Porcher, valedictorian of his 1847 graduating class at the Medical College of the State of South Carolina and well-respected writer of several works on the medicinal properties of plants, was the ideal person for Confederate Surgeon General Samuel Moore to assign the important project of preparing a treatise on the indigenous plants of the South for the Army. Porcher was born and educated in South Carolina. After his graduation from medical school, he continued his education in Paris and Florence, and returned to this country in 1849. During the next few years, he published several works on the subjects of botanicals and medicine, maintained a private practice, co-founded the Charleston Preparatory Medical School in 1852, and traveled again to Europe, visiting many hospitals along the way. Later in the 1850s, he became professor of clinical medicine and materia medica and therapeutics at his alma mater. He was an editor of the “Charleston Medical Journal and Review” for five years and an attending physician at the Marine Hospital in Charleston. Despite all his pre-war responsibilities, Porcher joined the Confederate Army at the war’s start, and remained in military service until the end (Atkinson 58; Kelly & Burrage 975; Rutkow, Resources of the Southern Field, v-vii).

Porcher started out the war as surgeon to the Holcombe Legion, later moving to the Naval Hospital at Norfolk, Virginia, and concluding at the South Carolina Hospital in Petersburg, Virginia. Shortly after the outbreak of war, a Northern blockade of Confederate ports prevented access to European medicines. Aware of Porcher’s background in botany, Surgeon General Samuel Preston Moore asked him to survey the plants of the South in an effort to find local medicines for the Confederate troops. He was temporarily excused from field and hospital duty to work on this project. The Reynolds Historical Library has a first edition of the resulting 1863 publication, Resources of the southern fields and forests, a comprehensive listing of all regional plant life, with an analysis of uses (Freemon 112). It was the first extensive study of Southern indigenous plants, and it was the only regional materia medica resource available to the Confederacy. But most importantly, even given the doubtful efficacy of its medicinal recommendations, it provided the Southern states with necessary information for surviving off their homeland during the war with a valuable listing of economically useful botanicals (Norman 1865.1).

When peace returned, Porcher went back to South Carolina and worked for the City Hospital for the next twenty-one years. He also resumed his academic positions and made many written contributions to the medical field, especially on the topic of yellow fever. Porcher was president of the South Carolina Medical Association in 1872, vice president of the American Medical Association in 1879, and an associate fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. He was one of a select few physicians chosen to represent the United States at international medical conferences in Berlin and Rome, and he served as president of the general medicine section of the Pan-American Congress in 1892 (Atkinson 58; Kelly & Burrage 975; Rutkow, Resources of the Southern Field, viii).

Source:  Reynolds Historical Library  Major Figures in Civil War Medicine

In an attempt to blunt the effects of the Northern blockade, the Surgeon General of the Confederate States enlisted the services of Dr. Francis Porcher in the war effort. Dr. Porcher was commissioned to develop a list of all potential resources to be found indigenous to the Southern States. This list was to cover everything from the manufacture of gun powder from bat guano and saltpeter found in the thousands of caves dotting the South to the production of paper from native reeds and yes - MEDICINE.

You see, Dr. Porcher was a doctor of medicine a well as a large land owner and planter in the Charleston, S.C. area. He was well respected among medical circles of his time and presented many scholarly papers to the AMA both before and after the war.

Dr. Porcher, being the true patriotic son of the South that he was, set forth with a zeal to produce this list in time for it to be of use in the war effort. In the course of researching and preparing this list to be presented to the Confederate High Command, he wrote an immense tome titled, “Resources of Southern Fields and Forests.” The 700 page manuscript was the most comprehensive of it’s time to be found in the South or North. To this day, its scope and magnitude have not been excelled.

Being a physician, Dr. Porcher was particularly interested in native substitutes for the medicines failing to make it through the Yankee blockade. What few medicines, such as Cinchona bark used to treat malaria, made it through the gauntlet of Yankee warships, usually ended up on the black market at prices out of the reach of the average person.

Dr. Porcher’s work proved to be a life saver to Confederate soldiers, many who had resorted to using old home remedies in a desperate attempt to both prevent and treat the multitude of attacking diseases.

One interesting approach to the prevention and treatment of disease of this time was the use of “BITTERS”. The general belief was that the more bitter a tonic was, the better it was for you. Herbs such as Gentian, Goldenseal, Chicory, Boneset, Yellowroot and Dogwood gained much popularity among the troops due to their extreme bitterness. Many a soldier imbibing these bitter witches brews soon developed a liking for the taste and drank them liberally as a substitute for coffee which more often than not had been unavailable for months and years.

Source:  The Southern Herbalist, Medicinal Plants of the Confederacy

Peyre Francis Porcher, Charleston, S.C., was born Dec. 14th, 1824, at St. John's, Berkely co., S.C. He is a descendant of a Huguenot family, who came from France in 1696. His early education was obtained at the South Carolina coll., Columbia, from which he graduated A.B., and his medical education at the med. coll. of the State of S.C., graduating from this institution M.D., in 1847, and settling in Charleston. He is prof. of mat. med. and therapeutics, and of clinical med. in med. coll. of State of S.C., corres. member of the acad. of nat. sciences of Philadelphia, and fellow of the coll. of phys. of the same city; author of.......He is phys. to the Charleston city hosp; ex-president of S.C. med. asso., and during the war was surg. in charge of the Confederate hosps. at Norfolk and Petersburg. He married, in 1855, Virginia, daughter of Hon. Benjamin Watkins Leigh and Julia Wickham, of Richmond, Va., and, in second marriage, the daughter of the late Col. I. I. Ward, of Waccamaw, S.C.

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

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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