following is a dictated translation of the hand-written application to
the U. S. Navy Examination Board during the Civil War by a civilian
physician/surgeon for a position as a medical officer in the Federal
Navy or for promotion to Assistant Surgeon by an Acting Assistant
Surgeon. The actual
applications are in the possession of the author and presented to
enlighten the general public and other researchers as to the education
process before and during the Civil War, the personal history of the
applicants, as well as to show their personal level of medical knowledge
in answering the questions asked by the Navy Board of Examiners.
(Some applicants failed to pass and did not serve or served in the Union
This written presentation was first of a part of a two-part exam consisting of a written
exam and an oral exam.
Many of these applications are rich
with highly detailed medical content offering an interesting perspective
on the medical knowledge and practices of the period.
A broad sampling of these exams is presented to
give you a 'picture' of the type of applicant being examined and
admitted to or rejected by the Federal Navy in 1863. Much more detail
on the individuals and their personal and naval history will be
presented in a forth-coming book by Dr. Herman.
(The actual written exam photos are available, but not presented on
these pages due to the size of the files. An
of a hand-written exam is on the
'List of all Applicants' page)
If you have additional information or images for any of these
A list with links to
all applicants in this survey of U.S. Navy Applicants for 1863
Example of a handwritten exam given by the Navy Examination Board
Applicant: Franklin Whiting Brigham, M.D.
May 4th 1863
I was born at Shrewsbury Worcester
County, Massachusetts, September 13th 1841. At the age of
fifteen I entered Leicester Academy, where I remained nearly three
years. I then became a member of the Freshman class of Yale College.
(“Class of ’63.”) At the end of the first term I left college,
receiving an honorable dismissal. In March 1861 I entered Harvard
Medical School where I remained till June 1862 when I went south as
Wardmaster on Hospital transport David Webster. Returning after five
weeks I took the post of Assistant Physician at Tewksbury State - Alms
House remaining there till commencement of lectures at Harvard Medical
School. At the close of lectures I returned to my home at
Shrewsbury, where for two months I have been pursuing my studies under
the direction of Dr. Rufus Woodward of Worcester, Mass.
I have the honor to be
Your obedt serv’t
Franklin W. Bingham
Navy Yard Boston Mass.
May 4th 1863
Questions by the Board:
Dr. Frank W. Bingham is requested
to write answers to the following questions.
1. What bones enter into the
composition of the ankle joint, and how are they connected together?
2. What are the diagnostic symptoms
3. What is chyle, where is it found,
and how was it formed?
4. What affect has respiration on
the composition of atmospheric air?
5. Name the officinal preparations
of opium and the dose of each?
6. Define the terms “latent heat,”
“temperature,” and “specific gravity”?
Answers by Brigham:
1. Tibia, Fibula, Astragalus, Os
Calcis, Scaphoid, Cuboid, Internal, Middle and External Cuneiform.
Their bones all have articulating surfaces lined by fibro-cartilages and
the synovial membrane, strong ligaments unite them one to another, named
from the bones which they connect, as calcano-cuboid, etc. The whole
joint is bound by a powerful transverse ligaments.
2. Crepitation heard extending from
the lungs upwards whereas in the phthisis the abnormal sounds almost
always commenced at top of the lungs. The order observed by the
phenomena of pneumonia are diagnostic. Crackling in first age; then
during complete hepatization, nothing is heard except bronchial
respiration, perhaps not even that. Now as convalescence goes on the
respiration gradually returns from crepetus to natural. The sputa is
most characteristic, being frothy and mixed or streaked with blood.
Percussion gives marked dullness over the inflamed lung. The
suddenness of attack, the increase heat of skin and quickness of pulse,
the rapidly increasing dyspnoea, the rest of the secretions,
particularly of skin and kidneys, combined with the physical signs above
given are diagnostic of pneumonia.
3. A certain portion of the food
taken into the stomach, after undergoing the process of digestion is
absorbed by the lacteals of the intestines. The lacteals convey it to
the thoracic duct, the duct about the size of a goose-quill leading from
the lower part of the abdomen (first or second lumbar vertebra) to the
superior Vena Cava, where it is formed a whitish emulsion called chyle.
4. Decreases the oxygen. Increases
the Carbonic Acid and Ozone.
5. Pulv. or Pil. Opii
dose gr j
et opii Comp. gr X
“ gtt XX
Tinct. Opii Camphorata
“ ʓ ij
“ gtt XX
6. Any given “temperature”
indicates the relative amount of heat or cold in the atmosphere or in
any body, as compared with some standard, as the freezing point of
Fahrenheit, 32o below a certain point, zero, or the boiling
point 212o above “zero”.
he “specific gravity” of a body is
its weight compared with the weight of the same bulk of water, water
being taken as the standard.
Franklin W. Bingham