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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 Franklin Whiting Brigham, M.D.

U.S. Navy Assistant Surgeon Application


By Norman L. Herman, M.D., Ph.D.

The 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 Army.)

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 example of a hand-written exam is on the 'List of all Applicants' page)

If you have additional information or images for any of these doctors, please contact us.

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.


Charlestown Mass


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


Dr. Rouchenberger

Surgeon U.S.N.


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 of pneumonia?

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

     Pulv. Ipecacuanha et opii          Comp.      gr X

                    (Pulv. Doveri)

     Tinct. Opii                                     “           gtt XX

     Tinct. Opii Camphorata                “             ʓ ij

     Vinum Opii                                   “           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

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

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

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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.


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Last update: Monday, December 12, 2016