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 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

2011 - "The sesqui-centennial of the Civil War" -  2015

The 150th Year Celebration


 Home page  |   Feedback & Contact Dr. Echols  |  SEARCH this site   |  Article Indexes   |   Medical Faculty & Authors

 Civil War Medical Books  |  Medicine Containers   |   1800's & Civil War Surgery Set Displays

Medical College Index - Lecture Cards  |  Civil War Medical Book Author-Title Index

Wanted to Purchase: Items like those on this website, including Civil War surgeon uniforms, medical books, CDV's, surgeon images, diaries, and related medical items ... Contact

Dr. Echols' partial list of Google books for Civil War Surgeon Research


Charles H. Burbank, M.D.

U.S. Navy Assistant Surgeon Application


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

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)

(The actual written exam photos are available, but not presented on these pages due to the size of the files.  An example 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: Charles H. Burbank, M.D.

U.S. Naval Asylum.

Philadelphia Pa.

September 14th 1863




In obedience to in order from the Navy Department dated on or about the 25th May 1861 I report for duty on board the U.S. Frigate Santee at Portsmouth Navy Yard, Surgeon J. M. Foltz being Surgeon of the Ship.  On the 20th June we sailed for Hampton Roads where we arrived on the 1st of July; remaining there until the 10th; we sailed for Fort Pickens on that day at which place we arrived on or about the 10th of Aug, and sailed for Key West on or about the 15th; where we arrived on or about the 25th having experienced on the passage a most terrible gale.  We again sailed for Fort Pickens on are about the 1st of Sept where we arrived on or about the 7th; thence we sailed about the 10th for Galveston where we arrived on the 17th.  On our way to Galveston, we came in with the U.S.S. Niagara and Surgeon J. M. Foltz was relieved by Surgeon T. M. Potter.  The vessel was still at anchor off Galveston on the 6th April 1862 when I was detached, by order of the Flag Officer D. G. Farragut, from the Santee and ordered to report for duty at the U.S. Naval Hospital at Pilot Town S. W. Pass Miss. River, when I arrived, just before the Fleet was going up the river, to attack Forts Jackson and St Philip; and by the advice of Fleet Surgeon J. M. Foltz I volunteered my services on board the Flag ship Hartford during the fight.  I remained on board the ship during the bombardment, and on the day before the Fleet passed the Forts I was ordered to Pilot Town Hospital with wounded, where I remained until September 12th 1862.  Surgeon P. S. Wales was in charge of a hospital until about the 20th of July when he was relieved by the late Surgeon C. H. Wheelwright who very suddenly died some six or eight days afterwards.  I was then left alone in charge of the hospital until about the middle of September, when the hospital was transferred to Pensacola Fla.  Surgeon B. F. Gibbs then took charge of the hospital and I remained attached to the hospital until August 21st 1863 when I was relieved by order of the Department, and arrived in New York September 4th 1863.

On board the U.S. Frigate Santee, opportunities for Medical and Surgical observation were of course limited, few cases occurring of much interest.  At the Pilottown Hospital the opportunity for Surgical observation was good, a large number of surgical cases being treated there.

At Pensacola Hospital the cases were mostly chronic.


Very Respectfully

Submitting the above

I am Your Most Obdt Servt

C. H. Burbank

Asst. Surgeon U.S.N.



The Medical Examining Board.

 U.S. Naval Asylum

Philadelphia Pa.


Questions by the Board:


Questions to be answered in writing, by Asst. Surgeon Chas. H. Burbank, U. S. N.

What are the different modes of arresting hemorrhage?

Describe Hydrocele, and the diagnosis.

Give a formula without symbols or abbreviations, for a compound infusion of senna.

Give in short the anatomical structure of the eye.

Describe the origin course distribution of the pneumogastric nerve.

What are the tests for grape sugar?

Describe the mechanical action of the heart in propelling the blood.

Describe the properties, uses and mode of administration of veratrum viride.

Describe the process (and give its rationale) for the artificial production of carbonate of soda


Answers by Burbank:

1.  Haemorrhage may be arrested by pressure, (for example) by the tourniquet, by the hand of an assistant, by ligating the vessel.  In arterial haemorrhage the ligature should be placed between the bleeding point and the heart, in venous, beyond it.  By tension, by cold, by astringents, by caustics, by position; also by the internal administration of astringents and sedatives.


2.  Hydrocele is a watery accumulation within the tunica vaginalis testis.  It may be double or single, acute or chronic.  The scrotum is enlarged and presents a pear shaped appearance with the apex upward.  It may be diagnosed by its shape, by transmitting the light of a candle, by the testicle being found in the superior and posterior part of the tumor and by fluctuation (slight.).


3.  Recipe

              Sennae Foliarum              Uncam Unam

              Feniculi Seminis                Drachmas Duas

              Cardamomi Seminis         Drachmam Unam

              Aquae Destilatae               Uncas sex

              Misce.  Fiat infusum.          Uncas duas quarta guagas horÔ Sumendus.


4.  The eye is composed of tunics, humerus and refracting Media.  The external coat or tunic is composed of the sclerotic and cornea, the former covering the posterior two thirds and the latter the anterior third.  The second tunic is composed of choroid, iris and ciliary processes; and the third and internal coat by the retina and zonula ciliaris.  The humors of the eye are the aqueous occupying the anterior and posterior chambers, and the vitreous which fills the globe of the eye. The refracting media are the crysteline [sic] Leres, the humerus and the cornea.  The sclerotic is the fibrous coat which maintains the shape of the eye.  The choroid coat is the vascular and the retina the nervous.  The iris a muscular curtain, which surrounds the pupil; by contracting and dilating, by the action of its circular and concentric fibers, it controls the amount of light to be admitted to the eye.  The crysteline [sic] lens is situated in the anterior part of the Vitreous humor.


5.  The Pneumogastric Nerve arises from the side of the Medullary oblongata; between the corpus olivare and the Corpus Restiforme.  From this origin it passes to the jugular foramen through which it passes, with the other two branches of the ninth pair; which within the jugular fossa it becomes much enlarged forming, the “ganglion jugulare;” thence the nerve passes the sheath of the common carotid; passing down the neck within the sheath, between the artery and vein, and to the posterior.  At the base of the neck the right passes in front of the Subclavian artery into the chest, passing backward to the oesophagus.  The left crossing the arch of the Aorta at the origin of the subclavian and backward to the oesophagus.  Both nerves accompany the oesophagus through the diaphragm, to the stomach, to which they are both freely distributed.  The branches of this nerve are distributed to the larynx, the recurrent laryngeal being a branch, to the lungs, to the heart to the oesophagus, stomach + duodenum.


6,  If to a solution containing Grape Sugar, there be added Potassa or Ammonia, in sufficient quantity, to produce a slight alkaline reaction, and then enough Sulphate of copper to produce a blue tinge and then heat be applied, very soon a red sub-oxide will be deposited.  Another test is the yeast test.  If a solution containing grape sugar be submitted to a temperature of 70 o or 80o F. and yeast added, fermentation will take place with the production of alcohol and carbonic acid gass [sic], the latter being set free.


7.  During the second sound of the heart the Auricles which have become filled with blood empty themselves by a gentle contraction into the Ventricles; and then follows a short interval, during which time blood still flows into the auricles and directly into the ventricles; the auricle-ventricular vale [sic] being in a passive state against the sides of the ventricles; the ventricles becoming filled feel the stimulus of distention and immediately began to contract.  As soon as the action begins, the auricle-ventricular valves are forced from the side of the wall and closed; the ventricles continuing to contract force open the semi-lunar vales [sic] and the blood escapes into the aorta and pulmonary artery; as soon as the blood has passed the orifice the semilunar valves are closed, completing one action of the heart.


8.  Veratrum Viride is a powerful nervous sedative; one of its most characteristic properties is the reduction of the pulse; it also reduces nervous excitement.  It is said to produce abortion if given in pregnancy.  It is given when it desirable to reduce nervous or vascular excitement.  It has be [sic] highly recommended in pneumonia, when it is important not to reduce the quality of the blood.

It is usualy [sic] administered in the form of tincture or fluid extracts.


9.  If, to a solution of carbonate of Potassa there be added a solution of sulphate of soda, a double decomposition takes place with the production of Carbonate of Soda and Sulphate of Potassa.  The Carbonic Acid of the Potassa displaced by the Sulphuric Acid of the soda, there is an interchange of principles, and each acid unites with the other base.  A stronger acid displacing a weaker.


Very Respectfully

Submitting the above

I am Your Most Obdt Servt

C. H. Burbank

Assist.  Surgeon U.S.N.


To  Surgeon  James M. Greene U.S.N.

Presiding officer of

Examining Board.

Naval Asylum.

Philadelphia Pa.


Delirium Tremens


Asst. Surgeon Chas. H. Burbank, U. S. N.


Synonyms.  Delirium cum Tremore.  Mania a Potu.  Delirium of Drunkards.


This is a disease which affects persons, who have been accustomed, to drink intoxicating liquors in large or moderate quantity for a long time, and also those who may have been drinking excessively only for a short time.  It usually makes its appearance at the time or just after the individual is deprived of a stimulant, it some times seizes upon it’s [sic] victim in the midst of his debauch.


Symptoms.   The particular characteristics of this disease are as its name implies – delirium with trembling or tremor of the muscles.  The delirium may be of a violent, raving character, if it occurs in persons of the rigorous constitution or it may be of a low type, if it occurs in old men or even young men, whose constitutions are broken down by intemperance and debauchery.  The disease may come on with moderate delirium or with violence; or the first thing which may attract the attention of those around the patient, maybe that he will appear alarmed and frightened, and will have his eyes fixed upon the wall or some particular part of the room where he may happen to be.  He will say that he sees some, (imaginary) object, of the non-existence of which he cannot be convinced, although he may appear sane upon other topics.  He may soon become violently delirious, seeing all kinds of frightful objects and attempting to injure or take the life of himself or those around him.

At this stage of the disease there will be high fever, dry skin and the tongue will most likely be red at the tip and edges indicating irritation of the stomach; pulse full and bounding; sometimes the pupil will be contracted or dilated, at others natural.


These violent attacks may come on at intervals for a few days or even weeks; the intervals growing longer and attacks less violent, until the patient is relieved of the affection; or he may have died from the violence of the fits or from the exhaustion which followed.


The nature of this disease is that the functions of the brain are deranged by excessive stimulation; by which the powers of the brain are overwhelmed to such an extent that it is impossible for them to act when the stimulus is removed.  Corresponding depression always follows stimulation.  This disease may be known by the history of the case, by the delirium accompanied by tremor, and the seeing by the patient of imaginary objects.


Anatomical characters.  Irritation or inflammation of the mucous membrane of the stomach.  Congestion of the liver.  More or less congestion of brain and its membranes, with effusion of serum into the ventricles.


Prognosis.  In persons of good constitution the disease will generally terminate in a move this recovery; in persons whose constitutions are broken down from any cause, it is likely to terminate in death.  Treatment.  The indications in treatment of this disease are to quiet delirium, to relieve nervous and irritability, to procure sleep and support the strength.  The patient should be placed in a room, where there is nothing with which he can injure himself, with a good attendant to take care of him and watch him.  Many things have been used to relieve this terrible affection.  Opium or some of its preparations have been most highly recommended and use with great success.  It t should be used with caution as it is difficult to judge of its effects under the circumstances and the patient may die from the effects of the opium instead of from the effects of the disease.  Belladonna, Hyoscyamus, Canabis [sic] Indica, in fact the greater part of cerebral and nervous stimulants are used.  Emetics have been recommended during the fit.  Calomel purge should be used to empty the bowels as early as possible.  It is some times necessary to use some alcoholic stimulant, which may be given with some bitter tonic.  After the violence of the disease has passed and prostration has come on, then it will be necessary to give Iron and other tonics.


Very Respectfully

Submitting the above

I am Your Most Obdt Servt

C. H. Burbank,   Assist.  Surgeon U.S.N.

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

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