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


Job Corbin, 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)

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: Job Corbin, M.D.


Naval Asylum Philada.

5th September 1863.




I would most respectfully submit the following letter in regard to my service in the U.S. Navy.


My appointment as an Assistant Surgeon, dates the 9th of May 1861.  I reported for duty to the U.S. Sloop of War Savannah, the 25th of the same month.  I remain on the Savannah until 13th of February 1862.  During this time, the vessel was on blockading duty, attached to the Atlantic Squadron.  I was detached from the Savannah the 13th of February and ordered to the U.S. Steamer Maratanza, at Boston Masstt.  I reported for duty to this vessel the 17th of February, and sailed from Boston for Hampton Roads Va.  the 20th of April.  From Hampton Roads, the ship was ordered to the York river and from the York river, to the James.  The ship remained on the James river until July 20, when she was sent to Baltimore for repairs.  I was detached from the Maratanza at Baltimore, the 17th of July, and ordered to the Naval Hospital at Chelsea Masstt, where I am at the present time stationed.


I am very respectfully

Your obedient servant,

J. Corbin, Assist. Surgeon, U.S. Navy


Questions by the Board:


Questions to be answered in writing, by  J.  Corbin  Assistant Surgeon U.S. Navy

1.  What is a fracture, and nature’s mode of repairing it?

2.  What is a difference between a boil and Anthrax?

3.  What are the causes and symptoms of Scurvy?

4.  What are the properties, uses, and preparations of Belladonna.  [sic]

5.  Describe the mechanics of walking + running.

6.  Write without abbreviations the prescription for a compound infusion of Senna.

7.  What the cranial nerves + their functions?

8.  What are the symptoms + treatment of Small pox?

9.  What is the test for Bile?


Answers by Corbin:


Question 1.  What is a fracture, and nature’s mode of repairing it:

Ans.  The fracture is a solution of continuity of bone, and is repaired by the following process: First, the formation of a provisional callus.  This is the result of an inflamatory [sic] process in the tissue surrounding the fractured extremities of the bone.  Second, the formation of an intermediate callus between the fractured extremities and its ossification.  The intermediate callus closes the medullary canal and they part [unclear] closing the canal is absorbed.  The provisional callus is intended by nature as a splint, but it is not formed in the union of all bones. 


2.  A boil is a more prominent, circumscribed swelling, of a lighter red, suppurating more rapidly, causing less constitutional disturbance and occurring often in successive crops and in constitutions not so much impaired by vice or disease.  An anthrax is characterized, by its slight elevation above the surrounding skin, its greater base, its more livid or venous color, suppurating less slowly, opening at many points, causing greater constitutional disturbance and occurring in constitutions more impaired by vice or disease.


3.  The causes of scurvy are confinement, moisture, uncleanliness and deficiency of fresh vegetable diet.  It has been thought that it was a deficiency of Potassa in the food, but it is more probable that it is a deficiency of the vegetable substance called gluten which is udoubtedly [sic] changed in different modes of preserving the vegetables.  The disease is characterized by the accompanying symptoms of debility, sullan [sic] appearance of the face, a tendency to hemorrhage from the gums and mucous membranes, swelling and oedema of the legs, diarrhoea and an absorption of cicatrices.


4.  This is the Atropia Belladonna.  The parts used are the leaves and berries.  It is used locally and internally, and for the most part in neurologic affections.  The preparations are the extract, fluid extract and tincture.


5.  The body being in the erect position and stationery, is so maintained by the Erector Spinae muscles.  The thigh is now flexed on the pelvis and the leg on the thigh.  The heel, is this last act is raised and the foot carry forward by the extensors of the leg; and simultaneously, the glutei assist, acting on the superior extremity of the femur.  The body, while this is being accomplished, is balanced by the other leg.  In running the same acts take place more rapidly and the bodies inclined forward, to preserve equilibrium.




                Sennae – uniciam unano

                Magnesiae sulphatis    sex unciam.

                Feniculi                    drachmam unam

                Aquae destillatae                 octarium unum

                Misce. fiat infusum,


7.  The cranial nerves are divided into nine pairs; olfactory –   a nerve of specific sensation.  Optic – specific sensation. Motores Oculorum – a nerve of motion.  Pathetici, a nerve of motiom. Trigemini – a nerve of sensation and motion. Abducentis, a nerve of motion. Portio Dura and Portio Mollis, the first a nerve of motion + the second of specific sensation.  Pneumogastric receives a branch from the Spinal Accessory, which makes it a nerves of sensation and motion.  The Spinal Accessory is a nerve of motion and the Glossopharyngeal of sensation, and the Hypoglossal a nerve of motion.


8.  This is a contagious disease which is characterized by the appearance of an eruption on the fourth day.  Previous to this, it is characterized by the usual symptoms of fever.  The eruption at first is elevated above the skin, contains a serous fluid, becomes pustular and umbilicated, and is at its heighth [sic] about the eleventh when it begins to decline.  There are two varieties of the disease – the distinct and confluent.  It is a disease which is easily recognized after the appearance of eruption, and previous to this, the severe pain in the back, vomiting, headache, watery condition of the eyes and the history of the case, would assist in forming the diagnosis.  As the disease cannot be cut short by medicines, the treatment must be such as to guide the patient safely through: - that is, attending to diet, ventilation and the various complications that may arise during its course.


9.  Nitric acid, which produces a grap [sic] green color, and sulphuric acid and sugar, which first produce a cherry red, this then becomes a lake and [unclear], an opaque violet.


J. Corbin

Assistant Surgeon

U.S. Navy


Remittent Fever.     By Asst Surgn Job Corbin


This disease is characterized by a certain sequences of symptoms, occurring usually in the following order: first, chills, second fever, in third sweating.  After the third stage, follows the remission, until the patient is again attacked with a chill.  The time from the commencement of remission until the beginning of a chill, is called the remission and is this, which gives the disease its type.  If the attack occurs daily, it is denominated a quotidian, - if on alternate days, a tertian, if every third day, a quartan.  This disease has also its time of year, during which, it prevails to its greatest extent.  This is the autumn, when there is usually the greatest amount of decomposing vegetable matter.  It has also its favorite localities, as the banks of rivers and ponds, and the neighborhood of marshes and forests.  It does not, like yellow fever, prevail in cities but rather in the rural districts.



The attack may come on without premonitory symptoms, or they may have existed for some days, as a coated tongue, loss of appetite, headache, pain in the lumbar region, lassitude, when the patient is seized with a chill, which generally lasts from three to six hours according to the type.  During the chill the patients face is pale, his skin is covered by minute elevations, cutis anserina, his teeth clatter, though the temperature of the body may not be below the natural standard and his skin even feel hot to a bystander.  After a few hours, reaction takes place.  The chilliness alternates with an agreeable sensation of warmth.  This is the beginning of the second stage, and the ending of the first and beginning of the second is not abrupt.  Flashes of heat and cold alternate with each other, until the patient no longer feels chilly unless by some sudden movement in bed.  He is now in the second stage.  His faces flushed. Skin is hot and dry.  He complains of severe pain in the head and small of the back.  Pulse is accelerated, perhaps from seventy five to ninety per minute.  He has no appetite great thirst, and oftentimes whatever is drunk, is immediately rejected.  The irritation of the stomach is often a common symptom.  In order, now comes the third stage which is characterized by sweating.  The severe pain in the head and back subsides.  The skin feels less dry.  The pulse becomes slower and a gentle perspiration shows itself on the forehead.  This is the beginning of the third stage, which, when well marked, bathes the patient in a profuse perspiration, so that the sheets of the bed are wetter.  After this stage the patient feels weak but comparatively comfortable.  He may have a very good appetite.  This is the remission, and during this period symptoms indicating febrile action remain.  This fact in the main distinguishes this disease from Intermittent Fever.  This disease does not always pursue the regular course above described.  Sometimes the first stage is not so well marked and often the remission is very imperfect, especially after the disease has continued for some days.  It then resembles a continued fever which may be of Typhoid character depending upon the physical condition of the patient.  There are other very important symptoms in this disease which it will be proper to speak of in this place.  The chill of the beginning is severer than those following and in some cases is very transitory.  Irritation of the stomach and vomiting are often very troublesome.  During the disease the skin is sometimes of a yellowish hue and sometimes of a bronze.  The bowels are some times constipated but usually moved by cathartics.  The stools are often a dark color, showing a disordered biliary secretion.

Prognosis.   This is usually favorable.  Persons attacked with this disease seldom die, unless it be complicated with some other affection.




Remittent fever can be readily diagnosed in some cases where the symptoms occur in a regular order, but it is often very difficult of diagnosis [sic].  Its diagnostic symptoms are the continuance of the fever between the exascebations [sic, correction marks in pencil].  The irritation of the stomach and vomiting, and in many cases the yellowness of the skin.  It is said that it may be mistaken for Hectic Fever and Pyemia; but this is hardly possible, as usually the condition of the patient is the origin of the former and in the latter.  The previous history of the case will render the disease evident.  When this disease has become of a continued form, it will be very important to study its previous history and learn of it in its course it has shown a remitting character.



There is in the milder cases principally confined to the exacerbation and remission.  It may be proper during the chills, to assist in promoting a reaction and during the febrile stage to administer some refrigerant as the effervescing draught.  It is during the remission, that means are to be employed to cut short the disease and the most effectual remedy to accomplish this, is the Sulphate of Quinine.  This may be given in doses of two to four grains, every hour or three hours, if it should be required.  Other remedies are recommended as having antiperiodic properties, as Salicin, Arsenic, and Cinhora [sic, should Cinchora], etc.  By some it is not thought proper to cut short the disease by the administration of medicines.  It is stated the Quinine may do harm if given during the fever of a remission and that the physician should first endeavor to procure on intermission.  If in the courses of the disease there should be excessive vomiting, the effervescing draught or ice, if it can be obtained, may be given.  If the disease assume [sic] the typhoid form and it must be treated with tonics and stimulants.  If there should be much tenderness over the stomach indicating a slight gastritis, a blister to the epigastrium would afford relief.  The bowels should be kept regular by cathartics and the comp. cath. pills or the blue mass in sufficient doses are very appropriate medicines.  The diet should be such as is easily digested.  During the treatment of Remittent Fever, many special symptoms will [unclear] which will require a special treatment in themselves, and in the treatment of each case of this fever a modification of treatment will be required.


J. Corbin

Assistant Surgeon

U.S. Navy

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.


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


Last update: Monday, December 12, 2016