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


Michael Coyle Drennan, 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: Michael Coyle Drennan, M.D.


To the Naval Medical Board:




In answer to questions, I would respectfully say, that I am twenty four years and five months old: I was born in Easton, Northampton County, State of Pennsylvania: on the 10th day of October, 1838.


My knowledge of Classics is confined to the technical terms, used in Medicine.  My scientific attainments are my knowledge of the different sciences composing the “Science of Medicine.” My education was commenced in the Public Schools of my native place, and continued during my leisure hours, in after life: I am a graduate of no literary institution:


I have been engaged in the Study of Medicine, for nearly four and half years [sic]; one and a half years of this period, I devoted exclusively to study: I studied with Doctor., C. C. Field, in Easton, and attended lectures at the University of Pennsylvania, Philada.  I have passed an examination by the Medical Faculty of that Institution, and have received notice from them, that my examination has been satisfactory; the Diploma and Degree will be confered [sic] on Saturday, March 14th 1863.  My opportunities for acquiring a knowledge of pharmacy, have been confined to putting up prescriptions in the office of my Preceptor, and witnessing those of a more complex character, as they were being put up by druggists and pharmacuetists [sic, correction marks in pen]: My knowledge of the physical properties of drugs, has been gained by examining the specimens exhibited at the University of Penna, and in the drug store to which I could gain access.  For witnessing the practice of Medicine and Surgery, I have had the opportunity of seeing a large amount with my preceptor, and at the Clinics of the University of Penna, and also, those of the Philadelphia Hospital.  My knowledge of Natural History is limited.  The only modern language I have any knowledge of is the German, as spoken in Pennsylvania.  With regard to testimonials of moral character, in addition to those already given you, I would refer to the Medical Faculty of the University of Penna, to Doctor., D. Hayes Agnew, No 16 North Eleventh Street, Phila…  and to Doctor George N Van Dyck: S.E. corner of Fourth + Christian Streets Phila


I know of nothing in regard to my health, which would incapacitate me for discharging the duties of a Medical Officer in the Navy:


My address in Philada, is No 202 South Eleventh Street:  The Post Office to which my Letters and papers are directed is Easton, Penna.


Submitted with much respect,


Michael Coyle Drennan

Naval Asylum, Philada

March 7th 1863.


Questions by the Board:


Questions to be answered in writing, by Dr. Michael C. Drennan

1.  What is fracture, and what is the rationale of union?

2.  What are the means of arresting hemorrhage?

3.  What is flooding, and how is it arrested?

4.  What is Medical Jurisprudence?

5.  What are the test for Arsenic?

6.  What a test for Strychnia?

7.  Describe the diagnosis and treatment of Cancer?

            8.  Write, without abbreviations the officinal names of four principle preparations of Mercury.

9.  What is Copaiba?  What its effects as a Medicine? [sic]


Answers by Drennan:


1.  A solution of continuity in a bone; Union takes place through the exudation of Callus, called ensheathing Callus.


2.  Nature arrests hemorrhage by producing syncope, and forming a clot; artificial means; are pressure, cold, ligatures, styptics, and the actual cautery..


3.  A sudden and profuse discharge of blood from the womb: it very frequently follows the delivery of the child; it sometimes occurs in the unimpregnated state of the womb; if following delivery, it is arrested by friction over the abdomen, and the administration of some of the preparations of Ergot, or the introduction of a tampon into the vagina, bleeding from the arm is also recommended: when it occurs in the unimpregnated womb, probably the best remedy that can be used is a pill of one half to one grain of opium, in combination with three to five grains of the Acetate of Lead, and given every hour until the discharge decreases: the patient should remain perfectly quiet, and in the horizontal position with the hips moderately elevated:


4.  The application of the principles of medicine, to the investigation of criminal cases in Courts of Justice;


5.  Sulphuretted Hydrogen, Cyan**ch [unclear] of Silver, also heat which causes the Arsenic to throw off a Garlicky odor.  There are other tests which I cannot now call to mind.


6.  Tests for Strychnia are numerous, Nitric Acid is the only one I can think of at the present moment.


7.  Cancer is a peculiar morbid development of the cells of the different issues and organs of the human body; it is found most frequently, in the lower lid, penis and testicle of the male, and the mammary glands and the uterus of the female.  It is divided into three varieties; if in the external parts of the body, it commences with a small hard body about the size of a shot or small pea; at first it causes no alarm to the patient, as it increases in size it causes pain; and if not extirpated will run on to softening; after this occurs, the patient becomes emaciated, his countenance wears an anxious expression, he is not able to sleep, has no desire for food; the odor of the discharge from the cancer, is very offensive.  It cancer attack any of the abdominal organs; it may sometimes be felt through the abdominal parieties; and is attended with great pain, and a peculiar hue of the skin which cannot well be described= diarrhea and vomiting are sometimes attendant of it.  To make an accurate diagnosis of this disease is very difficult; acquiring an excellent knowledge of the forms of the cancer cells, and even then it may be confounded with other morbid growths; cancer cannot be cured; it may be removed but will invariably return; the treatment of it is palliative; tonics are used to sustain strength, and anodynes two allay pain; for this latter purpose, Hyoscyamus + the conii are probably best as they will have an anodyne effect, without producing constipation.  To sustain the strength Cod liver oil, Sulphate of Quinia, Bark, Iron and a bitter tonics may be used with advantage; the patient should have cheerful society in order to keep his thoughts as much as possible from his disease;


Life may be prolonged, by extirpating the cancer, when it is first discovered; or if the patient have [sic] a dread of an operation, as is often the case, we can then resort to caustics; with equal success; among these latter means, Arsenious Acid and Chloride of Zinc, are said by some to be the best=


8.  Hydrargyri Chloridum Corrosium, Hydrargyri Oxidum Nigram, Hydrargyri Chloridium Mite, Hydrargyrum cum cretæ.


9.  An oil improperly called a balsam, obtained from the Copaiba Officinalus [sic, correction marks in pencil]; is used as a stimulating diaphoretic; it increases the flow of urine and alters its character;


Michael C. Drennan


Naval Asylum, Philada

March 13 1863


Certificate of Physical Capacity


I declare on honor that my health at this time is good and robust, and to the best of my knowledge and belief I am free from any accidental or constitutional defects, and without any predisposition to Epilepsy, Phthisis, Gout, Apoplexy, or chronic disease of any kind.


I am not at present affected with varicocele, disease of the urinary organs, hernia, hemorrhoids; nor am I aware that there is anything hereditary in my constitution, which would hereafter be likely to incapacitate me for the arduous duties of a Medical Officer of the Navy. 


All my organs of sense are without imperfection.


Michael Coyle Drennan

Candidate for the office of

Assistant Surgeon in the

Navy of the United States.


 U.S. Naval Asylum,  

 Philada  March 7th 1863.


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


Last update: Monday, December 12, 2016