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


John J. Gibson, M.D.

Primary 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


Source: "United States Navy Dept. Board of Medicine and Surgery: Examination Papers Collection 1831-1860 (Call number: MS C 463), U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20894"

Applicant:  John J. Gibson

      Dr. John J. Gibson, March 22/60

To the Naval Board of Medical Examiners.


The undersigned, a candidate for examination for admission into the medical corps of the Navy, respectfully presents the following remarks.


His age is twenty three years, ten months, and twenty days.  [Born April 30, 1836.  [in another hand]]

His place of birth is Cincinnati Ohio.

His places of education are Marietta Ohio, and Madison, Ia.  He is not a literary graduate, having never studied all the branches of literature, necessary to obtain a degree.

His medical “alma Mater” is the Jefferson Medical College of this city, having attended his first course during the session of 1853-4, and his second during the session of 1855-6, at the termination of which he received a diploma of the College.


The name and address of his preceptors are, “Dr. Paul Sears, Mount Carmel, Wabash County, Illinois.

He has engaged uninterruptedly, in the study + practice of medicine since the spring of 1851, during which time he is attended three courses of lecture at the Jefferson College, including one during the past winter.


As the board is aware, a country practitioner is compelled to prepare nearly, if not quite all, of his prescriptions, for which reason, his knowledge of practical Pharmacy, and of those drugs which he is in the habit of employing, is apt to be good.  The candidate practiced in a country town of fifteen hundred inhabitants, in a malarious region, presenting the usual diseases of such.  Surgical practice, of course, amounts to very little in such a location.

He engaged in the study of no branch of Natural History, except Botany, medical + general.

His acquainted with the Latin language, also with sufficient of the German to answer a Physician’s purposes practicing among that people.


His post office address is “Mount Carmel, Wabash County, Illinois.”


   All of which is most respectfully submitted.

John J. Gibson, M.D.


Questions to be answered in writing, by,


     Dr. John J. Gibson.


1.  What is the difference between “furuncle + anthrax” [sic]

2.  Describe the symptoms and causes of tetanus?  [sic]

3.  What is the number of infantile teeth, and in what order do they appear?

4.  What is the function of the lymphatics?

5.  Enumerate the bones and ligaments of the carpus.

6.  Write a prescription for Infusion of Eupatorium.

7.  What is the chemical difference between organic and inorganic matter?

8.  Name all diseases which are generally admitted to be contagious?

9.   Write directions in detail for the preparation of arrowroot, to be given to a patient suffering from fever.

10.  What are Diaphoretics, and what are their therapeutic uses?

11.  How is sulphuric Ether prepared, and what is its composition?

12.  What are the tests for corrosive sublimate?


1.  Anthrax is a specific inflammation, terminating in gangrene, furuncle is not. 

2.  Symptoms, stiffness + rigidity of one or more sets of muscles, gradually extending to all, flexors more powerfully affected than extensors.  Cause, nervous irritation, from injury of nerve, or pressure of bone upon it after amputation, or involvement in cicatrix, or exposure to cold + hunger after wound or operation etc.

3.  Number of infantile teeth 20.  Lower incisors first, then upper, then first molars, then canines, then last molars.

4.  The function of the lymphatics is to absorb + to convey to the Thoracic duct the elements of the broken down tissues.

5.  Bones of the carpus, scaphoides, lunare, cuneiforme, pisiforme, trapezium, trapezoides, magnum + unciforme.  Ligaments, anterior + posterior, (annular), external + internal lateral, interosseous + synovial membranes.

6.    Rx

          Eupatorii                (℥ij)  uncias duas,

          Aguae bullientis     (Oj)  Octarium unum,

Let it stand in a covered vessel until cool.

7.  Dose, a wine glass full every 15 or 20 minutes until vomiting is produced.

The principal difference between organic + in organic matter is the presence of nitrogen cap word in the former.

8.  Exanthematous, as Rubeola, Variola, Scarlatina, Cutaneous, as Psora, Scabies, Venereal, as Syphilis, Gonorrhea, General, as Typhus + Yellow (?) Fever, Erysipelas (?).

9.  makes one to two tablespoonsfull [sic] of arrowroot with a pint of boiling water, add sugar, + something to flavor, as the patient prefers, let him take it ad libitum.

10.  Diaphoretics are “remedies which increase the cutaneous transpiration.” They very indirect, + very few of the remedies so-called are to be relied upon.  It is probable that no single article in the Materia Medica has any specific power in producing this effect.  Diaphoretics are supposed to be applicable to cases in which the surface is hot + dry, but are not generally to be used until after the reduction of arterial excitement by the lancet, etc.

11.  Sulphuric Ether is prepared by the action of Sulphuric Acid upon Alcohol.  Its chemical composition is the same as that of alcohol, with the abstraction of one equivalent of water, which effect is produced by the addition of the Sulphuric Acid.  It is an oxide of ethyl, but its symbol + equivalent numbers, the candidate does not know.

12.  The tests of Corrosive Sublimate, are, Iodide of Potassium, Ammonia + a bright piece of copper.  The first produces a red precipitate, the “Hydrargyrui Iodidum Rubrum” U.S.P., or bin-iodide of Mercury, the second produces a white precipitate, the “Hydrargyrum Ammoniatum” U.S.P., or Ammoniated Mercury, + when the third is used a deposition of metallic Mercury takes place upon it, from the decomposition of the Corrosive Chloride, + the copper taking its place in a solution.  The

  Ferrocyanuret of Potassium is also a test, forming bicyanuret of Mercury, but its color the candidate does not recollect.


March 27th 1860

John J. Gibson

Naval Asylum, Philada }



Theme for Dr. John J. Gibson


Digitalis: its history, officinal preparations, their doses and therapeutic uses.


Digitalis.  Folia.  U.S.P.  Herb of the Digitalis purpurea.  Natural Order Scrophutariaceae.

Foxglove is an annual herbaceous plant, growing in different parts of the United States, preferring damp, rich soil, and a shaded situation.  It flowers rather late in the summer.  The corolla is dark brownish or purplish, whence the specific name, and bilabiate.  The growing herb has a rank, disagreeable smell, much stronger than when dried.


The officinal preparations of digitalis are but two, the leaves used in powder, “Digitalis,” and the tincture, “Tinctura Digitalis,” the dose of the former is two to five grains, and the latter 10 to 30 drops, twice or three times a day, cautiously watched, and, as necessary, gradually increased, until either the desired indication is fulfilled, or the poisonous effect shows its approach.

   The medicinal operations of this remedy are narcotic, diuretic and as an arterial sedative.  It has been used in dropsy, local and general, in various diseases of the heart, in which the indication was to reduce the power and frequency of the action of that organ, particularly in hypertrophy, in many inflammatory diseases, with the same view, and it has also been used in amenorrhea with asserted benefit.

    Very great discrepancy exists among medical writers, in relation to the therapeutic powers of this article, which some assert that they employ it with very beneficial results, and rely upon it greatly in the diseases to which they think it adapted, others again, claiming an equal experience in its use, assert that its virtues have been much overrated.  It is probable that much of this difference of opinion, arises from the deterioration of the drug, from long keeping, still, men whose opinions are worthy of regard, are found among those who deny its efficacy.


Certificate of Physical Capacity


Philadelphia, March 1st 1860


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 constitutional defects, and without any predisposition to epilepsy, Phthisis Pulmonalis, gout, or chronic disease of any kind.  I have neither circocele but, stricture of the urethra, hemorrhoids, nor hernia.  Each and all of my organs of sense are without imperfection.

                                                                              John J. Gibson

                                                                              Candidate for the office of Assistant Surgeon

                                                                               In the Navy of United States.

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