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


James Nevins Hyde, 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: James Nevins Hyde, M.D.


Preliminary Letter.


I was born in the town of Norwich, in the state of Connecticut, on the 21st day of June, 1840.  Before my preparation for college, I was almost constantly at school in Brooklyn, New York City, and Newark, at various establishments.  In 1855 I was admitted, after examination, to the Senior Class at Phillipp’s Academy, Andover, Mass., and was graduated there upon the ensuing Spring, with the 8th honor in a class of about 50 members.  Here I was prepared for College in the Classics and Mathematics.


In the ensuing Fall I was examined and admitted into the Freshman Class at Yale College, New Haven, Ct., and after passing through the College Curriculum of four years, was graduated with the 12th honor a class numbering over 100 members.  During this time I studied French and German, translating some of Schiller’s poems and plays, and all the Scientific and Classic Branches of the Course, including lectures from Presdt Woolsey, Prof.s  Dona, Silliman, Jr., and Perten.  During my Senior year, I commenced the Study of Medicine, and attended lectures at the Medical College in New Haven, pursuing at the same time my Collegiate Studies.


Immediately after graduation, I entered the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, and completed my course there in 1862.  During this time I obtained Tickets of Admission to the New York, Bellevue, and Island Hospitals, where I was present as often as my studies would permit.  My professional instructor in New York was if Dr. William H. Draper, resident at No. 33 E. 12th St., from where, with other information, I obtain some Knowledge of Microscopy.


In the same Spring of my graduation there (1862) I entered the Service of the U.S. San’y Comm, as a Volunteer Surgeon, and did duty upon the Peninsula for 3 months from the time of McClellan’s occupation of Yorktown, to the time of his evacuation of the entrenchments at Harrison’s Landing.  Here I first had acquaintance with gunshot wounds, and the operations following them.  I was under fire here several times, and last at the battle of Malvern Hill, where I performed some minor operations.


In the following Septr (1862) I entered the U.S. Army as an Act’g Asst Surgeon, and did duty in the Washington Hospitals, for about 10 months.  The greater part of this time was spent at Lincoln General Hospital, where I became familiar with all the practice of the Hospital, and assisted at all Surgical operations.  Here I particularly studied Pathological Anatomy, and had the privilege of performing over 125 postmortem examinations, in cases of most of the diseases to which soldiers are liable.  Notes upon all these, in greater part made by myself, together with the most interesting pathological specimens, are to be found at the Surgeon General’s Office in Washington in the new Army Medical Museum.


Wishing to enter the Navy I applied and passed examination as an Actg Asst Surgeon in July 1863, and was it that time recommended for examination as Asst. Surgeon, by Surgeon Maxwell, U.S.N.


I was first ordered to the U. S. S. S.  “Brandywine”, then to the U. S. S. “Stepping Stones”, then to the U. S. S. “Hunchback”, in the Sounds of N’th. Cara, where I did duty for one month.  When she was ordered home for repairs, I was placed in charge of the U.S. Naval Hospital, at New Berne, N.C., by Fleet-Surgeon, W. M. Wood, U.S.N., where I did duty till ordered to examination.


Very Respectfully.  

Your Obedient Servant,

Surgeons of Board for Examination of Candidate    

James N. Hyde

Act. Asst Surg. U.S.N. (Candidate)


Residence in Philadelphia

La Pierre House


Questions by the Board:


Questions to be answered in writing by Dr. J. N. Hyde.

1.  What are the accidents are injuries which require amputation of the thigh?

2.  What is the best mode of controlling the circulation in amputation of the thigh?

3.  What is flooding, how produced, + how arrested?

4.  Give an account of the nux vomica, and its active principles, then physiological effects, uses etc.

5.  What is the structure + composition of bone?

6.  Enumerate The Potash Salts used in Medicine, giving their composition in symbols, – give a Prescription without symbols, or abbreviations.

7.  Enumerate the cranial nerves + their functions.

8.  How is Pneumonia diagnosticated from Pleuritis?

9.  Give the fœtal circulation.


 Answers by Hyde:


1.  Severely comminuted fractures of the lower part of the femur: Compound fractures, especially those produced by gunshot wounds, where the situation (as a battle-field, etc.) would forbid a trial of conservatives Surgery: Gangrene following ligation of arteries, or from other causes: gunshot wounds opening the Knee-joint and very extensive incised wounds of the Same: failure to cure popliteal aneurism by opening the sac, and ligating: conical stump with the protrusion and necrosis of the extremity of the bone: failure to check secondary haemorrhage, following any Surgical operation below the thigh, when the artery has been ligated in the continuity to no purpose: neurologic pain in the leg, not amenable to treatment, and threatening life by its continuous intensity; and such simple fractures of the lower part of the femur as have not resulted in union after months of delay nor in false joint.


2.  By compressing the femoral artery with the finger at its origin when escaping from the pelvis, or with a tourniquet in the upper third of the thigh, if the amputation is not too high to prevent [sic]


3.  It is an haemorrhage from the uterus at or near the time of parturition, excessive in quantity, and caused by Placenta Praevia, the dilatation of the os tearing off a part of the placental attachment, and leaving its sinuses patulous.  It is also caused by non-contraction of the uterus at the proper time, the muscular walls not pressing upon the mouths of the blood vessels.  It is also an accompaniment frequently of premature labor, retain placenta, unusually severe “after-pains.” It is arrested by remedies that are addressed to its cause.  If due to Placenta Praevia, shortening the labor by version or instruments: if due to non-contraction of the uterus, cold applications to the vagina and os, Styptics topically applied: Ergot administered internally: Kneading and compressing with the hand the uterus tumor, internal exhibition of astringents, compression of the abdominal aorta, and irritation of the womb mechanically to cause it to contract.


4.  Nux Vomica is a medicine obtained from the plant called Strychnos Nux Vomicae – a small perennial shrub growing in America, and producing a bean or nut, about as large as a large Lima bean.  From this the medicine is obtained, and likewise its principle active element, Strychnia or Strychnine, which is a white inodorous substance, soluble in water and alcohol, and producing a slightly coal taste in the mouth.

 Nux Vomica is tonic in its therapeutic action and a Spinal Stimulant.  This latter effect is due to the alkaloid mentioned, though Strychnia is likewise tonic in its action.  The latter effect is the first in order after its exhibition, in large doses it is followed by a series of muscular spasms, producing opisthotonos, emprosthotonos, violent motions of the head and limbs and followed by death in consequence of spasm of the muscles of respiration.  An autopsy reveals often no indication of the cause of death, but bodies of such as are thus poisoned present an unusual degree of post-mortem rigidity.  Hence in muscular paralysis, not due to total destruction of nerve matter, either at the nerve centres or in the continuity of nerves, the remedy is exceedingly valuable.  As a tonic in all diseases where debility depends upon atonic conditions of striped and unstriped fibre, it is very useful.  In paralysis of the bladder with incontinence of urine, in paralysis of Sphincter muscles, and in the “dental paralysis” of early life, the remedy is productive of beneficial results.  The best remedy for poisoning by Strychnine is Opium, freely administered to quiet the nervous disturbance.


5.  Bone is the result of that change which takes place in the cartilage cell, denominated by Paget a degeneration, and by others a development.  The deposition of calcareous Salts, the phosphate of lime and others, is the principal agency in the change which takes place.  But bone is also formed by what Virchow calls a “proliferation” of cells from the periostium & the lining membrane of its medullary cavity.  Under the microscope a thin section of bone is seen to be permeated by minute canals called the Haversian canals, with smaller ones radiating from them in every direction – these are “canaliculi” and the whole system of passages for carrying to the cells at a distance from any blood-vessels those elements of the blood which are essential to the nutrition.  The Corpuscles of Parkinje are seen too when magnified.  These are the collections of cells, with some pigment matter, which are at a distance from the channels of circulation.  Chemically bone consists of Phosphate of Lime, Phosphate of Soda, Fluoride of Calcium, Chloride of Sodium, Water, Gelatin and animal matters.


6.    Potassae Chloras          ––————    K.O., Cl.O.5

       Potassae Aceta               —————    K.O., C2H4.O5.

       Potassii Iodidum            —————      K.I.

       Potassae Bitartras             —————  K.O.,2C2.H3.O8.

       Potassae Bicarbonas           ————– K.O.,2C.O.2

       Potassii Sulphuretum             ————  K.S.

       Potassae Sulphas             —————   K.O.,S.O.3

       Potassae Nitras              —————      K.O., NO.5



                 Potassae Chloratis,             drachman unam,

                 Tincturae Guiaci,                  drachmas sextas,

                 Tincturae Capsici,                guttas quartas,

                 Aquae                                     fluiduncias sextas,

                 Misce et Siqnatur “Gargarysma”

                 Sumendus ter die


7.  The cranial nerves are as follows.  [After Grey] [actual brackets in text]

          1.   Olfactory – the special nerve of the sense of smell

          2.   Optic – the            “         “      “   “       “   “   sight.

          3.   Oculo - Motorious {nerve of motion to all the muscles of the orbit

                                              {except – the trochlear muscle + the external rectus

          4.   Patheticus – nerve of motion to the trochlear muscle

          5.   Trifacial – Sensation and motion to the face.

          6.   Abducentes – supplies the external rectus muscle of the orbit

          7.  {Portio Dura – supplies motion to the face muscles.

               {Portio Mollis – the special nerve of hearing

          8.  {Pneumogastric {sensation and motion to the larynx, lungs,

                                          {diatraogus [?], stomach oesophagus etc.

               {Spinal Accessory, unites with the pneumogastric

               {Glosso-pharygeal {Supplies pharynx, fauces, tongue

                                              {etc. with sensation

9.      Hypoglossal or Sublingual– Motion to the tongue


8.  Pneumonia is distinguished from Plueritis principally by the physical signs.  A fine crepitation is heard at the first stage going on to Bronchophony, dullness in percussion, increase of vocal resonance, moist rales, if solidification of tissue is not complete – this generally [sic] at the posterior and inferior parts of the thorax.  In Plueritis, the physical signs are friction sound at first followed by effusion of serum, producing a total loss of sound in some parts and in others aegophony; the voice carried to the air by waves of liquid in the cavity.  The percussion is dull and changes from one place to another as the fluid gravitates to one part or another of the chest in accordance with the position assumed.  The sputa of Pneumonia is rust-colored, from the admixture of blood, that of Pleurisy is scanty, frothy, and often entirely wanting.  The fever is more frank usually in Pneumonia; then in Plueritis; but the pain in the latter disease is more lacerating and severe – that in Pneumonia is dull.  The dyspnoea is great in both diseases, worse in those cases of Plueritis, where the lung is crowded to the side of the cavity.


9.  The foetal circulation commences at the Placenta through which the blood is carried by the umbilical vein to the foetal liver.  Here a part passes directly to the inferior vena cava, by the ductus venosus, and a part passes through the hepatic veins.  From the inferior cava the blood is projected into the right auricle, thence to the left ventricle, and thence to the aorta, where it is dispatched through the carotids and subclavians, to the upper part of the body.  The Superior vena cava returns it to the heart – first to the right Auricle, then to the right ventricle – then to the pulmonary artery, from which it is sent through the ductus arteriosus to the aorta.  The umbilical arteries, arising from the internal iliac return it to the maternal blood.


James N. Hyde, A. A. Surgeon.


Certificate of Physical Capacity


I declare on honor that my health at this time is good and robust; and that, 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, or Haemorrhoids; 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.


James N. Hyde, A. A. Surgeon, U.S.N.

Candidate for the office of Assistant Surgeon.


U.S. Naval Asylum, Phila 

Oct 16th 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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Last update: Monday, December 12, 2016