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


William Henry Jones, 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: William Henry Jones, M.D.


To Medical Examining Board, Naval Asylum

Phila.   March 9th 1863



I was born near Nazareth Northampton Co. Pa. on December 15th 1840.  I attended the common school until I was 16 years of age, when I was sent to Fort Edward Institute Washington Co.  N. Y. from December 3d 1857 until June 15th 1858.  Branches studied while there, were Natural Philosophy, Arithmetic, Grammer [sic, correction marks in pencil] and Bookkeeping.  Commenced the Study of Medicine May 1st 1860 in the office of C. C. Field M.D. Easton Pa. have been under his instructions since that time with the exception of time spent in attending Lectures.


I attended lectures for two sessions at the University of Pennsylvania, where I passed my examination for a Degree of about a week ago.


My opportunities for acquiring a knowledge of pharmacy and the physical property of drugs, have been confined to the prescriptions which I saw put up in my Preceptor’s office and the more complex ones which were compounded by the druggists and pharmaceuists.


For witnessing the practice of Medicine and Surgery my opportunities have been limited to what I saw in my Preceptors practice, and to the clinics at the Philadelphia Hospital and those held at the University of Penna. during the time I attended lectures.


Have never studied Natural history, except what I learned by a general course of reading.  My knowledge of modern languages is limited to a slight knowledge of the German language as spoken in this County.


Testimonials and Certificate of Physical ability have been presented to the Board.


William H. Jones

202 South 11th Phila.


Questions by the Board:


Questions to be answered in writing, by Dr Wm H. Jones.

1.  What are the actions or injuries, which require primary amputation of the thigh?

2.  What is aneurism, + how do surgeons divided it?

3.  What is varicocele, + the operation for radical cure?

4.  What is the difference between Albumen and Fibrin?

5.  Define Medical Jurisprudence? [sic]

6.  What is the reason that the components of atmosphere do not separate according to gravity the lightest taking the upper and the heavier the lower regions of the air?

7.  What is Spigelia?

8.  What are the causes and treatment of Empyema?

9.  How and in what cases would you exhibit strychnia as a medicine?


Answers by Jones:


1.  The accidents or injuries, which require primary amputation of the thigh, are such as are caused by railroad accidents, or heavy weights crushing the parts or from gunshot wounds of the thigh causing such a destruction of tissue as will render Nature incapable of restoring the parts to their natural condition.


2.  Aneurism, is an enlargement of the coats of an artery.  The enlargement or dilation may be complete or partial affecting either one or all the coats of the vessel.  Divided into traumatic arising from wounds and idiopathic or symptomatic arising from some disease of the artery itself.  Have the complete, incomplete and dissecting aneurysms.


3.  Varicocele is an enlarged or varicose condition of the veins of the spermatic cord, and the radical cure is to obliterate them by a ligature thus preventing the flow of blood & reducing them to mere ligamentous cords.


4.  The difference between Albumen and Fibrin is in the [sic] Fibrin coagulating spontaneously when drawn from the blood vessels while Albumen does not coagulate spontaneously but will coagulate on the addition of heat and nitric acid.  Fibrin possesses the same chemical elements as Albumen but suppose to be in a higher state of oxidation.


5.  Medical Jurisprudence has for its object the discrimination of poisonous substances, and how far a Physician is justified in administering such articles without producing their deleterious effects upon the system, and in criminal cases, to determine whether the substance which was the cause of death, had been given with intent to kill, or whether the fatal results, had arisen merely from some constitutional peculiarity unknown to the Physician in prescribing.


6.  Reason that the components of the atmosphere do not separate according to gravity, is owing according to the law diffusion of gases, that when two gases of different specific gravity are brought together, they will become intimately intermingled with each other, without respect to their spec. gr. as has been proven by experiments.


7.  Spigelia or the Pinkroot of common language is from the Spigelia Marilandica an anual [sic, correction mark in pencil] plant of small size, with a branching root which is the part employed in medicine.  It grows in the Southern part of the United States.  Medical Properties are those of an anthelmintic, and in overdose emetic and by some said to be poisonous.  As an anthelmintic it is one the most efficient.  Generally given in the form of decoction.


8.  Empyema is caused either by an inflammation of the pleura running in so as to lead to the formation of pus by the bursting of a tubercle into the cavity of pleura or by the opening of an abscess of the liver into the pleura.

  Treatment consists in evacuating the pas if it has no outlet for fear of its introduction into the blood causing pyemia, and sustaining the strength of the patient by tonics, as quinine, iron, beef tea with a good animal diet and if prostration is very great give porter, ale, wine whey, brandy, carbonate of ammonia etc. until the drain upon the system is checked.  The operation consists of making an opening into the chest in the intercostal space between 6 + 7 ribs and in cases arising from pleurisy, may stimulate the parts a little by injecting a weak sol. of Iodine or Sol. of Muriated tincture of iron.


9.  Cases in which Strychnia is employed as a medicine are generally those of a paralytic nature.  It acts most favorably in cases of partial paralysis generally showing its action first in the part affected by pain and spasmoid twitchings which is a sure sign that the system is brought under the influence of the medicine.  Given in hemiplegia paralysis of the bladder & various affections of some nature.


Generally given in pill in doses of 1/12 to 1/16 gr. gradually increased.  It is also given in the form of extract made from the plant which produces the strychnia (Strychnos Nux vomica)   Employed externally where we wish to make a local impression, in the form of ointment:.   It should never be given during the acute stage of the disease for fear of aggravating the existing lesion but should be employed when the acute stage has passed off when it acts most beneficially upon the system.


William H. Jones

U.S. Naval Asylum, Philada  

August 12th 1863


Certificate of Physical Capacity.


I declare on honor that my health at this time 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 any thing 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.


William H. James

Candidate for the office of Assistant

Surgeon in the Navy of the

United States.


U.S. Naval Asylum, Philada

August 8th 1862 [sic]        


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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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