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


David Mack, Jr., 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: David Mack, Jr., M.D.


To the Board of Naval Surgeons.

U.S. Naval Asylum, Philadelphia.




I was born in Wrentham, in the county of Norfolk, State of Massachusetts, on the 22d day of September, 1836.


The course of study which I followed while a boy was intended to fit me for a collegiate education.  It consisted, as usual, besides the common English branches, of Algebra, Geometry, French, Latin and Greek.


When about 15 years of age, my father sent me to Germany to a boarding school, where I continued these same studies, with the addition, of course, of German.  After having been abroad nearly two years and a half, I returned home expecting to enter the Sophomore class of Harvard College at the next commencement, which I was about fitted to do, when an attack of measles left me with such weak eyes that I was obliged to give up the plan.    As soon as I was able, I went to study what of the Zo÷logy and Geology I could with Professor Agassiz.  I was with him as a student about a year and a half, attending his lectures on those subjects, which I learn what I could of them in his laboratory, and also attended the lectures of Prof. Wyman on Comparative Anatomy of Vertebrates and of Prof. Gray on Botany –        Since leaving the Scientific School at Cambridge, I had little opportunity pursue the studies.


In November, 1858, I began the study of Medicine with Dr. L. Clary, of Syracuse, N.Y. and continued with him, giving a part of my time only to medicine, till following September, when I joined the Harvard Summer Medical School in Boston.  I studied there one year, attending lectures at the Massachusetts Medical College in the winter months.  During the winter of 1860 – 61, I attended a second course of lectures in Boston; but being in poor health on the following spring, left off study till the next September, when I became a student with Dr. F. Winsor, Superintendent of the State Hospital at Rainsford Island, Boston.  I staid [sic] with him till the following April, when I went on board of a hospital boat for the Western Sanitary Commission, where I acted as Assistant Surgeon and had charge of a ward for somewhat more than two months.  In September, 1862, I return to Rainsford Island, where I remained till July 6th, 1863, when, having graduated in Medicine at the Massachusetts Medical College, I left.


Dr. Windsor having left the hospital in the beginning of December, 1862, I was a pupil, during the rest of my stay there, of Dr. G. L. Underwood, who was Dr. Windsor’s successor.   During a fifteen months, that I was at Rainsford Island, I an entire charge, though under the supervision of the Superintendent, of between twenty and fourty [sic] patients.  Some of the time I put up only a part, but for a while the whole of my own prescriptions, and also had a part of the making of tinctures, infusions, etc, to do.  The patients were men, women and children; the diseases both medical and surgical, chiefly chronic and there was some midwifery.  There were few surgical injuries and fewer operations.  While study in Boston, I attended the medical and surgical cliniques and also the surgical operations.


I feel nearly as well equated with German as with English.  French I have not studied for some time, and should have to refer to the dictionary often to read it.


I am staying at present at 926 Spruce St.  My post-office address is Belmont, Mass.


I am respectfully

David Mack, Jr. M.D.


Questions by the Board:


Questions to be answered in writing, by Dr David Mack Jr.

1.  What is the duration of pregnancy?

2.  Describe the symptoms and causes of Tetanus.

3.  In what ordered do the infantile teeth appear, and what is the number?

4.  Give the symptoms of paroxysm of Intermittent fever.

5.  Describe the axilla, it’s [sic] boundaries and contents + their relations.

6.  What are the constituents of the bile?

7.  What are the effects of Mercurial preparations on the system and what their uses?  Write a prescription without abbreviation.

8.  Enumerate preparations of antimony used in medicine giving their composition in symbols.

9.  What is the spleen?  Give some account of its structure and supposed uses.


Answers by Mack, Jr. 


1.  Nine calendar or ten lunar month; or two hundred and eighty days.


2.  Tetanus consists of tonic spasms of the voluntary muscles and generally begins in the facial muscles, producing of an unnatural and prolonged grin.  It is followed by a similar affection of the muscles of mastication, which prevent food being taken: this is called trismus, or locked jaw.  As the attack progresses, the muscles of the limbs and trunks become involved and the limbs are rigid; the fingers and thumb are firmly flexed on the palm, and the toes bent towards the sole of the foot; the trunk may be bent forwards, when it is called emprosthotonos; backwards, when it is called opisthotonos; or to one side, when it is called pleurothotonos.  These spasms give the patient much pain and frequently produce a certain amount of laceration of the muscles.  They continue with but slight remission and tend to destroy life by the exhaustion of nervous force and the prevention of nutrition.  The mind is very little affected during the course of the attack.


Tetanus is classified according to its cause into idiopathic and traumatic.  It is generally of the latter variety being caused by surgical injuries, especially those of the foot or hand, which lacerate or partially destroy some nerve.  Exposure to dampness and cold by night and the heat by day aids greatly in its production.  A debilitated constitution would be more subject to it than a robust one.


Idiopathic tetanus is neither very common, nor as dangerous as the traumatic, it occurs in newborn children, when it is called trismus monatorum.


3.  The number of the infantile teeth is twenty.  They begin to appear at about the seventh month, and sooner in the lower than in the upper jaw; as a general rule, during the whole course of their eruption.  The first to appear are the middle incisors, first of the lower, then of the upper jaw; then the latteral [sic] incisors, in the same order; then the first molars; I believe the next to follow are the second molars, and lastly the canines – the first dentition is completed at about two and a half years –


4.  After a preliminary period of languor, during which the patient loses his vigor and appetite, has creeping sensations running over his body, has chills and pains in his back, the cold period or true chill sets in.  During it, the surface is pale and cold; the skin contracts around the hair follicles, leaving them prominent, and producing the appearance called goose flesh, or cutis anserine; violent shivering comes on, the teeth chatter and the patient feels extremely cold, and it is almost impossible to warm him in a severe attack.  Owing to the congestion of the internal organs, their secretions are more or less suppressed or disordered; the urine is not secreted.  If the malarial poison be very strong the patient may be overcome in this stage, it being impossible to bring on a reaction.  This is called pernicious fever.  Usually, after this stage has lasted an hour or two, it is succeeded by a stage of reaction, or the hot stage.  During this stage, the surface is flushed and hot, the pulse rapid and full, and the patient is as uncomfortably hot as he was before cold.  Delirium may occur as a consequence of the general excitement; it may also occur in the cold stage, but is, I think, much less common.  The hot period lasts longer than the cold and terminates in a profuse perspiration, with copious secretion of urine, after which the patient feels relieved and soon recovers in a considerable degree his former condition.  The period between the end of one paroxysm and the beginning of another is called the intermission; that from the commencement of one to the commencement of a second is called the interval.


5.  The axilla is situated below the shoulder and between the upper parts of the chest and arm.  It is bounded below by the pectoralis major in front, and the teres major and latissimus dorsi behind; the serratus magnus covers the chest; and the coraco-brachialis, the long and inner heads of the triceps cover the humerus.  Its shape is pyramidal with the base downwards and outwards formed by the skin between its lower boundaries, while its apex lies between the chest, upper part of the arm, clavicle and first rib – The pectoralis minor forms a part of its anterior wall above.


The contents of the axilla are, internally, the axillary vein, next external to it the axillary artery, then the axillary plexus of nerves, which in the middle or lower parts surrounds the artery.  The structures are surrounded by a large mass of cellular tissue, which contains a considerable amount of fat in its meshes, and in which several lymphatic glands are imbedded.  These lie mostly in the lower and inner part of this region, though some extend high up and are near the vessels.  Some of them receive the lymphatics from the breast and become affected in consequence of troubles there.


6.  The principal ingredients of the bile are cholesterol which is the great part of biliary calculi; glycocholate and glyco-taurate of soda; the coloring matters biliverdine and bilifulvine, animal matter and water.


7.  Mercurials to act must be absorbed, after which they stimulate all the excretory and secrotory [sic] organs, being foreign to the system, which in this manner tries to get rid of them.  When given moderately, their effect is noticed principally in the liver, which, being the largest gland of the body does the large is part towards their elimination.  This effect is known to be produced by the evacuations being lighter colored than before or perhaps greenish and liquid, showing a large excess of bile.  Blue mass, in the dose of from five to ten grains, produces these effects mildly, and calomel in the same amount, more decidedly.  These forms of mercury are used in about the dose mentioned as laxatives or cathartics and are more especially indicated in torpor of the liver.


If the action of these medicines be long continued and if the amount given is greater than the emunctories can remove, the blood becomes poisoned, or injured in quality, its fibrine loses in a great degree its power of coagulating, the globules diminish and the water increases in proportion.  The disintegration of tissue is hastened and the quantity of salts present in the blood increased.  Salivation is produce, owing to the increase of secretion, which the salivary glands are called upon to perform.  If this is severe the glands may be destroyed and large, foul ulcerations occur on the gums and inside of the cheeks; the teeth become loose and a dark line forms around their base.  If pushed to the extreme the exhaustion becomes very great the pulse is weak and irritable and the patient is in a condition similar to hectic fever which is called erithismus mercurialis.  The salivation, which was formally more frequent than now, employed in the treatment of disease was produced rapidly by giving one or two grains of calomel every hour or two till it took place, regulating its action in the bowels by combining it with opium or other narcotics.  If given as the best physicians directed, their effects, were not as severe as I have described; but they were intended to keep up an impression on the gums for a greater or less time according to the object in view.  In inflammations they were universally, and are considerably now, used to prevent the forming of false membranes and exudations.  I think that the best authorities now believe that the injury to the general health by this course of treatment is greater than the good gained by the prevention of the organization of fibrine.  Syphilis was treated formerly in this way more than at present.


The last effect of mercurials is called their specific or alterative effect – In order to get the alternative effect, however it is not considered necessary to produce salivation and it is believed that the exhibition of small amounts of mercurials in doses insufficient to salivate, or to produce any perceptible physiological effect, still produces favorable changes in disease, which would not take place without it.  This is the true alternative action.  It is generally considered better to treat syphilis in its secondary and primary forms by this method rather than by salivating.


The mercurials have been used for the most various purposes, but I believe I have given their chief indications.


The following I consider a good recipe to give a patient affected with secondary syphilis.


Recipe   Hydrargyri Chloridi Corrosivi

                Ammoniae Muriatis              ana granum

                Spiritus Rectificati                fluidrachmam

                Aquae                                    fluidrachmas septem

                Misce. Fiat solutio. Capiat fluidrachmam post cibum, ter die –


8.  The only preparation of antimony which is necessary in medicine, and the one which is almost altogether used is the tartrate of antimony and potassa.  Its formula is Sb.O3, T+KO, T.   There are other forms of antimony such as Kernes mineral, golden sulphuret of antimony and others but they are not necessary in medicine and I do not know their symbols.


9.  The spleen is the largest of the ductless or blood glands.  It is surrounded by a dense fibrous envelope, which throws off partitions into the substance of the organ; these surround and enclose the peculiar corpuscles of the organ, which consist of ductless, glandular cavities largely supplied with bloodvessels.  The fibrous envelope has some elastic fibers in it.  In some of the lower animals these are thought have considerable influence on the portal circulation as they exist in large amount.


The function of the spleen, as of the other blood-glands, is not known.  It is thought that they made generate the corpuscles of the blood.


David Mack, Jr.

Naval Asylum, Philadelphia.

September 26th, 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, or 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


All of which is respectfully submitted by.


David Mack, Jr. M.D.

Candidate for the office of

Ass’t. Surgeon in the Navy

of the United States.


U.S. Naval Asylum, Philadelphia.

September 25th1863              

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