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


Henry F. McSherry, 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: Henry F. McSherry, M.D. 


Naval Asylum, Philada


September 2nd 1863


Surgeon James M. Greene, U.S. Navy

President Board Medical Examiners.




I received the commission of assistant Surgeon in the Navy, in July 1860; and was ordered for duty onboard the Sloop of War Vandalia, fitting out at New York, in November ’60.  We sailed in December, for the East Indies –;  Stopped at Porte Grande, (Island St. Vincent, one of the Cape de Verde) one week, + had to go to Porta Praya for water; we remained at the latter place one week;  –    then sailed for Cape of Good Hope:  Where we remain three weeks.  We return to New York from there, + were immediately send off Charleston [sic], to blockade.  This was in June 1861.  We took part in the capture of Forts at Port Royal S.C., 7th Nov 61, + returned to New York, in Decr.  I was transferred to the Sciota, Steam Gunboat, fitting out at Philada, and went to sea about the 20th of Decr, + joined the Western Gulf Squadron, + took part in the engagements in the Mississippi River, including the capture of the City of New Orleans, April 24th 1862.  We were then in the advanced fleet, below Vicksburg, till June; I was invalided home, for Diarrhoea + Intermittent fever, June 10th, + was on leave till Septr ’62, when I was ordered to the U. S. Steam Frigate Wabash at Port Royal, where I remained till June 18th 1863.  Since then I have been on duty at the Philada Navy Yard.


Very respectfully

H. F. McSherry

Asst. Surgeon U.S. Navy


Questions by the Board:


Questions to be answered in writing, by Asst Surgn Henry F.  McSherry, U.S.N.


1.  Describe the operation of Laryngotomy.

2.  What are the symptoms + treatment of paronychia?

3.  Give a formula, without symbols or abbreviations, for Scudamore’s mixture.

4.  Describe the preparation, medical properties and uses of Strychnia –– How does it produced death?

5.  What is death, and at what points in the circle of functions can it began?

6.  What physical characters in urine (including microscopic appearances) indicate disease?

7.   Describe the anatomical arrangement of the vessels in the lobules of the liver.

8.  Give the symptoms of catarrh of the bladder.

9.  What is Glycerine?


Answers by McSherry:


1.   Laryngotomy is performed – by placing the patient on his back, on a bed of a convenient height, the shoulders elevated, – head thrown back – the clothes having been removed to expose the part, – an incision is made, with an ordinary scalpel in the median line, through the skin + superficial fascia, vertically downwards between the thyroid + cricoid cartilage, which exposes the crico-thyroid membrane, which latter is then divided.  Occasionally a small artery running horizontally across the space will give trouble by bleeding; care must be taken that the blood does not get into the larynx.


2.    Paronychia begins by a feeling of heat + tension, swelling + redness.  Then the pain becomes throbbing, + very intense –  + the system sympathises [sic]; then is slight fever etc.  The application of Nitrate of Silver, so as to blister will sometimes arrest the progress of the disease.  Poultices may be applied to promote suppuration –    but the great remedy is a free incision – so as divide the sheaths of the tendon.

3.              Rx

                   Magnesiae Sulphates              uncias duas

                   Magnesiae Ustae                  drachmas duas

                   Colchici Seminis Tincturae        drachmas duas fluidus

                   Aquae purae                        uncias octo.

                   Misce, et fiat mistura.  Sumenda uncia una ter die, vel unciae duae omne mane


4.   Strychnia is in alkaloid found in nux vomica in combination with igasuric acid.  Is obtained by the action of dilute Sulphuric acid on the nuts.  The Sulphuric acid may be got rid of by lime. –   Appears in small white crystals, soluble in water, + intensely bitter.  Is used in paralysis not dependent on local lesions.  Is a direct stimulus to the spinal cord; –  produces to tetanic spasms.  Is used in paralysis of the bladder; + is a tonic; in small doses, promotes digest and + increases peristaltic action.  Dose – 1/30 to 1/60 of a grain.  Produces death by paralysis of the muscles of respiration by over stimulation of the Medulla + spinal cord.


5.   Death is cessation of the functions of respiration, circulation, and innervation, – the tripod of life.  It may begin in the head, at the heart, are in the lungs.


6.    The urine may be deficient in quantity or in excess; + it may be altered in quality.  It may contain albumen, lithic acid, Sugar; and may be acid or alkaline: –  Above or below its normal specific gravity –   1016 to 1.020.    There is sometimes a deposit – constituting gravel –; lithic acid, with soda, ammonia, phosphoric acid, oxalic acid, lime: – torulae, or yeast fungus.


7.          A portal vein between the lobules – inter-lobular –   lobular to the lobule, on the circumference, + distributed within the lobule; hepatic vein begins in the centre of lobule with hepatic duct –   intralobular; emerges + called sublobular.


8    Catarrh of bladder is noticed by pain in the region of the bladder, or at orifice of urethra, frequent calls, constant disposition, desire to make water; fever, furred tongue: high colored, sometimes alkaline urine: flakes of epithelium or pus may be dischgd [sic] – or mucous – + albumen will there be found.


9.  Glycerine is the basis of all fats; is in combination in them with oleaic, eleaic, margaric or Stearic acid.  Is very sweet.


H. F. McSherry

Asst Surgeon U.S.N.

Sept. 4th 1863


Delirium Tremens:


Delirium Tremens, is a disease peculiar to drunkards, or those who use, or abuse alcoholic liquors.  The disease is said to have been caused by opium and tobacco.


The symptoms are, at first, Slight; there is a nervous, agitated manner observed; with a restlessness, – a wild, wandering expression, –   which, if not controlled, soon passes into furious madness.  The patient becomes violent; can not sleep, and refuses to eat.  The skin is often covered with a cold clammy sweat; and death occurs from exhaustion.  There is no constant lesion observed after death:    there is commonly slight effusion into the ventricles, and I have seen, twice, marked opacity of the arachnoid.


The treatment consists in controlling irregular nervous action, and inducing sleep as early as possible.  Opium is mainly relied on for this purpose; it may be given combined with camphor; or the simply [sic] the Tinct. Opii Camph.  Morphia is a favorite form, of administering the narcotic.      It sometimes happens that enormous doses have been taken without good effect: and many writers think that death has frequently been caused by too large doses.  Chloroform or Ether may be used to induce quiet + Sleep; their effect is not as permanent as the effect of Opium.  Some persons are in the habit of prescribing the particular kind of liquor that the patient has been in the habit of using; – + this is followed, they tell us, by the happiest result.


It is advisable to get some food taken, as early as possible; as it is a sign of amendment where the appetite returns.  The disease is said to be caused by an abstinence from drink after having used it too freely.  The Reports of the Massachusetts General Hospital state, that every day the most inveterate drunkards are brought into the Wards, and that they do not find delirium to follow the sudden abstraction of the Stimulus.


The disease seems to consist in a hyperaesthesia, or excessive sensibility + irritability of the nervous system, the brain + spinal cord.  The remedies are stimulants; antispasmodics, + narcotics.  Perfect quiet + rest must be enjoined, though restraint or confinement is not always necessary nor advisable, except where there is danger of violence on the part of the patient towards himself or others.


On board ship, among Sailors, where the disease is very common, constraint is almost indispensable, if the delirium be at all excessive.


H. F. McSherry, Asst. Surgeon U.S.N.


Naval Asylum


Sept. 2nd 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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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.


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Last update: Monday, December 12, 2016