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


Somerset Robinson, 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:  Somerset Robinson, M.D. 


U. States Naval Asylum,

Philadelphia, Pa.

September 14th 1863. 



I am pleased to state that I received the Commission of an Assistant Surgeon in the U.S. Navy, May 9th 1861 and was a few days there after assigned to duty at the New York Naval Hospital, of which Surgeon John A. Lockwood was in charge.  At the expiration of about five weeks I was detached from that Institution and ordered to Boston, Mass. to report for duty on board the U.S. Sloop Vincennes, of which Doctor S. A. Engles was surgeon.

The ship was put in commission late in June 1861 and early in July we put to sea, under the command of Commander Robert Handy, for a short cruise off Nantucket in search of enemical [sic] vessels, from which we returned to Boston a week afterwards without sighting any.


Late in July 1861 we again sailed from Boston bound for the Gulf Blockading Squadron under command of Commodore Mervine to whom Captain Handy had orders to report, which being done our ship was ordered to take her station off Passe a'l'outre where we remained near a month, and then ascended about 18 miles up the river following the U.S.  Steam Sloop Richmond up the S. W. Pass to the Basin or Head of the Pass, this being the point where the main stream divides into diverging channels and forms the Delta of the Mississippi river or its estuaries.  About mid-autumn we returned down S. W. Pass and resumed the Blockade outside the Bar.

At this time I was detached from the USS Vincennes and ordered to report on board the Steam Sloop, Richmond of which Doctor A. A. Henderson was the Surgeon.  Three months subsequent the ship having returned from the Gulf to New York for repairs, I was detached and order to report to Commodore Hudson for duty on board the U.S. Gun-Boat Katahdin then fitting out at Boston Navy Yard to join the Western Gulf Blockading Squadron.  We sailed on the first of March 1862 under command of Lieut. Commanding G.  H. Preble, and reported to Flag Officer Farragut, who commanded the Squadron of which we were to be a part.


I remain on board the Katahdin while she was on service in the Mississippi river where she remained until January 1863 when we had the good fortune to get out in the Gulf of Mexico and crews a few weeks along the Texan Coast, after which we took our station off Galveston, Texas, where the ship was August 15th 1863 when I left her to return North.


Having been allowed the opportunity of coming before the Medical Board now in session at this place, I respectfully present myself for the examination.


I am your most obedient servant,

Somerset Robinson,

Asst. Surgeon, U.S.N.


To Surgeon J. M. Green,

U.S. Navy


Questions by the Board:


Questions to be answered in writing, by  Asst Surgeon Somerset Robinson.

1.  What are the different anesthetics, + how employed in Surgery?

2.  What is hemorrhage, the causes and treatment?

3.  Describe the operation of vena section at the bend of the arm.

4.  Describe the action of muscles in voiding the bladder, and explain to limit between the voluntary + Excitomotory actions of these.

5.  Write without abbreviations directions for making and using Lugals Solution –

6.  Give a theory of the galvanic circuit.

7.  What are the branches of the Internal Iliac artery, their course + distribution.?

8.  What are the symptoms + treatment of Erysipelas?

9.  What are the constituents of the Bile?


Answers by Robinson:


1.  The terchlorid [sic] of formyl, the oxyd of ethyl and protoxide of Nitrogen, used by inhalation; the frigorific mixture of ice and common salt, used by local application, and formally powerful narcotics were administered, and sometimes pressure made on the nerve.


2.  Escape of blood from the vessels which naturally convey it to its course, the causes are external agents which mechanically rupture of the vessel by coming in violent contact with them; high excitement or breach the walls of vessel by diseased action and sometimes there is a hæmorrhagic diathesis; treatment, secure the patent vessel of possible by ligature or tourniquet, enjoin entire rest in the horizontal position, make judicious use of astringents by administration and topical application diet light nutritious and mild laxatives of the bowels are constipated [sic], the body must be kept cool, ice should always be at hand as temperature and position have much control of the flow of blood in case of hæmorrhage.


3.  A band is placed above the band of the arm and then we see the Median-Cephalic and the Media-Basilic the last two joining respectively the Cephalic and the Basilic Veins, the Median-Cephalic is selected when it presents a good volume as there is not the danger of injuring the artery, although that is not probable even in the Median-Basilic as the biceps fascia intervenes; the part being selected the thumb or spring lancet is held so as to cut through the skin and fascia at an angle of 45° with the axis of the vessel, which being opened the thumb lancet is made to cut its way upwards and outwards; when it is desirable to stop the flow of blood the upper bandages removed and a compress applied and secured over the incision by a few turns of a roller


4.  The membranous sack is made to expel its contents by the action of muscular fibres concentrically arranged and in contraction these fibres increased are diameters which increase diminishes their length with a consequent diminution of all the circles in their areas: the voluntary action is that under the control of the individual through the Cerebro-Spinal System, the Excito-motory is without his control, being a reflex action, that is where an impression is made upon a sentient or afferent nerve which reaches the nerve centre, and contraction is induced through the efferent branches


5.  Recipe

        Iodinii                                 grana quinque

        Iodidi Potassii                   grana decem

        Aquae distillatae,              uniciam fluidam unam

        Misce et fiat Solutio         drachma fluida sumatur, bis in die


6.  There appears to be in imponderable and irreversible body, at ordinary times in a state of equilibrium and is only known to exist but by its effects and these are shown or brought out by mechanical or chemical actions which seem to separate that body into two, namely a negative and positive which are kept apart by means of non conducting bodies of matter called insulators.  Now these positive and negative parts show a decided tendency to come together again and resume their equilibrium and if any substance capable of transmitting one of these parts come in contact with it, the part makes active exertion to join its fellow and passes with incalculable speed through a conductor for that purpose, thus forming a current.

By this we presume that while the negative part was isolated from the whole imponderable body surrounding the earth, that imponderable body was wanting in equilibrium until the separated part was restored.


7.  This branch after leaving the primitive Iliac divides into anterior and posterior trunk and from these are given the Gluteal which passes backwards out of the pelvis along side of the pyraformis muscle to the greater Sacro-Sciatic notch for distribution, the pudic courses along close to the inner edge of the ramus Pubis and supplies the penis, the Ischiatic supplying the parts around the tuberosity, the inferior hæmorrhoid distributed to the rectum the vesicle supplying the bladder


8.  The person attacked the complains of headache want of appetite, unsound sleep, the tongue may be clean and dry the skin is not naturally moist, the face a little flushed and the pulse accelerated and there is a cutaneous redness which may or may not disappear on pressure, there are general indications of a weakened system present: the treatment consists in administering nutritious food and tonics, such as milk, good soup and porter with the terchlorid of iron in Tincture and local applications of Tincture of Iodine or Nitrate of Silver to the inflamed surface, should suppuration occur producing rigor, free incisions are to be made and the patient supported by Quinia and stimulats [sic]


9.  Water

Glyko-cholate of soda

Tauro-cholate of soda



Stearate      of    soda

Margarate    "        "

Oleate          "        "

Phosphate  of   lime

Phosphate   "    soda

Phosphate   "    magnesia

Chlorid      of   sodium

Chlorid       "    potassium

Mucus       of  the   gall bladder.


Very respectfully submitted

Somerset Robinson

Assistant Surgeon



To Surgeon

J. M. Green



Congestive Fever


Synonym, Pernicious Fever, and it is sometimes called Cold Remittent or Cold Intermittent Fever by those who live within its deadly grasp.


The cause of Congestive Fever is said by Medical observers to be that of Common Remittent and Intermittent, modified and rendered more intense by locality, as it is noticed more frequently within proximity of water courses, while Remittent will be found at points more distance from these streams, yet this remark is only if general application as Intermittent, Remittent and Congestive Fevers are often met with on the same sections of country together at the same time and this is a fact of peculiar interest; in may be that one person is exposed to a current of air loaded with the cause of the intensified disease while a second has only been exposed to a current of air containing the cause, if the same, in a less Malignant form, the idiosyncrasies and nativity of the person attacked is likewise to be considered


The Pathology of this disease can be expressed a few words, it is a defect of Innervation, of course producing derangement of all the dependent functions to a most dangerous extent.


The Symptoms are such as as Pathology would point out to us, the person attack is observed to the much depressed, there is relaxation of the tissues and soon it comes on a cold, clammy sweat with shriveled hands and sometimes the breath of the patient is chilled, the patient’s mind is light and he moves about without any definite object in view, there is great irritability of the stomach and articles of nutriment and medicine must be administered with discretion to avoid the increase of the irritability by the vomiting which set in.  Sometimes there is constipation at others the bowels are loose and the character of the stools fluid and light; the urine may be retained in the bladder in the latter stages of the Fever; a full, soft, entirely comprepible [sic] pulse is one of the early symptoms.


The Diagnosis is not difficult with all these symptoms to guide us but it must be remembered that they are not all present in every case and when we are in a locality where this Fever is known to exist we should examine every case having any of these symptoms as an early diagnosis is most essential to a successful treatment.

The Prognosis is unfavorable generally, but much depends upon the experience of the Practitioner.  The Treatment must be directed to the maintenance of Innervation which is so seriously impaired, opium to allay the irritability and quiet the bowels, when they are too loose, calomel to excite the biliary secretion may be used cautiously, Tincture of Capsicum, artificial heat, counter irritants to the extremities all have a little share in a good result, but the Disulphate of Quinia is the preparation to which we must have the earliest recourse, the proper time to administer it is in the absence of paroxysm, but time is so precious in this disease that it may be used throughout the fit, it may be given in ten grain doses, with a small quantity of whiskey and gum acacia until its effect is shown, the patient should be kept at rest to reserve his strength and external warmth applied and a gentle diaphoresis kept up, which in conjunction with the Quinia seems to be of good service in restoring the function of the Liver which appears to be suspended, and it must be mentioned in treatment that every exertion should be made to save the patient from a following paroxysm.


Very respectfully submit,

Somerset Robinson,

Assistant Surgeon,



To Surgeon,

J. M. Greene,

U.S. Navy.

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