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


Robert Willard, 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:  Robert Willard, M.D.


Preliminary Letter


I was born in Boston Mass. on the eighth of Dec 1838.


Began to attend school at the age of five; about 12 years old entered the Boston Latin School, and after finishing the regular course there (5 yrs), was admitted to Harvard College; graduated in July 1860.  While in the Latin School the studies were history, arithmetic, geography, algebra, french, latin and greek [sic], particular attention being paid to the two last –  In college the classes were still farther pursued, and at times, botany and chemistry, with natural sciences.  I have at different periods during my college course studied Spanish and Italian, but for the past few years have paid no attention to the modern languages or botany.


Immediately on graduating, I entered the Harvard Medical School, and there remained until April 1862, when I was appointed to the Mass. Gen Hospital as House Physician, where I have been up to the present time.  Prior to entering the Hospital regularly, I had occasionally filled the post of House Surgeon.  I have been in the habit of practicing pharmacy to some extent in the Hosp. above referred to, having filled the place of apothecary frequently for short periods.  Have also made autopsies under the superintendence of the Asst. Prof. of Morbid Anatomy, and had repeated and frequent opportunities of witnessing and assisting at surgical operations.  Shall be ready to graduate in July 1863.


Robert Willard


Address in Philadelphia

Mrs. Hemsley’s S.W. Corner

of Walnut and Twelfth Sts.


Address in Boston to the care of

Joseph Willard

Boston,  Mass.

April 17th 1863.                                                 


Robert Willard

Candidate for the post of

Asst. Surgeon in the U.S. Navy


Questions by the Board:


Questions to be answered in writing, by, Mr. Robt Willard

1.  What is hydrocele, and what is the diagnosis?

2.  What are the stages of labour?

3.  In fracture the long bones, what is the rationale of union?

4.  Describe Dewy’s Safety lamp, its use and the principle on which its action depends?

5.  What is capillary attraction?

6.  Describe the capillary circulation.

7.  What is the diagnoses in pneumonia, bronchitis + pleurisy, respectively – [sic]

8.  Write a prescription for a pill containing an astringent and a narcotic – without symbols or abbreviations –

9.  What is the pathology of diphtheria, how would you treat it?  –


Answers by Willard:


1.  It is a tumor of the scrotum consisting of water or more properly serum, contained in the tumor vaginalis.  It is soft and yielding to the touch and is distinguished from hernia by its capability of transmitting light, from varicocele by the feeling, the latter being knotted.


2.  There are three stages of labor – The first is the dilatation of the os uteri – The second is the delivery of the child – The third the expulsion of the placenta and membranes.


3.  There is a certain amount of inflammation and the ends of the ruptured periosteal membrane throw out a soft cartilaginous matter which covers the seat of fracture.  This occurs in the course of a week and after that time the new substance, if circumstances are favorable, hardens, becoming the callus.


4.  The lamp resembles any ordinary lamp only being surrounded at a short distance from the wick flame by a wire network.  This prevents any of the flame from passing directly to the air which may be in the neighborhood of the lamp.  If the air be is a combustible gas it is consumed on the wire by slow combustion, if it is a poisonous gas the flame is reduced but does not expire, thus giving time for the person exposed to escape.


5.  Is that property which some bodies have of remaining in contact with each other when under the usual conditions, they would fall apart.


6.  The arteries divided into very minute vessels and through their walls the nutrient properties of the blood exuded and the waste is taken up by the small vessels of the veins which communicate with the arterial capillaries and the blood is returned to be purified.


7.  In pneumonia we find fever, cgh [sic] and local pain in the chest.  Expecn Sputa is at first white but soon becomes viscid bloody and rusty, the blood being thoroughly mixed with the mucus.  There is dullness on percussion of the affected part and also crepitation and diminish respiration there.  Patient is unable to be on affected side.  If the disease progresses all respiration ceases in the seat of the disease which is almost always in the lower lobe of the lung, and generally on the right side  Change of position does not usually affects the resonance on percussion.  If but one lung is affected in the healthy side we find the respiration increased.


In bronchitis there is rather increased resonance on percussion.  The rȃles are loud, mucous and frequently rattling heard over the course of the bronchi.  The thoracic pain is across the middle of the front chest, the dyspnea well marked and the sputa whitish yellowish or greenish, apt to be frothy and at times mixed with fresh blood but not so intimately as in pneumonia.  The respiration is quick and may be tubular over the bronchi, where broncophony is sometimes heard. Cgh [sic] and fever.


In pleurisy there is sharp pn. cgh [sic] with generally whitish, yellowish or greenish sputa.  At first but little diminution of the resonance and at that time the bruit de cuir neuf may be heard from the movement of the inflamed pleural surfaces over each other.  After exudation takes places there is intense dullness on percussion absence of respiration and by change of position some change in the resonance may be observed in the affected side.  Aegophony may be heard when there is a thin layer of fluid between the lung and the walls of the chest.  In the healthy side the respiration is puerile.  The decubitus after exudation has taken place is usually on the affected side.  In the apex of the diseased lung rales of crackling kind maybe sometimes heard if the effusion is not very extensive.    Pneumonia and pleurisy are said by some writers to occur together always.


8 .                   Recipe

                                   Plumbi Acetatis  granum semis unum

                                   Opii Pulverizati granum unum

                                   Misce et fiat pilulam unam.

                                   Signa – Capiat ad noctum.


9  Diphtheria is an exudation of whitish matter on the mucous membrane of the mouth palate and or fauces and is said to be of a fungus or vegetable growth.  Treatment – Tonics and astringents the latter especially to a surface denuded of the exudation.  Potassae Chloratis gr x - xx to the ounce of cold water. Tr Mur Ferri gtt v - x  3 or 4 times daily.  Nourishing diet, but not a very stimulating one unless the disease be marked with severe constitutional symptoms; rest, freedom from exposure to cold or wet.


Robert Willard

Saturday April 18th 1863


Certificate of Physical Capacity


I declare on honor that my health is 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 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.


Robert Willard 

Candidate for the office of Ass’t Surgeon in the Navy of the United States.

U.S. Naval Hospital Asylum


April 17th 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

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