Sunday, July 25, 2010

B*ATL: Civil War field hospitals

During the week, Dave Furukawa is a physician assistant in Atlanta. On weekends, you might find have wearing a woolen blue uniform and laboring under a canvas shelter.

The living historian with the 21st Ohio Volunteers ran a field dressing station and hospital at B*ATL (Battle of Atlanta), an annual festival held in East Atlanta/Kirkwood.

Furukawa and Thomas Federico (below) educated visitors about the Civil War version of a triage station. A field dressing station might be 300-400 yards from the battle. Once they stabilized a patient, doctors would send him back to a hospital a few miles away for surgery or more complete treatment.

The enemy wasn’t always a guy with a rifle.

“Everybody got infection,” Furukawa said Saturday at the encampment at Gilliam Park in Kirkwood.

A recent Picket article talked about the advancements in medicine and field treatment that came from the Civil War.

At the time, though, there were no antibiotics. Gangrene and amputation were common. Doctors did have some morphine and patients also might receive opium or laudanum for pain and surgery.

Doctors and assistants had to make life-or-death decisions. A gut shot or serious head wound usually meant certain death. The soldier would be made comfortable, Furukawa said. Sometimes he would be propped up as he wrote or dictated a last letter home.

“That’s where you get the term ‘dying tree,’’’ Furukawa said.

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