The Civil War was the costliest war in American history in terms of casualties. Statistics for the number of deaths in the Civil War vary somewhat based on the source used, but the total number of deaths on both sides combined was approximately 618,000.
Of these, about 204,000 were killed or died from their wounds. The rest of the deaths, about two thirds of the total, were from other causes, mostly disease. The medical science of the early 1860′s did not know the causes of infection or many diseases, and many medicines of the time contained chemicals that are toxic. During the war, many advances were made in treating the wounded, and a surprising number of these men recovered sufficiently to lead productive lives.
The exhibits of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in downtown Frederick, Maryland, tell the story of Civil War medicine, both its successes and limitations. Exhibits include medical training of doctors, reconstructive surgery, improvements in hospitals, and the role of nursing. Perhaps the best know Civil War nurse was Clara Barton, who later founded the American Red Cross. But authors Walt Whitman and Louisa May Alcott also served as nurses during the war. The museum covers the Civil War medical history of both sides of the conflict. For more about the museum, click here.