The Battleground Became a Proving Ground for New Medical Treatments

Civil War Nurse Anna Bell

While the Civil War claimed 620,000 lives, two out of three soldiers died of disease rather than of battle field wounds. The deadliest foes were diarrhea, typhoid fever, lung inflammation and dysentery. The camp grounds were the deadliest fields of all.

On the battlefields, 120,000 men were wounded; of these, 20,000 died; and tens of thousands became amputees, leading to doctors being called "saw bones."

But significant gains in medicine occurred during the war. By the end of the fighting, the odds of surviving a wound had improved to 50:1. And in the North, the U.S. Sanitary Commission had cut disease rates among troops by 50 percent.

During the war, field hospitals were introduced; and Clara Barton began the precursor to the Red Cross began.