Medical Care During the Revolutionary War |
Care of the sick and wounded in the American Revolution was hampered by many factors. There were very few well-trained physicians; a lack of hospital facilities; an ignorance and carelessness regarding sanitation in camps, barracks, and military hospitals; and a shortage of medicines and surgical instruments. Few colonia doctors had earned degrees at medical schools. It was more of a death sentence to go to the hospital then to stay on the battlefield or even go home to be treated by family.
At the beginning of the Revolutionary War the colonies had very little experience with organizing a medical department. Most Colonial Physicians gained their experience while serving with England in the French and Indian War. And even then most were Surgeon’s Mates, not full Surgeons. These doctors also trained in England since there were only two medical schools in the colonies at this time. One was The Medical Department of the College of Philadelphia, which is now the University of Pennsylvania which stated in 1765. The second was King’s College which later became Columbia University in New York, started in 1768. (Eichner 2003) Only a few colonial doctors had attended European medical schools, or had any knowledge of military Medical Departments in European armies. Some of these men were, Benjamin Church, William Shippen, and Benjamin Rush, all of whom served in the Medical Department during the Revolutionary War.
There were very few hospitals in the colonies. One of the first permanent hospitals was Pennsylvania founded in 1751 by Dr. Thomas Bond. During the revolution hospitals were haphazardly put together with no real organization. There were mainly three types of hospitals that served the troops. The general hospital which Continental military would run often using Private homes, barn houses, college halls or even churches. These buildings were insufficient for use as hospitals. Private homes...