Winner, George Rosen Prize, American Association for the History of Medicine
The Civil War was the greatest health disaster the United States has ever experienced, killing more than a million Americans and leaving many others invalided or grieving. Poorly prepared to care for wounded and sick soldiers as the war began, Union and Confederate governments scrambled to provide doctoring and nursing, supplies, and shelter for those felled by warfare or disease.
During the war soldiers suffered from measles, dysentery, and pneumonia and needed both preventive and curative food and medicine. Family members--especially women--and governments mounted organized support efforts, while army doctors learned to standardize medical thought and practice. Resources in the north helped return soldiers to battle, while Confederate soldiers suffered hunger and other privations and healed more slowly, when they healed at all.
In telling the stories of soldiers, families, physicians, nurses, and administrators, historian Margaret Humphreys concludes that medical science was not as limited at the beginning of the war as has been portrayed. Medicine and public health clearly advanced during the war--and continued to do so after military hostilities ceased.
"An immensely readable synthesis of what [Humphreys] terms 'the greatest health disaster that this country has ever experienced.' "-- The News & Observer
"Humphreys' work accomplishes several tasks. It puts mid-nineteenth century health care through a prism of military concerns, civilian responses to war, medical science, and women's environment. It offers clear and concise depictions of individuals and their vendettas, such as military officers embracing or not tolerating civilian efforts. Marrow of Tragedy presents a compelling story of Americans, civilian and military, struggling together to do acts of mercy and create better environments during an era of brother against brother bloodshed."-- Civil War Book Review
"In many ways, Marrow of Tragedy is likely to remain the definitive general medical history of the war for years to come... The book has high production values and makes one of the most important contributions to our understanding of that so-called third army of the Civil War--disease--and the efforts of those on both sides of the Mason-Dixon to fight it. It needs to be read by specialists and nonspecialists alike and should find a place on the shelf of every academic library worthy of the name."-- Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
"Margaret Humphreys has made a significant contribution to the literature of Civil War medicine and of medicine in general by sharply focusing on rear-echelon military healthcare. She adroitly uses primary and secondary sources to explain the implications of such innovations as hospitals, nongovernmental organizations, reforms in sanitation, and the employment of women as nurses and other healthcare workers. For anyone interested in war and medicine, Marrow of Tragedy shines a bright light on previously unexplored aspects of the Civil War and their impact on American society."-- Michigan War Studies Review
Margaret Humphreys is the Josiah Charles Trent Professor in the History of Medicine, a professor of history, and a professor of medicine at Duke University. She is the author of Intensely Human: The Health of the Black Soldier in the American Civil War, Malaria: Poverty, Race, and Public Health in the United States, and Yellow Fever and the South.show more