Ambulances Through History

Ambulances post-date mobile medical units by several hundred years - the first evidence of “mobile hospitals” dates back to the units set up by the Knights Hospitallier during the first Crusades in the 11th century - but they are much more ancient than our current high-tech, specially-equipped vehicles may suggest.

The first consistent military ambulances emerged in the 15th century to transport Spanish troops away from the action, and the first wide-spread civilian ambulance services were developed during the cholera epidemics in 1830s London.

Many of our current ambulance services were developed during the U.S. Civil War, World War I, and World War II.

In recent decades, many ambulance services have expanded into specialty care (cardiovascular, obesity, stroke, and athletic), and in the United States and United Kingdom, almost all municipal fire departments are directly affiliated with a public or private ambulance service.


National Museum of Medicine

Wikimedia Commons


“If I thought, had any idea, that I’d ever be a slave again, I’d take a gun an’ jus’ end it all right away. Because you’re nothing but a dog.”

There seems to be this misconception among the general public that American slavery was a long time ago. It wasn’t. As late as 1949, former slave Fountain Hughes was still alive and kicking. He was 101 years old. Hermond Norwood sat him down and interviewed him in Baltimore, Maryland. He recorded the whole thing. Transcript is here in case you want to follow along.

At the turn of the nineteenth century the free African American population of the northern states was approximately 47,000; by 1860 it had grown to over 225,000. The four northern states with the largest free black populations before the Civil War were Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and New Jersey. … The most prominent black communities took root in the cities of Philadelphia and New York, where urban African Americans formed cultural and benevolent organizations, and some succeeded in business, managing to gain considerable amounts of property. Despite the success of some blacks, most northern African Americans were denied equal civil rights.

Excerpted from “Free African Americans Before the Civil War (North)” courtesy of the Oxford African American Studies Center. Explore our special US Civil War collection, featuring free content and the latest resources to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the war that shaped a nation.

Image credit: Reynolds’s Political Map of the United States (1856). Public domain via the Library of Congress.

anonymous asked:

They always have these specials on the Civil War, but it's always about the war itself and not so much other things - I was curious, due to all the types of ailments and injuries and such that occurred during the war, was there a lot of medical advancement that took place during that time, or perhaps directly after? And, if so, do you have any recommended readings on the subject? (thanks in advance, I love your blog :D)

Conflicts with major casualties almost always also lead to major advancements in at least one field of medicine. The US Civil War was a huge huge time for medical advancement and achievement, and it sped up the advancement of the already-improving state of medicine in the US considerably.

There’s actually an entire museum dedicated to Civil War Medicine.

The director of that museum gave a good series of short talks on Youtube, detailing myths and advancements during the war.

Harvard has a permanent exhibit on that war’s medicine called Battle-Scarred.

The National Museum of Health and Medicine’s Otis Archives has an excellent collection of photographic and illustrative Civil War Medicine.

I’ve actually used several pics from the NMHM previously on here. I’ll probably post more in the future, but for now, have fun browsing on your own!

I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.
—  An opinion of war attributed to Union General William Tecumseh Sherman’s opinion of war during his retirement.  There are numerous quotes that follow the same theme and end with his famous phrase: ‘War is hell.’

Hardtack, a soldiers best friend. Wild Bill spoke of many recipes that the troops used during the war. His favorite was to fry it up, crumbled with bacon fat or coffee. By frying it, the heat usually killed the bugs that might be in older hardtack, One industrious soldier even used one as a post card which he mailed home to his sweetheart in NY (bottom photo).

At the beginning of the war there were no military hospitals other than those provided by the regimental surgeon for the accommodation of the sick and wounded of his own regiment. Hospital tents were furnished by the government for this purpose, but it was soon learned that a consolidation of these regimental hospitals would be of advantage to the patients and relieve the troops in the field of a serious encumbrance. These detached bodies of disabled soldiers, at a later period, were removed to some church or other large building temporarily appropriated for the purpose, and ultimately the general hospital was the outcome of these changes. It was not long thereafter before a regularly organized hospital system was established which became an important feature in the medical history of the war.

Excerpted from “Some Reminisces of an Army Surgeon during the Civil War,” written by Dr. John B. Lewis and published the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences. Explore our special US Civil War collection, featuring free content and the latest resources to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the war that shaped a nation.

Image credit: Savage Station, VA. Field hospital after the battle of June 27. Photograph from the main eastern theater of war, the Peninsular Campaign, May-August 1862. Public domain via Library of Congress.

Sarah Rosetta Wakeman
Sarah Rosetta Wakeman (January 16, 1843- June 19, 1864) is one of several women who disguised themselves as men in order to fight for the Union in the U.S. Civil War. Because she died while still enlisted, no one in the Union Army knew that she was a woman until long after. Sarah Wakeman served in the 153rd regiment of the New York State Volunteers. Her letters written during her service remained unread for nearly a century because they were stored in the attic of her relatives.

View of the encampment of the Corn Exchange Regiment 118th. Penn. Vols. near Falls of Schuylkill, 1862.

Shows a line of civilians near a large flagpole watching the regiment drill in front of their tents at the camp near East Falls, Philadelphia. Civilians include men and women on horseback, women in a carriage, a family with their pet dog, and a child playing with a hoop. Also shows a military band leading the troops, officers on horseback, and other civilians walking the tree-lined circumference of the camp called Camp Union. Also contains the names of the “Committee of the Corn Exchange Regiment” printed below the image. The Exchange raised an infantry of 1000 men during the summer of 1862 through the enticement of a liberal bounty.

(Library Company of Philadelphia)

But what a cruel thing is war; to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbours, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world!
—  General Robert E. Lee in a letter to his wife after his victory at the Battle of Fredericksburg, 25 December 1862.
On your Civil War being better than our Civil War

– Martin Pengelly

Yesterdaytoday and tomorrow, the Guardian is joining in the national commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the pivotal event of the American Civil War. Because I use Ken Burns to survive the red-eye, have read Shelby Foote from start to finish and appreciate a truly splendid moustache, I’ve tried to help out here.

I also studied history at college and, thanks to this bloke, took a close interest in the English Civil War. I therefore think myself eminently qualified to tell you that your Civil War is better than our Civil War, because:

a) Slavery, the thing your Civil War got rid of, stayed got rid of – give or take another 100 years of appalling inequality, violence and oppression, but never mind for now.

b) Royalty, the thing our Civil War got rid of, didn’t stay got rid of – and we even asked for it back, for Christ’s sake.

c) Your Civil War films are better – you get Lincoln and Glory and the great Jeff Daniels saving the day. We get Tim Roth with stick-on warts and 70s stuff which casts the terminally boring Levellers and Diggers as proto-hippies.

d) Your re-enactors are… just as tragic as ours. I’ll stop there.

Advantage: US. Firmly.