Medical Care: The War Winner The Civil War started on April 12, 1861, which caused for the increased need of medical care, especially on war battles. At this time, many wounded and sick soldiers are being treated in hospitals in Northern and Southern cities. Most receive care in temporary places. These places include field hospitals on or near battlegrounds, hospital ships and barges, and civilian buildings taken over for medical use.
The medical care at this time is primitive and outdated. More than twice as many soldiers are dying of disease- mostly of dysentery, malaria or typhoid- as are killed in battle. Doctors do not yet understand the importance of sanitation, a healthy diet, and sterile medical tools. Medical care in the military has made some progress with the introduction of horse-drawn ambulances and a trained group of medics. This first group of medics works under the guidance of General McClellan.
Women are performing in the key roles of medical care. Mary Walker served as a surgeon with the Union Army. She is the only woman to receive the Medal of Honor. Dorothy Dix, famous for her work in the past at mental hospitals, is the superintendent of United States Army nurses. Thousands of volunteer nurses serve the Union and Confederate forces at this time. One of the North's volunteer nurses, Clara Barton, is thinking of starting an organization. She wants to call it the American Red Cross.
Private organizations are also helping to care for ill and wounded soldiers. One organization is the United States Sanitary Commission, which was created in June of 1861. It operates hospitals and gives out food, clothing, medicine, and other supplies. The organization cares for both Union and Confederate soldiers. Medical care will prove to be the true hero at the end of this war, but until then, support your local Union Army.