First Responders: A Civil War History Lesson

The World
Think about the last time you heard an ambulance scream by, or witnessed first responders go into action. Now think about how those emergency medical procedures came to be. Historians point to the importance of the Civil War when military doctors tested out new methods for treating the many, many victims. Lessons learned on Civil War battlefields helped shape our understanding of first aid and military medicine around the world from that point forward. The strategies for delivering first aid were put to the test in the most famous battle of the Civil War. That battle was underway this week in 1863. Can you name it? The Battle of Gettysburg, answer to the Geo Quiz, is underway. Not really. But the 150th anniversary re-enactment of the battle is underway. The most famous battle of the Civil War was also the bloodiest battle: Tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides of the battle were wounded and killed. Kyle Wichtendahl, who is with the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, is participating at the re-enactment in Gettysburg. He says that the state of battlefield first-aid prior to the Civil War was primitive and scattered, but the Battle of Gettysburg changed all that. Union Army doctors mobilized new methods of first aid that soon spread internationally and served as a foundation for modern military medicine.
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