A Civil War Surgeon’s Tools

Surgical Kit – AC2011-114.5

Surgical kits like this were common in Civil War armies, as medical staff struggled to keep up with the conflict’s horrifying human cost. New York City’s Wade & Ford produced this kit at 85 Fulton Street. Its 21 pieces would have been stored in this single case. The items themselves, including a bone cutter, bullet extractor, saw, and tourniquet, testify to the war’s especially bloody nature, as rifled guns, minié balls, and cannister fire necessitated quick removal of foreign objects and on-the-field amputations.

The Civil War also arrived just before the full development of germ theory, meaning these items would often have been used with only minimal cleaning between operations. This ironically made surgical tools prime transmitters of disease, which claimed more lives during the insurrection than actual combat.

Gift of Carl & Jean Follin


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