Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “medicine”

What was considered typical care during the Civil War?

In my entry for Office of Medical History (Army), I claim this resource can be used to answer the question, “What was considered typical care during the Civil War?” Here’s how:

  1. Visit the Office of Medical History (Army), then choose Books and Documents.
  2. Then either choose The Army Medical Department 1818-1865 or one of the shorter documents from the Civil War.
  3. If you go with the Army Medical Department 1818-1865, have a look at Chapters 8-13. You’ll find a number of aspects of army medicine during the Civil War, including this sad bit about hospital conditions around 1862:

Hammond often visited proposed hospital sites to make sure that those chosen were healthy, but by the end of 1862 the Union Army’s 150 general hospitals, scattered about the North and West and in some areas of the South and staffed largely by contract surgeons, were not achieving the record for healthfulness that had been hoped for. Although 400 stewards, 300 wardmasters, 6,051 male and female nurses, 3,025 laundresses, and 2,017 cooks served in general hospitals, many of these institutions were still filthy. Dirt, soiled dressings, and old clothing might be under the beds in wards that seemed clean. Bathrooms and tubs sometimes served as temporary repositories for “every uncleansed or unemptied chamber vessel, of soiled and offensive linen, and of every slop that a lazy nurse does not care to move.” Laundries, kitchens, and mess rooms might be in a similar state, and hospital grounds could be littered with refuse and privies. Ventilation was likely to be deficient despite Hammond’s efforts, principally because architects valued warmth above fresh air.

My entry on the Office of Medical History (Army) is just one resource that covers the 19th Century in the Writer’s Guide to Government Information.


Appendix B: Multi-Topic Resources is Now Live

A few day ago I was able to complete Appendix B: Multi-Topic Resources. I believe the resources here will able to help you locate nearly anything released by the US government including plenty of science research.

My FGI colleague James R. Jacobs runs the Stanford University FOIA collection mentioned in the Appendix. Their archive is a real trove of information from the grayer corners of government activities.

Check out Appendix B and let me know what you think.

Vietnam Studies (series)

Vietnam Studies (series) – http://www.history.army.mil/html/bookshelves/collect/vn-studies.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What was the role of Australians and New Zealanders in the Vietnam War?
  • How did the military blood program work in Vietnam?
  • Where can I find an account of the battles of Prek Klok?
  • What was the role of Army intelligence in Operation Cedar Falls?


Another online bookshelf of Vietnam-related materials from the Center of Military History. From the series introduction at the beginning of each volume:
“At the request of the Chief of Staff, a representative group of senior officers who served in important posts in Vietnam and who still carry a heavy burden of day-to-day responsibilities has prepared a series of monographs. These studies should be of great value in helping the Army develop future operational concepts while at the same time contributing to the historical record and providing the American public with an interim report on the performance of men and officers who have responded, as others have through our history, to exacting and trying demands.
All monographs in the series are based primarily on official records, with additional material from published and unpublished secondary works, from debriefing reports and interviews with key participants, and from the personal experience of the author.”

Notable works in this series are:

  • Allied Participation in Vietnam
  • The Development and Training of the South Vietnamese Army 1950-1972
  • Division-Level Communication 1962-1973
  • Field Artillery, 1954-1973
  • Medical Support of the U.S. Army in Vietnam, 1965-1970
  • The Role of Military Intelligence, 1965-1967
  • U.S. Army Special Forces in Vietnam: 1961-1971

Most of the books in this series are arranged in chronological order and have tables of maps, charts, illustrations and photographs.

Navy medicine in Vietnam: Passage to Freedom to the fall of Saigon

Herman, Jan K. 2010. Navy medicine in Vietnam: Passage to Freedom to the fall of Saigon. Washington, DC: Naval History & Heritage Command, Dept. of the Navy.

(Paper – http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/458583716)

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What was life about a hospital ship like?
  • How did American doctors and nurses interact with ordinary Vietnamese?
  • What was it like to have to triage dozens of wounded soldiers?
  • What was the life of a medical corpsman like?
  • Why would you toss a perfectly good Huey helicopter into the sea?


This 50 page book documents the US Navy’s medical experience during its time in Vietnam from the somewhat quiet beginnings in 1954 to the mad evacuation of Saigon in 1975. Medical environments from the fox hole to major hospitals are covered in story and with photographs. A list of suggested readings appears on page 50. All of the graphics are acceptable for all ages. Some of the personal accounts are harrowing.


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