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Class Year

2019

Abstract

Prior to the American Civil War, doctors in the United States had difficulty obtaining cadavers for research and instruction purposes. Based on religious and moral objections, the American public staunchly opposed autopsies and dissections. With the coming of the Civil War, doctors needed the knowledge that could be obtained through examining cadavers. Over the course of the war, society came to accept these medical procedures as a necessity that could hopefully save more lives in the future. The publication of Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion as well as the establishment of the Army Medical Museum made these stories public knowledge. Rather than react angrily, the public embraced these with morbid curiosity. The specific case of James Bedell, a Michigan cavalryman, is used to examine the doctors’ processes as well as what medical knowledge was gained through medical dissection.

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