There were several significances of disease in the Civil War, a lot of which occurred in the years after. These significances impacted the lives of many soldiers and their families, as well as the modern medical field.
As far as the Civil War veteran’s lives are concerned, even if a soldier survived the war, he dealt with lifelong health challenges. the more infections a person is exposed to the greater likelihood of arthritis, heart disease, stroke, and even cancer later in life. Union soldiers were more likely to survive a wartime illness, but Southern soldiers lived several years longer after the war. As soldiers were dealing with the family separation, death, and watching fellow injured soldiers, they tended to develop anxiety, depression, PTSD, drug abuse, alcoholism, and nightmares. (12)
Many modern medical breakthroughs were made during the Civil War and based on discoveries based on these events. Surgeon General Hammond organized the collection of pathological specimens from surgeons operating in the various theaters of the Civil War. His efforts resulted in the creation of the Army Medical Museum, which in the 20th century became the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. The specimens also provided the information for another Hammond project which was named “The Official Medical History of the War”. (12)
Observations were made by Mitchell, Morehouse, and Keen on the “phantom limb”, in which amputees feel sensations where a limb had been amputated. This trio also studied reflex paralysis and observed what would eventually become known as “combat reaction”, a post-traumatic response to participating in combat. (12)
There was development of the medical profession, the emergence of a political activism on issues of health, and even significant changes in medical knowledge, including thousands of physicians gaining experience with trauma and drugs such as chloroform and quinine, which were used more extensively after the war. The typical instructions in surgery prior to the hostilities had focused on bleeding points, bandages, and minor operations like incisions and drainage of abscesses. Medical personnel gained experience with things such as broken and amputation, as well as efforts to control bleeding. The medical teams during the Civil War worked toward at the idea of surgical therapy and a realization that American medical schools focused on too narrow of a field. (12)
After the war almost everyone in American knew something about hospitals through the personal experience of someone they knew. The change would contribute to the development of hospitals in the last third of the nineteenth century and onto the centuries after. (12)