Civil War at Philadelphia’s Mütter: Shattered Bodies, Shallow Graves

The U.S. Civil War isn’t something many people associate with Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum — the famed 160 year old institution housing a collection of medical specimens, anatomical oddities, and clinical instruments dating to the early 19th century. But the Civil War was a time of extraordinary transformation for the field of American medicine as the Union war to end slavery produced unprecedented numbers of dead and wounded soldiers. It was a daunting clinical challenge that drove revolutionary changes in the way military doctors were trained and medical care was delivered on the battlefield and beyond.

The Mütter’s now remove Broken Bodies, Suffering Spirits: Injury, Death and Healing in Civil War Philadelphia exhibit looked back at that period that became the crucible from which modern medicine rose.

Total Civil War dead and doctors
The exact figure is elusive, but it’s estimated that nearly a million people — soldiers and civilians alike — were killed during the four-year conflict that raged across thousands of miles. When the war began in 1861, the Union Army had only 113 doctors. By the end, in 1865, there were 12,000.