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15 January 2016

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William R. Cumming

Pre-Lister medicine scary! Thanks for the post!

Joseph Lister, 1st Baron Lister Bt OM PC FRS (5 April 1827 – 10 February 1912), known as Sir Joseph Lister, Bt., between 1883 and 1897, was a British surgeon and a pioneer of antiseptic surgery. By applying Louis Pasteur's advances in microbiology, he promoted the idea of sterile portable ports while working at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Lister successfully introduced carbolic acid (now known as phenol) to sterilise surgical instruments and to clean wounds, which led to a reduction in post-operative infections and made surgery safer for patients.

turcopolier

TTG

Sergeant Frank Stringfellow was a scout belonging to the Confederate Signal Corps. This was the central authority for Confederate Army intelligence. He was attached to the 4th Virginia Cavalry Regiment. There were numerous scouts such as he. They were soldiers but operated in civilian clothes out in front of the army in places like occupied Alexandria or ahead of a column on the march. If caught they were shot. Another such appears in the opening scenes of the Pulizer novel "The Killer Angels" where Sharaa (the author) misidentifies him as a civilian. He was in fact Lt. James Harrison, an actor in civilian life, (he knew JW Booth and had appeared with him on the stage in New York). Harrison followed the army of the Potomac (Union) north in the Gettysburg Campaign and rode to Chambersburg, PA to find General Longstreet to whose 1st ANV Corps he was attached to tell Longstreet and Lee exactly where the Army of the Potomac was and where they were going. This was a task of information in which JEB Stuart, the cavalry commander had failed miserably. Longstreet sent him back into Gettysburg behind Union lines with instructions to return to him with information. Harrison succeeded in installing himself in Meade's rear in the town but decided he could not make it back across the lines and instead went east to Baltimore from which place he eventually reached Richmond, the Confederate capital. Longstreet, on his return from Pennsylvania, tried to have Harrison court-martialed for disobedience. To avoid this, Harrison was eventually transferred to the Trans-Mississippi theater of war. Late in the war he was in Pennsylvania using a different first name but his service record names him as James Harrison. He appears in my trilogy in several places. Stringfellow Road in Fairfax County is named for Frank Stringfellow. pl

Fred

Col.,

I never quite understood why a Corps commander would meet an unknown agent as it was told in the novel or the movie that was made later. Now that you've pointed out the history it makes sense that Longstreet would meet with his own intelligence officer.

turcopolier

Fred

Harrison, Stringfellow and the other Signal Corps scouts were attached personally for a campaign to a particular senior commander as a operative, not an "intelligence officer." In addition to cleverness and sheer guts one of their skills for selection was the ability to speak in a credible Yankee accent. Harrison, as an actor, could do that. They normally operated under some sort of shallow cover, topographer, businessman, etc. They had money to bribe their way when they could and had contacts in the Confederate underground in places like Baltimore where they could shelter before making their way home. From Baltimore this would have been through the Union lines around Alexandria, Virginia (an altogether Confederate city under Union occupation) or by the clandestine Signal Corps boat service across the Potomac near Port Tobacco. pl

The Twisted Genius

pl and Fred,

That sounds very much like the Secret Army of Northern Virginia when I was assigned there, except our operatives were not attached directly to any senior commander.

turcopolier

TTG & Fred

In those days there was no coordinating staff at any level in either army. Therefore, special attachment like these scouts had to be run either by the commander or a designated special staff officer of his own. Hooker, Meade and Grant made George Sharp an assistant provost marshal and put him in charge of his equivalent people as well as the analytic function after they dumped Pinkerton. pl

Fred

Thanks again Col. Did you ever find a good biography of George Sharp?

The Twisted Genius

pl,

Can you recommend any writings on how General George Thomas organized and used his staff? I've seen mentions of his being far ahead of his contemporaries in his use of his staff and his knowledge of logistics. He seemed to have preferred his quiet anonymity after the war.

turcopolier

TTG

I know little of George Thomas. pl

turcopolier

Fred

No. Maybe you should write it. pl

The Twisted Genius

pl,

Then I shall take it as a project.

turcopolier

TTG

I watched the "Mercy Street" episode last night. I would give it a good grade. The effort put into achieving visual verisimilitude is remarkable. there were a few glitches: Alexandria in the area now called "Old Town," (basically between West Street and the Potomac)had cobblestone or brick streets rather than the mud shown in the show. A couple of those streets have been kept exposed while the rest have been paved over. BTW the city had a central water system and drains (the reservoir is still on Shuter's Hill behind my house). There was also piped illuminating gas by then. They filmed this series in Richmond somewhere and I suppose it was inevitable that they would cover up the pavement with dirt. the Alexandria portrayed in this series is so much like the Alexandria of my trilogy that I am tempted to expect some of my characters to wander into the plot. The Devereux house on Duke Street is three or four blocks from the Mansion House Hotel. The series is intensively didactic. it is determined to reach about the truth of the war in its complexity of motive and circumstance. That is a good thing. A lot of the detail is impressive. I will be interested to learn if there is a mass market on TV for this kind of thing. Ridley Scott's fine hand as executive producer is evident throughout. pl

elaine

I watched it last night & was especially fascinated by the costumes.
There were a couple of references to the "war being over in 3 months";
what's the time frame of Mercy Street? I missed the 1st episode.

turcopolier

Elaine

I think that was the first episode. Another of the "glitches" in the thing was the spectacle of the Alexandria "society" girl going to the hospital in a hoop skirt and a dress fit for a ball. Many Northern people are so fixated on their image of the ante-bellum South as an American version of the "Downton Abby" society that they instinctively "see" White Southern women as what they call "Southern Belles," an imagined type that embodies vanity, idleness, obsession with dress... You get the idea. Such a girl in Alexandria at that time would never have gone to the hospital dressed like that. In fact women of her class were and to some extent still are as hard as nails beneath the chic exterior. The film title that called them "The Steel Magnolias" had the right image. pl

The Twisted Genius

elaine,

You didn't miss a thing. That was the first episode. It is also available for viewing on the pbs.org website. I hope all episodes will remain available on the website since i refuse to pay for cable and I live on the edge of the digital broadcasting signal range. I believe the time frame is early 1862. The Union soldiers were talking about McClellan's early advances in the Peninsula campaign toward the end of the episode.

turcopolier

TTG & Elaine

Yes this episode is set in the early stages of the Peninsula Campaign of 1862 when the North believed that McLellan's massive Army of the Potomac would sweep easily up the peninsula from the Union base at Fortress Monroe, capture Richmond and the secession would be at an end. That did not happen and the war went on for three more years. What intervened was an army of farmers, ethnic laborers and shopkeepers under the command at first of Joseph E Johnston and then of Robert Edward Lee when Johnston was wounded out. The Seven Days were a miracle that one could not have predicted, but as The Army of the Potomac staff told Grant's staff when they came east to take overall command, "Ah, you do not know war, You have not met Bobby Lee and his boys." pl

SAC Brat

Looking forward to your findings. A fascinating General and a good subject. I always wondered if George Marshall used him as a model, as the lack of autobiography interest is similar.

elaine

Col. & TTG, Thank you.

turcopolier

All

We watched the second episode last night and continue to be impressed. I know more about that war than is good for me but I learned something about the WBS last night that I had never seen mentioned anywhere before. The US Congress created in 1861 something called the Corps of Medical Cadets. These were young men being trained to be doctors in the US Army. One of these magically appeared on the scene in last night's show. There are a few odd things about the script. One is the presence of nuns in every scene in the hospital. It is true that Catholic sisters did nursing in hospitals on both sides of the conflict. The Sisters of Mercy and Daughters of Charity were the two orders most prominent in this work, but the insistence on having nuns in every scene seems a bit much. pl

The Twisted Genius

pl,

I'm also enjoying this series. In addition to the Corps of Medical Cadets, I was surprised by the storyline about Union Army assistance to the the Carolina slave hunters in Alexandria. The dichotomy of freed slaves within the occupied city and Union assistance to Confederate slave hunters in that same occupied city was perplexing. I gather the Fugitive Slave Acts were still enforced and the freeing of slaves within Alexandria was meant merely as punishment for Confederate sympathizers.

turcopolier

TTG

I think you have pointed to another error in the script. There was no basis for a general and forced legal emancipation of blacks until after the Emancipation Proclamation in the autumn of 1862 after the Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam). Even then, the EP only applied in territory still held by the Confederates. So slaves in occupied Alexandria, occupied New Orleans, occupied Mobile, etc. remained slaves until the ratification of the 13th Amendment after the war. At the same time there were many free Blacks in Alexandria. The federal census of 1860 reveals that there were some 2,000 free Blacks in the city as well as a similar number of slaves. Some of the free Blacks were slave owners often of family members. It was an expensive legal process to manumit a slave and some did not bother. Free Blacks were also not subject to seizure if their papers were in order. The Union Army would have returned "contrabands" to owners if the owners lived in Union Army occupied territory. pl

elaine

Col. & TTG, Thank you again. Looks like I'll be checking this thread after every episode.

turcopolier

All

Saw the third episode. There were some interesting things. The leg amputation was quite real looking. They did have anesthesia. Dr.Foster took it off about mid-calf. Having assisted at such surgeries in the field with SF medics doing the work on native soldiers and me as amateur help, I would recommend taking something off at a major joint; wrist, elbow, ankle, knee. It is a lot easier to do. As in the film, the magic moment is that in which you loosen the tourniquet above the amputation. If it doesn't bleed much you did a good job in tying off the blood vessels. If it does bleed you do it again. There were some stupid things. Foster accepted a commission in the Army but was not sworn. He just started working. The soldiers here know that would not happen. It takes two minutes but makes whatever he does legal. Another Army doctor was represented to be a USMA grad. That would not have been. Army medical officers were all commissioned from civil life like Foster. On the African-American front the series is descending into PC modernist crap. As I wrote before Black slaves behind Union lines before 1 January, 1863 remained enslaved until the 13th Amendment after the war ended. there were free Black people in Alexandria, actually quite a lot of them but they were free as a matter of individual court regulated manumission either during or before the war. All the "contrabands" who had fled to the Union Army were still slaves in the eyes of the US government and its army and stayed that way until the 13th Amendment. The US Congress passed a law emancipating slaves in DC during the war. They could do that because DC was directly subject to Congressional jurisdiction but Alexandria was not in DC and was occupied Virginia territory where that law did not apply. There is a scene in this episode in which a Black house servant demands payment from her owner on the basis that she is now free. Well, unless he freed her, she could not be free so that is just nonsense. pl

Fred

Col.,

I was wondering how accurate the amputation scene was. Just how quickly did gangrene spread?

The Twisted Genius

I spent close to four months in ward 44 at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii. While there I saw a few leg amputation cases. They were either above or below the joints, never at the joints. I don't know if that was normal or not. One case was amputated mid-lower leg and, when infection couldn't be controlled, it was amputated above the knee. The operation, including the folding of the skin back to provide sufficient material to close the wound, did look quite realistic.

The series missed an opportunity with the omission of Foster's swearing in. It would have contrasted the feelings of his mother for preserving the Union and the oath of allegiance tormenting the Greens. I wonder if the writers mistook Tripler's taking some classes at West Point while he was practicing there as a civilian. He eventually took the exam and was commissioned like Foster. I only know that from my time at Tripler.

The series' treatment of slavery does seem to have modernist interpretations. However, in last week's episode, Green was telling his son about slavery being totally unnecessary in his furniture factory and that the institution was only good for the tobacco and cotton plantations further south. Perhaps he freed his factory and household staff at some point. In both this and last week's episodes, it was mentioned that the Fugitive Slave Act was still the law in occupied Alexandria.

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