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[236] for them. They were contained in four cases, one for major operations, one for minor operations, one a pocket-case, and one a field-case to be carried by the surgeon on his person into action. The instruments were well assorted, but they were used indiscriminately and without more than superficial cleansing upon both flesh and festering wounds, with the result that they habitually conveyed infection.

Under the surgical practice of the time, germs of blood poison, gangrene, and lockjaw were conveyed into the body. Moreover, it was the custom for the surgeons to undertake the most severe operations at the front, often under fire, under conditions in which even a pretense of surgical cleanliness could not have been maintained, even if the knowledge of the time had been sufficient to cause it to be attempted. What we would now term ‘meddlesome surgery’ was not peculiar to the army but was characteristic of general surgical practice of the time. In fact, toward the end of the war the best surgeons in the country were probably those with the military forces, and the admirable results which they frequently achieved bear evidence, not only of their accurate anatomical knowledge and surgical dexterity but of the amount of injury and infection which the human organism can resist.

[For a further discussion of the personnel of the Federal Medical Department and the Surgeons-general and their work, see Appendices B and C.—the editors.]

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