Anesthesia on Tap

While I enjoyed “Miss Alcott Goes to War” in the April issue, I must correct a common misconception that the author, Robert Sattelmeyer, has perpetuated. In describing the nurses’ duties, he states that they held the hands of the wounded “while the doctors probed their wounds—without benefit of anesthetics.” Both chloroform and ether were used extensively during the war (chloroform was preferred, as it was less flammable), and it is estimated that 90 percent of all operations conducted were done with the use of anesthesia. Certainly in a hospital setting, as Sattelmeyer describes, anesthesia would be readily available. The Hollywood depiction of a patient writhing in pain and “biting the bullet” while being operated on is simply not true. Visit the “mythbuster” section of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine’s website for more info:

Tracey McIntire

Master Docent, National Museum of Civil War Medicine

Frederick, Md.

Fair and Balanced

I would like to comment on the letter from Tom Cane that appeared in the June issue, headed “North vs. South.” I have been reading Civil War Times for over 30 years and have always found it to be fair and balanced. (I still have every issue in my library.) Common sense dictates that, since the majority of the campaigns took place in the South, many of the ads, especially concerning tourism, will be southern in nature. As far as collectibles, few characters in this conflict are as colorful as Lee, Jackson, Stuart and Longstreet, just to name a few. As you noted, it would be difficult to control what area of the country advertisements originated in. I was born and raised in the South, so obviously I would sometimes find articles dealing with my area of the country and its great leaders more interesting. But reading the magazine from cover to cover, I have always found it to be fair to both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line. Congratulations on your 50th anniversary—I hope I’m around to read it for the next 50 years.

Harold Tucker

Dothan, Ala.

Gallagher on Blogs

As a Civil War blogger (, I read with interest Gary Gallagher’s column in the June issue. Gallagher sums up his position: “Overall, my limited engagement with the Civil War blogging world has left me alternately informed, puzzled and, on occasion, genuinely amused. I suspect these are common reactions to the mass of valuable information and unfiltered opinion that crowd the multitude of blogs out there.” One could say the same thing about the print world. There’s a lot of junk out there. But unlike in print media, reader comments help keep bloggers honest, correct factual errors and facilitate more research. Anyone researching the war ignores what is published in “nontraditional” formats at his or her peril.

Harry Smeltzer

Pittsburgh, Pa.

I enjoy your magazine, but I feel that whoever took the liberty to add Paris Hilton’s photo with a Union cap to Gary Gallagher’s column was in error. I hope Mr. Gallagher did not approve.

Frederick Remington

Flanders, N.J.

Editor Dana Shoaf Replies: The decision to illustrate Gallagher’s column with Paris Hilton’s image, and to move his reference to her from its original location at the end of his essay to the beginning, was solely mine and was done without his knowledge. In retrospect, it did not well serve his thoughtful comments.

South Mountain

In the June “Battlefields & Beyond” on South Mountain, you overlooked the death of Brig. Gen. Samuel Garland, who was struck down on September 14, 1862, near site No. 7 on your map.

Roger Rudder

Lynchburg, Va.

Wine Bottles

I enjoyed “What Wine Goes With Rat?” by Erika Mailman in the April issue. One thing that wasn’t considered: Empty bottles were often used until they broke. Those bottles might not have contained the fine vintages, as labeled, at Port Hudson.

Years ago a cache of mid-18thcentury rum bottles was found during construction in lower Manhattan. As I recall, one was filled with pickled peppers, one with grease and yet another filled with lead buckshot. The original contents of the bottles found at Port Hudson may have been consumed much earlier than the war.

Don Troiani

Southbury, Conn.

Give Lyon His Due

On P. 14 of the June issue, it states that James McPherson was “the only Union army commander to die in battle.” When I visited Wilson’s Creek Battlefield, I was told Union Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon was the first general to die in the war, and was also in command of the Union army there.

Judith A. Smith

Via e-mail

The National Park Service Replies: Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon was the first Union general to die in combat during the Civil War, and he was an army commander, leading the Army of the West. Most people forget about the early battles of the conflict in the Trans-Mississippi Theater. You are to be commended for your knowledge. Thank you for visiting Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield.

Connie Langum

Historian, Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield

Communist Indoctrination?

The June interview with Robin Blackburn, former editor of New Left Review, is an attempt to compare Karl Marx with Lincoln, not saying they were the same, but still making a calculated parallel. About what I would expect from a Communist. This article is indoctrination. Other than that, I love CWT.

Bill Humphrey

Wichita, Kan.

Editor Dana Shoaf Replies: I do not agree with all of Mr. Blackburn’s assertions, but the fact that Marx was apparently so fascinated with the American Civil War is very interesting, and a legitimate topic of discussion.


Originally published in the August 2012 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.