Surgeon in Blue

Jonathan Letterman, the Civil War Doctor Who Pioneered Battlefield Care

About The Book

Jonathan Letterman was an outpost medical officer serving in Indian country in the years before the Civil War, responsible for the care of just hundreds of men. But when he was appointed the chief medical officer for the Army of the Potomac, he revolutionized combat medicine over the course of four major battles—Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg—that produced unprecedented numbers of casualties. He made battlefield survival possible by creating the first organized ambulance corps and a more effective field hospital system. He imposed medical professionalism on a chaotic battlefield. Where before 20 percent of the men were unfit to fight because of disease, squalid conditions, and poor nutrition, he improved health and combat readiness by pioneering hygiene and diet standards. Based on original research, and with stirring accounts of battle and the struggle to invent and supply adequate care during impossible conditions, this new biography recounts Letterman’s life from his small-town Pennsylvania beginnings to his trailblazing wartime years and his subsequent life as a wildcatter and the medical examiner of San Francisco. At last, here is the missing portrait of a key figure of Civil War history and military medicine. His principles of battlefield care continue to be taught to military commanders and first responders.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Arcade (July 1, 2013)
  • Length: 368 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781611459302

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Raves and Reviews

“With sensitivity and insight, Scott McGaugh presents the story of this fascinating figure and his legacy, which has saved uncounted thousands of lives of soldiers wounded in many wars.”
—James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom

“Jonathan Letterman’s revolutionary medical innovations touch lives every time 911 is called for a trauma incident, a patient arrives at an emergency room, a medic treats a wounded warrior, or medical supplies are delivered to a disaster zone. Thanks to Scott McGaugh, Letterman can be introduced to a world that already benefits from his legacy.”
—George Wunderlich, executive director, National Museum of Civil War Medicine

“This is an important book, whose author has thoroughly and ably researched the underside of warfare: namely, the travails of the wounded soldier from being abandoned on the battlefield to becoming the object of compassionate care.”
—John S. Haller Jr., emeritus professor of history and medical humanities, Southern Illinois University

“In this eloquent and engaging portrait of the legendary medical strategist, Scott McGaugh reminds us that Jonathan Letterman’s spirit lives on today in every corpsman and medic, at every forward medical facility, and at every hospital in theater.”
—André B. Sobocinski, historian, Office of Medical History, Bureau of Medicine & Surgery, United States Navy

“Stirring . . . In addition to being an incisive portrait of the great doctor and leader, McGaugh’s history is a testament to the brave men to whom Letterman dedicated his life.”—Publishers Weekly

“Solid, well-researched . . . A nicely crafted biography that also offers Civil War buffs an unusual ambulance-wagon view of the great conflict."—Kirkus Reviews

“Verdict McGaugh provides military history buffs, particularly those interested in military medicine, with a well-rounded picture of a man who greatly influenced our delivery of medical care for wounded warriors.”—Library Journal

“Adds a sobering tone to the 150th anniversary of a conflict that advanced medical care at a terrible cost. . . . McGaugh provides telling details within a concise narrative to give Letterman's personal story the context necessary for appreciating his influence.”—Associated Press

“With sensitivity and insight, Scott McGaugh presents the story of this fascinating figure and his legacy, which has saved uncounted thousands of lives of soldiers wounded in many wars.”
—James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom

“Jonathan Letterman’s revolutionary medical innovations touch lives every time 911 is called for a trauma incident, a patient arrives at an emergency room, a medic treats a wounded warrior, or medical supplies are delivered to a disaster zone. Thanks to Scott McGaugh, Letterman can be introduced to a world that already benefits from his legacy.”
—George Wunderlich, executive director, National Museum of Civil War Medicine

“This is an important book, whose author has thoroughly and ably researched the underside of warfare: namely, the travails of the wounded soldier from being abandoned on the battlefield to becoming the object of compassionate care.”
—John S. Haller Jr., emeritus professor of history and medical humanities, Southern Illinois University

“In this eloquent and engaging portrait of the legendary medical strategist, Scott McGaugh reminds us that Jonathan Letterman’s spirit lives on today in every corpsman and medic, at every forward medical facility, and at every hospital in theater.”
—André B. Sobocinski, historian, Office of Medical History, Bureau of Medicine & Surgery, United States Navy

“Stirring . . . In addition to being an incisive portrait of the great doctor and leader, McGaugh’s history is a testament to the brave men to whom Letterman dedicated his life.”—Publishers Weekly

“Solid, well-researched . . . A nicely crafted biography that also offers Civil War buffs an unusual ambulance-wagon view of the great conflict."—Kirkus Reviews

“Verdict McGaugh provides military history buffs, particularly those interested in military medicine, with a well-rounded picture of a man who greatly influenced our delivery of medical care for wounded warriors.”—Library Journal

“Adds a sobering tone to the 150th anniversary of a conflict that advanced medical care at a terrible cost. . . . McGaugh provides telling details within a concise narrative to give Letterman's personal story the context necessary for appreciating his influence.”—Associated Press

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