The medical turning points of the Civil War

Jacob Clauson to present at Student Academic Conference

By Meghan Feir

The Civil War was a turning point in various ways, and, as senior Jacob Clauson will explain in his presentation for the Student Academic Conference on April 15, it was also a time of greater exploration with medical practices.

Before doctors were concerned about bacteria and sterilization, soldiers across battlefields were treated with tools that had only undergone a quick swipe with a rag, bacteria festering on their accouterments. When the death toll began increasing steadily during operations, a greater interest in prevention was sparked.

Clauson will highlight “Just how backwards medical treatment was before the Civil War and the years leading up to it. They were bleeding people, running needles through their wounds – really weird, almost medieval treatments,” Clauson said. “I didn’t think it would be so backwards in the early 1800s, but it was. It all started evolving around the Crimean War and Civil War and took a big leap forward.”

During his presentation titled “Civil War Medicine,” Clauson will specifically discuss the experiences of the First Minnesota Regiment at the Battle of Gettysburg. “(His presentation) looks at wounds they may have sustained and the medical treatment involved during the Civil War to help deal with those wounds.”

Minnesotans may have a heightened interest in this troop’s trials and experiences due to the state bond they share with this regiment.

“There’s always the blood, gut and gore, big-pile-of-feet aspects of it,” Clauson said, “but I followed the First Minnesota Regiment, so hopefully there’s a home feeling there for all the Minnesotans.”

Though Clauson himself is a native North Dakotan, researching this troop still held a sense of locality.

“There are many people you may be connected to, and the Civil War really was the stepping stone to better medical technology,” Clauson said. “We have that era to thank for some of the things we have now. They became more concerned with washing their hands before medical procedures, they became more standardized and things just improved, not only for soldiers and people on the battlefield, but for civilians, as well. Everything that happens on the battlefield will, in one way or another, transpire to civilian life, so we have them to thank for that.”

For more information on this year’s Student Academic Conference, visit

MSUM is hosting the third annual Minnesota Conference of Undergraduate Scholarly and Creative Activity April 14. We are excited to welcome MnSCU universities and community colleges to our campus. For more information, visit