Surgeon in Blue: Jonathan Letterman, the Civil War Doctor Who Pioneered Battlefield Care

Written by Scott McGaugh

From Arcade Publishing: When Jonathan Letterman was appointed the chief medical officer of the Army of the Potomac, he revolutionized combat medicine over the course of four major battles—Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. He made battlefield survival possible by creating the first organized ambulance corps and a more effective field hospital system. Confronting conditions of squalor, poor nutrition, and rampant disease that left 20 percent of the men unfit to fight, Letterman improved health and combat readiness by pioneering hygiene and diet standards.

With stirring accounts of battles and the struggle to invent and supply adequate care during impossible conditions, Surgeon in Blue recounts Letterman’s life from his small-town Pennsylvania beginnings to his trailblazing wartime years and his subsequent career 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 are still implemented on today’s battlefields and by first responders.

Dr. Maurice Pickard welcomes author Scott McGaugh to discuss the subject of his book “Surgeon in Blue: Jonathan Letterman, the Civil War Doctor Who Pioneered Battlefield Care.” Through their discussion, listeners will discover how one lone surgeon, Jonathan Letterman, reshaped military medicine over the course of four major Civil War battles and a single year. Letterman, confronted by thousands of wounded lying abandoned on the battlefield, a sickly and malnourished Union army, and obscenely filthy military camps, took steps that make battlefield survival possible for our soldiers today. Listen now.