Shaping Up Revolutionary War Medical Care
On this date in 1776, prominent Philadelphia physician William Shippen Jr. poked fun at the American army when he wrote his brother-in-law Richard Henry Lee, "I wish you would introduce a new step into your army. I am sure they are perfect in the back step by this time." Early the next year, Shippen became director general of all military hospitals for the army. Hospitalization was a big problem during the American Revolution, and most medical care was scant and supplies even more so. Doctors lacked bandages and medicines, as well as food (especially vegetables), vinegar, soap and clothing for the sick and wounded. John Adams observed at the time that disease claimed 10 soldiers for every one killed in battle. Shippen reorganized the army hospitals and improved their conditions, and raised the pay and daily ration allotments of surgeons and surgeons' aides.
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