following is a dictated translation of the hand-written application to
the U. S. Navy Examination Board during the Civil War by a civilian
physician/surgeon for a position as a medical officer in the Federal
Navy or for promotion to Assistant Surgeon by an Acting Assistant
Surgeon. The actual
applications are in the possession of the author and presented to
enlighten the general public and other researchers as to the education
process before and during the Civil War, the personal history of the
applicants, as well as to show their personal level of medical knowledge
in answering the questions asked by the Navy Board of Examiners.
(Some applicants failed to pass and did not serve or served in the Union
This written presentation was first of a part of a two-part exam consisting of a written
exam and an oral exam.
Many of these applications are rich
with highly detailed medical content offering an interesting perspective
on the medical knowledge and practices of the period.
A broad sampling of these exams is presented to
give you a 'picture' of the type of applicant being examined and
admitted to or rejected by the Federal Navy in 1863. Much more detail
on the individuals and their personal and naval history will be
presented in a forth-coming book by Dr. Herman.
(The actual written exam photos are available, but not presented on
these pages due to the size of the files. An
of a hand-written exam is on the
'List of all Applicants' page)
If you have additional information or images for any of these
A list with links to
all applicants in this survey of U.S. Navy Applicants for 1863
Example of a handwritten exam given by the Navy Examination Board
Applicant: Abner Thorpe, M.D.
I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio
December 2, 1839.
In 1854 I was admitted into the
Woodward High School, Cincinnati, Ohio. I pursued all the studies,
peculiar to a common school education – Geology, Astronomy, Chemistry,
Physical Geography; and in the Classics, Latin. I persued [sic,
correction marks in pencil] German a short time, but, being out of
practice during the last five years have lost all gained.
I began the study of Medicine
immediately after my graduation at Woodward High School, in 1858. I
read medicine with my father, and in 1862, graduated at the National
Medical College, Washington, DC.
My opportunities for the practice of
pharmacy have been limited. Occasionally, I was allowed the privilege
of compounding a few prescriptions in my fathers [sic] Drug Store. Thus
in my contact with the drugs of the store, I gain some knowledge, of
their physical properties.
At the opening of our present war, I
entered the regular Army as Medical Cadet. I served in this
capacity almost two years. I have been stationed in the large military
hospital of Cairo and Mound City, Ill. during one year; and in Virginia
and Washington City the second. During that time I have seen much
Surgery and Practice. On 28th day of May 1863, I entered the
Volunteer Navy. I’ve continued until the present date. In the Navy, I
have been stationed on the Gunboat Moose attached to the 8th
division of the Mississippi Squadron.
My address in Philadelphia is the
Merchants Hotel, fourth [sic] Street, between Arch and are Race.
At home, it is – Naval Rendezvous,
Your ob’t Serv’t
Act’g Ass’t Surgeon, U.S.N
Naval Asylum, Philadelphia
October 1st 1863
Questions by the Board:
Questions to be answered in writing,
by, Abner Thorp, Acting Ass’ Surg U.S.A.
1. What are the accidents or
injuries which requiring amputation of the thigh?
2. What is the best mode of
controlling the circulation in amputation of the thigh?
3. What is flooding, how produced, +
4. What is the structure +
composition of bone?
5. Give an account of the nux vomica,
and its active principles, then physiological effects and uses etc?
6. Enumerate the potash salts used
in medicine, giving their composition in symbols. give a Prescription,
without symbols, or abbreviation.
7. Enumerate the cranial nerves, +
8. How was pneumonia diagnosticated
9. Give the fetal circulation.
Answers by Thorpe:
1. Compound comminuted fractures of
femur, extensively shattering the bone; in extensive laceration of the
femoral vessels; when, by accident the leg may be crushed; severe
injuries of the knee joint whether resulting from shot or accident; when
the knee joint maybe irrecoverably diseased.
2. The circulation, in amputation of
the thigh, is best controlled, by aid of tourniquet. A strong man may
control it by pressure, either with his palm, or by key, well protected,
upon the part of the artery as it passes over Pouparts ligament [over
Pouparts ligament underlined in pencil].
3. Flooding is an immoderate flow of
blood from the uterus. It may occur in labor from a weakened condition
of the system. It may occur by that detachment of the Placenta from the
Uterus. It may be caused by abortion; or it may be the result of a
local injury. If flooding occurs in labor, it may be arrested by
inserting the hand into the Uterus, scratching the sides to cause
contraction of its walls. Astringent are given to arrested it; cold
applications are used to the parts, as a bag of ice, upon the abdomen in
the region of the Uterus. The tampun [sic] is used to arrest the flow
of blood until a clot can form. Hot Sinapisms to the feet for revulsive
effect. Quiet and a position upon the back.
4. The structure of bone is
cancellated; minute canals running parallel with its length, nutrient
canals, Haversian Canals. Surrounding the bone is in membrane, called
the periostium. Next to this, the bone is more compact more internal,
it is more porous. In the center [correction marks in pencil, spelling
centre] of the long bone is found the medulary substance. Bone is
composed of Animal and earthly substances. The carbonate of lime and
phosphorous [sic, correction marks in pencil], are the principal
constituents of the earthly.
5. Strychnos Nux Vomica is a trea
[sic, correction marks in pencil] indigenous to the Eas [sic, correction
marks in pencil] Indies and China, bearing a fruit of the size of an
orange. The active principles are Strychnia and Brucia. It is Tonic,
Diuretic, Setanic, and Aphrodisiac. It is used in Dyspepcia, Debility
Paralysis, Dysentery, Hysteria and Rheumatism. Its action in large
doses appears to be directed chiefly to the nerves of motion. Strychnia
has been applied externally in Amaurosis. It is a deadly poison.
6. Bicarbonate of Potassa K0CO2 +
H0CO2; Carbonate of Potassa KCO3; Nitrate of
Potassa K0NO5; Chlorate of Potassa K0Clo5; Iodide
of Potassium KI; Bromide of Potassium KBr.
Rx [ecpii, in pencil]
Magnesia[i in pencil]
Carbonas[ii in pencil] gr XX
Tinctura[e in pencil] Opii
Camphoreta[e in pencil] ʓ ss
Tinc[turae in pencil] [L in
pencil]avendulae Compositus fʓ j Mistura
7. The cranial nerves are – 1st
Olfactory, 2nd Optic, 3rd Motores Occulorum, 4th
Pathetic, 5th Trifacial, 6th Abducentes, 7th
Portio Dura and Portio Mollis, 8th Pneumogastric, Spinal
Accessory, Glossopharyngeal, 9th Hypoglossal. The olfactory,
optic and Portio Dura are nerves of special sensation. The 5th
Trifacial, the 7th and 8th Pain are compound
nerves. The 3rd, 4th, 6th, 9th
are nerves of general sensation.
8. Pneumonia is diagnosed from
Pleuritis by the following symptoms – Pain of Pneumonia is mostly in
right side, and more frequently at the lower part of the lungs. Pain of
Pleuritis is gently of a sharp, lacerated character, situated in one
spot, generally close the nipple; breathing is very painful and is made
mostly by the diaphragm. There is dullness on percussion in pneumonia.
In pleuritis there is no dullness until after effusion in the pleural
cavity. The Sounds of pneumonia are sibilant ronchus. The bronchial
sound and ***gophany [unclear] - of pleuritis, at first, the friction
sound. Aegophany, resembling the bleating of a goat, caused by the
vibrations of the liquid. The sputa of Pneumonia is at first viscid,
then becomes intimately combined with blood causing the rusty sputa and
in the last stage, the prune juice sputa
9. The blood passes from the
Placenta to the Foetus through the umbilical veins, a part of the blood
enters the liver, and other portion the ascending Vena Cava. The blood
passes from the liver to the Vena Cava through the Ductus Venosus. It
then passes to the right Auricle of the heart, and guided by the
Eustachian Valve it enters the left Auricle through the Foramen Ovale.
It then enters the left Ventricle. From the left Ventricle it is
carried to the upper extremities and the trunk. The blood descends from
the head, by the descending Vena Cava, to the right Auricle, then to the
right Ventricle. From the right ventricle it is forced into the
Pulmonary Artery, and Ductus Arteriosus. From the Foetus the blood is
carried to the Placenta by the umbilical artery
Act’g Ass’t Surgeon, U.S.N
Naval Asylum, Philadelphia
October 1st 1863