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Medical training in the United States before the Civil War usually lasted for two years or less. During the training, the doctors-to–be would receive no practical clinical experience, and no laboratory instructions.

At the start of the Civil War, the US Army medical staff was made up of a surgeon general, 30 surgeons, and 83 assistant surgeons. By the time the war ended, an excess of 11,000 doctors had attended to people on the battlefield. Many doctors had poor training if any, and a good percentage of them were political appointees. The Northern army had the largest number of surgeons, but most of them learned to perform surgeries for the first time on the battlefield. It is estimated that the doctors treated approximately 10 million people in just four.

Medical innovations and improvement that occurred during the civil war include the medical ambulance, the use of anesthesia during surgical operations, and the invention of new surgical procedures necessitated by the nature of the battlefield injuries. The development of pharmaceutical science was also brought about by the pressures of giving the injured men mass-produced medicine. Overall, the civil war spurred an improvement in medical care and medicine.