When the Civil War began, neither the Union nor the Confederacy was prepared for the level of destruction that warfare would bring. Neither side could have predicted that 600,000 men would die as a result of this conflict. .
After the first Battle of Bull Run in July 1861, both sides realized that the war would not be short, and or easy battle, and called for increased numbers of volunteers to fight. As large numbers of new recruits began to appear in Union and Confederate camps, sanitary conditions that existed during the civil war were shocking by modern standards. Unsanitary hospitals and camps kept the wounded soldiers in large groups, which were ideal places for infection, fevers and disease to spread. The inadequacies of the existing military system became obvious and civilian physicians were encouraged to enlist to provide medical care for the troops. Officers from all departments of Union and Confederate armies, soon learned that to provide for the troops, an organized system of operations that could efficiently meet the challenges of war had to be developed. As the war continued, the medical departments greatly improved, providing the soldiers with a high standard of medical care. Throughout the war, both the South and the North struggled to improve the level of medical care that was given to their men. In many ways, their efforts assisted in the birth of modern medicine in the United States.
Transporting the Wounded.
The Civil War showed a glaring need to improve care for the wounded and both Northern and Southern medical departments were ill-prepared for removing wounded men from the battlefield and transporting them to hospitals. According to reports, none of the injured in the first Battle of Bull Run traveled by ambulance to Washington, but some had walked some twenty-seven miles for treatment. Several days after the battle, medical director King organized a relief detachment of thirty-nine ambulances.