top of page

United States and Confederate Medical Corps

Unit History

       While the Medical Corps was first created in a nascent form in 1775 during the Revolutionary War, it wasn't until 1818 that they received a prescribed uniform, and 1847 before they were given military rank. During the Civil War, due to observer experiences of the Crimean War, there was an upsurge of awareness about how the hospitals in the rear and the field should operate, including cleanliness of operations. Surgeons were also greatly aided by new developments in medicine prior to the war, and many lives were saved due to the widespread use of antiseptics, anesthesia, and other tools. However, behind every surgeon was a bevy of stewards and female nurses that were major contributors to the health of the average soldier. For those interested, they should look at this story on "Mother" Mary Ann Bickerdyke, a firebrand for the welfare of soldiers that even Generals Grant and Sherman kept a wide berth from her righteous fury at any incompetent surgeons or ignored soldiers in need, General Sherman saying to complaining staff that, "She outranks me! I can't do a thing in the world!" 

      Springing up early in the war were civilian organizations like the US Sanitary Commission and US Christian Commission - the latter organized by the YMCA in 1861 - that helped to spread new ideas of sanitation and cleanliness practices in hospitals and camps across the North, as well as spread millions of dollars worth of supplies and medicine to soldiers in need. Again, many of the driving members were concerned women, such as Louisa May Alcott and Dorothea Dix. 

The yellow and green flag of a hospital in the field.

Equipment and Unit Info

         The Medical Corps is an incredibly important part of the armies of both sides, both then and now in our modern era. Hospital staff are essential to upkeeping the medical safety of the soldiers around them. Below is a list of some of the requirements for taking part, so take a look at our sutler's page to find anything you might need. But please bear in mind before any purchase to check with your assigned guide as to what would be correct or not. While there is not currently a Medical Corps on the Confederate side, the current services are used by all, and we would welcome a Southern impression to join in. The list below will showcase mostly Union requirements, you can easily exchange blue for grey, and as always check with your unit guide prior to any purchase. While not necessary for stewards or ambulance corpsmen, it is important that those representing surgeons or assistant surgeons must be medically trained with either a current EMS certificate or degree, as your knowledge could be used in a real accident.   



* Kepi, Forage Cap, or Slouch Hat (not to be confused with a cowboy hat, they are not period)

* Sack coat or Frock coat, the latter possibly with crimson trim if wanted, but not at all necessary.

* Muslin or homespun shirt

* foot pattern trousers, color dependant on portrayal.

* Suspenders

* Thick socks, preferably wool

* Brogans or artillery pattern boots (not cowboy boots)

* Hospital stewards should have sewn on the middle of their sleeves the steward's diagonal green stripe with yellow

piping and caduceus. Ambulance corps members would have a plain green diagonal stripe.


* Canteen (VERY important), with a wool cover, cotton or leather sling

* Black leather waist belt with the silver-wreathed eagle, sometimes known as the NCO belt.


* (Optional) Any correct period revolver such as the 1851 Navy Colt, 1858 Remington, or the 1860 Colt Army. 

However, as mentioned this is entirely optional. Your first priority is the care of your patients far to the rear.

* M1840 US Medical Staff Sword - only to be worn by surgeons and assistant surgeons.

Camping and other Necessities:

* A-tent or Wall Tent (varying sizes available from sutlers)

* Period-looking seat of some sort, whether stool or full chair

* Mess kit; tin or steel plate and cup, and knife, fork, and spoon.

* Cotton dress gloves

We must note here that any other necessities will depend on your style of camping. Some prefer to have a cot while some prefer to sleep on the ground with a period ground cloth and plenty of blankets for comfort and heat. The inside of the tent is up to you and is not a public space unless you want it to be. Add to this list based on your own needs.


bottom of page