About Us

About MUSC Health

The War Years

With the coming of the Civil War and the first shots fired on Fort Sumter  (April 12, 1861) so came the end of the golden age at the Medical College. Of particular note is the fact that of the 698 South Carolina physicians to enter into the service of the Confederate states, at least 321 were graduates of the Medical College.

As a result of the war, the College closed its doors. All except three faculty members found themselves among the ranks of the Confederate states' members. 

One of its oldest members, John Edwards Holbrook found himself at age 69 having to sleep under wagons with the troops even though his official title was "Director of Examining Board of Surgeons."

Famous for his contributions to Military Medicine was professor J. Julian Chisolm. Dr. Chisolm was instrumental in authoring, "A Manual for Military Surgery for the Use of Surgeons in the Confederate Army" (1862, 1864). This text became the definitive Military Manual for treating combat injuries.

Dr. Chisolm is also known for his successful invention of the Chisolm Inhaler, designed to conserve the scarce supply of chloroform, which was used as a general anesthetic. After the war, Dr. Chisolm returned to Charleston to become the Dean of what was left of the Medical College.

As the faculty returned home and the country began reconstruction, the Medical College lay in ruins. The building which housed the college was severely damaged. The equipment, specimens and extensive medical library had been ransacked. Further, the College had almost no money in order to rebuild.

By November 1865, an announcement had been published, and 34 students became the first to enroll in the Medical College since before the Civil War. The financial problems of the Medical College paralleled those of the citizens of Charleston. Despite these hardships and through the monumental efforts of the faculty, the Medical College remained open.

Without the sacrifices of these men, the Medical College would not have survived. In numerous documents, the Faculty Minutes refer to assessments, borrowing from banks, and appeals for state aid, all reflecting the scarcity of funds for the College at the time.

For more information about the history of MUSC, contact the Waring Historical Library.

Chisolm Inhaler

Chisolm Inhaler

This device, developed by Dr. Julian John Chisolm, was instrumental in the conservation of chloroform, a rare and important commodity in the south during the Civil War.  At the time, chloroform was used for general anesthesia.

A piece of cotton or wool batting was put on the screen and sprinkled with chloroform while the patient inhaled through tubes set in the nostrils. When not in use, the breathing end was 
stored inverted, with the tubes protected inside the body of the inhaler.

A Manual of Military Surgery
A Manual of Military Surgery, 1862
Dr. Chislom, through his experiences in treating wounded soldiers in Milan, Italy (1859), wrote several definitive works, including "A Manual of Military Surgery for use by surgeons in the Confederate Army."

© Medical University of South Carolina | 171 Ashley Avenue, Charleston, SC 29425