Did Civil War Soldiers Carry Tourniquets?

Today, all the hip gun guys who carry TQs as part of their everyday medical (author included) often think that this generation practically invented its use.

So, so wrong.

French surgeon Jean-Louis Petit‘s innovative screw tourniquet dates to 1718 and its use by trained physicians was widespread by the 1800s, seeing lots of use on all sides during the Napoleonic wars.

Some reports are that, during the Civil War, more than 50,000 field (strap) tourniquets and at least 13,000 Petit screw tourniquets were used by the U.S. Army Medical Department.

“This item is a petit tourniquet that was used by surgeons during the Civil War.” Surgical Instruments M1999-2145. U.S. Sanitary Commission Collection. Record Group ANRC. Records of the American National Red Cross. Via NARA https://catalog.archives.gov/id/5753444

Simpler Prussian service strap-and-buckle tourniquets, as detailed by the esteemed Dr. Samuel D. Gross, consultant for the U.S. Surgeon General during the conflict and author of an 1862 handbook on military medicine, tourniquets, were extensively used in the military service, with “every orderly sergeant being required to carry one in his pocket.”

From Gross, via the National Museum of Civil War Medicine:

“It is not necessary that the common soldier should carry a Petit’s tourniquet, but every one may put into his pocket a stick of wood, six inches long, and a handkerchief or piece of roller, with a thick compress, and be advised how, where, and when they are to be used.

By casting the handkerchief round the limb, and placing the compress over its main artery, he can, by means of the stick, produce such an amount of compression as to put at once an effectual stop to the hemorrhage.

This simple contrivance, which has been instrumental in saving thousands of lives, constitutes what is called the field tourniquet.

A fife, drum-stick, knife, or ramrod may be used, if no special piece of wood is at hand.”

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