Medical Evacuations

Medical Services
Treatment of Wounds
Medical Hygeine
Evacuation of the Wounded
Amputation Instruments and Chart
Causes of death in British Army hospitals 1812-1814
Lists of British officers wounded and killed in the Peninsula

Click to EnlargeEvacuation of men wounded in battle was a major headache for all armies of the Napoleonic Era.

Usually the injured had to be left on the field until after the battle was over and even then evacuation was slow.

Search parties would be sent out on to the field to sort through the piles of dead bodies for men unable to crawl back to their own lines.

Many men spent days on the field surrounded by dead bodies and other wounded men, suffering from shock, thirst and their injuries.

But, they also had to survive the unwanted attentions of local villagers who would descend upon the carnage to grab whatever valuables they could before military police drove them away. Many wounded men had their throats cut by the scavengers to stop them alerting patrols.

If a soldier was not badly wounded he would usually walk to the nearest aid station, more badly injured troops required assistance from comrades. It was not uncommon during a battle for a wounded man to be helped away from the danger by one or two men whose courage was wavering.

Casualties unable to walk - even with help - had to endure rough passage on makeshift stretchers. They could be as basic as muskets or pikes slipped into the sleeves of greatcoats.

In mountainous areas mules and donkeys were surefooted enough to carry men, and camels were used by the French in the Egyptian campaign.

Carts were used in most European countries, but the lack of decent springs meant the slow trip on rough roads was often agony for the injured.

Leading surgeons of both the French and British armies tried to find ways of alleviating the suffering of wounded men by speeding up the evacuation process.

Dominique Larrey invented a flying ambulance for getting men out of a raging battle to safety.

Britain's Dr James McGrigor spent many hours trying to persuade the Duke of Wellington to improve medical evacuation, but was told that until the whole wagon-train and commissariat system could be overhauled there was little chance.

However, McGrigor did develop prefabricated mobile hospitals that would move with the army on campaign. This saved the lives of countless British soldiers who otherwise would have succumbed to their wounds.


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