Evacuation of the
Instruments and Chart
of death in British Army hospitals 1812-1814
Lists of British
officers wounded and killed in the Peninsula
horrors of amputation can only be imagined but the
thought of being held down by surgeon's mates while
having an arm or leg sawn off brings shivers to the
amputation was the only real choice for soldiers who
had suffered badly broken bones that left little hope
of saving the injured limb.
surgeons believed waiting for a man to recover a little
from the actual wound before amputation was the best
course of action, while others - Dominique
Larrey in particular - who advocated immediate
that sounds a little hasty, Larrey was a skilled surgeon
who knew when a soldier had a good chance of recovery
with his original injury and when he wouldn't.
by acting while the man's body was often still numb
around the wound, healthy tissue could be sliced through
with much less pain. A man in shock would also have
lower blood pressure and that reduced the flow of
third - and possibly the most valid medical reason
- was amputation would remove a filthy, disease-welcoming
wound and usually lead to a rapid recovery.
held down, the wounded soldier had a leather tourniquet
tied about 8cm (3 inches) above the place where the
cutting would be done.
knife was then used to slice down to the bone, arteries
pinned out of the way and then the surgeon would begin
his work with the bone saw.
were two main types of saws used, a larger one for
cutting through the thigh bone or femur, and a smaller
one for the lesser leg bones and arms. Usually, the
sawing would take under a minute to complete.
the arteries were sewn up and linen bandages were
applied and then the stump was covered with a wool