1845 to 1860 Civil War Period Pocket Surgeon’s Kit with Its Original Instruments


1845 to 1860 Civil War Period Pocket Surgeon’s Kit with Its Original Instruments – We have had one or two of these pocket, field surgeon’s kits; this example is in overall fine condition, still holding its original instruments. There are seven tortoise shell, handled instruments all are in excellent condition, with the exception of one – this instrument has both handles, although one has separated from the instrument proper and is missing a very short section of the point of attachment area. The entirety of the kit were constructed of a fine grade of red Moroccan leather, inside and out. There is pocket area, assumedly for surgical thread or silk and needles, lined in a thin cotton, along the interior of one of the closure flaps. The kit is a typical of the period, “roll-up” style with a leather strap closure; it appears to have had a what appears to have been a leather keeper for the insertion of the flap closure strap, but that is now gone. The instruments include seven tortoise shell housed scalpels, one horn handled scalpel and a retractor; two steel probes; tissue scissors; bullet extractor; a hemostat; a flat-bladed, surgical spatula; bone chisel; an instrument of unknown use that has ivory and silver elements; a probe of unknown use that has twisted, steel, heavy gauge wires on one end – perhaps some kind of scarifying device. This kit is extremely well-provisioned and does not appear to be missing any instruments.

At the onset of the Civil War, physicians joining the service, in both the Union and Confederate armies, were not, in general, “surgeons”; for that reason, few entered the army with a full-fledged surgical kit. These modest, pocket kits were all that most had needed, prior to the onset of hostilities, to tend to the usual, everyday needs of their patients. Certainly, the vast majority of newly minted, army surgeons had never completed an amputation, much less significant or invasive surgery; the latter was primarily performed in the burgeoning medical centers located in cities like New York and Philadelphia; therefore, these field kits were used closer to the front lines and contained a smaller and less complex array of instruments.

As described, this kit remains in overall excellent condition. It is most uncommon to find one of these “rollup kits” in such good condition, still containing the virtually all of its original surgical tools.

Measurements: Length (fully opened) – 11.75”; Width – 10.75”