The Awful Harvest at Gettysburg

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The Awful Harvest at Gettysburg

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From their disparate backgrounds, Philadelphia physicians S. Weir Mitchell, William W. Keen, and George R. Morehouse assembled one of the most unusual and important temporary hospital wards during the last year of the Civil War at Turner’s Lane in Philadelphia. The rehabilitative care afforded to 160 soldiers at Turner’s Lane, many of whom had been wounded at Gettysburg, provided an unparalleled opportunity to study diseases and wounds of the nerves, particularly peripheral nerve injuries. Mitchell, the leader of the team, and his colleagues were conscious of the history-making nature of their work: “The opportunity was indeed unique and we knew it … it was exciting in its constancy of novel interest.” Mitchell’s literary talents produced benchmark treatises on nerve injuries and popular fiction based on Turner’s Lane, most famously regarding the “phantom limb” phenomenon, a term he coined. Dr. Robert Hicks recounts the achievements of Turner’s Lane with emphasis on the regimen followed by these three young physicians that produced scientific insights which secured the discipline of American neurology.

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