A common misconception about the Civil War is that wounded soldiers didn't receive proper anesthesia before they underwent surgery, said Dr. Robert Slawson, an associate of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Md.
Slawson and other Civil War re-enactors gathered Saturday at the Pry House at Antietam National Battlefield as part of this weekend's festivities leading up to Monday's 145th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam.
The Pry House served as Union commander Gen. George B. McClellan's headquarters and a hospital to treat the wounded.
Slawson said the common anesthetics - ether and chloroform - were used extensively by the Confederate and Union armies during the war so soldiers wouldn't feel pain while they were under the knife.
"They weren't interested in making people suffer without cause," Slawson said. "Hollywood developed bite the bullet."
Civil War medicine was fairly advanced for its time, Slawson said. Although 95 percent of soldiers who suffered abdominal, chest and head wounds died, the overall mortality rate from being wounded only was 17 percent.