Health of the Seventh Cavalry: A Medical History

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9780806148397: Health of the Seventh Cavalry: A Medical History

With its charismatic leader George Custer and its memorable encounters with Plains Indians, including the Battle of the Little Bighorn, the Seventh Cavalry serves as the iconic regiment in the post–Civil War U.S Army. Voluminous written documentation as well as archaeological and osteological research suggest that the soldiers of the Seventh represented a cross section of the men who joined the army as a whole at the time. In Health of the Seventh Cavalry, editors P. Willey and Douglas D. Scott and their co-contributors—experts in history, medicine, human biology, epidemiology, and human osteology—examine the Seventh’s medical records to determine the health of the nineteenth-century U.S. Army, and the prevalence and treatment of the numerous conditions that plagued soldiers during the Indian Wars.

Building on previous comparisons of archaeological evidence and medical records, Willey and Scott follow multiple lines of inquiry to assess the health of the Seventh, from its organization in 1866 to its 1884 station on the Northern Great Plains. Pairing general overviews of nineteenth- and twentieth-century health care with essays on malaria, injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other specific ailments, Health of the Seventh Cavalry provides fresh insights into the health, disease, and trauma that the regiment experienced over two decades. More than 100 tables, graphs, and maps track the troops’ illnesses and diseases by month, season, year, and location, as well as their stress periods, desertions, and deaths. A glossary of medical terms rounds out the volume.

As an ideal exemplar of regiments of its time, the Seventh Cavalry affords scholars and enthusiasts a better understanding of nineteenth-century health and medicine. This volume reveals the struggles that the post–Civil War Seventh, and the entire U.S. Army, faced on the battlefield and elsewhere.

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About the Author:

P. Willey is Professor of Anthropology at Chico State, and co-author with Douglas D. Scott of They Died with Custer: Soldiers’ Bones from the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Douglas D. Scott is retired as supervisory archaeologist, Midwest Archeological Center, National Park Service. Widely known as an expert on military archaeology, he is the author or co-author of numerous publications, including They Died with Custer: Soldiers' Bones from the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Uncovering History: Archaeological Investigations at the Little Bighorn, and Custer, Cody, and Grand Duke Alexis: Historical Archaeology of the Royal Buffalo Hunt.


“Doug Scott, P. Willey, and their contributors present a remarkable scholarly assessment skillfully gleaned from primary sources and presented in broad historical and medical context. What emerges is a rich historical interpretation of the health of Custer’s Seventh Cavalry—and by extension that of the post–Civil War U.S. Army.”—Douglas H. Ubelaker, forensic anthropologist and author of Human Skeletal Remains: Excavation, Analysis, Interpretation

Health of the Seventh Cavalry is an important contribution to the history of military medicine. Through the lens of the Seventh Cavalry’s records, the authors provide a much-needed perspective on post–Civil War U.S. Army medical practice.”
Brian Spatola, forensic anthropologist and Anatomical Collections Manager, National Museum of Health and Medicine

“Douglas D. Scott and P. Willey, assisted by an impressive array of medical experts, have carefully gathered all the health records of the Seventh Cavalry across a decade and a half of the Seventh’s deployments and activities. It is rare to have such an extensive body of nineteenth-century medical records so well surveyed and expertly interpreted. The result is a marvelous study in epidemiology and medical history.” —James S. Brust, M.D., coauthor of Where Custer Fell: Photographs of the Little Bighorn Battlefield Then and Now

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