A Confederate field hospital in 1862. Library of Congress photo, LC-DIG-cwpb-00207 DLC.

If you are lucky enough to find medical records for your Civil War ancestor, understanding the medical terms can be a real challenge.

For example, the Corinth campaign in May 1862 left John F. Poore in ill health. In all likelihood, John’s exposure to the unhealthy conditions at Corinth resulted in the illness that left him unable to perform his duties through June and July.

Faded ink, stray marks, and Surgeon Henry Izard’s poor handwriting on his examination report of John’s health make it hard to read the diagnosis. But John may have suffered from anascarca, a general swelling in the body from too much fluid in the tissues. Whatever the illness, Izard wrote that it would take at least four months for John to recover and ordered his discharge from the army. His separation from the army proved only temporary, but it took about a year before John would be ready to return to Confederate service.

If you have your own Civil War medical mystery, start by looking through the Civil War and 19th Century Medical Terminology on RootsWeb. You may find that learning more about your ancestor’s illness can help explain his actions and life both during the war and afterward.