Of the many books written over the past century about the Old South and the American Civil War, a very few explore the scientific history of the South or the medical history of the war itself. In the first volume of this impressive biography of Joseph Jones, Mr. Breeden does much to illuminate the development of scientific thought and of medicine in the nineteenth-century South.
Jones was far in advance of most of his fellow physicians. The thoroughness of his research, the tenacity of his effort, and the brilliance of his findings won him respect while he was still a very young scholar. When the war came, he showed himself fiercely patriotic as a soldier but coldly empirical as a scientific investigator of many infectious diseases. In the course of the biography the author illumines the development of modern medicine in this country and the state of the nation's medical schools in the middle of the nineteenth century.
The greater part of this volume is devoted to Jones's wartime service, which was mainly behind the battle lines in the hospitals and prison camps. The growth of the problem of gangrene among the wounded -- a horrifying result of overcrowding and lack of sanitation -- is examined in particularly telling detail; the ravaging of the Andersonville prison camp by this and other diseases was the subject of some of Jones's most controversial research, and his written report as a reluctant witness in the trial of the Southerners held responsible. At the outset of the war, Joseph Jones was an energetic and well trained young doctor with considerable experience in teaching and research; by its end he was perhaps the foremost expert on infectious diseases in the South or in the nation.