GRAPHIC A Visit to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine

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James N.

Colonel
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Last month I revisited the National Museum of Civil War Medicine , located in downtown Frederick, Maryland, along with my friend medical reenactor Doug Garnett (@1863surgeon) who took these photos. For those who have never visited here, the museum is located in a period building that served for a time as an embalming school in this town that became a hospital following the 1862 Battle of Antietam at nearby Sharpsburg, and again after Gettysburg in July, 1863 and Monocacy in July, 1864. The old building is chock full of exhibits like the ones shown here detailing the medical care and experiences of the soldiers of both sides in the Civil War. Above, items and uniform relating to medical stewards (corpsmen) placed before the backdrop of a yellow hospital flag bearing a green H in its center, designating a Union hospital.

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Many small items like the pocket-sized kit at left and medicines center are in cases throughout the exhibit area. Below, soldier's personal items include a CDV of the famous Children of the Battlefield, a photo that enabled the identification of Sgt. Amos Humiston on the battlefield at Gettysburg when the image found on his body was published in newspapers.

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In addition to regular medicine, related subjects such as dentistry, above, and embalming, below are also explored.

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Medicines and the pharmaceutical side are included, like the portable or traveling medicine chest above. Below, a mock-up of a period medical wagon containing other medicines and hospital supplies.

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Postwar experiences such as the problems of amputees are shown by the artificial arm above and comparison of a period artificial leg with a more modern one at the right in the case below.

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But it is the inclusion of actual specimens that sets the museum apart from others of its kind. The so-called Antietam Arm was apparently found on the battlefield of that name some time afterwards and kept by a local citizen who eventually donated it for display. According to the description, it shows no evidence of amputation and must have been severed from the body by some trauma such as a shell fragment.

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Other specimens are in the glass jars like the one below where they were placed for study in period medical schools such as this example showing according to the label Dry Gangrene.

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Among the most interesting - if horrific and sad - were the saved specimens below taken from the unlucky identified individual soldiers who may or may not have survived their own particular medical experiences!

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James N.

Colonel
Forum Host
Annual Winner
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DSC05713.JPG


My own photos of our visit to the museum didn't come out as clearly as Doug's but I'll add those that focused on other, mainly larger subjects like the many life-size dioramas such as the one above depicting a regimental surgeon or assistant surgeon inspecting those men who have reported for morning sick call.

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This large wall case above contains original items relating to the soldiers' everyday lives, unlike the dioramas which consist of replica items. Below, other original items, this time belonging to Surgeon John Wiley of the 6th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry.

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Battlefield dressing stations which were usually established close behind the front lines were normally manned by assistant surgeons and hospital stewards; the diorama above depicts an assistant surgeon captain treating a wounded Rebel prisoner. The exhibit below contains more relevant original items such as portable medical kits and medicinal haversacks.

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Another diorama above depicts evacuation of a wounded soldier from the battlefield or aid station to a brigade or divisional level hospital farther in the rear by a Federal ambulance detail; field ambulances and an efficient Ambulance Corps were one of the innovations of the Civil War by Union Surgeon General John Hammond.

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The saddle and its shabrack or saddle-cloth in the case above belonged to a Union surgeon; although my photo is unfortunately very dark, the cloth is bound with green binding and letters U. S., that color denoting medical staff.

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Forever associated with Civil War medicine is the process and practice of amputation; above Confederate surgeons prepare a wounded soldier for the removal of his leg - note the copper cone placed on his face by the steward for the administration of ether or chloroform. Below, a beautiful almost mint-condition specimen of a surgeon's capital amputation kit.

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General hospitals placed far behind the lines and away from the scenes of fighting are represented by the diorama above and original items below. These large general hospitals were usually found in equally large population and transportation centers such as Philadelphia, Washington, D. C., Richmond, etc.

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Another wartime innovation was a large and efficiently run Nursing Corps headed by Dorothea Dix; however, the most famous practitioner was surely Clara Barton. Many items relating to Barton such as her folding camp bed/trunk above and personal belongings below are displayed in this large case. The signs relate to her postwar duties identifying the dead and corresponding with survivors searching for their lost loved ones.

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Mrs. V

Sergeant Major
Joined
May 5, 2017
What an amazing place. If I am ever in the area, I will visit. I was always fascinated as a kid with the doctors implements that were on display at Fort Mackinac. There used to be a skeleton there as well, but that is long gone.
 
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KansasFreestater

1st Lieutenant
View attachment 188548

Last month I revisited the National Museum of Civil War Medicine , located in downtown Frederick, Maryland, along with my friend medical reenactor Doug Garnett (@1863surgeon) who took these photos. For those who have never visited here, the museum is located in a period building that served for a time as an embalming school in this town that became a hospital following the 1862 Battle of Antietam at nearby Sharpsburg, and again after Gettysburg in July, 1863 and Monocacy in July, 1864. The old building is chock full of exhibits like the ones shown here detailing the medical care and experiences of the soldiers of both sides in the Civil War. Above, items and uniform relating to medical stewards (corpsmen) placed before the backdrop of a yellow hospital flag bearing a green H in its center, designating a Union hospital.

View attachment 188557

View attachment 188558

Many small items like the pocket-sized kit at left and medicines center are in cases throughout the exhibit area. Below, soldier's personal items include a CDV of the famous Children of the Battlefield, a photo that enabled the identification of Sgt. Amos Humiston on the battlefield at Gettysburg when the image found on his body was published in newspapers.

View attachment 188559

View attachment 188561

In addition to regular medicine, related subjects such as dentistry, above, and embalming, below are also explored.

View attachment 188565

View attachment 188549

Medicines and the pharmaceutical side are included, like the portable or traveling medicine chest above. Below, a mock-up of a period medical wagon containing other medicines and hospital supplies.

View attachment 188553

View attachment 188551

Postwar experiences such as the problems of amputees are shown by the artificial arm above and comparison of a period artificial leg with a more modern one at the right in the case below.

View attachment 188566

View attachment 188547

But it is the inclusion of actual specimens that sets the museum apart from others of its kind. The so-called Antietam Arm was apparently found on the battlefield of that name some time afterwards and kept by a local citizen who eventually donated it for display. According to the description, it shows no evidence of amputation and must have been severed from the body by some trauma such as a shell fragment.

View attachment 188546

Other specimens are in the glass jars like the one below where they were placed for study in period medical schools such as this example showing according to the label Dry Gangrene.

View attachment 188550

Among the most interesting - if horrific and sad - were the saved specimens below taken from the unlucky identified individual soldiers who may or may not have survived their own particular medical experiences!

View attachment 188564

View attachment 188563

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Thanks so much for this thread, James. This became one of my favorite museums when I visited it back in November 2016 and I always felt bad that I didn't take more pictures and create a thread about it. The exhibits were so well conceived and designed -- including lots of interactive stuff, and lots of information conveyed through the compelling stories of particular individuals -- that even spending 4 hours there felt like too short a visit!
 

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Location
Long Island, NY
View attachment 188689

My own photos of our visit to the museum didn't come out as clearly as Doug's but I'll add those that focused on other, mainly larger subjects like the many life-size dioramas such as the one above depicting a regimental surgeon or assistant surgeon inspecting those men who have reported for morning sick call.

View attachment 188691

This large wall case above contains original items relating to the soldiers' everyday lives, unlike the dioramas which consist of replica items. Below, other original items, this time belonging to Surgeon John Wiley of the 6th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry.

View attachment 188690

View attachment 188696

Battlefield dressing stations which were usually established close behind the front lines were normally manned by assistant surgeons and hospital stewards; the diorama above depicts an assistant surgeon captain treating a wounded Rebel prisoner. The exhibit below contains more relevant original items such as portable medical kits and medicinal haversacks.

View attachment 188697

View attachment 188692

Another diorama above depicts evacuation of a wounded soldier from the battlefield or aid station to a brigade or divisional level hospital farther in the rear by a Federal ambulance detail; field ambulances and an efficient Ambulance Corps were one of the innovations of the Civil War by Union Surgeon General John Hammond.

View attachment 188695

The saddle and its shabrack or saddle-cloth in the case above belonged to a Union surgeon; although my photo is unfortunately very dark, the cloth is bound with green binding and letters U. S., that color denoting medical staff.

View attachment 188698

Forever associated with Civil War medicine is the process and practice of amputation; above Confederate surgeons prepare a wounded soldier for the removal of his leg - note the copper cone placed on his face by the steward for the administration of ether or chloroform. Below, a beautiful almost mint-condition specimen of a surgeon's capital amputation kit.

View attachment 188699

View attachment 188700

General hospitals placed far behind the lines and away from the scenes of fighting are represented by the diorama above and original items below. These large general hospitals were usually found in equally large population and transportation centers such as Philadelphia, Washington, D. C., Richmond, etc.

View attachment 188701

View attachment 188693

Another wartime innovation was a large and efficiently run Nursing Corps headed by Dorothea Dix; however, the most famous practitioner was surely Clara Barton. Many items relating to Barton such as her folding camp bed/trunk above and personal belongings below are displayed in this large case. The signs relate to her postwar duties identifying the dead and corresponding with survivors searching for their lost loved ones.

View attachment 188694
Thanks for the tour.
 

KansasFreestater

1st Lieutenant
Thanks for the very fine photo tour. I enjoyed it very much. I have never been there before, and it was most enjoyable.
Even James's excellent photos can't begin to capture the feelings of actually being there. They've arranged the exhibits in a particular chronological order that take you on a sort of journey through the war; placards along the way relate the specific medical topics to the story of one real individual, and you find out the ultimate fate of that individual in the very last exhibit. Being in a building where so many wounded soldiers were actually treated during the war gives your visit a special poignancy. And the volunteers there are very devoted and helpful.
 
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KansasFreestater

1st Lieutenant
A museum which everyone should visit. Thanks for sharing your visit with us.

With that said, no museum exhibit will ever show the sounds, smells and human carnage of battle. Particularly what the wounded experience.

One of the most fascinating things I learned from one of the hospital dioramas (all of those dioramas are life-size, by the way) was that the swags of greenery that we see festooning the walls and ceilings of the hospitals in photographs were not just for decoration, however helpful their beauty might have been for lifting everyone's spirits. Rather, their primary purpose was odor amelioration. That lovely, resinous evergreen fragrance was to help mask the awful smells.
 

CCMDCSA

Sergeant
Joined
May 20, 2018
Location
Silver run Md carroll county
View attachment 188548

Last month I revisited the National Museum of Civil War Medicine , located in downtown Frederick, Maryland, along with my friend medical reenactor Doug Garnett (@1863surgeon) who took these photos. For those who have never visited here, the museum is located in a period building that served for a time as an embalming school in this town that became a hospital following the 1862 Battle of Antietam at nearby Sharpsburg, and again after Gettysburg in July, 1863 and Monocacy in July, 1864. The old building is chock full of exhibits like the ones shown here detailing the medical care and experiences of the soldiers of both sides in the Civil War. Above, items and uniform relating to medical stewards (corpsmen) placed before the backdrop of a yellow hospital flag bearing a green H in its center, designating a Union hospital.

View attachment 188557

View attachment 188558

Many small items like the pocket-sized kit at left and medicines center are in cases throughout the exhibit area. Below, soldier's personal items include a CDV of the famous Children of the Battlefield, a photo that enabled the identification of Sgt. Amos Humiston on the battlefield at Gettysburg when the image found on his body was published in newspapers.

View attachment 188559

View attachment 188561

In addition to regular medicine, related subjects such as dentistry, above, and embalming, below are also explored.

View attachment 188565

View attachment 188549

Medicines and the pharmaceutical side are included, like the portable or traveling medicine chest above. Below, a mock-up of a period medical wagon containing other medicines and hospital supplies.

View attachment 188553

View attachment 188551

Postwar experiences such as the problems of amputees are shown by the artificial arm above and comparison of a period artificial leg with a more modern one at the right in the case below.

View attachment 188566

View attachment 188547

But it is the inclusion of actual specimens that sets the museum apart from others of its kind. The so-called Antietam Arm was apparently found on the battlefield of that name some time afterwards and kept by a local citizen who eventually donated it for display. According to the description, it shows no evidence of amputation and must have been severed from the body by some trauma such as a shell fragment.

View attachment 188546

Other specimens are in the glass jars like the one below where they were placed for study in period medical schools such as this example showing according to the label Dry Gangrene.

View attachment 188550

Among the most interesting - if horrific and sad - were the saved specimens below taken from the unlucky identified individual soldiers who may or may not have survived their own particular medical experiences!

View attachment 188564

View attachment 188563

View attachment 188562

View attachment 188556

View attachment 188555

View attachment 188554
what sticks out to me is the length of time from being wounded to time of dying from wounds those boys suffered very sad
 
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