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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

2018 Visits to Civil War Sites in Maryland and West Virginia

On June 5 we visited the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, MD. The following week, on June 11, we drove to Sharpsburg to visit the Antietam National Battlefield. Both visits were very educational, ... and very sobering.

National Museum of Civil War Medicine, Frederick, Maryland, June 5, 2018

An inauspicious "store front" opened into a fascinating tour of medicine as practiced during the Civil War. Here are some of the highlights I recall:

  • In 1861-65, medicine wasn't yet aware of microscopic germs germs. Because of that, the main treatment for injuries to limbs was amputation. Numerous Civil War survivors were amputees. Those that didn't survive amputations died because unsterile saws and unclean doctors' hands were used to amputate.
  • As more and more injured soldiers were brought to Frederick, many public buildings were used as overflow hospitals.
  • Clara Barton's caring for wounded soldiers during the Civil War (in Fredericksburg, VA in December 1862 and at Morris Island, SC in 1863) eventually led to her founding of the American Red Cross in 1881. [Note: Fredericksburg, VA, is not to be confused with Frederick, MD.]
  • Apparently a French rifle designed just before the war caused the bullets to spin as they came out the barrel, inflicting much more serious wounds. Those rifles made it into some of the armies and resulted in far more amputations than in earlier wars.
Depiction of an amputation. Note the lack of sterilization. The funnel over the patient's mouth and nose was likely to administer chloroform.