Medical Museum to Commemorate Sesquicentennial of Civil War with Living History Program

Image courtesy of National Museum of Health and Medicine

Posed Civil War-era photograph showing how anesthesia was dripped onto a sponge or cone that fit over the nose and mouth of the patient. (Image courtesy of National Museum of Health and Medicine)

Ever wondered what it would have been like to be a soldier, nurse or doctor during the Civil War? On May 18, 2013, visitors can find out for themselves when the front lawn of the National Museum of Health and Medicine is transformed into an 1863-era field hospital and encampment in celebration of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.

This free event, which will take place rain or shine from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., will feature living historians from the 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Co. B., and the 20th Maine Camp and Hospital Association, who will describe Civil War-era medical practices. Infantry from both the 28th Mass. and 20th Maine will be on hand to showcase uniforms and equipment of the period, as well as perform live firing demonstrations.

Inside the Museum, visitors will be able to tour an exhibition on Civil War medicine, including a special display of specimens and illustrations from 1863. Discovery carts will feature displays and hands-on activities related to medical illustrations, bullet extractions, amputations and ballistics. Visitors will also be able to search volumes of the Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, published between 1870 and 1888 as a work that describes diseases that ravaged both the Union and Confederate armies, as well as case studies that discussed the treatment of war wounds.

Andrea Schierkolk, NMHM public programs manager, says she hopes visitors will walk away knowing more about not just Civil War medicine, but the evolution of military medicine as a whole.

"By interacting with the living historians, visiting the Museum's exhibits, and taking a closer look at the history of Civil War medicine, we hope that visitors will gain a better understanding of the nation's commitment to offering only the best medical care to our service members," she said.

NMHM was established during the Civil War as the Army Medical Museum, a center for the collection of specimens for research in military medicine and surgery. In 1862, Surgeon General William Hammond directed medical officers in the field to collect "specimens of morbid anatomy together with projectiles and foreign bodies removed" and to forward them to the newly founded museum for study. The Museum's first curator, John Brinton, visited mid-Atlantic battlefields and solicited contributions from doctors throughout the Union Army. During and after the war, Museum staff took pictures of wounded soldiers showing effects of gunshot wounds, as well as results of amputations and other surgical procedures.

Guests of all ages are invited to attend this event. For more information, call 301-319-3303, email or visit The Museum is located at 2500 Linden Lane, Silver Spring, Md. 20910.

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Last Modified Date: 25-Apr-2013