Thursday, October 14, 2010

Oh, Maryland

We spent our first couple of nights on this trip near Frederick, MD, mainly because we wanted to see the Museum of Civil War Medicine and the nearby Antietam battlefield. The museum was interesting, but not spectacular. It was located in  a former funeral parlor in downtown Frederick. The building itself had little to do with the Civil War or  the local battle. The museum has a number of dioramas depicting aspects of civil war medicine, which consisted mostly of amputations and the use of medicines which would now be considered poison. I guess you could define arsenic and lead as poisons.

The Antietam battle resulted in 10,000 Confederate deaths and 12,000 Union deaths making it one of the bloodiest battles of the war. There were also many thousands of injured – so many that many buildings in Frederick were converted into makeshift hospitals.

Probably the most interesting factoid was that 95% of the surgeries performed during the civil war, mostly amputations, were done with anesthesia, either ether or chloroform. The old adage about biting the bullet while you leg was being cut off wasn’t true, at least during the civil war. The museum also has a collection of civil war era battlefield surgery kits, but we’ve seen those before. There are no photos of the museum because the taking of photos isn’t permitted, and I didn’t was to get kicked out even though we received both the AAA and the senior discount.

The chief Union Army surgeon in this area was Dr. Letterman (I don’t know if he’s  Dave’s ancestor) and the work he did here, such as setting up field hospitals, and establishing a triage system is credited as the beginning of modern military medicine, and of course, emergency medicine.

DSC_0001 The next stop was the Dry Farmhouse which is within the Antietam National Battlefield, and is operated by the folks who run the other museum as a Civil War Field Hospital demonstration, but that’s a bit of a stretch. The house is original, and was General McClellan’s headquarters during the battle (He could see the battlefield from the upper floors and was far enough away to keep his uniform clean. It’s good to be a general!), but the building was never a hospital.DSC_0003 The barn next to the house was a field hospital during the war, but that’s not open to the public.

The National Battlefield is run by the National Park Service and is very interesting. This battle was Gen. Lee’s first attempt to move into Union territory, and the battle was considered a tactical draw with more than 10,000 dead on each side, but a strategic victory for the North because Lee took his troops back to Virginia.


In the photo above you can see Dunker Church which was the scene of one of the major skirmishes during the Antietam battle. The sign is a photograph taken after the battle from pretty much the same spot as my photo. The close up of the sign below shows the bodies of Confederate soldiers who died right on the spot where I was standing. That felt kind of weird.



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