Gettysburg is widely recognized for its Civil War history, but in nearby locales you can also learn about such things. In Frederick, Maryland, just a short drive away for example, you can come out to the National Civil War Medicine Museum and discover plenty.
Beyond reading accounts about field hospitals and soldiers dying, have you ever truly wondered what sanitary situations, medical methods and treatments and conditions were experienced by the Civil War soldier? This museum offers an inside look into such accounts in a way that truly brings to light this darker aspect of the already dark times of war. Interactive exhibits, displays and factoids explore truly graphic, accurate stories about the great agony and suffering including the various ailments and diseases that account for the majority of soldier deaths during the Civil War—a surprising fact, according to most museum visitors.
Museum exhibits focus on various areas of study and aspects connected to the life and health of Civil War soldiers. Medical Education is one of the focuses and explores the commonly practiced theory of the day of bringing balance to the humors of the body as part of the healing practice. Attention is also given to the virtually non-existent practice of germ theory or antiseptic practices and the history of medical practices that existed in the nation during this time and what courses of study consisted of.
Another aspect the museum focuses on includes the general process for Recruitment. Though new army recruits were to have a physical medical exam prior to entering the army, these exams were very inefficient, and many recruits were permitted to enter the army despite physical defects, chronic diseases and other ailments that may have had bearing on the effectiveness of the soldiers' performances. As the numbers of soldiers eager to enlist started to dwindle, more allowances were made over time to allow for more lenient recruitment practices.
Other focuses are given to the overall conditions experienced through life in the fields. Concentration is given to Camp Life and the spread of illness, the Evacuation of the Wounded and the transport system methods as well as Field Dressing Stations, Field Hospitals, Pavilion Hospitals and the practice of Embalming bodies. There is also attention given to the later emerging more modern medical practices that has developed over the years since the Civil War era.
The National Museum of Civil War Medicine was started in 1990 by a group of scholars and medical professionals wishing to educate the public on the many interesting, lesser-known facets of Civil War era medicine and medical practices. Since its humble beginning as a private collection of medical artifacts from the Civil War, the museum has grown greatly and has even expanded to include two additional satellite museums: the Pry House Field Hospital Museum and Clara Barton’s Missing Soldiers Office. The Letterman Institute of professional development; and the NMCWM Press, a publishing center are extensions to the museum as well and provide museum visitors with fascinating facts.
Th National Civil War Medicine Museum is located at 48 East Patrick Street, Frederick Maryland 21705. For more information, visit www.civilwarmed.org.