|This wall tent is the only known surviving example of a Civil War Surgeon’s tent. It is made of army duck and measures 13 ft. high, 9 ft. wide, and 13 ft. long.|
Not only is this the only known Civil War surgeon's tent, it is identified to the specific surgeon! The tent in the photo above belonged to Surgeon John Wiley of the 6th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry. The 6th took part in many major battles including the Peninsula Campaign, Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg. More information on the 6th Regiment can be found here.
|Here's a photo of Dr. Wiley in his uniform.|
Surgeon Wiley used this tent from 1862 to 1864. After his discharge, he took it home with him to Cape May, NJ, where it stayed in his family for many years. It was acquired by a collector in 1988. After he had displayed it at various Civil War events, he loaned it and other artifacts of Wiley’s to the NMCWM. They are currently on display in the Camp Life gallery.
Displaying an artifact of this size can be a bit of a challenge. The tent is displayed in one of the museum’s immersion exhibits, so it is not enclosed in a display case. Instead, it is placed behind physical barriers to keep visitors more than an arm’s length away from it. Further protection is provided by a motion sensor, a video camera, and the museum’s alarm system. The tent is also supported on a wooden frame covered in unbleached muslin cloth, which helps to distribute the weight of the tent more evenly. Of course, the gallery is climate controlled, the light levels are controlled, and I monitor carefully for other potential hazards.
|Here you can see the frame which supports the tent.|
Dr. Wiley’s tent may not be as unique as some of the surgical instruments in the museum, but given its history it certainly deserves its place on my list.
Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine
Wiley artifacts are from the collection of Gordon Dammann, D.D.S.