This is normally the time of year when I would be arranging to bring the artifacts back from the Pry House Field Hospital Museum for the winter. However, this year it was decided to keep the Pry House open during the winter, at least on weekends. Other than ensuring that the heat is not turned down as it usually is when the facility is closed, no changes need to be made for the artifacts or exhibits. Some of the displays have been changed though, and this week I took a few additional artifacts out for a new exhibit.
Since this is the first winter the Pry House will be open, we chose an exhibit on Winter Quarters. There was not as much active fighting during the winter months of the Civil War, and long-term camps called winter quarters were set up for the soldiers, with heated huts or tents.
|Library of Congress photo of Federal soldiers in winter quarters at City Point, Virginia.|
|The Winter Quarters exhibit shows some of the items which would have been important to the soldiers during the cold months. On display are blankets, pipes, tobacco, matches, various games, and a photo of a surgeon in full cold weather uniform.|
Cold was not the only enemy during winter, the boredom of camp life had to be combated as well. Soldiers played all sorts of games, or competed in various contests. And, just as children (and some adults) do today, they had snowball fights when there was snow! Private John Casler of the 33rd Virginia Infantry wrote of his experiences in the book, Four Years in the Stonewall Brigade, and described one snowball fight, "Officers would be captured and pulled off their horses and washed in the snow, but all took it in good part. After the fight was over we went out with a flag of truce and exchanged prisoners….. It was probably the greatest snowball battle ever fought, and showed that “men are but children of larger growth.””
For a longer account of this battle click here.
|Allen C. Redwood's illustration of a snowball fight from Casler's book.|
|A handmade wooden checker/chess board is on display, along with some gutta percha chess pieces.|
|If game pieces were not available, the soldiers would improvise. This is a lead bullet which has been carved into a chess bishop.|
This was also originally a bullet, and could have been used as a checker player or a poker chip.
The winter exhibit is not the only change though. Tom and Kyle have also been busy decorating the Pry House for Christmas.
|The Operating Theater, which depicted a surgeon treating the wounded General Hooker, is looking less gruesome and more festive now!|
|The mannequins which were in the Operating Theater were moved to the Richardson Room. They are now being used to depict a doctor caring for General Richardson.|
If you get the chance, come out and see the decorations and new displays. If you can visit on Dec. 15th, you might even get the opportunity to see a Civil War Santa Claus!
Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.